Saturday, October 25, 2014

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)

Celestial Method: Episodes 1-3

Oh, if only she knew...

For all of this show’s mysteries and relational drama, it seems content to move at its own pace. There’s certainly plenty of plot movement in these three episodes: Yuzuki realizes that the Nonoka she befriended is the same Nonoka who made the wish to summon the saucer seven years ago, whom she still has a grudge against, and Noel is revealed to be the saucer itself, all while Nonoka finally remembers what happened with her past friends. Still, all this happens with a backdrop of that serene, small-town environment, and much of these episodes revolve around the girls simply moving from one place to another, whether it be trying to gather others to support the anti-saucer cause or participating in a school scavenger hunt. Boring for some, perhaps, but I’m all for this kind of slower-paced storytelling—but that might be just me.

If there’s one thing that didn’t quite work, it’s Shione’s active dislike of Nonoka. It’s one thing for her to act coldly to her; after all, Nonoka was once her close friend, and now she seems to have forgotten her, something she believes is just an act to ignore the fact that she left without telling her. That’s all fair enough, but perhaps slapping Nonoka when she tried to figure out what she did wrong was going a bit too far. Hopefully she can prove to be a more reasonable character going forward.

At any rate, things are set up for plenty of interesting story points to come. Nonoka must deal with the memories of her past, Yuzuki must reconcile her past grudge with her current friendship, and everyone must deal with Noel now that she is the very saucer they had wished for, for better or for worse. Of course, it’s a bit weird that a group of kids would just want to randomly summon a saucer, which is why there’s one plot point that I hope will come more into play going forward: the “saucer book”. Is it just a simple children’s book that a bunch of kids decided to have fun with, or is there something deeper and more meaningful to that book? Whatever the case, I’m definitely looking forward to learning more.

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When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Episodes 1-3

The ability to use Kill la Kill rackets is a nice bonus.

Thinking about why I love this show so much, it’s pretty clear that it is because this show has exactly what I’m normally looking for when I watch anime. It’s pretty different from what many people watch anime for, but for me, anime is all about the characters, their relationships with each other, and the way they overcome trials in life together. It becomes especially clear here that this is exactly what this show is about in the second and third episodes, where the supernatural powers themselves largely take a backseat to explore the character relations.

Episode 2 already highlights a lot of this as it explores a misunderstanding over a letter that causes the student council president to fall in love with July, and how the Literature Club reacts to it. The scene where July has to explain the truth to Mirei and break her heart is already a heartbreaking scene, but hearing afterward how it came about because he put a lot of thought into something as simple as the character counts of their ability names… You really get the sense that for all of his chuunibyou antics, July has a real heart to this, and it is that heart that draws the other girls of the Literature Club to him.

Episode 3 takes this further by looking more at the circumstances with the girls and how July has helped them, particularly by convincing Chifuyu and Sayumi to never use their powers to create or resurrect life (something their powers could theoretically do but would weigh heavily on them). (It also reveals that he and Hatoko have known each other since elementary school, where he helped to keep others from giving her an embarrassing nickname, albeit perhaps unintentionally.) It also officially introduces the mysterious guy from episode 1, who turns out to be a literature club alumni, an eternal chuuni… and Tomoyo’s half-brother. It’s clearly a sensitive topic for Tomoyo, and in a surprisingly heartfelt moment, July tells her she does not have to talk to him about it if she does not want to, even when she offers to tell him. It’s moments like this that really make me love this show, even beyond what I already like about the show’s strong, self-aware sense of humor.

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Your Lie in April, Ep. 3

"Do you think he knows how much I want him to be my accompanist?"

For this week’s Show of the Week, I will be looking specifically at the latest episode, as perhaps more interesting than what goes on in the episode itself (which is pretty interesting as it is) are the reactions I’m seeing to one significant part of the episode: namely, how forceful Kaori and Tsubaki are in getting Kousei to start playing piano again. While some people see these two as positive forces who are giving him the push he needs to confront his problems instead of hide from them, others see it as disrespectful of his own agency and even a form of bullying. And even among those in the latter group, there are those that see this as a significant misstep in the anime, in trying to make these girls sympathetic when they are actually rather unlikable, while others see it as simply a reasonable depiction of how middle school girls might handle that situation in all their middle schooler immaturity. The question of whether these girls’ actions are justifiable or not could be worth a full blog post on their own, but for now it’s interesting to look at these differing reactions.

I personally view all this in the “middle schooler immaturity” lens, though I am refraining from passing judgment on Kaori or Tsubaki’s actions at the moment. There’s certainly a degree of narrative exaggeration going on here, trying to add some comic effect to what in real life would have probably just amounted to some prodding from Tsubaki and the rooftop scene where Kaori begs Kousei in tears to help her out—a very interesting scene in and of itself, and one which currently has woefully little context. And that’s also part of the issue here; it’s still very early in this show, and what might look like problematic behavior at first could be setting up for something more important down the line, but until we hit that payoff, we (who had not read the manga beforehand) are left trying to interpret this episode with the limited knowledge we have. And even if this whole scene is a writing fumble, because it is early in the story, we can always hope that the original author could learn and refine the writing later in the story to avoid whatever problems this episode might have brought up for some.

On a different note, I have mentioned my worries over how the romantic drama aspect of this show might develop, but what helps me here is rethinking what the character relationships are in this show. Rather than thinking of Kaori and Kousei as love interests, I like to think of their relationship first and foremost as fellow musicians, especially considering how Kaori once looked up to him and how he is now her accompanist. Likewise, Tsubaki is first and foremost a concerned friend, before she could be a tragic love interest. The show, thankfully, makes doing this very conducive, and is one reason I like it so much. I might talk about this more in a Weekly Rambling, but I believe good storytelling means writing characters, not love interests, and writing relationships, not romances. So far, Your lie in April is doing that, and if it continues to do so (and perhaps better characterize Watari’s role in all of this), it should make the inevitable romantic drama come off much better.

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