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Wednesday, 21 of August of 2019

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Anime Round-Up: April 21, 2013

Sorry for the delay on getting the post up this week. First was that I had a review for Defiance to file for TV.com for tomorrow (it’s not a bad show so far, you should check it out), and that took more time to write than I was anticipating.  The second reason for the delay is that Gargantia‘s new episode airs on Sundays, so I decided to pause so I could not quite be on a delay with that show. So, this week, Gargantia gets two episodes discussed (fitting, since they sort of form a two-parter of sorts). (I suppose I could wait until Monday to incorporate Flowers of Evil, but with Defiance on Monday nights, and me without screeners after the third episode, it’s probably not going to happen.

Don't fuck with Nakamura Flowers of Evil, Episode 2

One of the charms (if we can call it a charm)/horrors of Flowers of Evil is how stuck we are in Kasuga’s psyche. It’s not that we’re not exposed to other people in the series — there’s a whole school of them plus his family around him — it’s that we’re always experiencing and responding to them through Kasuga’s perspective. As a result, the overwhelming guilt and fear of being found out as the thief has real weight to it, perhaps more than I honestly expected the show to convey.

Surprisingly, Kasuga is prepared to come clean, at least to Saeki (no need for all that public shaming that would undoubtedly result). Sure, he’s doing it out of guilt and not a desire to actually do the right thing, though perhaps we’re splitting hairs here. And, in any case, it hardly matters since Nakamura binds him to a contract of black mail of who knows what. At first, it just seems like long bike rides through the mountains, but after pushing Kasuga into Saeki’s breasts as he attempts to apologize, she wants an essay on how he felt at that moment. Welcome to the circle of perversion that is Flowers of Evil. No clear why she wants it, but the glee with which she asks for it implies a decidedly sadistic streak, one that I’m willing to bet Nakamura may not be fully aware of it, or even happy with. Perhaps her loneliness will be solved by completing Kasuga’s corruption.

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Anime Round-Up: April 13, 2013

Flowers of Evil, “A Fateful Encounter” (Episode 1)

Nakamura retrieves her test

Likely to be the most controversial of the new shows in the spring season, Flowers of Evil is based on a manga series of the same name in which an isolated teen, Kasuga, ends up in some sort of blackmail scheme after an even more isolated classmate, Nakamura (at right), spots him grabbing the gym bag of their beautiful peer Sakei. I haven’t read the manga (though I have read a couple of reviews of the first volume — hence my basic understanding of the premise), so this isn’t one of those cases where I know how it’s all going to play out in advance.

However, the first episode is just a damn fine piece of work on its own, regardless of how things play out. The use of rotoscoping — yes, rotoscoping! — is the source of much of the controversy around the series. It departs from the style of manga in a pretty significant and obvious way, and the characters look decidedly unfinished and move in jerky ways that seems to somewhat defeat the point of the attempt at a realistic depiction of the series’s characters.

I call shenanigans on this perspective though. I have no ill will toward rotoscoping, and I find that it adds to the show’s aesthetic in a really delightful way. The town these teens live in is decaying and falling apart. Signs are broken, paint is peeling, plants have either died or growing unchecked in alleys, and rust abounds. It’s animated beautifully in stark contrast to the rotoscoped characters, and their unfinished animated nature feels, to me, to be a part of this degradation that surrounds them. Factor in that these characters are still trying to figure out their own identities and what love means (Kasuga refers to Sakei as both a “muse” and a “femme fatale” — someone who both inspires and destroys), and their rotoscoped “ugliness” feels fitting.

Sonically, the episode’s soundtrack adds to the unsettling nature of the episode with long, low volume tones underlying dialog. It creates, along with the episode’s slow pace, an odd sense of tension that is doesn’t actually feel resolved, unless we count the falling of Sakei’s bag from the shelf as the climax of that tension, and I certainly would. Even if the narrative doesn’t end up delivering anything worthwhile, aesthetically, I there’s a lot to engage with in the show.

After the jump, two mecha series are discussed.

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Natsuyuki Rendezvous – Episode 3

“I’m number one even if I can’t touch her!”

Rokka, Shimao, and HazukiI don’t post a lot about anime on here because I often don’t get to watch it in a timely manner during the American television season, and Japanese television has four television seasons each year (going with the calendar seasons) in which new series premiere and some show continue, which means there’s always so much new stuff to watch that it just gets out of hand.

But the summer affords a chance to catch up a bit, and while I haven’t had the chance to catch up on everything I’ve wanted to, I wanted to make a quick recommendation, especially for non-anime watchers, for the summer series Natsuyuki Rendezvous. It’s a romantic dramedy of sort, and it reminds me just a bit of one of my favorite movies: Truly Madly Deeply.
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Season in Review: Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

“Now cease everything you are doing to gaze at me, only letting your heart still strum.”

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine title cardAround the sixth episode (“Prison of Love”) of Lupin The Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, I started to feel slight glimmers of what the show may have been after. After the ninth episode (“Steamy Desire”), I had a bead on the series. By the end of series, I realized I had been more accurate than I thought. Fujiko Mine is, from the onset, about gazing, what that gaze is capable of, and how it entangles all of us, male and female. It’s about spectatorship (in the broad, psychoanalytic sense, not an individual’s reception) and its ability to satisfy wish-fulfillment impulses when we sit down to consume media.

I’m stating the obvious, though. The series isn’t shy about its aims (the words of this post’s epigraph are the first words you hear at the start of each episode), but despite its willingness to show how gazing and vicarious thrill rides through fiction fulfill us (or even sustain us), it still ultimately reaffirms the power and importance of the straight guy’s looking, and that’s hardly anything new.

This will be a spoiler-heavy discussion of the series, so if you’re at all interested in watching it (and you should be), come back later. I linked to the show’s Hulu page above, and you can watch it there. If you’ve already seen the series in its entirety, let’s continue. Just let me don my owl mask first. Read more »


The Perils and Problems of Toonami’s Return

Toonami was a programming block on Cartoon Network the started in 1997. Airing in the afternoons, no doubt modeled after (and to compete with) The Disney Afternoon block, the block was retooled in July of 1999 and began airing as the Toonami Midnight Run on Saturday nights starting at midnight. From there on, it was 6 hours of anime and the block’s host T.O.M., a 3D CGI robot voiced by Steve Blum (known for his work as Spike in the dub for Cowboy Bebop).

Toonami Website

Really? "Bitches"? Sigh.

The Midnight Run programming block was dropped after a little less than a year (around March 2000 or so) and was retool with multiple shows airing during its block during the afternoons and then Saturday evenings, mostly anime but some American animation as well before finally being shut down in 2008.

The Midnight Run block was arguably the most popular iteration of Toonami. It laid the groundwork for its ancestor, the wildly successful Adult Swim, with its use of bumps and interstitials between commercials and the shows, and speaking to the audience though those (Adult Swim would, of course, engage in a more minimalist approach). A case could be made for Toonami popularizing anime in the United States (I wouldn’t argue it was the only thing, but probably a contributing factor), which in turn was assisted by Adult Swim’s early emphasis on anime, before they started producing their own program.

On April 1 of this year, Adult Swim was suddenly reprogrammed and it was Toonami Midnight Run again. (You can see all the bumps and interstitials here). And then on May 16, the return of Toonami was announced for May 26.

But why in the world is it even coming back? Read more »


Tiger & Bunny – “Many a True Word is Spoken in Jest”

For a rabbit, you’re not very cute.

Access to television shows from all over the world is becoming easier-ish, legally speaking anyway. Sure, you can torrent or stream a show from another country as soon as someone has been kind enough to translate the dialog, if such an activity is necessary. If you don’t torrent or stream, you’re left waiting for months or longer to see a show from elsewhere in the world, if it’s licensed at all.

Attempting to stop the illegal downloading and streaming of their content, anime production committees and their networks have been licensing shows for next-day streaming, same-day streaming, and sometimes even simulcast streaming on sites like Hulu (content viewable U.S. only) or Crunchyroll (content viewable worldwide; also streams Asian live-action dramas, an increasingly popular commodity) complete with subtitles, and, of course, advertisements.

With this in mind, and since I enjoy anime, I thought I would check in on some of the spring season offerings. Coverage of these shows may be sporadic, but we’ll see how long I stay dedicated to this idea. First up: Tiger & Bunny which is streaming on Hulu and Anime News NetworkRead more »