Thursday, September 15, 2016

The end of an era

Well, it's time to put this thing to rest.

This will be my last post on A Series of Miracles. It's already been effectively dead for way too long, and there's no point in making any attempts to revive it.

I will still continue blogging at Beneath the Tangles, which I now consider my "main" blog. Pretty much anything I would have posted here would now be posted there, anyway.

Also, I now have a new personal blog, The 29th Star Defender. This is where random ramblings about anime, video games, and other stuff will go.

Otherwise, time to finally close this book. Feel free to browse the archives for my past posts, though!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Snow White with the Red Hair, Ep. 13

Snow White with the Red Hair might not bill itself as a slice-of-life show, but in many ways I feel like that is exactly what it is.

Warning: spoilers for season 1 in the rest of this post.

Probably the one show I was most looking forward to this season, Snow White with the Red Hair was one of my favorite shows last year, and the second season continues right where it left off, not even resetting the episode numbers. Watching through the first season, one thing that struck me was just how much of a slice-of-life show this was. While there were certainly many moments of drama throughout, overall the show was presented as the depiction of Shirayuki, Zen, and their friends overcoming various smaller trials over time, and growing day by day because of them. Even the romance between Shirayuki and Zen, formally acknowledged by the two toward the end of the first season, felt less like the centerpiece of the show and more just another part of their lives together. Add on the fantasy world of Clarines providing an extra sense of a relaxing atmosphere, and the resulting show easily became a favorite of mine, and knowing it would continue this season gave me pretty much my lone spot of anticipation in a season distinctly lacking in early favorites.

If I had blogged this show earlier, I probably could have broken down all the various ways this show worked as a slice-of-life. Thankfully, this first episode of the second season provides plenty in this area to work with already. The episode starts with the very mundane task of the herbal department's regular cleaning--an activity that resides squarely in the realm of slice-of-life stories. It might not seem like much, but seeing Shirayuki worry about an enel plant that does not smell like it should already shows a lot about her character, something that slice-of-life can be really good at. Even beyond the main characters, we can get a glimpse of what our side characters are like. Watching Obi encouraging Ryuu to climb a tree, and then later give him a piggyback ride, is something kind of special, and not just because this show has not given us a whole lot of Ryuu, something I'm hoping this season will fix.

Of course, drama has always been part of this show, and it comes up here in two forms. First, we have Mikaya, the guy who held Shirayuki captive way back in episode 2, and a mysterious other guy who has some interest in Shirayuki, as well as a special ball in Tanbarun that Prince Izana orders Shirayuki to attend. The latter is of more immediate interest, as it highlights the continued tension between Izana and his younger brother and his relationship with Shirayuki. Here, again, though, we see how rather than slice-of-life and drama being opposed to each other, how the two can work together. The complex and evolving nature of Izana's relationship with Zen and Shirayuki is shown very well in these moments of conflict, and it just further exemplifies how this show allows its characters to grow naturally.

Zen, for his part, decides that the best way to handle the matter is to send Mitsuhide to accompany her, which should provide for some interesting interactions. The matter with the mysterious visitor may or may not play into this visit, but it should be interesting to see how both Shirayuki and Zen develop throughout the ordeal, as they have with ordeals in the past.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Slice: Rainbow Days Ep. 1

In some slice-of-life shows, just like in real life, good things come to those who wait. Hopefully.

Rainbow Days features 12-minute long episodes, but with the show confirmed for 2-cour, we will be getting about the same amount of content as a full-length, one-cour show. Which is good, because a show like this definitely wants a decent amount of time to work its magic. As a shoujo slice-of-life show, it works on a slightly different aesthetic than most slice-of-life, which is aimed at a male audience. It features at its core a group of four guys, and the interactions among the four definitely is a notable part, but there is also some romance involved, as the first episode revolves around the crush one guy, Natsuki, develops on a girl-and right after he was dumped by his previous girlfriend, too! (She was just passing out tissues for the karaoke place she works at.) I'm normally somewhat against rebound relationships, but it's a high school slice-of-life, and those sorts of emotions aren't exactly uncommon, so I can roll with it.

The girl in question, Anna, is very stoic and emotionless throughout the episode, so we don't know too much about her, though she does wear the muffler that Natsuki gave her during their first encounter. (Then again, maybe she just lacked a good muffler.) We do know that, for reasons, she frequently naps in the room of a teacher that happens to be one of the other guys's older brother, something that gives Natsuki some imaginative ideas on what sort of relationship the two have, and not to good effect for him. While I doubt there is anything really going on between the teacher and Anna, the episode nevertheless ends on an inconclusive note in that matter, though with perhaps the first step toward the two actually having some kind of meaningful connection.

Slice-of-life shows with a significant romance element come up from time to time, and like most romances, they have to be given some time to build up to be meaningful. This is especially true in a slice-of-life romance, where you often do not have the luxury of using forced drama to push a relationship forward, only the feeling that, day by day, the two of you are getting closer. (Although said build-up does not have to all happen before a romantic relationship starts, as last year's My Love Story showed quite well). As such, on the romance side, I'm definitely expecting a bit of a waiting game, to see just how things develop. Not only that, but the OP and ED suggest that each of the other guys will get their own girl to form a relationship with.

That said, just waiting for a relationship to build up is not that interesting, so there needs to be something in the here and now in the show to appeal to viewers in the meantime, and that takes the form of the interactions among the four main guys. The friendship between them can definitely be seen, in the form of how much crap they casually give each other. Obviously, they all care about each other, but what's a group of friends without some good old-fashioned ribbing? Though even here, things are set to get better later on, as right now the interactions are mainly the other three guys giving Natsuki a hard time over his crush; once other girls start interesting the other guys, expect the guys to give each other hard times in all directions. That's always good for a laugh.

This show definitely is letting things build up for now, but it's doing a fine job of it, and I'm looking forward to how things will develop in later episodes.

First Slice: Haruchika: Haruta & Chika Ep. 1

Let's begin the coverage of this season's slice-of-life shows with a show that sounds like Sound! Euphonium mixed with Hyouka but feels more like Tari Tari.

I should start by saying that as far as slice-of-life goes, this season is kind of weird. Looking at only the previews, I could only find two shows at least 12 minutes per episode that were definitively full slice-of-life, and this was not one of them. Then again, it was pretty hard to make of what this show would actually be like from preview information. Would it focus more on the band part? Would it be more about solving gruesome murder mysteries? Or would the mysteries be of the more mundane sort like in Hyouka?

As it turns out, the "mystery" of the first episode, if you can even call it that, is so mundane it makes Hyouka seem like a thriller. All it is is a cipher in musical notes made in ominous-looking red paint (clearly, the school ran out of all the other colors). With some basic knowledge of musical notation, which the show outright gives you, the solution is, if not obvious, at least very simple. The solution to the "mystery" is that is was just a love letter made by a graduating student (who clearly needed a better choice of paint color).

Honestly, the mystery was the least interesting part of the episode. Far more interesting are the characters and their interactions with each other. Chika is a pretty simple girl; she used to play volleyball but after getting tired of the practices, she decided to take up the flute after being inspired by watching Sound! Euphonium a high school band competition. In addition, she seems set on making her high school debut as your standard cute high school girl. However, she runs into her childhood friend Haruta for the first time in years, and the latter immediately proceeds to break that image by reminding her of how much of a tomboy she was as a kid. The banter between the two is fun and definitely gives you the sense that the two are close friends.

The "band" itself turns out to be more of a chamber ensemble with only a handful of students and their instruments, rather than a full band, which also helps distinguish this show from Euphonium. (Chika, for her part, is amusingly inept at playing the flute, which should be expected considering she is a complete beginner.) There's currently not too much to say about the other band members, as their characters aren't too developed yet, though we know that Chika definitely has a thing for the band director/advisor (clearly just your average high school crush, though). Hopefully, as the show adds a couple more members, it can also develop these other members to make them more interesting.
All this makes this show feel less like the Sound! Euphonium/Hyouka mashup I thought this would be and more like a previous classic P.A. Works slice-of-life show, Tari Tari. Both shows feature a startup music group and focus on the character stories within, and they even have the same director. Tari Tari was a very likable show although it did not blow me away, and I have a feeling HaruChika will be much like the same. At the very least, I am glad to have it bolster an otherwise fairly meager selection of slice-of-life shows this season.

I suppose, though, that it is time to address the elephant in the room: the revelation at the end that Haruta, the main male character, is also in love with the male band advisor/director. While there are some Christian anime viewers who will be bothered by this aspect, and who probably think that I should be bothered by it too, honestly, it is not really a big deal to me. I have already gone over why I think yuri shows can be good viewing for Christians, as well as having watched at least two full-on yuri shows, and while I have not really watched too many shows involving gay male characters, I think the arguments made in my yuri post apply to (non-hentai) yaoi as well. Not that I believe either Haruta's or Chika's crush will amount to anything; the whole aspect is probably just meant to capture the infatuation high schoolers can develop for their teachers, whatever their orientation may be. It's definitely amusing to have these opposite-gender childhood friends actually be love rivals, and helps make their relationship more interesting, even if it means this show probably won't be the next great childhood friend romance. But hey, it sure is nice not having to worry about whether the two of them will end up together or not, and just enjoy their friendship for what it is.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What is slice-of-life, and why do I love it?

"Slice-of-life" is perhaps one of the most ill-defined genres of anime out there. Many would say it is not even really a genre in the same sense that action, mystery, horror, romance, or even harem are genres. Indeed, there are many shows that I find are rather "slice-of-life", even though the genre tag is usually not attached to that show, and that, rather than being a "genre", I find various anime to have the "feel" of a slice-of-life anime.

So what do I consider "slice-of-life"? At its most basic, I consider an anime "slice-of-life" if I feel like I am living life alongside the story's characters when I am watching it. This is definitely not a binary distinction, where an anime is either "slice-of-life" or it is not, and I can definitely find some shows to be just a little "slice-of-life", not giving me the entire "living life with" experience that other shows might give but still enough for me to enjoy in that way.

Random Non Non Biyori screencap, because Non Non Biyori is awesome.

This would be a good time to note some misconceptions about slice-of-life, at least from my perspective. Slice-of-life is not an absence of drama; in fact, drama can actually help a slice-of-life show, though it does run the risk of overrunning the show, making it feel like the entire show is dedicated to resolving a major conflict rather than spending time with the characters. Likewise, a show can be an adventure-focused show, revolving around a grand journey to a final destination, and still have a slice-of-life element to it if said adventure is portrayed through the smaller, day-to-day activities of those adventurers. ("Adventure" is used here in an abstract way and can also apply to, for example, a school club trying to solve a mystery or prepare for a band performance.) For these reasons and others, my definition of slice-of-life includes many shows that are not generally considered slice-of-life. However, as this is my blog, if it fits my definition, I can talk about it.

To further explain what I consider a slice-of-life show, I will look at why I love slice-of-life shows.
There are many reasons why slice-of-life shows can be appealing. It might be the comedy, the characters, the relaxing atmosphere that makes such shows a nice way to unwind after a hard day, or the fact that many such shows feature adorably cute girls doing adorably cute things. All of those might be reasons why I like a particular slice-of-life show (yes, including the cute girls; not going to deny that).

However, to look at why I love the slice-of-life genre as a whole, look no further than the title of this blog.

In Nichijou, one of my absolute favorite anime of all time, one character says that "everyday life is like a series of miracles." It is a quote that captures the spirit of this show very well, as the characters often turn ordinary events into ridiculous comedic scenarios: dropped food becomes an epic battle to save it before it hits the ground and encounters with deer become wrestling matches, while a genius scientist kid and her robot girl creation spend time living normal lives. It is a show about making the mundane fantastical and the fantastical mundane, and in doing so it brings out the miracles of everyday life.

Totally a part of my ordinary life.

And that is the biggest appeal of all slice-of-life to me. As fun as it can be to watch more adventurous shows featuring major plots that encompass the entire show, and to be warped into the fantasy of being part of such plots, for most of us, we do not live such adventurous lives. And even if we do consider our lives some kind of adventure, there is truth to the adage that it is not about the destination but the journey, and that, sometimes, what we learn from the most are not the big adventures themselves, but the small adventures that make up the day to day. And for those of us who live seemingly mundane lives, sometimes viewing each day as a small adventure, or a small miracle, can help us appreciate life more. Sure, slice-of-life works well as simple escapism, but more than just escaping from life, it is a celebration of life.

With that said, I hope to show some of the appeal of slice-of-life through the posts I make here, as well as look more into what makes particular slice-of-life shows work. That, or I will just ramble on about whatever I feel like with these shows. At any rate, expect the first posts about this current season's slice-of-life shows soon, as well as perhaps a look at last year's slice-of-life shows.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Series of Miracles: Changes for 2016

Does this picture have anything to do with this post or am I just posting a cute picture of the Chimame-tai? Read on to find out!
Yeah, it's been a while since I've posted here. Things have gotten busy in real life, and as a result I've fallen behind on a lot of anime. Also, I have been wondering for a while what direction I want to take this blog, given my increased involvement with Beneath the Tangles. Anyway, it's a new year, and time for a revamp of the direction of this blog. Here are the basics of what you can expect here:

This blog will now focus on anime of the slice-of-life genre. This is probably the biggest change here. While I will still watch anime across many genres, by and large my favorite anime genre is the slice-of-life genre, so that will be what this blog mainly looks at. I will soon write a post on what exactly I consider a slice-of-life show, so you have a better idea of what I will be focusing on in this blog (you'll find out that I interpret the "slice-of-life" genre fairly liberally).

Various past post series I have done on this blog will stop. Things like the "What I'm Watching", "Hall of Fame", "The Anime-zing Race", long "Best of" lists, and the like will all fall by the wayside. "Looking Back" will continue, but will obviously focus on slice-of-life shows (and will probably be renamed).

Expect crossposts from Beneath the Tangles. Pretty much all of my previous postings on faith-centric matters has moved there; however, I will cross-post my posts onto this blog. In the spirit of Crunchyroll's simulcasting schedule, cross-posts will always be made one week after the original post goes up on Beneath the Tangles. Posts about slice-of-life shows will be cross-posted in their entirety, while posts on other shows will be posted as a link and a description.

Beyond this, I will be posting on various things on the subject of slice-of-life shows, perhaps trying things like weekly coverage of particular shows. Here's to hopefully a more productive year of blogging here!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Anime-zing Race (Summer 2015 Edition): Weeks 6-7

When you're really behind, it's time for a double-episode!
Last time, despite overcoming its Speed Bump, Aoharu x Machinegun could not catch up to the rest of the shows this season, and was eliminated. The standings are:

  1. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
  2. Actually, I Am...
  3. Charlotte
  4. Classroom Crisis
  5. Ushio & Tora
  6. GATE
  7. Overlord
What surprises await our racers in this special double-episode? What show will be eliminated... next?

This next leg will focus mainly on episode 6.