Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick update

The "What I'm Watching" page has been updated with thoughts on all the shows I'm currently watching this season. I'm using a new format now, as I've gotten rid of the running scoreboard in favor of a simple tier-based ranking system.

Also, while I was thinking of writing something for the latest episode of Mushishi -The Next Passage-, Japesland over at Beneath the Tangles has written a far better post than I ever could, so this week I shall just point you over there to see what he has written about the cycles of life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yama no Susume Season 2: Discouragement of Climb

Some great news came out earlier today when Crunchyroll announced that they have gotten the go-ahead to simulcast the rest of Yama no Susume Second Season, a.k.a. Encouragement of Climb Season 2, and have already added all of the previous episodes as well. For anyone who has been waiting for a legal stream of those episodes, this is your chance to catch up with one of the best shows from the summer, as well as the "second part" of the YamaHanaBara story for which Hanayamata was the first part and Barakamon was the third part.

In celebration of this, expect a number of posts on recent episodes of the show, as well as continuing regular coverage of the show on this blog from here on out. This post will cover material up to and including episode 12, and will naturally contain spoilers from those episodes. If you haven't watched this show up to that point yet, go ahead and do so. Don't worry, this post isn't going anywhere. Or just hit the jump if you really don't care about watching this show, and don't care that you're missing out on one of the best shows currently airing.

You'd also be missing out on these adorable Li'l Fuji dolls, and you wouldn't want that, would you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 3: Guided or Controlled

Episode 3 is a visual novel adaptation in all its glory: romcom hijinks, a bit of fanservice, and setup for character-specific plots are all in this one. They also squeezed in references to memetic music videos as a bonus.

As it turns out, in Japanese culture the fox does have its own onomatopoeia, making the song even more meaningless.
Throughout all of this, though, the mysterious Shepherd continues to direct the members of the Library Club to certain people, and then directs those people in turn to the Library Club. This, of course, brings the Library Club to start trying to find out who exactly this Shepherd is, and why they seem to be controlling them in this way...

Minor spoilers after the jump.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Industry Talk: Dub-I-Dub

Let's talk about dubs this week, specifically why some shows get dubbed while others don't. All of this should be common knowledge to longtime fans, but it's something that I want to put out for newer fans as it is important for them to know if they care about what gets dubbed or not.

Sentai Filmworks recently put out their February 2015 release slate, which includes a fairly well-known title that has been a long time coming: Space Brothers. However, this first 13-episode set of the series, and likely the rest of the 99-episode show, will not be dubbed. Meanwhile, also on the slate for that month is a re-release of Leviathan: The Last Defense, released sub-only earlier this year, but now with a dub. A number of fans have gotten quite riled up that a "crap" show like Leviathan is getting dubbed (and re-released with a dub, at that!), while a "masterpiece" show like Space Brothers gets the sub-only treatment.

So I think it's time to set some things straight. First of all, I think Leviathan is a perfectly okay show. Sure, it's exceedingly average and not something I'd consider "good" by any means, but if you're looking for a brainless, fun fantasy action show, it's perfectly fine. But that's pretty much irrelevant to all of this.

Anyway, why do some shows get dubbed while others are sub-only? Simple: dubs cost money. A lot of money, too; I don't have the exact numbers, but the numbers I've seen point to a cost of several thousand dollars per episode. Let's say it's $5,000 an episode; for a 12-episode series, that's $60,000 the show has to be able to profit in order to make up the dub cost! What this boils down to is this: a dubbed show has to sell really well.

Now, certainly, dubs increase sales. A number of anime fans are only interested in or largely prefer dubbed titles to sub-only titles, for various reasons. And anime companies wouldn't dub shows if they didn't think there was at least the possibility to bring in so much more sales with a dub that the cost of the dub is worth it (especially since dubs help improve the long-term value of a show, as well as the overall image of the company itself). However, the question comes down to this: can a show bring in enough additional sales to cover the cost of the dub?

If not, the sub-only treatment makes sense; rather than lose money on a dub, they'd rather lose some sales but still sell enough to the smaller but devoted customer base that's fine with buying sub-only shows to make a profit. And in some cases, like Leviathan, if the sub-only release turns out to sell well beyond expectations, to the point where the company can feel like a dub might be profitable, they can always go back and re-release the show with a dub.

The most important thing to remember is this: whether a show gets dubbed or not has nothing to do with how good it is. It has everything to do with how well it can sell with the crowd that primarily or exclusively buys dubbed releases. Now, there are all sorts of theories for what titles are popular with that crowd and what titles are not; generally, action-heavy shows are more likely to get dubbed, while slice-of-life shows are very likely to not be dubbed. Also, longer shows like Space Brothers are disadvantaged by the greater cost of having to dub a lot of episodes (if you thought dubbing 12 episodes was expensive, consider having to dub 99 episodes!).

The thing is to not get angry over a show you really like not getting dubbed, or a show you think is bad getting dubbed. These companies are just trying to do what makes the most business sense, and for various reasons, the shows that sell the best aren't necessarily the best-quality shows. If you really want to try to get shows you like dubbed, your best bet is to try to promote the show while it is airing and increase the streaming numbers, as those are one of the indicators companies use to determine whether a show might be popular enough to be dubbed. And sometimes, you just have to resign yourself to the fact that great shows like Non Non Biyori and Engaged to the Unidentified just will never be dubbed... at least, as an eternal fan of slice-of-life shows, that's the reality I have to live with every month...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 11-12: Going Home and Going Back

This post has been long overdue. Let's go straight into it.

Preferably before Seishuu's mom goes all JoJo on her son.

This post contains moderate spoilers after the jump.

3 For 3: 10/25/14 Edition

In this new weekly column, I will write three paragraphs each on three currently-airing shows. These paragraphs will cover thoughts on the show's execution as well as personal reactions, just like a standard aniblog post. Two of the three shows will consistently appear every week in a season, while a third show will be a "show of the week" that might change from week to week, depending on which show I feel like talking about that week.

Be warned that spoilers are in every show's post.  If you only want to see my comments on one particular show, click one of the links below.

Celestial Method (Sora no Method)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)
Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 2)

Time to cover the second half of the new shows I'm following this season. It's worth noting that I have one other show under consideration: Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru; however, my impression of the first two episodes is that I'm going to need to give it the 3-episode rule. If I do decide to add it in, I'll probably do so as a Weekly Rambling.

There are a number of direct sequels in this part. In fact, so far, overall the sequels have given the strongest offerings so far, though that's not unexpected; whereas the new shows are still building their foundations and setting up for what could be strong payoffs, the sequels are building off what their initial seasons have already proven to be their strengths. So while I have a good feeling about a number of the new shows, the sequels are currently what I'm liking most. But that could very well change as the other shows develop.

Once again, here are some links to each show in this part; they will take you directly to the show in question below.

In Search of the Lost Future (Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete)
Mushishi -The Next Passage- 2 (Mushishi Zoku Shou 2)
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mushishi -The Next Passage-, Ep. 11: Where I Belong

It's your lucky day: instead of just my usual weekly ramblings, you get a full blog post from me today!

Mushishi is definitely an incredible anime series. I have really come to fall in love with this show and the various ways it explores the human condition, as well as the overall atmosphere of the show. Perhaps one of the best, and yet somewhat more underrated aspects of the show, is how its lead character, Ginko, reacts to every situation he encounters. He may approach every case as a relatively objective outside perspective, but he is by no means a stoic, unemotional presence; he has his own reactions to everything, and over the course of the show we get to see his own personality unveiled and even develop. As the one constant between every otherwise (mostly) stand-alone episode, he is a very important part of the show, and what ultimately makes it more than just a "mushi of the week" show.

It was then to my joy that I found that the first episode of the second half of the second season (listed as episode 11 of -The Next Passage-), which just aired last Saturday, focused on Ginko as a child, after his encounter with the Tokoyami (which we first saw in episode 12 of the first season), but before he officially becomes a mushishi. It's a very welcome opportunity to learn more about Ginko himself, and how he has come to be who he is now. And the episode most definitely did not disappoint on that count, providing what has been the best episode of Mushishi yet.

Ginko as a kid. That cigarette actually makes mushi-repelling smoke, but of course, we still can't show minors smoking on TV.
And if that was not enough, the episode gives some very thoughtful concepts of interest to Christians. Warning: Some moderate spoilers follow after the jump.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall 2014: What I'm Watching (Part 1)

It's that time again to go over all the shows I'm watching this season. Yes, I'm doing this a bit earlier than normal. That's mainly because I've decided on my final watchlist earlier this season. The shows this season that I had the most initial interest in have shown themselves to be worthy of my interest, and others that I've tried out have also show to have quite some potential. The result? A massive list of 16, possibly 17 new shows that I'll be following this season. (There's one show that only just aired that I haven't gotten to watch yet; if I decide to follow it, it'll be added to Part 2.)

So without further ado, let's get to the first eight shows that I plan to be following.

As a new feature, if you want to skip to a particular show's introduction, click on one of the links below. (Edit: They're working now.)

Amagi Brilliant Park
Celestial Method (Sora no Method)
Chaika -The Coffin Princess- Avenging Battle (Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle)
Denki-gai no Honya-san
A good librarian like a good shepherd (Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai)
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Le Fruit de la Grisaia (Grisaia no Kajitsu)
Girl Friend BETA (Girlfriend (Kari))

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 2: A good trash collector like a good shepherd

So yeah, I'll be regularly blogging this show. It's a show I'm enjoying quite a bit, for the reasons I mentioned in my last post on the show, and also because there are a lot of fun and interesting character interactions in this show. It also has a cat that randomly speaks Engrish. What's not to love?

How do you say no to that face?
At any rate, it's a show that isn't getting a whole lot of attention elsewhere, with most of the attention it is getting being negative, so I figure I would give it some positive coverage here. Regardless of whether or not you plan to watch the show yourself, the show does have some interesting themes of worth to Christians, so there's that, too.

(I'm keeping with the Japanese title because it's shorter and I already did the first post with it and want to keep continuity.)

In the second episode, Tsugumi kicks off her "Shiomi Happy Project" by helping clean up trash around the academy, and inviting others to do so as well. It's a seemingly small step in her plan to bring happiness to the students on campus, but in many ways, it's a step in the right direction, especially for Kyotaro and the others as they help out.

(More after the jump. Spoilers? They're so minor, I don't think they can even be counted as spoilers.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 11-12: The Grand Finale

It's time to cover the grand finale of Hanayamata, looking at themes found not just in those episodes, but also in the entire show overall. In the meantime, though, we can certainly enjoy how this show plays out its final episodes. The final dance might not be quite as nicely-animated as one might want (I'll blame that on people not giving the show enough of a budget), but story-wise, everything comes together in these last two episodes in such a nice way, including during the dance itself, that this finale is still a very strong one.

This is quite possibly the single best split-second in anime ever.
This final post will, of course, contain moderate spoilers.

Looking Back: Myself; Yourself

Go figure that, in a show about multiple girls, the most memorable moment involves the friendship between two guys.

(Note: This Looking Back post is free of all but the most minor of spoilers.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 1: Like The Good Shepherd

I can understand if you're raising an eyebrow as to why I'm blogging about an episode of this show, of all things. After all, in a season full of promising shows, including a number of other potentially interesting visual novel adaptations, why waste my time talking about (or watching) a seemingly mediocre harem visual novel adaptation that spends much of its first episode over an accidental grope? Well, Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, also known by the English name A Good Librarian Like A Good Shepherd (although the show doesn't have an official English name yet, for some reason), certainly won't be winning the praise of any critics, but I for one actually enjoyed its first episode quite a bit. It has a unique setting (the mega-academy is rather underused as a school-type setting), a cast of characters that is fairly archetypical but works well enough and has some signs of depth, and an overall premise that looks like it can go interesting places.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show's premise is the presence of the "Shepherd", who is guiding things from behind the scenes, as well as the hint of a "Shepherd Test" and the suggestion of having lead male Kyotaro take that test. Even beyond that, though, is the fact that Tsugumi Shirasaki, with the help of the Library Club, is looking to bring happiness to the students of the massive Shiomi Academy through some kind of project. In a way, she is trying to become a shepherd herself, leading the rest of the academy to happiness. It is a rather daunting task, because she herself is very much like a sheep: meek, powerless, and just one of many other "sheep" at the academy (there are over 650 students in just one classroom!). But she wants to challenge herself and grow through the experience, so she's doing it.

These are rather interesting words in and of themselves, potentially worth a blog post on their own.
In all of this, the whole Shepherd aspect offers a potential connection to Christianity; after all, God is frequently referred to as a shepherd, leading His people, the sheep, to where He wants us to go. The analogy of us as sheep highlights how helpless we are without Him; without a good shepherd to lead us, we're prone to wandering off into dangerous territory and getting ourselves eaten by wolves. Thankfully, God is more than willing to serve as a shepherd to us, patiently guiding us and keeping us safe.

But if part of the Christian walk is becoming like God, then that means, to an extent, we too are to become shepherds. We might not have to lead all the Christians in the world like God does, but we are called to make disciples, which is a miniature shepherding role in and of itself. For those who are called to become leaders, especially pastors, the role of a shepherd takes even more meaning. But even if all we shepherd is one "sheep" at a time now and then, that is enough reason to seek to become like the Good Shepherd.

It can be a daunting task, though; after all, we are in many ways still sheep ourselves. And the idea of a sheep becoming a shepherd sounds weird no matter how "good" the sheep might be. But that is why we have God as the Good Shepherd that we look to, to give us what we need to do what we cannot do by ourselves (such as fellow sheep who can help us along the way). It's similar to how Tsugumi not only has the rest of the Library Club, but also the mysterious Shepherd who brought the Library Club together (even if his methods are a bit suspect).


I don't know if I'll be blogging this show regularly like I did for Hanayamata and Barakamon last season. Even if I did, this show is probably not going to be a top-tier show like those two were, even with how much I liked the first episode. Nevertheless, it is definitely one I'll be keeping an eye on, and which I may just revisit on this blog in the future. (It's likely to join the upcoming "3 for 3" feature I have coming up, at least.)

At the very least, perhaps I ought to write something about how being a good librarian can help in becoming like the Good Shepherd?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

No weekly ramblings, but...

Sorry for the lack of weekly ramblings this weekend. I sent my laptop in for repairs, and wasn't in the mood to try to compose something on my iPad. And while I have the laptop back now, I don't really have it in me to compose anything like a Looking Back post.

Instead, I took the time to update my What I'm Watching page with final scores and thoughts on all of the Summer shows I watched, plus initial impressions of the Fall shows I've watched so far. Check it out by clicking on the page link above... or if you're lazy, just click here.

Final posts for the last two episodes of Hanayamata and Barakamon will be coming eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later. Also expect further coverage of Encouragement of Climb Second Season (despite the continued lack of a legal stream) as well as possibly a new show that I'll be covering during the season, plus a new feature called "3 for 3". What does that mean? You'll have to wait and see...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Barakamon: Eps. 9-10: Inspired

Yeah, I'm late on this post, and the last two episodes have already aired; I'll get to those later (probably next week). For now, though, I'll be doing these two episodes. I actually don't have much to say on them; they're fantastic episodes as always, just being a bit more focused on the charms of Seishuu's island life than trying to push any real lessons. And that's fine, too.

Well, not sure I'd call impromptu Tarzan re-enactments as "charms".
This post will contain decent spoilers after the jump.