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15 Thoughts from Akihabara

For those of you who don’t follow me on twitter, and that means pretty much everyone, I recently went to Japan. Two of my days were spent in Akihabara. Below are some of my thoughts on what some have referred to as the Anime holy land.

1 – Gamers and Animate are nice stores and they are definitely worth visiting, but unless you can read Japanese there really isn’t all that much for a foreigner to get here. While these stores do have some character goods, there are other places that you can get them for much less. I’d recommend going to places not on Chuo-Dori, even though you will feel drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Stores like Kotobukiya and the Cospa Gee Store have a lot of good character goods for a lot of popular/current anime, including T-shirts, wall scrolls, mugs, CDs, etc.

2 – While it was difficult to not have an otakugasm while walking in the many stores I visited, the most interesting things to me was how all of these stores were able to constantly supply themselves and keep up to date.  Since I went on the weekend I suppose it was likely less of a spectacle than I made it out to be, as I am sure there are less hectic days. Still, it seemed like the workers were constantly restocking shelves of manga, or putting in new merchandise while customers crowded the stores. Even more amazing was the way the arcades operated. Though my next note dives into more detail regarding the arcades, the constant turnover of what prizes offered was fairly amazing. As an example, I went to one arcade late Saturday night and then again Sunday morning, and it seemed like 75 percent of the prizes were different. I suppose this makes sense, given that people likely don’t want to win, or even play for the same prizes on a constant basis, but it was still pretty interesting. You could probably apply some of these concepts to a lot of big cities around the world in some way or another, the rest of Tokyo included, it just wasn’t something I think about on a day to day basis.

3 – If you have ever been to a Casino then you would probably understand what it is like to play in an Akihabara arcade. I spent most of my time trying to win prizes on some of the lower floors of the numerous arcades, as I have nowhere the level of skill to compete with the people playing video games on higher floors. Most of the prize games, if not all of them require the use of the UFO drop, and further require multiple plays to win. After someone does win, an attendant comes by to reset the game by putting the prize in a predetermined spot, which makes it sufficiently difficult but also equally alluring. Iwon’t get into the specifics of all of the separate games, but suffice it to say there are some that you just won’t be able to do. If you ever play in these arcades, i’d focus on the games you know you can win at that have the most personally alluring prizes, rather than basing your game choice on what you want the most. Everything can be bought somewhere else, instead of won, and it will save you some money in the long run. As for myself, after a disastrous first attempt, I readjusted to the above strategy and was able to win 5 pretty cool items, though not the one thing I really wanted.

4 – There is a lot of porn. No one is really that shameless about it, which makes everything somewhat comfortable, but basic man law still applies. Weirdest thing to me was that I saw what looked like a Mom with what was maybe her 15 year old son in the same store, with the son in the doujinshi section, and the Mom elsewhere, until he needed her to foot the bill. Of course, that could also be a description for a different type of arrangement.

5 – Mandoka really says everything I need to say about cosplaying in the Akihabara, but, more generally, there weren’t as many cosplayers as I thought there would be, and I even went on Sunday. That’s not to say there weren’t any, but just not a lot, aside from all the maids. Two things that stood out to me was that it seemed like there was a unexpectedly high level of cross playing going on, but that might just have been due to the smallish sample size. Secondly, those who did cosplay, whatever it was, really seemed to embrace the concept of the Absolute Area, but really, it seems like a large percentage of Japanese women do.

6 – I spent way too much money for my own good. As a side effect of this turn of events, I have realized that my fascination with Tomoe Mami from MSMM has already passed the danger zone. Further, I am glad that I went during the last part of my trip, otherwise I would have spent even more.

7 – Put three English letters together, followed by a 48, and you will probably name a girl group in the area. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but there were at least three. Didn’t bother to see AKB48, and I don’t think I missed much either.

8 – While there are a bunch of reasons to call this the Anime holy land, the one thing I found most enjoyable, and was easy to kind of overlook after a while was that there was anime shows and music playing all the time in the stores. To actually go to a place where this isn’t that out of the ordinary is a little weird, but it was alos kind of relaxing in a way. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it was nice. Also, it was kind of weird, but it seemed like every arcade I went to was required by law to play music from Seitokai Yakuindomo. I enjoyed it, but it still seemed kind of random.

9 – Did not have the balls to go into a Maid Cafe, considering that I went by myself. Don’t know if I would have wanted to either, though I suppose I might have under the auspices of being ironic.

10 – If I have one complaint about Akihabara, and all of Japan really, is that it is impossible to find a trash can. I mean, you have all of these vending machines all over the place, but no trash cans. It gets annoying, as I spent a lot of time just looking for a trash can. It’s like all the trash cans are in secret locations that only Japanese could ever possibly know about. I understand that trash cans are a security threat, and considering Akihabara’s past it isn’t that big of a deal. A lot of other countries I have visited have this same “problem”, but what can you do. This is one reason I kind of miss America, the land of the easily found trash can.

11- Even though the new season is only three/four weeks old I found it amazing how much Yuru Yuri was getting plugged. I’ve only seen the first episode so far, as the only thing I’ve watched in Japan was Steins Gate (interesting side note on Steins Gate: I was in a cab in South Japan and there was a radio program talking about Steins Gate. The cabby was getting pretty emotional about what they were saying, to the point he was slamming his fist at one point. The guy looked like he was over 50. No clue what was said on the radio about Steins Gate, as I can’t really understand Japanese people talking when it isn’t programming for someone under 5), but back on point about Yuru Yuri, I thought the one episode I saw was pretty good. Still, it seems like it is all over. It kind of also seems like Idolmaster was the next most popular new series, merchandise wise, but it was hard to tell. Inexplicably, in my opinion, Infinite Stratos is all over the town. Its merchandise is everywhere. Once again, I assume this means it’s popular, but I suppose it could mean that the stores are overstocked with its merchandise. It’s hard to tell. Madoka and K-On are pretty popular as well.

12 – You can spend 9 hours walking around the area, which includes a whole bunch of stairs, and who knows how many miles that equates to, but you won’t feel tired in the least.

13. Homura seems infinitely more popular than Madoka. Example: You put a Madoka shirt in a UFO drop table. No one plays it for a long time. Put a Homura shirt in, its gone in 5 minutes.

14. Didn’t bother going to the Tokyo Anime Center. It looked kind of lame from the outside, and it seemed like a tourist trap, but then again I suppose the same could be said about the arcades.

15. Anaru jokes are universal.


Mikunopolis: Christmas in July and World Conquest

I returned from Los Angeles and Anime Expo 2011 a few days ago and I have to say that the highlight of my trip, other than the soon to be regretted level of purchases I made in the dealer’s room, was anything dealing with Hatsune Miku. While the high point of all things Miku was obviously Mikunopolis, it was fun to learn a lot more about Miku over the course of the weekend through all of the panels. Before heading to Los Angeles, I was definitely a fan of the virtual idol, but going into the weekend I didn’t really know what to expect. After leaving, it struck me that being a fan of Miku was really a lot like believing in Santa for a few reasons.

First, like the meaning of Christmas, Miku can really be whoever you want her to be depending on what you like to do, and I’m not talking about her seemingly endless wardrobe for all the perverts out there. Well, I suppose that might be part of it. Still, fans can create new songs, animations, or character designs of and about Miku and send them out there for others to enjoy through the use of the internet. But just as Christmas isn’t just about candy canes and sleigh bells, Miku isn’t just about the music. One thing that became perfectly clear to me almost immediately this weekend is that Miku could very easily be a synonym for Commercialism, and in a lot of ways this is a good thing. It is because of this entrepreneurial spirit fan designs for Miku show up in games or on figures. It is because of this entrepreneurial spirit that allows companies to make money off of Miku’s products, even through the use of a decentralized business model. And in the truest of sense of all things commercialism, Miku is often depicted in pictures that are less than pure.

Continuing the Christmas analogy, it is often difficult for kids to understand the concept of Christmas during their early years. A 2 year old doesn’t necessarily understand what it means to get free presents, but within a few years it is the center of their kid universe. I kind of got this same feeling over the course of this weekend when it came to Miku. Obviously, many of the people who came to Anime Expo had some idea of who Miku was, but for many, this was their first large dose of all things Miku. While it seemed like the interest in the virtual idol slowly grew over the course of the weekend, I think most people really began to appreciate Miku during her concert. At first, it seemed like only select groups of people were cheering and fewer still were standing. However, as the concert progressed more people got into the groove of things, so to speak, and by the end of the night it seemed like almost every person in the Nokia Theatre was on their feet screaming their lungs out for Miku to return for an encore. So I guess like a lot of things in life, Santa Claus and Miku included, it takes a little time to understand what it going on, but once you do, it is something special.

Now, while I admire everything that the Japanese companies have done to increase the popularity of Miku, from implementing fan designs into concerts and figures to giving individual creators relative freedom to use Miku in their productions to this past weekend’s concert, I kind of got the sense that the Japanese feel that other nations need to follow their model for Miku to be a success, which I don’t think is the right approach. Just as people celebrate Christmas and Santa differently across the world, so should we Miku and the other Vocaloids. While having different language software available in the future is a step in the right direction, it is an obvious one. What is worrisome is that Miku won’t necessarily be available or well known to the wider audience of people in the U.S., or other western nations. Now I suppose it might be impossible for people outside of the normal anime, j-pop, etc. fan to ever really be a fan of Miku, but the creation and use of new sites in the United States, like niconico.com, seems like it will go about as well as the United States trying to introduce democracy into the Middle East.

So, assuming that Miku (and her handlers) truly do want to conquer the world, it would become absolutely necessary for them to conquer a wide range of the Otaku fan base, from Narutards to people willing to travel across the country to see Miku and everyone in-between ( as a sort of power base). From a few panels I attended during the Expo and people I’ve talked to in the past, it doesn’t seem like the anime industry has done a good job getting its online product well known. I remember several people during the con didn’t know that Crunchyroll offered free anime (and to be honest, it seems like a very small subset of people know you can get anime online via streams, legally or otherwise), so it is by no means a given thing that people will utilize niconico.com or the newly announced Mikubook on a regular basis, especially when there is the 500 pound gorilla in the room that goes by the name of YouTube.

If there is one thing I learned from my business consulting classes, it is that if you have the ability to work with a company who already has the resources needed to help you produce a product, it is better to work with that company, than to try and develop the capabilities yourself. The use of joint ventures is even more crucial when you are trying to introduce a product into a foreign country. Obviously, I have no idea if the Miku people have tried to create a joint venture of some sort with American based web companies, but if they haven’t, that would seem to be a blunder on their part. The time and money it will take to make the average fan of anime/j-pop become aware of niconico or Mikubook will more than likely not be worth it, and they can forget about ever drawing the attention of the average American consumer. Instead, Japanese companies should really think about doing special promotions for Miku on already popular American internet mediums, so that Miku will not just be searched for by those who already know of her.

That’s not to say that Miku is doomed to failure outside of Japan. The business model developed in Japan really does seem to be working and they have a great product to work with. As a person who would like to see Miku become more popular, I would like to see Japanese companies work more with American companies as a way to promote her, which they have done to some extent with the Toyota commercials in the U.S. Still, these things need to be more than gimmicks; they need to be real sustained attempts at letting people learn about Miku through already established video mediums, or eventually the costs of doing business will become too high, which force them to cut and run.


C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control 5 – Going Concern

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, C, CPAnime, Manga Review, control, corruption, finance, jennifer, mysu, open call, possibility, rules, soul | Friday 13 May 2011 9:24 pm

This series has spent the last two episodes building up a lot of important plot points, including the revelation that losing in the Financial District can change this world’s reality. However, the real interesting plot point from the past two episodes has been the expanded explanation regarding the activities of the Guild. While it certainly seems possible for Mikuni to control the financial district and save Japan’s economy at the same time on paper, in practice it seems as though it is only a matter time before his house of cards come tumbling down.

Mysu is still great, but the animation quality really took a dive this episode.

The whole concept of winning only by a small margin for the greater good certainly is does bring to mind the specter of Communism. Opinions on Communism aside, most people are generally happy as long as their piece of the pie isn’t affected, and that seems to be the case at the moment with the Guild members in the Financial District. Further, by entering the Guild, entres are entering into an agreement that reduces their risk of going bankrupt, though the rewards are also tempered (though that is something real financial analysts theoretically strive for).

Unfortunately, it seems like the status quo cannot be maintained, since, if I remembering correctly, the size of a Financial District is based on the strength of country’s economy. At this point, it seems like one of two things could lead one world to “destroy” the other. First, the whole basis of Mikuni’s plan is to get as many people to get join the Guild as possible and then control it. Assuming that Mikuni eventually does gain control over most of Japan’s Financial District, what would happen if Japan’s economy suddenly collapsed. It would seem that the amount of resources available to the members of the Guild would then decrease, and Mikuni would no longer be able to assure everyone of their security. This lack of faith in the future of the Guild, and more importantly the strength of the Financial District, would likely set off a chain reaction in which everybody started working for themselves.

Yeah... about this scene.

However, the more likely scenario is that someone in the Financial District, and likely in the Guild, is going to get a bit too greedy. Five episodes in, and I don’t really know what to make of Mikuni. I mean, on face, he seems like a good guy saving Japan and all, but where does he get all that money if everyone is only winning by only slim margins. There were some hints in this episode that there are some sort of membership dues or fees to belong to the Guild, but I get the feeling that Mikuni is only using a large swath of the Guild for his own personal gain. Now should he be found out, or some other person screw over the system, Mikuni’s source of funds that have been propping Japan up would disappear, and the aforementioned scenario would likely play out.

Regardless, I don’t think we know enough about the Financial District to make any concrete predictions for sure, and as always, my predictions are just something to mull over. At any rate, this show certainly does provide for some interesting social commentary. Obviously, people’s pasts being erased as well as their impact on the real world certainly makes you think about Japan’s lost generation (God, I watch so much anime that I know about their economic past in this much detail makes me sick). I’d hope that the show stays on this track with its observations on Japan’s finance and the economic shenanigans of much of the world, instead of becoming too preachy, which I fear that it might.


C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control 3 – The Rules of the Info Dump

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, C, CPAnime, Manga Review, control, corruption, finance, info dump, jennifer, mysu, open call, possibility, rules, soul | Friday 29 April 2011 10:50 pm

Let us imagine an imaginary organization that gives actual awards for anime, and this organization gave awards to individual episodes from the aforementioned anime, and one category of awards was for the best info dump episode, then this episode of C would most assuredly, in all likelihood not win the aforementioned award. That said, it didn’t do a bad job of info dumping either, for the four following reasons, which I hereby refer to as the Rules of Info Dumping (feel free to add more).

Rule of Info Dumping Number 1: Put some effort into masking the info dump nature of the episode

Let’s face it, any info dumping episode you realize is an info dumping episode is a bad episode. Could we all realize that having Jennifer monologue for half this episode was a ploy to flesh out the plot? You betcha. Still, I appreciated that we as an audience were given enough respect, so that creators wouldn’t think about throwing out some bad guy explains his motives for no apparent reason speech. I’m looking at you, Fractale.

JUDGEMENT: B-

Rule of Info Dumping Number 2: Earlier Info Dumps are better than later Info Dumps

Once again, let’s face it, all info dumps are bad. In a perfect world we wouldn’t even realize we were getting info dumped on until that aha moment, as a lot of people reading this likely had with Madoka. Sadly this isn’t a perfect world. So, when it comes to info dumps its best to have them at the beginning of a series rather than in the middle or end. In short, its good to get them out of the way so the viewer doesn’t have as many questions later on. FMA and FMA:B both did a good job of this. Explaining Alchemy could have been a long a drawn out process, but both of these series, especially the first, did a good job of getting their key setting info dump episode out of the way early.

C did this to some extent. At this point, we more or less understand the battling system and how the entres are able to attack. Sure, there are some questions left unanswered, but everything that needed to be revealed was. To put another way, a good info dump is like a woman worth your time. She teases you, giving up information about herself over time. We wouldn’t want C to put out so early, would we?

JUDGEMENT: B+

Rule of Info Dumping Number 3: Introduce characters and/or issues prior to when they become useful, so that their introduction doesn’t seem too out of place.

While I mentioned in my episode 1 post that the father may eventual play some role in the show, the way this was too clunky, at best. I mean, find your dad’s old journal; that is something that should only be used at the beginning of a series. The episode tried to have the Mikuni/Yoga conversation lead into this, which built character, but it didn’t work as a transition. However, the introduction of the information broker in the last episode meant that his sudden appearance in this episode went down a bit better than other plot devices, but it was still noticeable.

JUDGEMENT: C+

Rule of Info Dumping Number 4: Make the Info Dump Matter

Too many shows utilize info dumps that about events that have already happened (cough, BLEACH, cough), or they explain things that will never actually be useful. What I loved about this episode of C was that the info dump, while not always interesting did do some character building, with the Mikuni/Yoga interaction and the interacting Assets. However, the lynchpin that made this episode work as a whole was that we now have a rather clear idea of some of the players within this series, mainly the IMF vs. Mikuni. What role Yoga plays in this fight is unclear, and I suppose the story still has a few twist and turns, but at the moment the next eight episodes look like they might feature more than one showdown I’d like to watch.

JUDGEMENT: A-


C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control 2 – Explaining the Open Deal Battle System, and What C May Mean

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, C, CPAnime, Manga Review, credit, margin, mortgage, open deal, possibility, soul | Friday 22 April 2011 8:24 pm

That was one hell of a battle, right? First, I have to say I’ve seen some chatter online the past few days about how this show reminds people a lot about Yugioh, and quite frankly I’m appalled at the rush with which people assume all shows with cards are alike. Most will likely quietly move away from these idiotic assertions over the next few days, but many might say what is up with that whack battle system. You’ll deride the show for its lack of explanation, or the fact that Mashu didn’t sustain any real damage during the battle. But, with a quick lesson, you’ll be up to speed. (Partially talking out of my ass, but I do almost have two degrees in this general area, so, you know, not really.)

Not that this necessarily applies, but this post in no way constitutes financial advice.

First, the facts:

1. The monsters, some of which are really cute, devilish, and moe, are called assets.

2. The characters seem to using their futures as collateral

3. The assets can still fight after they take damage.

4. If you don’t protect yourself, you will go bankrupt. Episode 1 suggests you die if you go bankrupt.

Now for the fun part. Let’s assume for a minute that we are talking about the real world, and you have a real financial asset. It could be a house, a currency position, or a general stock. For the purposes of explaining the issue, I’ll use a currency position. Now, you don’t really need to understand the ins and outs of how you make money in these transactions, but the key point is this: If your position has lost money, you do not need to pay until you close your position, thus the concept of an open deal. However there is one caveat to this rule in most instances. If you are losing too much money on your position you are going to have to pay at least some of it back. This is called a margin call. But what if you don’t have the money? Well, then you are presumed to be out of assets. Then, long story short, you are bankrupt.

Mashu so cute

Getting back to the show, Mashu, the asset, taking damage during the battle compares to the value of an asset dropping. Using a house asset as an analogy; the value of your home can fall, but the house is still your house. Same thing applies here. Mashu took damage, but not anything happened. However, that doesn’t mean she or Yoga are impervious. This requires a little more understanding of what a margin and a margin call are, as it was mentioned pretty prominently within the episode. Think of it like a line of credit at a casino. Richer people can bet more money without actually giving the casino any cash until they lose a predetermined set of money, when compared to normal people who need to put their cash on the table as soon as the play. Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear that Yoga or Mashu reached the point where they had to pay a margin, but I am looking forward to what might happen if it does. Further,  I would like to know the differences between Yoga and some of the other more veteran players when it comes to the amount of their margin.

And all that still doesn’t explain why the hell Mashu was so powerful with her awesome fire attack thing. The show did give a theory about how Yoga caring about Mashu as the reason for her power, which is plausible. However to explain it requires trying to explain why most people who enter the Financial District lose right away, and another use of my house/property analogy.

So cute

While C could stand for a lot of things, I’d like to believe that it stands for credit. A lot of people borrow to improve their standard of living with every intention of paying back, as a way to increase the quality of their life. The thing is, a lot of people extend themselves a bit too much. Thus far, Yoga seems content with the simpler things in life, and protecting Mashu. However, many fall victim to the problem of spending too much and forgetting about the value of their assets/homes, which ultimately is their undoing. I hope that Yoga doesn’t fall victim to this problem, but it seems like he has ample possible “distractions” around him, so I doubt it.


C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control 1 – Because Super Long Subtitles Must Mean Something, and I Am Offering An Explanation

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, C, CPAnime, Manga Review, chance, collateral, finance, fraud, hell, money, possibility | Saturday 16 April 2011 5:39 am

For an opening episode, C did an excellent of setting up its world, detailing its characters, and opening the door for many potential avenues the show could take in the future. All that said, the most interesting part of the episode was its opening 5 minutes or so in which some poor sap who loses a battle in the Financial District, for one reason only: The concepts of chance and collateral.

First, the concept of collateral, though I view it as more of a legal term. Generally, collateral is something you promise to give up should you fail to perform on a stated obligation. In the context of this show the thing that you might have to give up is your soul should you not repay the loan granted to you. Now this seems like a generally straight forward concept. However, if you combine some contract law to this show you can up with a whole bunch of different possibilities. The one I am hoping that the show utilizes in some way is the concept of a surety. Simply put, someone else, the surety, could promise to pay the debt of the debtor should they not have the money to pay back the loan to the lender, in this case the Financial District.

However, the Financial District doesn’t necessarily seem interested in money, but in souls, as the references to hell are plentiful in this opener. With that in mind, I am hoping that someone somewhere down the line will take the place of someone else’s obligation to the Financial District, if for nothing else, it would be a great storyline. Who this could eventually be, I don’t know. However, the show gave us many possibilities, most notably the missing parents who were never actually shown in this episode.

As for the second term, “chance”, it was mentioned a few times by the poor sap who lost the fight in the beginning of the episode (though he also referred to it as a gamble). First off, in finance, there is some element of being in the right place at the right time, but it is not something that people succeed at by being lucky as one might be with playing and winning at roulette. A good investor can put the odds in their favor, and beat the market should they put in the time. Alas, there are also circumstances in which the markets do not behave perfectly, and some people have insider information.

Given the nature of the relationship that was shown between Masakaki and Mikuni, it appears that Mikuni may have a unique edge over his opponents. While there is something to be said for experience, as the show stated, we have to consider the possibility that Mikuni has some sort of special advantage.  This possibility is even more likely, I believe, as we are coming of the worst financial crisis in the world’s history in some eighty years, so the concept of fraud is fresh in our minds. Also, talk about some resentment for the world’s recent troubles directed at America in the opener, when compared to the industrious Europeans and Japanese.

While I doubt that the things I brought up in this post will actually play any role in the story, it is something to keep in mind given the financial nature of the show.


[Review] Star Driver

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, high school, kiraboshi, mecha, sugata, takuto | Wednesday 13 April 2011 4:37 am

When I look back at Star Driver a few months from now, I’ll probably think about how the show straddled the line between seemingly gratuitous, entertaining action and actually telling a story. A show that can actually pull both of these things off is a pretty rare thing. While Star Driver was at points able to do both of these things quite well, it never seemed able to do them at the same time. This ultimately keeps it from being great, and instead relegates it to the land of pretty good.

First off, the show always knew where it wanted to go and it always had a plot. From the first episode’s in the series, it is fairly clear that Takuto would be a rival in love with Sugata for Wako’s affections, and later on in the series, that he would have to take Head/his father down a few notches. Unfortunately, or I guess fortunately depending on your point of view, the plot seemed to be constantly placed on the back burner for the purpose of giving the show’s lot of colorful side characters their chance to shine. While these characters were often enjoyable to watch, see Kanako and Professor Green, and some even had symbolic meanings and/or purposes, the show really could have gotten along just fine without them.

But as I said, every time the show hinted at something bigger, it let something go untouched for episodes at a time, or not at all. When it became obvious that Marino wasn’t actually real, the show dropped that plot line for two or three episodes. So what (though it was addressed eventually)? When it was revealed the Simone was out to get revenge against Kanako. Forget about it. When we found out that the VP/Sarina were aliens. Not important. I touched on the question of whether we really needed to find out about these things in my episode 25 review, and came to the conclusion that we really didn’t need to, as in the grand scheme of things they aren’t really that important.

Still, I could have done with a few less Zero Time action scenes if it would have meant that a few of these things could have been resolved. I hate to use Utena as a reference, but god, I hated those sword fighting sequences. ALL OF THEM. EVERY PART OF THEM. But damn it, Utena was a great series because the characters had closure, plus everything else. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy a lot about what Zero Time or the Glittering Crux had to offer. I mean the costumes, the Kiraboshi, the it’s a pinch, the poses, and the list could go on. The animation and action in most of these fights was generally good and really enjoyable, even if some of it was reused a bit too often. Still, the show definitely fell into a mid season rut, and I think the length of these fights were to blame.

But like riding a bicycle, the plot could always almost pick up on the drop of a dime. Sure, some of it was a bit forced. It will be hard for me to forgive (not that I’ll lose any sleep over it) the laziness the show employed for giving Head his second mark. But most of what happened in the show’s main story had ample build up, even if it was a bit of overkill. The eight or nine times we were shown Head painting with an R as his signature. It was there. All the times Wako swooned over Takuto’s performance in Zero Time with Sugata there noticing. It was there. And then the show occasionally used this build up. And when it did, it was great. And the great thing about it all was that we knew when these events were. The end speaks for itself.

The play only really focused on three people. So did the show.

It’s hard to imagine that the show’s creators didn’t realize that all of the essential content in this show could have easily fit into 16 or 17 episodes, and that a lot of the main character’s were being extremely indecisive most of the time (I.e. Sugata in joining the Glittering Crux or Wako during the entire series). Everything and everyone else was really just context. I mean Ruri was never that interesting of a character, but she was important to Wako. Other characters were interesting, but in the end all they were was just interesting plot devices used to influence the character’s emotional state in the grand scheme of the main plot. It is what it is. It’s certainly interesting, and definitely worth a rewatch down the road, but the show itself isn’t really that complex.

As for my rating, I really want to give this show a 9 out of 10 for so many things it did well. A lot of things I didn’t mention about Star Driver were really top notch. The soundtrack was amazing, and so was the animation. Also, as much as I explained away the show’s side characters, they really are a major tilt factor in this show’s favor. I’ll admit I’ve even done a Kiraboshi here and there when no one else was around. Still, just based on the plot of the show, which is how I rate my shows, Star Driver is around an 8.5 out of 10, at best.

KIRABOSHI!

 


Star Driver 25 – Let the Real Battle Begin (END)

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, Bones, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, finale, high school, kiraboshi, mecha, sugata, takuto | Monday 4 April 2011 11:38 pm

For everything that happened in Star Driver’s hectic finale, the episode pretty much focused on two tried and true anime themes, youth and friendship, and in that order. Though there were a few things that made me question how the series was written, the copious amounts of action, the levels of character growth, not to mention the background music made the conclusion to Star Driver a satisfying one that clearly does NOT need a sequel.

Least Important Part of This Episode

First, the plot. Couldn’t say that I was a fan of the revelation that Keito was so childish in the last episode (though I mean, that Karaoke segment several episodes back made it pretty clear), but I thought all of that  really helped make the differentiation between all of the different sets of characters and their emotional state. I mean, by this time, you would have had to be blind not to see what, in general, Head was after, and thus the revelation that he wanted to end time and relive the past over and over again really wasn’t all that out of place with his character, even if it was just thrown in. And again, it would have been hard not see that Takuto was meant to be the complete opposite of his father, as he blindly ventured into the King’s Pillar to save Wako.

While that was all interesting I suppose, I thought that the real soul of the episode was the scene with all of the member of the Glittering Crux regaining their marks. Yeah, it was an interesting fight, but I thought that Simone’s monologue about how they were all too early in trying to move forward by defeating Takuto was really well done. What’s more, I loved how only certain characters were able to regain their marks (though I have to question where Mami is), and how others didn’t. Looking back on the series as a whole, it seems like almost all the other Glittering Crux Brigade members tried to defeat Takuto on several different occasions (see Vanishing Age). Perhaps, this end of series revelation was some sort of reward to those who realized that they had to wait to grow and become their true selves, before they could face the challenges ahead (by the way, totally called it back in Episode 2).

In a way the same thing happened to the main trio, but with the added friendship element thrown in. Ever since the play episode, it seemed like we had been waiting to see what, if anything, Sugata would do to change his situation, and in the end he wasn’t really going to do anything, just like Ryousuke. So when there was that moment between Wako and Takuto , who eventually then broke Wako’s seal, you could really see the difference between Sugata and Ryousuke; the differing strength of their friendships. What made that scene even more impactful, even putting aside the fact that the souls libidos of everyone at earth were at stake, was the huge shift in the dynamic between the three. I mean, you pretty much had Takuto making a move at Wako, which finally caused Sugata to do something. Though Sugata was eventually defeated, I thought that that last line or two by Takuto in which he mentioned that this would be the last time they would see this beautiful sky, but that they would one day see another even more beautiful suggests to me that both are ready to get rid of their masks/become their true selves (I’ve been watching Kare Kano recently, so…).

They really do mention Masks too often in anime. Still, if it works.

That in mind, some might lament not being able to see some sort of epilogue. Now while there may eventually be one, I don’t think it is really needed, nor do we want to see it. Clearly, Wako is one of the most indecisive people on the face of the earth, so Takuto and Sugata are probably going to pull out all of the tricks needed to win her heart, which will eventually cause rifts in their friendship. Though you know they would eventually all work it out and see an even more beautiful sky, we really wouldn’t want to watch that show, especially without Cybodies. Further, how the hell would the world react to the Cybodies, or more to the point, how would Takuto and Sugata get back to Earth.

Let the Real Game Begin

Still, this episode didn’t redeem the series completely. The biggest complaint I had was that Ryousuke really didn’t do anything in this or any episode. Was his purpose only to comment and observe the goings on of Takuto and Sugata, and to provide some sort of anchor to compare against other characters? There seems like there was a lot that could have been expanded upon in regards to his character.  There was also the aliens, things that might have or might not have happened in the past, or events elsewhere in the world, but I suppose that really never mattered (like LOST), plus I have to save some stuff for my series review (next week).

Overall, it was quite the finale that really used the emotional build up of its characters quite well, even if it took a bit too long, but somewhat failed to deliver on the larger main story that had been the focus of many of the questions out there. Though I guess what we thought was the main story really never was.


Spring 2011 Season Preview

Alright, so we’re pretty much on the eve of the start of the Spring 2011 season, which means it’s time for our previews. Below, you’ll read what each of the 4 of us think of the many many shows that are coming up. It seems that noitaminA is creating great anticipation again with its financial thriller [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, and the much hyped urban fantasy/scifi thriller Steins;Gate has caught our attention. We fork in our interests quite a bit from there, which is expected given the huge number of shows next season, but studio Shaft’s works seem to be on all our radars, a sign of the respect it’s earned over the past 2 years.

Rakuen

I would like to start by saying there is entirely too much anime airing this season. This is both good and bad. On the positive side, with at least 48 series listed on the latest guide I found, there’s a little something for everyone. If you can’t find a show you’re remotely interested in here, anime might not be your thing. On the negative side, it also makes it very difficult for me to watch everything I want to see. Right now, I have 15 series on my list. I am a little enthusiastic about 7 of them, while I’m definitely ready to try out the remaining 8. I expect to see this number dwindle rapidly. 7.5 hours of anime viewing per week is almost impossible to keep up to date, let alone remembering all the characters, plots and so on. Enough of my kvetching. I should get into the meat of my little segment.

I decided to order my lists by airing date, starting with the series I have a little interest in watching. Dog Days occupies the earliest spot on the list. I expect this to quickly devolve into harem territory, but I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for the summoned hero bit. Next up is the new season of Kaiji. The titular character participates in a gambling event where the stakes are his life. Joojoobees piqued my interest in his post about the first season, but I haven’t gotten to it. So, this go on the Want to Watch list by default. Then, we have Hidan no Aria, which gets a first episode watch based solely on adorable girls with lethal weapons.

A Channel seems to be going with a typical four-girl band for a school comedy, but it is a school comedy, so I’ll give it a shot. The little one, Tooru, also has a baseball bat that shows up all over the promo art… so it could be interesting. Next, we have Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, or in shorter terms, a new Shaft show. I loved Soredemo, but didn’t like Arakawa. This seems to lean more towards the latter, what with the main girl insisting she’s an alien. Ao no Exorcist continues the “son of Satan will fight his fate” trend. I wonder if this theme comes up because many people have a desire to fight their own fates. What better example is there than the son of evil trying to do good? Finally, The World God Only Knows rounds out this portion of the list. I went back to finish the first season, which means the series did hold some interest for me. I just don’t know if it can do it for another 12 episodes.

The rest of my list comprises of shows I have stronger interest in, and Moshidora has the “earliest” airdate. Giant Killing got me into sports anime, and Big Windup has continued to strengthen my view of the genre. Like Big Windup, we have a female manager trying to lead a baseball club to victory. However, its airdate has been postponed, so it might have to wait for a later season. KyoAni’s Nichijou also airs this season, but I didn’t even realize they animated it until I started writing this. The synopsis itself got me hooked. A principal might wrestle a deer? This is a school comedy I’ve got to see! Hana-Saku Iroha kind of reminds me of Love Hina with the hot springs centric plot, but that’s where the similarities end. It looks like it completely lacks the male lead, meaning no harem, and the plot sounds more focused on drama. I think both of those aspects are Good Things. Showa Monogatari adds another drama to my list with its family orientation and historical setting. This is a more tentative entry on my list, but the Olympic setting piqued my interest.

Now we’re to two of my most anticipated shows. First, STEINS;GATE, which just looks phenomenally awesome in both the artwork and the synopsis. It has the whole time-travel thing, as well as the struggle for survival with the SERN organization on their tails. I get a little Persona vibe from it too, but it might only be me. Sket Dance is yet another school series, but this one stood out from the pack. The premise reminds me of Haruhi, except with less aliens, time travelers, and espers. Unlike the rest, this has the best chance of a strong overarching plot, which I’m really hoping happens. If someone who’s read the manga could confirm it, it’d be much appreciated. Returning to the outlier series on my list, there’s C, plus its long title. It’s got an economically crapsack Japan and a main character who gets sucked into the shuffle. Sounds interesting, and with its noitaminA slot, I’ve got hopes for it. Last, but not least, is Deadman Wonderland. The fight for survival premise fittingly relates to the old Coliseum. It could have a bit too much violence for my tastes, but want to give it a good shot.

Looking back at my list, there’s plenty of comedy, action, and drama with a variety of premises. This could very well be my most anticipated season since I first got into currently airing shows. I hope school and work don’t kick my ass too hard, so I can have the time to watch all these shows.

Top 3: Steins;Gate, Sket Dance, C

lvlln

There sure are a lot of shows coming out next season, but somehow the only ones I’m looking forward to are the sequels: The World God Only Knows, Maria+Holic Alive, and the Kampfer specials.

Just kidding; besides those 3, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day (AnoHana) on noitaminA’s block sounds like it has potential, simply for being a real-life drama on noitaminA. Oh, and it also contains a character type that’s near and dear to the hearts of everyone here on this site, a hikikomori. Then again, noitaminA has been really hit or miss lately, with the trainwreck that is Fractale and the hugely disappointing Kuragehime, even if AIC’s Wandering Son is absolutely knocking it out of the park this season. AnoHana is being made by A-1 Pictures, which is responsible for some pretty poor shows such as Kannagi and last year’s Anime no Chikara duo Sora no Woto and Occult Academy, so I’m very prepared to be disappointed. Still, the director has A Certain Scientific Railgun on his resume, and that didn’t suck too much, and I’ve heard his Toradora! did drama well.

Besides that, only 2 other non-sequels have caught my eye: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko and Steins;Gate. Denpa Onna because it’s Shaft, even if it sounds just like another version of Arakawa Under the Bridge, which turned out… alright. Steins;Gate because I’ve read some other people really excited about it. Plus, I like modern-day scifi stories.

But really, the sequels are what I’m looking forward to.

The World God Only Knows was a surprisingly entertaining show for which didn’t have a bit of faith in going in. But Keima’s cynical, almost nihilistic personality combined with his occasional outbursts made for good comedy. A show that was as meta as that could have been a lot more meaningful, sure, but it was a fine source of dumb laughs. The 1st season ended on a planned cliffhanger, and though I doubt the pickle Keima got into will last more than an episode, I look forward to seeing how he will continue to add to his transient harem.

What I liked about Maria+Holic was Asami Sanada‘s Kanako, the perverted lesbian man hating protagonist. Her smooth, soft voice is unique, and seeing her character constantly abused somehow didn’t get old. Didn’t hurt that it was Yuu Kobayashi as Maria doing the abusing. She plays male characters well, and she does crazy well, too. Then there’s Marina Inoue as Matsurika. I like to think of it as a gay Stalker-tan being forced to live with an abusive Kaere and her snarky maid Symmetrical-tan. What more whacky antics will these 3 and the rest of the cast get into?

And bottom of the sequel list is Kampfer. Now here’s a show that was pure guilty pleasure. Looking for things like action, plot, character development, or meaningful relationships was a fruitless endeavor. I just loved seeing Natsuru and his/her thick head be dragged around by his psychotic harem. And this show’s cast is pretty much a who’s who list of female voice actors right now. I wish they’d do a 2nd season instead of just a couple episodes, but I suppose they’ll do.

Top 3: The World God Only Knows, Maria+Holic Alive, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day

Raphael

Pleasantly, there’s a good bit of original anime in this crop. Tiger & Bunny is among them and has received more press for the large amount of product placement it’ll employ than for the fact that Sunrise is doing a superhero show. I’m hoping it will be fun and won’t drag. Another of these original shows is Dog Days by the team behind Nanoha. The setting and premise don’t appeal to me, but I may well give it a whirl; it’ll probably at least look nice. The most promising of this lot in my eyes is C. Strong staff, very interesting premise, noitaminA. Unfortunately, the trailer didn’t meet my expectations, with the wonderful character designs not translating as well as I’d hoped and the animation looking a tad under par. It’s still the season’s series I’m most eagerly awaiting. The last two original anime, Hana-saku Iroha (which, judging by trailers, will look stunning) and AnoHana seem to fall squarely into the slice of life/drama genre zone. They also have the same head writer in Mari Okada. Both could be enjoyable if done well, but I feel like both could also try my patience, especially given that Hana-saku Iroha is reportedly 26 episodes. I’ll give them a go.

Moving onto the adaptations, we have manga-based slice-of-life comedies in A Channel and Nichijou. I’ve read the source of the former, and I was expecting to discard it quickly… but I found myself really enjoying it. It’s nothing new, but the humor has a slightly mean bent and I got several good laughs out of it. I’m curious to see how it translates to anime, as there’s a fairly new studio on board but also the director and series composition guy who did Saki. The latter is Kyoto Animation’s spring offering and, like Hana-saku Iroha, is supposedly two-cour. I found the prequel OVA nowhere near as funny as I do A Channel’s manga, but I definitely felt it had charm to it. I’ll give both of these series a try. Other comedies include Xebec’s entries Hen Zemi and Softenni. I’ll be watching Hen Zemi because I liked its OVA for its disgusting humor, but I do wonder if things will get cleaned up for TV. In addition, the OVA’s director will not be returning for the series; instead he’s been replaced by the director who did Rio – Rainbow Gate! and To Love-Ru. Meanwhile, the man behind the OVA will be working on Softenni, which I get big Saki vibes from. I’m also a massive tennis fan, so – though I’m sure I’ll feel silly for thinking there might be actual tennis-playing involved – while I really, really doubt I’ll enjoy it anywhere near as much as Saki, I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully I won’t want to be shot because of it/need several shots of something to get through it. (Punning is hard, give me a break (ha!).) Shaft will also have two comedies airing: the sequel to Maria+Holic, and the bizarre enough for me to check out Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko.

To the action/adventure side of things, Steins;Gate stands out as having potential to be very entertaining and entertainingly technobabble-filled. Premise sounds great, art looks great, and Jukki Hanada is at the writing helm. Really looking forward to this. We also have Ao no Exorcist, Deadman Wonderland, and Hidan no Aria. The first has good buzz and the director of Darker than Black going for it, and it could be interesting. As for the latter two, I’m up to date with what’s been translated of the manga of both. Deadman Wonderland is packed full of gore, action, good characters, and plot twists, and I love it. I’m unsure whether it’ll get the treatment it deserves, though, as Manglobe will be dividing its efforts between it and the second season of The World God Only Knows. But I’m hoping for the best. Hidan no Aria has been less fun for me to get through. I would’ve dropped it very quickly (for its mix of mostly-loli fanservice, poor art, and storm of cliches) if I hadn’t found the concept of a school for armed detectives so enticing. I plan to be watching the anime too, even though Rie Kugimiya as yet another flat-chested tsundere should’ve deterred me, and – despite my grumbling – I’m sure I’ll have some fun. Interestingly, this (along with Gosick) will make two shows airing simultaneously that focus on a foreign-loli-Holmes/Japanese-high-school-boy-Watson duo.

As for the rest? Moshidora‘s unusual premise has piqued my interest, and I plan to check it out; Hyouge Mono, Toriko, Sket Dance, and Showa Monogatari don’t appeal to me; OreTsuba (We Don’t Have Wings) and HoshiKaka (A Bridge to the Starry Skies) look very similar and similarly uninteresting; and Astarotte no Omocha! does not exist. And finally, though I’m almost certain I’ll be unable to get through an episode, I feel obligated to check out Sekaiichi Hatsukoi because BL anime adaptations are just so rare.

Top 3: C, Steins;Gate, Deadman Wonderland

CPAnime

Despite the overwhelming amount of new anime coming out, it feels like most of the stuff out there is either for teens or a generic (adult) drama. Thankfully, there are enough shows out there that choosing which anime I will be watching will still be a difficult task. The following are a few of the anime that I have the most interest in for varying reasons.

It has been about two years since I started watching anime on a season by season basis, and one of the first shows I watched in this way was Maria+Holic. So, with the benefit of two years of full time anime watching experience, it will be interesting for me to see if I find Alive anywhere as interesting as the original was in 2009. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I tuned in on a week to week basis was to see the OP and ED, so it will be interesting to see if my tastes have changed, or if this show is actually as awesome as I remembered.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

I am also pretty interested in the other Shaft show, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, but mainly because I don’t know anything about it. Shaft has built up some serious street cred over the past few months with Madoka Magica, but there is also the possibility that this could turn into an Arakawa under the Bridge 2 situation, especially given the synopsis. Another thing that worries me is that Shaft is doing two shows this season, and seeing as how they can barely manage one most of the time, I think the quality is inevitably going to suffer. Still, girls with mysterious pasts are kind of one my things, so I’ll be checking this one out for sure.

C is another interesting show for me, but for some different reasons. It reminds me a lot of Madoka in that there is a contract being made, though I doubt that the main character will be naive as some of the characters in Madoka, as the show doesn’t seem to be hiding its cards. From the previews I’ve read up to this point, it seems like the show might have a difficult time with its first few episodes as there looks to be a lot going on. Hopefully, a deeper understanding of economics or business won’t be needed for this show, as that could turn off some viewers. Personally, I have confidence that this shouldn’t be a problem as it is part of the noitaminA time slot, but even that is no longer a guarantee.

Moshidora

Staying on the business end of things, the one show I am looking forward to the most this season is Moshidora. While its broadcast schedule kind of seems up in the air, I’m looking forward to watching this during the baseball season. Since I’m a business student and a baseball fan, this show is kind of a no brainer for me, and I can potentially see myself blogging this. Still, I do have my doubts as to whether this will work, despite its popularity in Japan. Mainly, I am concerned that the translation of the material into an anime will fail to jump off the page, if you will, and just become another boring class lesson, though I doubt it.

Finally, the one show that will undoubtedly be my guilty pleasure is Hen Zemi. I recently watched the first episode of the OVA and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The only real criticism I could levy against it, besides the obvious, was that it took too long to get to its punch lines. I am a bit concerned that the TV broadcast will be impeded by those god forsaken censors (Kiss X Sis‘s OVAs, for example, were and are infinitely better than the censored TV broadcast), but as long as the staff is witty enough, it can probably work around this. Though, it is XEBEC. So… that could be good or bad, depending on your preferences (btw, where is my LxB sequel?).

Top 3: C, Moshidora, A Channel

And that about wraps it up. Which of the dozens and dozens of shows are you looking forward to this spring?


Star Driver 23 – Group Psychology

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, glittering crux, high school, kiraboshi, mecha, sugata, takuto | Thursday 24 March 2011 1:14 pm

So in the end, Sugata eventually did make his move for power as the show had been hinting at for some time. Still, before leaving, he made quite the grand exit with Wako before switching sides and joining the Glittering Crux. I thought this episode tried really hard to emphasize, via Takuto’s conversation with the RA and her trio, that Sugata wasn’t only leaving Wako, but the trio as a whole. That makes Sugata’s actions in Zero Time a little difficult to understand, as it seems he had already made up his mind to join the Crux early on in the episode.

Because showing a King of the Peacocks screen cap would be too easy

Now I’ve taken two psychology classes in college, so I am obviously an expert in group psychology, but one of the things I remember from my textbooks is that people have different stages of involvement in groups. It starts from joining the group, to working towards the group goals, to taking from the group in the form of status/position/rewards, to then eventually leaving the group when you have nothing more to gain from them. This episode seemed to focus on that last part. Sugata clearly had saw the writing on the wall in terms of Wako and him, so he either took one last shot at her hoping he could change her mind, or just wanted to see what his life could have been like after investing so much of his time with her. It appears, however, that it doesn’t really matter why he left Wako to Takuto as his “backup”, Keito, is awesomer in every sense of the word, and more importantly really seems to appreciate Sugata’s actions on their own merits, rather than lump them in with Takuto’s, as Wako remarked after the battle.

Still, it seems as though Sugata must have come to this conclusion before the battle in Zero Time, so why was he so adamant about helping Takuto beat the 3 Vanishing Age members. I suppose you could use the bros before hoes line of reasoning, but there seems to be a little more at stake here than in a normal friendship. Perhaps, Sugata has fallen into the same trap that other members of the Crux have in that he needs to be the one who defeats Takuto, but it seems to me like he already has everything that he “needs” and he seems to be completely aware of what is happening to him, unlike Columnar in the play.

Why does she even still go to these meetings

But aside from the main trio, this episode made a point of showing us Benio’s trio at the school, and most notably George and Tetsuya questioning as to why they were still even in the Crux at this point, given the fact they are no longer drivers. The two commented that they both had other possible love connections waiting for them, but that they were going to stay by Benio’s side within Fliament as that is the way it had always been. That kind of suggests that if there were no Filament, or Crux, that George and Tetsuya might have moved on and be doing something different with their time. They also mentioned that while they were singing out their youth the others might reach departure.

It’s rather difficult to either agree or disagree with that statement as it seems like the higher levels of the Crux are not necessarily departing from their youth, but are sticking to it as it seems to be the case with Head. This danger of being stuck in this developmental stage seems to have been mentioned earlier in the series as becoming trapped in Zero Time after breaking the third seal is a real possibility.  Likewise, it appears that some of the lower levels of the Crux have begun to realize they are on the wrong side of maturity(its difficult to say what the wrong side is as growing up is important, but so is the ability to appreciate simpler things is too) and are looking for a way out, as Kou and Madoka did. It’s difficult then to determine where Sugata is on this spectrum, because as I mentioned it seems like he is aware of the changes in people, but he is also retreating into the cocoon from reality that is the Glittering Crux. Why some of the lower rungs of the Crux continue to hang around despite not having real marks, or being drivers is beyond me, but it would be interesting to see how their lives change if and when Takuto defeats the Crux and it is disbanded.

Takuto, on the other hand, seems to have no problem with growing up

That aside, it is still difficult to determine who the ultimate foe for Takuto will be. It seems like Head is Takuto’s opponent in the next episode, which would then leave Sugata for the conclusion, but I keep thinking that things aren’t going to be that simple for Takuto. Looking back on fish girl’s story, it seems as though Sugata might be the one to recognize that he doesn’t need power, and that Takuto and Head are Sam and the Squid Emperor, respectively. The build up for this conclusion has been a long time coming, but I am looking forward to these two final episodes as even though the show up until this point has been fairly predictable, there has been enough evidence for many different arguments as to how it will end.


Star Driver 22 – What’s his Boat?

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, high school, kiraboshi, mecha, sugata | Sunday 6 March 2011 9:05 pm

The play was certainly an interesting way to add some clarity to past events. Sarina’s veiled questioning of Takuto and his answers were certainly interesting enough, and I do get the feeling that he will back up his claims to protect Wako. Still, there is one thing that really seems out of place to me.  Assuming that Takuto is the one who will eventually embrace Wako, that would make Sugata the one who had Wako, but lost her due to his dependence on the boat’s power. But for whatever reason I don’t get the feeling that real world Sugata has given in to the boat’s power yet, because I don’t know what his “boat” could possibly be.

Though the play mirrored the events thus far in the show, and I would suppose the show’s past if we are assuming that this has all happened before, there was one thing that doesn’t seem to jive with the current trio. The play suggests that Sugata should fall into a deep long term slumber and forget about Kleis/Wako, but he hasn’t. Sure he did, and others in the past probably have has well, but he woke up, and has been constantly reawakened via whatever the hell Keito is doing. So it would seem from that point on, from about the same time that fish girl ended her story, that the story changed in some form. In fact, it seems that given the ending to this episode, in which Sugata fell into a slumber without going into Zero Time shows that something else has probably been the root of his problems. Perhaps, seeing Wako kiss Sugata during the play was the same thing as seeing her fawn for Takuto in Zero Time.

All that aside though, what would Sugata’s “boat” be? What is or could consume his life so much that he completely forgets about Wako? Nothing from the series thus far seems to be capable of fitting that description. That said, it would appear that Sugata did in some way give up or lose his rights to Wako before her birthday, considering that Takuto was the one who gave her Sugata’s knife, which clearly know has some sort of significance.

Going back to fish girl's story, Takuto does seem like the type to choose the galaxy over the girl. I mean he is the Galactic Pretty Boy.

I guess all I’m trying to say is don’t think that Takuto has “victory” in his hands just yet. The series has thrown in more than enough hints to show us that while the present day characters are similar to the people in the past, they have been doing things a little bit differently and will eventually break through. Does a Takuto v. Sugata match up seem likely at this point? Yeah. Does Sugata look like an ass in the previews for the next episode? Yeah. But three episodes is more than enough time for this series to throw one last twist at us.

Oh yeah, I have a twitter page now @ CPAnime, so shameless plug.


Star Driver 21 – Late to the Party

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, high school, kiraboshi, kou, madoka, mecha | Tuesday 1 March 2011 1:56 am

I’d love to be the guy to add to the parade of comments about how Wako seems to be favoring Takuto over Sugata, but I feel I already did last week. Instead, I’d like to comment on what seems to be the apparent end of the Kou/Madoka arc. These two, aside from having the hots for each other, really seemed to be shallow characters without much of a back story, which may lead many to question why they were even in the series at all (Save filling air time). But, this isn’t a really new phenomenon, and many anime have utilized this late introduction of new characters to varying degrees of success, and Star Driver actually did a pretty good job.

Kou and Madoka helped Wako reach this point

Perhaps the most notable end of series introduction was Kaworu from Evangelion.  Questions about his, and Shinji’s, sexuality aside, Kaworu’s introduction was the catalyst for the long-awaited change in Shinji’s character. Whether it was the fact that Shinji finally did something, or that Kaworu’s betrayal finally broke Shinji, his appearance was necessary to explain the events that occurred later in the final two episodes/End of Evangelion.

On the other hand, some characters that are only introduced near the end of the series really do seem to be pointless. While there are probably many better examples than this, I have always kind of had a problem with the introduction of Luciano Bradley in Code Geass, though R2 had a lot of problems I guess. Still, did Code Geass really need to introduce a new character only to kill him off a few episodes later. It seems like the only the show introduced him was so it could kill somebody off without having to lose any of its main characters.

Kou preventing Takumi's defeat of Takuto in episode 20 so that Madoka wouldn't be left behind had to mean something, right?

So where on this spectrum do Kou and Madoka lie? It would be easy to say that they were just eye candy, and given their entrances during Zero Time, it would be tough to debate this point. Still, there were some things about the two that I think really speak to their importance. Though definitely overdone, the two really seemed very close, and furthermore seemed to make no secret about it. Kou stopping Takumi in episode 20 because she didn’t want to leave Madoka behind was probably the most visible example of how much they cared for each other.

But what really made them important characters was how their openness was something others in the show began to adapt. The volleyball scene in episode 17 is certainly indicative of this, especially given how flustered Wako became by the attention the duo put on Takuto, but I thought that the Karaoke body snatching scene in episode 18 was even more important. Sure, in the end, nothing really happened, but the two seemingly forced Takuto and Sugata out of their shells and into action. I suppose the same thing could be said for Keito, for obvious reasons, and Wako.

While we're at it, let' say Takashi is better for meeting Kou and Madoka too, even if he seems a bit freaked out by the two

While we're at it, let' say Takashi is better for meeting Kou and Madoka too, even if he seems a bit freaked out by the two

In fact, I think Wako “benefited” the most from Kou and Madoka. Her use of her seal power in this episode to save Takuto reminded me a lot of what Kou did for Madoka in the last episode. I don’t think she would have done the same, and she didn’t in the past, had she not met Kou and Madoka. I suppose this was a rather roundabout way of saying that Wako seems to have chosen Takuto, but I find the why and what events led to her doing so now just as important. And that is why I appreciate Kou and Madoka. That said, I think they have served their purpose and the story should now begin to focus on other members of the Glittering Crux.


Star Driver 20 – Interesting Parallels

Posted by Author | Anime, Anime Review, CPAnime, Manga Review, Star Driver, high school, kiraboshi, mecha, sugata, takuto, wako | Sunday 20 February 2011 9:15 pm

It has been a few episodes since my last post on this show, but aside from some Karaoke and late night shenanigans from Keito, nothing much happened in episodes 18 and 19. It doesn’t help that I’m not really a fan of either Kou or Madoka, as I find their characters rather shallow. Episode 20, on the other hand, threw a whole bunch of stuff at us that is worth mentioning, but my main focus is going to be on the how the modern trio of Sugata, Wako, and Takuto is eerily familiar to the one fully introduced in this episode.

The main thing from this episode was that we finally got to learn about the back stories for both Head and the Eye Patch Guy. Though it had already been heavily hinted at, Head is Takuto’s father, but the way it all went down was actually more interesting than I thought it would be. It is almost as if Takuto and Sugata are somehow reliving the events played out in the past between Ryousuke (Eye Patch Guy) and Tokio (Head) over Sora, but with some fairly substantial differences.

First, how can Sugata and Wako not remind you of Ryousuke and Sora. Both pairs are seemingly forced to be together, but yet it seems pretty clear that both Sugata and Ryousuke developed some feelings for the respective women in their lives. Then both Takuto and Tokio seem to come out of nowhere to kind of throw a wrench into things. That’s not to say that I expect Takuto to steal away and impregnate Wako, or for Sugata to rip out his eye anytime soon. Now while I don’t know who will end up with who in five episodes time, a conflict between Sugata and Takuto seems less likely now than it had been in current episodes, all evidence to the contrary.

I mean the show is clearly trying to build up some sort of tension between Takuto and Sugata. The kiss Sugata gave Wako while Takuto unknowingly watched just seemed like it could be the match to start the fire, especially after all the friendship stuff from Wako’s birthday. Further, it seems like Wako knows who she likes at this point, from the end of episode 19, and now might just fear the consequences of what might happen if she were to choose.

However, it would seem that given the limited number of episodes remaining, that all the plot threads are going to converge together in last one or two episodes. While what will happen with Keito’s seal, the forgotten members of the Glittering Crux, and the Departure are all important, it would seem to me that Head’s access to a new mark and the resolution to the Wako-Sugata-Takuto triangle will happen simultaneously. If that does turn out to be the case, I think Ryousuke will be extremely important to the story’s conclusion. I find it hard to believe that he is just supporting Head to see the conclusion of the Cybody project, as there must be some other reason he is there. I get the feeling that in the end, he will give Takuto or Sugata some piece of advice as a way to prevent the two from fighting, so that the two do not end up living with regret, as it seems he is. I mean the show is about living out your youth.

A few other interesting things from this episode is that the revelation of Takumi’s first phase certainly means that I’ll have to re watch this show sooner or later, because there were probably many instances in which he had a bird’s eye view of things, which may come into play later in the series. Also, while I had thought it possible at one point, I had all but given up on seeing more than two cybodies fighting in Zero Time at a time. But this episode debunked that line of thinking with Kou preventing Takumi from defeating Takuto. It’s hard to believe that all of the members of the Glittering Crux are so selfish that no one wants to help each other beat Takuto, because of the benefits that might come from being the group’s leader. It’s really the first big and fairly bad plot hole in the series.

One final thing is the episode stated that Sora had Takuto and gave him to Tokio’s father, but left soon after. I wonder where she went?


Madoka Magica: Special Victims Unit

To those of you who really want Madoka to become a mahou shoujo, I have to say shame on you. More to the point, you’re probably not the type of person I would want to hang out with. From the discussions that I’ve seen over the past few weeks, a lot of people seem to be focusing on the finer points of contract formation and minors. While this is certainly an interesting discussion, it is a red herring. Instead, a lot of things in this series have striking similarities to one of my favorite non anime shows, Law and Order: SVU. Unfortunately, Mariska Hargitay (or her partner, whatever that guy’s real name is) won’t be there to try and save the day.

With this foundation in mind, I suppose we could call Kyubey’s contract with Sayaka the proverbial scene of the crime. I mean he practically got to second base with her back in episode 5. But given the events of the past two episodes, it seems like he got much further than that as it relates to the soul gem revelation. The fact that was one of the best revelations in any show in some time aside, it did highlight the delayed reactions that some youths have sometimes in realizing what has happened to them. I mean how often in the media do we hear some politician or actress admit that he or she was abused 20 or 30 years after the fact. But because of the relatively short window of time this show seems to be taking place in, we have gotten a glimpse into some of the more immediate impacts.

As great and shocking as that final scene in episode 7 was, I thought that the much more heart breaking scene was the one in which Sayaka told Madoka she felt used, like a zombie, and could never be with Kyousuke with her current body. If this just didn’t scream abused victim to you I don’t know what would. The reaction of Kyouko’s father to Kyouko’s revelation also showed what kind of effect this type of event would have on someone’s family. While it does seem kind of strange that her family wouldn’t try and support her after she became a witch (or the equivalent), I thought that the fact that her father was some sort of priest covered this issue fairly well. Though I can’t speak to the culture of Japan, I do know that in the US, some families do stop communicating with their daughters after they get a little loose with their morals and eventually slip.

Sayaka getting help from the least qualified person there is.

Clearly, that scene in the dilapidated church highlighted this difference. Sayaka was still afraid of what was going to happen if someone, namely Kyousuke, found out about what had happened. On the flip flop, it seems Kyouko had come to some sort of peace with the past events in her (also, the big bag of apples is sure symbolic of something). That made Sayaka’s rejection of help all the more stunning, in that she really needed this form of “counseling”. Instead, it seems that instead of either forgetting about what happened, as I’ll discuss with Mami, or accepting it like Kyouko, she is just going to go crazy.

That’s all well and good you might say (or not I guess), but where does that leave Mami. Well, she is dead, and given this construct I wouldn’t expect to see her again. While the circumstances of her “agreement” with Kyubey are certainly unique when compared to the other girls, I think we can assume that Mami knew what happened to her. While, on the whole, Mami was relatively upbeat about the whole Mahou Shoujo thing, there were several instances in which she did say there were some bad things about the job. I suppose I could make the case that fighting witches for eternity in some parallel dimension correlates to living with the event for the rest of your life, but that seems fishy at best (If I wanted to take it further, many people on LO:SVU who were abused early on in life, do the same to others  in their life/i.e. maybe coming a witch themselves cough Sayaka cough, but that’s just a thought).

Still, we probably could see Mami’s mindset right before her death, reflected in the setting. As some others have pointed out, and at first I did not particularly notice, the scenery shifted from pointy needles to sweet treats. If I were a devote follower in all things symbolic, I’d say that this more than anything shows how Mami was trying to stop thinking about what had happened to her. We would later find out that she never knew the truth about the soul gems, indicating that she was still in denial if we’re using the SVU framework. But as we all know, Mami is dead. This highlights that once you taste that forbidden fruit, you can’t go back again.

There are probably other things in the series that could fit into this framework if I racked my brain for days on end, but there are also some other things that were included that seem to  have no meaning at this moment. Chief among these questions is what role Madoka’s mom will have?  Clearly, she is an important character in the building up of Madoka’s character, but it also seems that something else is going on behind the scenes, or has already happened some time ago. Further, Madoka’s family life has been given a fair amount of screen time, so I’d imagine that a possible reaction to Madoka becoming a mahou shoujo would be crucial to the outcome of the story.  The recent reappearance of Hitomi and her stated intention to confess to Kyousuke muddles up the pictures even more. I’d imagine that if Hitomi and Kyousuke end up getting together, that will pretty much make Kyousuke even with Kyubey in Sayaka’s mind, as people who have used her. Also, I haven’t even mentioned Homura once in this post, as she is her own can of worms.

So no, I don’t want to see Madoka become a magical girl, or at least not become magical for the wrong reasons.





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