19 Dec 2013

salinea: Emma Frost, sitting comfortably (chill)
Heyyyy!

Haven't posted in an eternity, have I? The sad thing is, it's not even because I'm using tumblr instead. Haven't been posting on that either. (I've still been reading my flist on LJ/DW though). I don't have much interesting news to talk about (there was that time when my computer broke down during the summer and I lost all my files of comics, manga & music as a result. Still trying to recover from that -_-;) but I figure I still might use the end-of-year-surveys to talk about all the media from this year I haven't said anything about. So what do you guys want me to start with? Anime, TV shows, comics, books, something else? (well if anyone's still interested after my long absence and everyone leaving journalling that is).
salinea: Two woman dancing together "dance with me" (dance with me)
For [personal profile] meganbmoore and [personal profile] veleda_k

To be honest, this wasn't a great year for anime and I was getting a bit disgusted with it by the end of spring. Summer was mostly crap too, except it had those two AWESOME show. So I guess there was that.

For the Winter shows that I mentioned before and which ended this year... Psycho Pass and From the New World are two that stand out as very well done, very terrifying dystopia which I'm disappointed in because I find them morally bankrupt. They have weird similarities underneath a very different style, too:
They both follow a heroine whose biggest distinction is an ability for emotional stability and recovery from psychological trauma. This ability, as recognized by their society, grants them special dispensation and decisional status.
They both end up having the heroines nominally repudiate the horrible control of their dystopia by the end, but really only for the form, while supporting them in their actions because the enemy they face, who try to uproot the horribly controlling dystopic societies are obviously manipulative, murderous bastards. Said enemies are the only genuine opponents to the dystopic society we ever really see (there are hints of more in one episode of Psycho Pass but it's n ever followed up on), therefore it seems to tacitly say that people's alternatives are between embracing horribly murderous and controlling dystopic societies or condoning horrible acts of murder in order to oppose them, despite the nominal rejections of the former we see in the ending. That's what I felt was morally bankrupt.
Of the two, I liked From the New World more, I found it much more fresh and original in its world building, with a much more interesting and genuine sense of horror (which kept getting deeper and more existential as we went in); whereas Psycho Pass' cyberpunk and gory aesthetics felt at times rather smug and patronizing. People who prefer Psycho Pass would probably rightly emphasize its heroine great agency in the plot by the ending. But they're both very well done stories, with excellent character work, atmosphere building and world building; and both are great SF works. Too bad that they end up being so conservative in the end in effect :/ I'm not even sure that was intentional (well it might have been with Psycho Pass, but I don't get the feeling from From the New World)

The second season of Chihayafuru was very, very good, although with a very different pacing from the first one. A lot of it was taken with a tournament arc, although it still feel as fresh as ever, with great, subtle characterization. We also got a few new characters, which I liked a lot, especially Sumire. And also loved all the developments to Shinobu. I hope there'll be more anime someday. I need to try out the manga too.

As for Zetsuen no Tempest, I felt it had a pretty weak ending. Overall it was weird, rather entertaining show, which sometimes delighted in doing quirky, anti-climatic stuff. I also loved the way Aika was characterized as the "already dead at the start little sister". She's not as awesome as Lia de Beaumont, but she was pretty cool ;) but yeah, often it was just... weird and not particularly coherent. Although, if several billions of the world population die in the middle of the show, I'd like to have more of a feel for that having happened >_>; mass slaughters with no real effect to the world is starting to be one of my peeves. I blame comics.

For the other shows I watched this year...
In the "why did I watch that again?" category, there was Karneval and Valrave S1 (I didn't actually watch the S2 which is currently broadcasting).

Karneval is a steampunk show has bishounens and pretty aesthetics and very little else. It's one of those show that tries to float by with cute charadesigns and tropish characterizations and thoroughly failed at plot. I mean, it did try to have a plot, it was just mostly incoherent and badly thought of, kind of mildly pleasant to watch if you didn't care too much about the plot or pacing though.

Valrave is space mecha/political drama/bodyjacking vampire show. It is a pretty weird case of trying to be like Code Geass but with a boring lead, more creepy gender dynamics (it's pretty infamous on the internet as The One in Which the Main Character Rapes a Girl) and not as interesting politics (it might get better in the second season). It did do a couple of things that were interesting, especially with the two female leads, and it did have a rather over the top "what the fuck" quality that made it interesting, but it's mostly a failure. (And I'm one of the people who think that despite being flawed, Code Geas was not a trainwreck).

Another SF mecha show, Gargantia was slightly more successful, in that it does end up being a mostly coherent story from start to finish, despite having an extremely weak middle. This one revolves around a genetically programmed space soldier who is shipwrecked with his mecha (and its AI) on a peaceful, low tech, sea covered planet. It's biggest failure, IMHO, is that it never properly lives up to the brilliance that was the first episode. It sets up some interesting things about cultural clashes and learning to communicate, but then is more interested in cute girls and cheap jokes to really pull it off. Then it ends up with info dumping a lot of interesting SF stuff about the history of the world and resolve them overly quickly. Wasted potential overall.

I watched a couple episodes of another mecha show before dropping it, and also the show in which they wish they had mechas, Attack on Titan, but quickly found myself bored/uninterested in either.

I also watched Red Data Girl, a shoujo romance with a supernatural premise about a girl who has a special connection to a powerful Goddess getting sent to a highschool for people with an affinity with the occult. I rather liked it, although it's a little bit weak and badly paced. The heroine is a very much on the overly timid and lacking confidence side, but I thought that made her character journey all the more interesting; and it had an interesting atmosphere.

And I watched an action shounen, Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited; mostly because I wanted to watch the show about not!Magneto and the not!Brotherhood of mutants, which it was wonderfully and crackfully entertaining as. It's also pretty fun and entertaining on its own right. Anyway, it's a spin off of Zettai Karen Children, a not!X-Men manga, which is supposed to be quite a bit too much on the loli, harem & comedy side to be something I'd be interesting in watching or reading; but The Unlimited is much more of a traditional shounen in mood, with a more dramatic tone and the lolicon jokes kept to a minimum. It did a few clever things with the plot, especially with the contrast of the PoV lead, a guy who joins the not!Brotherhood of Mutants at random but is actually infiltrating into them to spy and undermine them, and his reaction to Hyobu Kyosuke, the charismatic leader of radical mutant ESPer organisation, who is interesting in his own right although he's very much ridiculously overpowered (I mean, even compared to Magneto!!!), and very entertainingly mischievous and trollish as well as bombastically awesome. Overall, I found this to be a lot of fun.
Remembering my reactions to it, I'm very much glad we're finally getting a Magneto ongoing soon in comics ^_^

And at last the two great shows from this summer:
Gatchaman CROWDS is a weird beast. In name it's a part of a very old sentai franchise, although it was really conceived as a story separately and tied to the franchise for production reason and doesn't end up having all that much to do with it. It is a pretty awesome reconstruction of superhero tropes in many ways, although it doesn't even have all that much action in it. It's one of the very rare case with an aspirational character as lead which I actually liked. I found it extremely thematically brilliant, in particular; although it also have a great visual style, a very catchy sountrack and some great characters. It does suffer a bit of a rushed ending (which might be fixed in the DVD release and/or planned second season) and of some characters being not as developped than others. But otherwise, I really found it brilliant. It's one of the most positive and empowering story I have ever seen on the topic of heroism. And it tackles the theme of heroism in the age of crowdsourcing especially in a way I found especially fascinating, inspiring and democratic. A lot of the discussions I've seen about it revolves around the lead, Hajime, who is incredibly upbeat and cheerful and also unbearingly independently minded (she tends to do what she decides is best, disregarding others opinions unless they give her a good justification); and - weirdly enough - not a PoV character, which makes her nearly hermetic at times. Careful watching does show her being extremely smart, observant and intuitive in her decision making; but she's actually pretty bad at communicating straightforwardly, so I understand why watchers sometimes found her frustrating. She is a little bit overly perfect at times (as I said, she is an aspirational character rather than an identifying one) but I still found her interesting. My emotional interest, however, was mostly triggered by Rui, who is introduced a few episodes in, as a not-quite-antagonist character and who is very earnestly, very passionately believes in saving people but has a lot more obvious emotional weaknesses in the way he holds himself.

Uchouten Kazoku is not quite slice of life urban fantasy show set in Kyoto, adapted of the same novelist who did the also excellent Tatami Galaxy. It revolves around a family of Tanuki, 4 brothers and their mother, who are held as losers since the death of their father who was a pillar of the community. We especially follow the third brother, a laid back guy, as he takes care of his sensei, a bad tempered Tengu with a bad back, is teased to death by the human woman who learned magic from the Tengu, and deals with his family. It is gorgeous, with brilliant characterization, multi-layered relationships, wonderful storytelling, and great production value. It handles both comedy and emotionally poignant moments with brio. Can't think of any reason not to watch it. It did have a properly great conclusion, although it still made me yearn for more at the ending (there will be more novels but I don't think any ready for more animation anytime soon, sadly.) I don't have all that much to say about it, but it's just very, very good.

Of the Autumn shows I'm currently watching, there's mostly Kill La Kill (which is pretty insane in an over the top ridiculous way but also very clever and filled to the brink with political commentary IN A VERY WEIRD WAY. Also sexual objectification.) and Tokyo Ravens (a supernatural shounen series, in which I like most of the characters a lot but which isn't going anywhere yet in terms of plot and has annoying harem dynamics). Will have more to say about both once they'll be wrapped up. I also watched Samurai Flamenco for a while, but kinda got bored with it.

This year I also watched Sailor Moon S & R, which was wonderful. I did love Michiru and Haruka a lot. I also really loved Chibi Usa which I didn't think would be so hardcore as she turned out. That girl is wickedly brave and underhanded which is awesome. And also Hotaru! I had never really been told about Hotaru and her epic love story with Chibi Usa!!! There are a lot of hilarious quirky villains ([personal profile] runespoor decided that Eudial went off to work for Tony Stark after her apparent demise, which why not). It was funny to see all the... idiosyncrasies that I associate with Revolutionary Girl Utena appear more and more in episodes. I ended up a bit disappointed by the final for reasons which have more to do with reminding me of Magik's fate in Inferno (see my rant on it here). But overall, great stuff!! I dunno if I should watch the further seasons since as far as I've heard it all goes downhill from there.

I also watched Eden of East, a pretty weird political thriller series about an anmesia guy with a weird cellphone which holds money enough to fulfill all his wish as he's apparently taking part in a weird context to change Japan and the girl he meets who helps him out. That one has an interesting premise and some nice storytelling, and, at heart, a political critique that I didn't feel it really went far enough or consistent enough in order to tackle properly. A bit like Gatachaman CROWDS (which it suffers in comparison of) it talks of crowdsourcing and online communities pulling resources together as a source of positive change for the world, but actually felt pretty backward and anti-democratic in the way it tries to pull it through. Couldn't quite decide whether to be optimistic or cynical, I guess. Disappointing, although it's still a very interesting and mostly very well done anime.

For the most part, I did a lot of rewatch this years. I'm just listing them:
12 Kingdoms
Kaleido Stars S2 + OAV
Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Seirei no Moribito
Slayers
Slayers NEXT
Towards the Terra
Slayers Try
Hikaru no Go
N°6

February 2016

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