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Soul Eater: Blood Is An Excellent Plot Thickener

Tears work, too, kind of, but they dry too fast, and leave a salty residue. Not that crying is a bad thing, mind you.

I’ve been cryptically silent on Soul Eater for a while, and it’s not because I wasn’t enjoying it–because I was–but I just didn’t quite feel like there was much to write about in the previous episodes other than “Hey, Death the Kid is pretty funny and awesome!” and “Black Star is an idiot!” and “Stein is wicked cool!”, which are all true statements, but not quite what I had in mind. I watched 8 with the intent of actually writing something on it, and it seems to have rewarded that effort.

First, there’s now (finally) some kind of aim to the series, other than “collect a bunch of souls and power up”. The series seemed to lack direction before (which isn’t really something many shounen series don’t do; I’ve always had problems getting into these kinds of series, even though once I do get into them I enjoy them immensely), but now we have a clear antagonist in the form of Medusa (bonus points for placing her at Shibusen as a nurse and having her console Maka before giving Mandatory Evil Grin, I didn’t quite expect that) and what will probably be an important twist in the plot: the contamination/poisoning of Soul with the blood of the demon sword. I’m not entirely sure where this will take us from here on out, and I’m extremely hesitant to try and create a fictional rest-of-the-series that won’t actually jibe well with what the rest of the series actually is. I’m farily confident that BONES has a clever plan for Soul Eater, given that they’re giving it 10th Anniversary series status; it seems fairly unlikely that they’d pick a series for a 10th Anniversary and then spend 51 episodes going nowhere, so I know they’ve got something up their sleeve. I’m not expecting a clone of Fullmetal Alchemist (their other 51 episode series), especially considering that Soul Eater isn’t directed by Mizushima Seiji, but I see tantalizing hints in this episode (especially the latter half) that could turn Soul Eater into a quite impressive series in its own right. I have no idea what the manga is like, and I’m intentionally not reading it, as I don’t think that reading it would be a good indicator for where the series is going from here on out, as I’m fairly certain that the anime will diverge from the manga at some point or another.

Urg.

Also interesting is that I’m pretty sure Maka’s VA has improved since the first episode, or else I’ve just grown accustomed to her voice. I never really disliked it, as I found it rather refreshing to have Maka look like she does and then not be voiced fairly typically (i.e. slightly cute). There was, of course, general outcry over this on 2ch(an) with hordes of people calling for her to be fired (she wasn’t), presumably because she wasn’t cutesy enough for them. Or something. And I figured she’d improve, as anyone who’s seen Full Moon o Sagashite would know. It has a similar problem, in that they hired Myco, a singer, to do regular voice work for Mitsuki, and I distinctly remember that, for the first 3-8 episodes, Mitsuki sounded fairly scratchy and amaturish (which kind of worked with her character, since she did have throat cancer after all), but that soon went away as she got better at the job, although it was pretty clear they hired her to voice simply because she was doing the songs as well.

Tangent aside, here’s something else that’s struck me: some of the characters, such as Maka, lack pupils. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but it just strikes me as weird. Some characters clearly have pupils, and some clearly don’t. It’s certainly not as visually unappealing as the other great pupilless character in anime, Hyuguu Hinata, but I am wondering whether it’s just a strange stylistic concern, or whether there’s a plot element to go along with it. Time will tell!

I think there were some more things to talk about here, such as Maka having delicious angst (or something) over her own inability to do anything (note: I like angst, since it’s ridiculously unrealistic to expect that a person/character should never have some kind of emotional issue, as if everyone doesn’t have their own self-doubts and private agonies), which seems to spell out some delicious character development for her. I can only hope the same is in store for the rest of our Intrepid Heroes, but they haven’t dropped those hints. Yet.

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Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The Levithan of Character Development


My Custom Haro is preparing for battle. You would be wise to be terrified.

So after a protracted “discussion” with Owen S from Cruel Angel’s Theses he practically instructed me to write this post, so I am!

The most common criticism I hear leveled against Gundam 00 is the supposed lack of character development. Now, first, I checked Wikipedia for what is most likely intended by the phrase “character development” and, lo and behold, I was looking at it slightly funny. Character development, of course, is the procees of a character changing in some significant way over the course of a work of fiction. Which I already knew. However, I had somehow folded characterization into the definition of character development, as it makes more linguistic sense to me. If you are “developing” the characters, wouldn’t it track both a deepening of the personality and a change over the work?

Thinking about it, it’s probably somewhat accurate to state that Gundam 00 did not have “character development” in the sense of the actual definition. What happens to the characters, especially the Meisters, isn’t a gradual change in their personalities, but rather a deepening of the viewer’s understanding of their static character–the process of characterization. I posit two things: one, that it is most likely outside the scope of Mizushima’s intent with Gundam 00 to “develop” the characters as one might expect; and two, what we have at the moment is only half of the entirety of Gundam 00. We have no idea what’s going to happen in season 2, so it’s possible that all the change was saved up for then. And as for the first, as SDS points out, Gundam 00 is more like the original Mobile Suit Gundam than any of the other AU series, in the sense that it portrays how war affects people. Technically they should change, but what we have in season one is a 25-episode study in how war affects the human consciousness. Mizushima accomplishes this more through portraying the character’s emotional reactions to events in the series. A character having a strong emotional reaction to some kind of external event that they can’t control is valid characterization, as it shows you what they find upsetting; you may not like it, which is perfectly acceptable, but it isn’t invalid.

In conclusion, I guess, the main difference between fans of Gundam 00 and not-fans of Gundam 00 is a difference in how they wish to see characters portrayed in their anime. Characterization has a certain kind of style to it, and if you don’t like the style of a certain series’ charateriation, then you’re going to like that series less. It’s like how I’m ambivalent (or, really, downwright bipolar) towards Kaiba: objectively, it’s good; subjectively, it fails to grab me in any significant way that makes me appreciate it the way Yuasa intendts me to appreciate it. DIfferent strokes and all that.

I also notice that a lot of the criticism of Gundam 00 of this nature comes from those with limited exposure to the Gundam franchise, and so therefore they’re bringing a different perspective to the matter. Most people with more exposure to the Gundam franchise I’ve seen do one of two things: enjoy Gundam 00 wholeheartedly, sometimes with reservations; or watch two episodes of it and declare it Gundam Wing Part the Second and dismiss it out of hand. That’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s to say that there’s two ways of looking at the series: as an anime that started in Fall 2007, and as a part of the Gundam franchise. SInce I subscribe to the latter, the former is a mystery to me.

kure-nai: Level Up! Gained New Ability: Shampooing One’s Own Hair!

I cannot take any more Murasaki cuteness. First she can’t reach the button in the elevator (and complains about it and is summarily trapped in said elevator) and then she finally figures out how to shampoo her own hair. Badly, of course (you have to scrub the whole hair, not just the top, dear) but that’s Murasaki for you.

The reason behind the mysterious kidnapping of Murasaki by Benika at the start of the series is revealed, as well as Benika’s reasons for putting her in the care of Shinkurou. It’s a well-matched set of events, and I can already see that their plan is starting to bear fruit. Murasaki is quite different than she was in episode 1, where all she could do was talk down at Shinkurou. Shinkurou, for his part, seems to have grown a kind of affection for Murasaki as well. If he didn’t feel affection for her, he wouldn’t chastise and rebuke her as much as he does, let alone get into a shouting match with her like last episode. And his immediate shift from passive sackdoll to aggressive guard dog when Murasaki was theatened has much, much more of a parental nature than a business one.

Before I watched this episode, I got curious and looked up the definition of “kurenai” [紅] on edict (it means “crimson”, perhaps meaning blood) and discovered an interesting fact that you’d only get by looking at the Japanese names of the characters: Shinkurou’s last name is, of course, simply Kurenai (full name: 紅 真九郎). The “beni” in Benika, however, is the same kanji (full name: 柔沢 紅香) but an alternate reading. (The 香 [ka] part of her name, incidentally, means “incense, fragrance”; in keeping with the idea of 紅 as “blood” perhaps this could mean that her name literally means “smell of blood”, a charming name for a charming lady). It’s a silly little touch I noticed. I haven’t determined if it means anything or not. although I guess it could imply a sort of blood tie between them.

I’m finding it hard to figure out exactly what attracts me so much to kure-nai, aside from the Murasaki Moe Moments, which would be enough to carry any series. There’s something more than that, however, and the direction for the series absolutely shines in ways I hadn’t considered when I watched Rozen Maiden years and years ago. Matsuo Kou is truly a talented director, and just watching kure-nai I’m getting the urge to be the third person ever to buy Red Garden DVDs and watch them. I don’t know how much of this is the influence of him and the main screenwriter, and how much is the influence of the original author, Katayama Kentarou, but the series is extremely skilled on all three fronts in maintaining a sense that the characters who know each other, know each other well. You see this whenever Shinkurou is at school: the dialogue isn’t like most anime, where the characters dump exposition on each other in casual conversation; you instead get the feeling that these people have known each other for years and years and you, the viewer, can sense an undercurrent running under what’s actually being said.

It’s the combinatrion of the writing, both original and adaptation, and direction that turns kure-nai from “cute series about cute girl” to a strong followup to true tears. It’s always the case for me that whenever a season ends and a series I’ve grown attached to is over with, I feel strange, like nothing that’s good in that special way will come along again and the pervasive fear that I’ll mysteriously fall out of anime somehow creeps upon me, something always comes the next season and knocks those feelings away. It’s a necessary feature to being a loyal follower of anime, I find, this willingness to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. If one dwells on one series too long, one forgets to appreciate series that one sees after it and finds that they are drawing comparisons between what they’re currently watching and what they’ve loved in the past, and these comparisons are always negative for the series more fresh in their memory. Not that you can’t have favorites (I certainly have mine, and I have quite a lot of them, so I have trouble with top ten lists), but nether does the quality of series from the past negatively impact the quality of series in the present, or in the future.

And now I step off the small soapbox I just got on and conclude with this thought: Murasaki playing Nintendo DS. I am now envisioning Murasaki trying to play Ouendan, and this mental image is wonderful indeed.

Allison & Lillia: Yearning For Youth

Those who have been tragically left behind as the result of an altercation, we salute you.

Allison & Lillia is maintaining its steady flow of warm-hearted children’s lit into anime form. It’s easy to see why it’s airing on NHK–it’s a very simple story, told in a cheerful voice. It is about a war, yes, but it isn’t about the violence of combat. And neither does it glamorize war. Alllsion, the original novel, is clearly a Sigsawa children’s novel (I have no idea if Kino no Tabi was a children’s novel too or not), and, thereby, probably won’t appeal to a large portion of the Internet anime-watching populace because of this, since in order to enjoy it, one has to have the ability to appreciate a simpler story. I almost wish that Allison & Lillia, should it ever be licensed, would get a broadcast run in a timeslot aimed at children. If that happens, it would be interesting not only to see the reaction during its run, but also the reaction as said children grow up and have fond memories of the series. It’d be kind of like how I have fond memories of anime series that aired on NIckelodeon back when it was an actually good network (i.e., the late 1980s): my mom swears up and down that I loved The Little Prince, which I can’t remember ever having watched, and I have extremely vague memories of The Adventures of the Little Koala (or a similar series, Nickelodeon aired several koala-themed anime series during that era, and I have no way of telling which my hazy recollection fits up with). I know other people have fond memoeries of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which they also aired, and on the non-anime front I also have fond memories of David the Gnome, which was Finnish, I thnk). Natsukashii~

Nostalgia rant aside, Allison & Lillia is showing remarkable sophistication and creativity. From the episode preview, it seems like we’re going to find out what the treasure is next episode, something I didn’t expect to see happen until the conclusion of the Allison storyline around episode 13. That tells me that what’s important to the story isn’t the retrieval of the treasure, but the impact it has on the world at large. It’s allegedly a treasure that can bring peace to the war-torn world Allison and Wil live in, but I suspect that it will not be the treasure that accomplishes this by itself, but, rather, something that our two intrepid heroes will do as a result of the treasure.

I also like how the narrator of the story isn’t Allison, who is the “protagonist”, but Wil. It’s an echo of Crest of the Stars and all three Banner of the Stars series. Wil is playing the part of what SDS describes as the Rational Male Compaion much like Jinto played for Lafiel. It may not be love between the two (yet!) but it’s definitely something much more deep than mere friendship. And it’s not one of those frightening relationships where two human beings seemingly merge into one amorphous blob that has a bizarre amalgamation of the component humans’ personalities. It’s instead a relationship where each is their own, separate person, and they use their strengths to support the other. Wil’s mostly along for the ride, but he’s got the brains behind the outfit. Allison would have already been captured or, worse, killed, were Wil not with her, as she has a tendency to charge headlong into a conflict without thinking first. I love the Rational Male Companion relationship dynamic (partly because I’m a forward-thinking person when it comes to gender roles, and partly because I desperately wish to be someone’s Rational Male Companion. This latter desire, and ones like it, substitutes for an externally-focused sex drive, but that’s TMI and at any rate I’m incredibly weird, just like everyone else), so any time it crops up it’s a blast for me.

Whatever the treasure ends up to be, and however the peace comes to the land, I’m sticking wtih this one to the end.

kure-nai: Murasaki and Japan’s Culture

I have to get this out of the way early: kure-nai 3 is probably the best single episode of anime I’ve seen in a long time. It covers so much ground in 24 minutes and manages to be highly entertaining at the same time. I don’t know how he does it, but Matsuo Kou is a genius.

There were quite a few aspects about this episode that I highly enjoyed, especially the whole Murasaki running around school and being generally confused bit, which was capped by the brilliant three-way argument pictured above. The comedic timing in this portion of the episode was spot-on. Murasaki was wonderfully and childishly cute (as she always is) stumbling around school and generally being curious (with the highlight of this being when she called Shinkurou on the phone to complain about the anatomy figure, which was made even better by the fact that Shinkurou thought she was talking about something else entirely, leaving you to wonder just what exactly is hiding in Tamaki’s room). On top of all this, we’ve got Shinkurou interacting with Ginko in sublime fashion. There’s a word for the direction style of this segment of the episode, I’m sure, but I lack proper vocabulary.

What really surprised me, though, was the train scene, and the aftermath thereof. As Murasaki idealistically confronts the train bullies kicking an elderly lady out of her seat so they can be happily seated, Shinkurou timidly sits behind, and even rebukes Murasaki for her outburst. He’s reacting like any sensible, mature Japanese citizen would in such a situation: a child under their care is disturbing social order by confronting someone else, so therefore he must be strictly apologetic and admit fault and be humiliated, kicked, and spat upon.

This is interesting on several levels. From a character standpoint, it’s an aspect of Shinkurou’s character we haven’t seen.I personally expected him to stand up and fight them, revealing his mysterious power to Murasaki, but he doesn’t. And this, from a writing standpoint, is also good: you expect the main character to stand up for right, good, and justice, and it doesn’t happen. You get the feeling that he clearly wants to do such, but he’s being bound by societal rules not to.

Which is what I found most interesting: Murasaki, for all her childishness, confronts the bullies, and gets lectured to becaose of this. The viewer is clearly supposed to support Murasaki in this instance, as she’s clearly doing what needs to be done, and Shinkurou is doing what Japanese society says you should do. During the lecture, it’s Murasaki confronting the whole of Japanese culture through Shinkurou. Is it right to tolerate cruelty just to maintain a modicum of social harmony? At what point is social harmony breached? Is is breached when the elderly lady is forced from her seat? Is it breached when Murasaki confronts the perpetrators? Who’s in the wrong here?

The answer kure-nai gives depends on who you see as right or wrong, although the intent to criticise Japanese culture is certainly embedded in this scene. Personally, I find social harmony essential to any human interaction, but, in this case, social harmony was breached when the young upstarts forced the lady from her seat. Murasaki was entirely correct to confront them, even if it was a drastic action that not many would take, regardless of the culture. Hell, I don’t even think I would confront a group of bullies like that, as I’d probably get a solid pounding; on the flip side, I generally lash out like Murasaki when people feel the need to be jerks when they really shouldn’t be. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s the right kind of attitude to have, even if this does mean that I’m actually a seven year old girl at heart.

kure-nai is probably the best series of this spring so far, although in the case of this spring I hestitate to use such terminology, as there’s so many other series that could also easily be considered the best series of this spring, and I wouldn’t have any argument with someone claiming them to be such. I think the way I’m going to have to work it is that my favorite series of this season is whichever one I happen to be watching at the moment, or have recently watched. It’s almost too much for me to process. I both love and hate spring, now.

Macross Frontier: Heart and Soul


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Words cannot express how pleased I am that Ozma’s favorite band in the Macross-verse is none other than Fire Bomber. Yes, that Fire Bomber. Yes, I loved Macross 7. No, you may not tell me to go to hell for this sin against humanity. Even if Gepelnitch doesn’t listen to Basara’s song, I will, and be moved by it.

I skipped the re-broadcast first episode of Macross Frontier since I’d already seen a version of it three months ago as the special, so this one’s about 2. Which was made of the very reason I loved the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Valkyries. IT’s worth noting that Frontier actually takes advantage of the three modes for a Valkyrie: Battroid, Gerwalk, and Valkyrie (although we haven’t seen the Battroid form yet, we have seen Alto use Gerwalk to dodge an attack, which was awesime). I’m not much for mecha, but Valkyries are much more airplane than mecha, and airplanes always look cool, especailly the fighter jets that Valkyries are based on. And there’s also the Itano circus to consider.

And the CG, oh, the CG. It’s seamlessly integrated with the regular animation, so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb like many, many other shows featuring CG mecha (including a certain unnamed series from this very season, you know who you are), but this is expected from Satelight, or so I’m told. I didn’t watch Aquarion past the first episode, as I wasn’t entirely sure whether Kawamori Shouji was in his right mind when he designed that series (I’m told the point of Aquarion was that it was Shouji being Shouji, except because it wasn’t Macross he didn’t have to bother to make any kind of sense whatsoever), but I do remember the brief moments I saw the mecha as being very well done. In Macross Frontier, they’re perfect, and it is a beauty to behold.

On the less mechanical side, the characters are already clearly developed this early on in the series, at least, as much as they can be. Ranka feels slightly more of an actual character than, say, Minmei felt in the early episodes of SDF Macross, especially given the first episode and the now-infamous jingle scene (I titled my Macross F special post after the jingle; I can only imagine that the hundreds of hits I’ve gotten as a result of that were expecting something more along the lines of a YouTube video of the scene and not, you know, as post as I usually do. Incidentally, the happy hardcore remix of the jingle is amazing). Alto is plently likable as well from just two episodes, and Sheryl is, well, Sheryl.

There’s not really that much else to say; this post probably sounds too much like “That was awesome!” repeated over and over again anyway, so I guess we’ll just have to check back in an episode or two and see how things are progressing. It’s more Macross–what more could you want?


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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