Monday, September 29, 2014

Looking Back: Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?

Note: My weekly ramblings will now be divided into various different types. "Looking Back" is where I look at a show that I have finished, either recently or in the past, and talk about my personal reactions to the show. "Industry Talk" will involve random ramblings about the anime industry, usually pertaining to the North American industry. "Anime Talk" is for most other general anime ramblings. I may add other categories later, too.


"...invaded my heart instead."

Of all the things I thought this show might turn out to be, the one thing I did not expect was for it to be genuinely good.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Locodol: Living For Something Greater

Among all the great shows that have aired this season, one more show has come up to be one of my favorites: Locodol. I've talked about this show's intimate charms when I brought it up during my seasonal "what I'm watching" post, and the show has continued to maintain that special charm throughout its run. What makes this show so special is how the Nanako and Yukari, who form the Nagarekawa Girls core idol group, and Yui and Mirai, who take turns playing the town mascot Uogokoro-kun, are doing their "idol" work not for personal fame, but to promote their hometown, both to give the town's residents a greater appreciation for their home and also to bring attention to the town to outsiders.

If their national debut causes their grandparents to buy a big-screen TV with full sound system, that's just a bonus.
This provides a significant contrast to other idol shows, where the focus is on drawing attention to the idols themselves. This focus on the hometown that drives the Nagarekawa Girls is also something that can be notable to Christians. Warning: Moderate spoilers after the jump.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 9-10: Losing My Yosakoi

After last week's cliffhanger, we find out in this episode that Naru was able to recover and continue dancing with the help of her friends. However, from there, the focus shifts to Machi, the student council president and younger sister of yosakoi club advisor Sally-sensei... at least, if the yosakoi club was actually official, which it unfortunately is still not as Sally is only a temporary teacher, and thus cannot be a club advisor.

Can we expect Hanayamata cameos in the upcoming Girls ind Panzer film? (Probably not, but still.)
With the focus on the Tokiwa sisters for these episodes, they will be the source of the lessons I will draw for this post. Expect minor spoilers after the jump.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yama no Susume Second Season, Eps. 1-4: Mountain of Faith

Unfortunately, Crunchyroll has yet to put up anything past episode 1 still for the second season of this show, despite it already approaching its second cour. I can only hope that the holdup last no longer than the start of the Fall season, because this show has been amazing so far, right up there with its YamaHanaBara counterparts Hanayamata and Barakamon. At any rate, with what looks to be a wonderful second half coming up, I want to at least put up something for the first four episodes of the show (equivalent to two full-length episodes).

For those still waiting for official streams for this show, be warned that this post contains decent spoilers.

Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler; it's from the first minute of the show.

Monday, September 15, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at Visual Novel Adaptations

Visual novel adaptations, at least of bishoujo games featuring routes for multiple girls, have been surprisingly rare as of late. The most recent such adaptations that I've watched go way back into Fall of last year, with White Album 2 and Little Busters! Refrain. Overall, the number of visual novel adaptations any given season seems to max out at two, with no more than five in any given year.

This is a bit jarring for me, as around the time I seriously started getting into anime (around 2007), visual novel adaptations were pretty much the standard non-manga anime adaptation source (kind of like how light novels are now). That, combined with the fact that many of my first anime around that time were of such visual novel adaptations, and my eternal love for cute animated girls, make visual novel adaptations among many of my favorites at the time.

I bring this up because next season has an abnormally large number of such visual novel adaptations. Sure, four might not seem like a lot, and wouldn't be if it were 2007, but now, especially after such a drought of them recently, it's definitely notable. These four are Grisaia no Kajitsu, Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, and, of course, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, in case you forgot that was originally based on a visual novel (in fact, the original anime adaptation aired in 2006, right in the middle of the golden age of VN adaptations, though I hope this new adaptation is better than that one was...). Aside from Fate/stay night, I'm not familiar with these visual novels, though they all look interesting enough and I've heard good things about the original Grisaia no Kajitsu visual novel.

But since I don't have anything to say about what's coming up, I'll talk instead about some notable visual novel adaptations I've seen in the past.

Of course, when talking about visual novel adaptations, the big ones are the ones adapted from Key/Visual Arts works: Air, Kanon, Clannad, and more recently, Little Busters!. All four are favorites of mine, being well-crafted and emotionally powerful works that really make the most of adapting the medium (though some might contest that for Little Busters!).

Aside from the top-level works of Key/Visual Arts, there are some other VN adaptations that I enjoyed. Among my first was D.C. ~Da Capo~, part of a large franchise that has only recently appeared legally in the US when Da Capo III was streamed, though the original remains my favorite of the series. The first half isn't much to speak of, but once things get serious and some revelations about the nature of the eternally-blooming sakura tree that is at the center of the series are revealed, things get serious and even tragic, making for some great moments. That show is pretty much my baseline for what makes a good VN adaptation.

Some VN adaptations I enjoyed that are available for streaming currently on Crunchyroll are Myself;Yourself and H2O ~Footprints in the Sand~. I'll have more to say on those later, but feel free to check them out on your own in the meantime.

Visual novel adaptations tend to follow a pretty basic pattern. There are multiple girls, and one at a time, the show goes down each girl's "route", exploring some of the issues of each girl (and of the guy as well) and ultimately resolving them, either happily or tragically. Eventually, the show might settle on a "main girl" that will be the male lead's official love interest for the adaptation. Various shows might mix up the basic formula in various ways, but generally speaking, the quality of a visual novel adaptation lies not in originality but in execution: having a good, varied cast of girls to be emotionally invested in, and then writing out their story lines (and where applicable, romance) well.

Of course, with the saturation of VN adaptations during that time period, there were just as many stinkers as there were solid works. (The original Fate/stay night anime is a good example of such a stinker.) And going into the four shows coming up this season, there's definitely the chance that one or more of them will turn out to be pretty bad, too. Still, as a former (and in many ways, still a current) fan of visual novel adaptations, I am hoping that these shows can turn out to be good.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yuri Subtext, Bromances, and Heavenly Friendships

One potential criticism Christians (and others) may have of many "cute girls doing cute things" shows (which, if you have not figured out already from reading my blog, is one of my favorite types of shows) is that they are filled with yuri subtext, frequently teasing romantic attractions between girls (albeit never quite forming any definitive romantic relationships). Of course, this is part of the draw of such shows for their targeted fans, but for others, especially Christians who consider homosexuality a sin, it can be a distasteful distraction from the rest of the show.

The purpose of this post is to explain why I am personally okay with the yuri subtext in these shows. I am not aiming to make some blanket statement that yuri subtext is okay; I am simply sharing my own perspective. And while this post is related to my previous posts on the potential worth of yuri anime for Christians, this post will specifically focus on cases of yuri subtext, in which the relationships do not explicitly cross into romantic territory.

And while this post focuses on romantic subtext between girls, it by all means applies to romantic subtext between guys as well. Such "bromances" have gained their own popularity thanks to the female anime fandom which loves shipping males together in all sorts of shows, and shows like Free! which target that fandom gleefully. And in fact, to illustrate my perspective, I will be looking at one particularly close pair of males... straight from the Bible. I am, of course, talking about David and Jonathan.

Pictured: Nanoha and Fate of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and one of the most famous really close two-girl friendships in anime.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 7-8: Share the Wisdom, Share the Love

So I talk about how Barakamon might be close to being a Christian anime, as the Gotou Islands it takes place on has a history with Japan's few Christians. I wrote that before episode 8 aired... and naturally, episode 8 was titled "Onde: Buddhist Chanting and Dancing."

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to make claims about anything being a Christian anime, right?

Well, to be fair, I probably should not be too surprised that Buddhist traditions exist in the Gotou islands culture. The islands are located right between Japan and China and likely had a significant Chinese (and thus Buddhist) population before the Japanese Christians took refuge there. What has likely happened is a mixture of different faith traditions and cultures to form the islands' current culture. And if the fact that Hiro was dragged into taking part in the onde because they were lacking people is of any indication, it's possible that the onde has become a cultural relic that is performed mainly for following tradition than out of any actual belief in the ritual itself (and hence, fewer people feel the desire to actually perform the ritual).

But that's enough hypothesizing about the show's anthropology. Let's talk about the actual content of the episodes themselves, and the Christian themes found within.

In which the show suddenly becomes tsuritama.
Spoiler warning: Nothing major this time; just the usual minor stuff.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 7-8: When Things Fall Apart

Things are not exactly going well for our yosakoi girls. Yaya has just learned that her band has failed her audition, and that's just the beginning of her troubles. Meanwhile, the group's first performance at a department store event draws closer... and the girls are gaining weight. Thankfully, a surprisingly positive message comes out of that last one.

Not all weight gain is bad weight gain. (Especially if it's muscle weight.)

However, things are getting serious for these girls. Take a look at what we can learn from them after the jump, but beware of some fairly major spoilers.