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Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? March 2017

April 9, 2017

おっす、おっす! It’s that time again!
One of my big gripes with modern entertainment is that often enough, it would appear that creativity takes a back seat to marketing.
Especially in the West, and especially with video games, the idea that you should not release a product unless it appeals to as many demographics as possible is something we’ve seen more and more of in recent years, with the biggest trend recently being the depiction of women in games. Now, I’m not here to spark any sort of debate or angry comments tirade about whether (x) demographic is misrepresented in (x) medium or not. I’m merely here to state that I’ve always been on the side of the creators, and that it’s a crying shame when a creator is looked down upon by the white knights of the internet for a voluptuous design or an unrealistic character trait or what-have-you.
I think it’s okay for there to be series out there for guys, which might exclude most female consumers from their fun, and it’s okay for there to be series for girls, which in the same ways focus down on the sorts of things which appeal to girls. Different demographics like different things for their own reasons, and that should be perfectly okay, and you’ll always get people from the “incorrect” demographic who are huge fans of something (-cough-magical girl anime-cough-).
If for example a creator wants to make a game or anime about bouncing boobs, as long as it’s selling to an audience, who cares? Put your heart and soul into your work, and if you believe it’s what you think it should be, don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong. Life is too short.
April marks the end of the bitter cold, as well as the end cap for the Winter anime season. Here is what I found time to keep up with over the past few months:
 

Gabriel DropOut-
Gabriel Tenma White is a young angel who is about to embark upon a wonderful journey.
It is tradition that angels of her age are sent to Earth to live among humans, for there is no better way to understand the importance of her kind, and to appreciate Humanity, than to live within their ranks.
And for such an ideal example of an angel, the journey is sure to be an insightful and fulfilling one for young Gabriel.
It isn’t long however, until Gabriel discovers the darkest and most debilitating crutches of humanity: video games.
This is a story of angels and demons, and that pesky grey area muddled between them.

What I thought- “A neet novelty.”
The thing I appreciated about this series is its ability to have fun with its Christianity-based theme. It isn’t here to offend anyone or to say anything positive or negative about its source material, and while that could be seen by some as a bit of a cop-out (removed from the angel and demon theme, it generally plays out like any old slice of life series), at the same time, a little restraint goes a long way.
The characters are a little hit or miss even if the comedy they participate in is generally entertaining. I loved Hanazawa Kana’s character, Raphiel especially, who thrived on chaos and saw to instigate it at every opportunity. Gabriel herself however, while endearing as you might expect, didn’t have much to her character to differentiate her from the sorts of neet characters seen in many other series (Umaru from Himouto! being a recent example).
I suppose in a nutshell I would say that for what it is, Gabriel Dropout does well with what it has, without stooping to any lows which might have given it shock value.
Gabriel DropOut doesn’t make many efforts to set it apart from the slice of life series which have come before it, but it is nonetheless an entertaining comedy series with a unique theme and a fun cast of characters.



 

Ai Mai Mii: Surgical Friends-
The Red-crowned crane, also known as the Japanese crane, is a large breed of crane indigenous to Eastern Asia.
The Red-crowned crane is one of the rarest types of crane, named for a patch of visible red skin on its crown, and in parts of Asia it is known as a symbol of luck, longevity and fertility.
What?
Oh. Surgical Friends is the third season of Ai Mai Mii I guess.
Don’t interrupt a man speaking about his birds.

What I thought- “The absurdity returns, once again.”
Ai Mai Mii has reached the point at which its memory is but a blur, or perhaps a stain. Wild nonsense occurs in each episode, but I’d be ill prepared to regurgitate any of it.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the random kookiness this series trades in did produce audible laughter from me on several occasions, and when you consider that it’s a series of shorts, being unable to remember every absurd thing that took place weeks ago isn’t especially damning.
It’s a flimsy sort of randomness which Ai Mai Mii continues to bring with this third season. If you’ve made it this long with the series and haven’t thrown up or spontaneously combusted, then there’s really no reason not to check it out.
 

One Room-
Hanasaka Yui is a shy but friendly neighbor.
Monohara Natsuki is a firm but caring little sister.
Aoshima Moka is a fledgling but failing musical artist.
These three girls have never met, but each have something in common, and that is they have you to enjoy the company of.
One Room is a series of shorts broken into three smaller plots, each played out in first person with the viewer playing the part of the protagonist.

What I thought- “Beautiful but sort of pointless.”
While this series does not share the same production company as Anime de Training, the concept is very similar, and I have a sinking suspicion that some of the same individuals had to have been involved in both. I will say though, that while Anitore! didn’t look bad, the visuals and sound design found here in One Room are just splendid. Kantoku’s character designs are, as always, an absolute treat, and the series as a whole has a terrific detailed yet clean look to it.
I wish I were so thrilled with the rest, which is the problem.
This series of shorts is broken into three sections, each focused on a different heroine, and while the three are each tonally unique and loosely provide their own narrative arc, there isn’t enough time allotted here to endear them to the viewer to any particular degree other than to provide a few adorable moe moments.
Much like with Anitore!, the first person presentation is a nice novelty, but its implementation is perhaps evidence of its futility. The girls will each react and otherwise converse with the viewer, but the viewer never speaks nor is he (or she?) ever given subtitles to inform the viewer of what is supposedly being said. They are instead left to intuit what was spoken by the girl in question’s reaction, which sometimes works and sometimes absolutely does not.
I’m still hopeful for the concept of a first person series, and I’ll be in their corner cheering them on until they get it right, or until it is decided that it’s a neat gimmick and nothing more, and is left at the wayside. One Room however, save for its beautiful art, is hardly worth a recommendation.
For what it is, One Room is an experiment in perspective in story telling, much like Anime de Training! before it, but much like with that particular series, One Room fails to not only utilize its novel narrative style, but neither to produce an endearing tale worth a recommendation. It may be worth its short run time from an academic perspective, but little more.



 

Piace: Watashi no Italian-
As a summer job, Nanase Morina decides to be a waitress at Trattoria Festa, an Italian restaurant with a colorful collection of regulars and staff members.
She knows very little about cooking, but within her burns the desire to learn, and though her band of coworkers can be at times intimidating and at others startling, Morina does her best to improve while satisfying their customers.

What I thought- “Charming yet forgettable.”
Piace could have worked quite well as a full length series. The art style is soft and easy to look at, and the character designs are quite good. The personalities of the various characters are entertaining and play off of one another about as well as you could hope for for a slice of life comedy series, but where it falls apart is with the run time.
The comedy isn’t aggressive enough to make each episode worth the small amount of time it asks for you, and while there are great moments sprinkled in here or there, many episodes come and go like a brisk breeze without leaving anything memorable or endearing enough to stick with you. There’s a framework here with a nice look to go with it, but that’s really about all there is to say about it.
Where some slice of life comedy series are full-course meals complete with memorable subplots and great character moments, Piace: Watashi no Italian is more like a grocery store sampler; you can see the appeal of it, but there’s simply too little here to sate your appetite.
 

Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon-
Kobayashi is an office worker who inexplicitly finds herself face to face with a beast of fantasy one morning.
This beast is a dragon named Tooru, and claims to be at her doorstep to perform her previously decided-upon duties as a maid for Kobayashi.
As it would turn out, Tooru claims Kobayashi had saved her life on the previous night which, having been drunk off her keister, Kobayashi only vaguely remembers.
Where there is one, there are many, and Kobayashi soon finds herself surrounded by dragons large, small and hateful.
Is this the end of Kobayashi’s calm, mundane life, or the beginning of one much greater?

What I thought- “Another KyoAni banger.”
Maidragon is the definition of a feel-good series. The plot almost comes secondary to the endlessly entertaining antics of its cast, which is comprised of a solid number of memorable personalities which interact in dynamic ways, and while there are sprinklings of heart-squeezing concepts dabbed here or there, the vast majority of the series is spent trying to elicit joy.
It’s a Kyoto Animation production, so as expected, the audio and visual design are top notch, with energetic performances by its voice cast, a spunky and unique soundtrack (was that a fiddle?), and animation wholly devoted to the task of doing justice to the over the top nonsense which is often taking place.
The standout, memorable moments in this show can be counted with but a few appendages, but while it was airing, it was a total gas.
While it doesn’t overstep any boundaries to give it an edge over similar series, Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon excels with flying colors at what it sets out to accomplish, which is an often hilarious, often endearing slice of life series with a otherworldly bent to it.



 

Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu-
Maiharu Hiromi is a transfer student attending Minami Kamakura High in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo.
She chooses a bike as her designated mode of transportation to and from school each day, despite her inability to ride it.
A helpful soul is passing by as Hiromi is eating the dirt repeatedly though, and offers to help. This helpful soul belongs to Akizuki Tomoe, who as you might never guess, happens to be a fellow student at Minami Kamakura High.
This begins Hiromi and Tomoe’s friendship, and sparks a fire for bicycling in their respective hearts.

What I thought- “A leisurely ride.”
It took me a bit to shake off the feeling that while the bikes on display within this series did not sport engines, I could swear this series is an odd sort of extension of last year’s motorbike fan-service festa Bakuon!!, mostly in due to Seiyuu Ueda Reina voicing both Jitensha-bu’s front and center Maiharu Hiromi and Bakuon!!’s Sakura Hane.
Make no mistake though, the easy-going narrative told in Jitensha-bu is a much more grounded and much less moe/ecchi ordeal than that found in that particular series, almost to a detriment.
The visuals are great, with nicely detailed backgrounds and simple character art, but the plot is rather lacking in excitement. Even when it comes to a race which on paper could be surprisingly inter-changable with one found in a professional racing series, the events which take place did little to pull me into the goings-on of the episode to episode narrative, nor any of the characters. The segments following each episode were informative as well, and welcome enough, but still felt like an odd inclusion.
It isn’t damning outright for a series to be low-key though, and for those looking for a slice of life series centered around bicycle culture with an easy-going tone, there is plenty here to appreciate.
It doesn’t take any risks with its story-telling or its presentation, but for what it is, Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu is a relaxing watch with a lens into the hobby of bicycling.
 

Demi-chan wa Kataritai-
Takahashi Tetsuo is a biology teacher with a fascination with Ajin, or Demis; rare beings who walk among us and look much like humans, but with the sorts of physical traits only seen in folklore.
Vampires, Dullahans, Succubi… Takahashi-sensei finds them all very interesting and is fortunate enough to work at a school with four such Demis.
What follows is a series of witty slice of life antics, as Takahashi-sensei builds a friendly relationship with these meta-humans and not only learns about them himself, but helps them find comfort in their unique traits as well.H

What I thought- “The slice of life works! The drama doesn’t.”
If what you’re selling is moe, you have a ton of competition out there these days, and it helps to have something to point to which allows your series to stand out. Demi-chan does well with its small cast of demi-humans to do just that, though it falls short with its attempts at much else.
Each of the girls has their own challenges to confront either on their own or with the help of one another, and while seeing them open up to one another over the course of the series is enjoyable, the attempts Demi-chan makes to produce drama or draw out emotion falls quite flat, mostly due to pacing.
Regardless, there are moments worth seeing here, and the production is solid as well.
Sporting a small but lovable cast of otherworldly characters, Demi-chan wa Kataritai does well within its moe confines, with endearing character moments and entertaining comedy, but its attempts to go beyond that, and to lay a lasting mark on the viewer is where it falls a little short.



 

Yamishibai Season 4-
 A school kid who enters an abandoned building and finds more than he bargained for.
A young woman who discovers something horrifying under her apartment floor.
A young man who becomes lost in a nightmare after seeking shelter from the rain.
These are but three of the brief yet disturbing tales told within Yamishibai’s fourth season, a collection of horror stories told in a paper doll theater style.

What I thought- “A moody return to form.”
Talk about a roller coaster of a series. Yamishibai’s first season hit during the summer of 2013, and with its paper doll theater presentation and its disturbing tone, I was hooked. It later received two additional seasons, and while the second had its moments, the third was clearly aimed in a different direction than the uncomfortable espresso shot of horror that the first provided.
I loved that first season so much though, that I’ll happily come along for the ride should this series continue to go at it, and my patience with it has been handsomely rewarded. This new season of shorts brings back the disturbing atmosphere and the almost non sequitur tales of horror, while bringing with it fresh new ways to depict its stories.
Each short has a different visual style and different voiced narration, and the paper doll theater style is interrupted briefly by live action shots. Filming live actors could have been a colossal failure, but generally speaking, save for perhaps one empty swing, these live action shots somehow drew me into the stories even further.
If you fell off of Yamishibai after its shaky follow-up seasons, then I highly recommend you check this one out. If you put yourself in the right mood to let each episode’s short run time do its magic, you’ll be left perhaps disturbed or perhaps chuckling uncomfortably to yourself.
 

Love Live! School Idol Project
Second Season-
 While they have their own personal achievements behind them, Honoka, Kotori and all of the members of Muse have yet to fulfill one elusive goal: To reach and perform on the Love Live event stage.
To be not only capable, but also worthy of a spot on Love Live’s short list of performers, it will take a great deal of work and diligence however, and this becomes startlingly clear when it is realized that Muse will be competing directly with the A-RISE, who has a huge fanbase behind them.
The clock is ticking to embed Muse’s memory in peoples hearts, as the new year will see the graduation of the group’s third year students.

What I thought- “Less impressive, more endearing.”
Love Live!’s second season struck me as having less emphasis on production quality than the first. While it isn’t visually rough, and the writing hasn’t suffered, the structure and audio design feel closer to your typical slice of life comedy series than was the case with the first series. As the group members are all established, the second season also lacks the sense of discovery by comparison. I would need to go back and actually count, but I believe there are also fewer performances in this second season, especially during the front half. While the story kicks it into gear from the very first scene, which was very entertaining, this season nestles into a comfortable slice of life pace where it will focus on a particular subplot or character for each episode. The plot begins to hit its stride in the latter third though, when the race to reach the Love Live event once again becomes a focus, and this makes way for a wonderful number of bittersweet moments.
Muse’s story continues in this second season! It may be a somewhat lower key adventure by comparison to that which came before, but there are nonetheless plenty of memorable moments and entertaining antics to be had here as well.

 

I apologize for the late late lateness of this month’s anime monthly. Spring has started and I am never so prepared to welcome a season as I am Springtime. As someone who becomes a emotionally and physically withering husk of a person in cold weather, the ability to drag myself out of bed for work becomes easier, and the ability to once again breathe out of my nose makes general day to day living a much more pleasant ordeal. Add to that a fresh batch of anime for the Spring anime season and what could be better really? Spring this year wrought a number of obstacles to hurdle, but most all of them have been taken care of.
It is sure to be a busy early Springtime for yours truly, but for now, Soapbox out!
Keep those bunnies spoilers at bay. That’s an order.
(Last year this month.)
じゃな。

From → Anime

4 Comments
  1. Gabriel Dropout started very strong, but later on it indeed became a standard slice of life, which was inevitable, but notheless a shame the show didn’t go deeper into the struggles and shenanigans of Gabriel.

    Kobayashi was really fun and I didn’t expect it to be. The initial score on MaL were pretty low, but it caught up pretty quickly. I think the first episode didn’t give off the right impression. Kana was perhaps one of the best characters for this year already. Her almost stoic appearance was truly a great fit for the show.

    • Gabriel Dropout wasn’t lacking in character. I loved Raphiel, HanaKana’s character, and not only because of her CV, but because she was a manipulative creator of chaos.
      And it just took the characters time to sink in with Kobayashi I’d say. I also thought the music was especially great, and the visual style reminded me of Nichijou which is by no means a bad thing.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2017 | Spitz's Soapbox
  2. Hey Spitz, What’ve You Been Watching? March 2018 | Spitz's Soapbox

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