Funomenal Overview: Anime Half-season Fall 2015 – Part II

Let’s continue our stampede across the alphabet, shall we?


Is the order a rabbit?? | Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??

Too much kawaiiii in one picture.

Director: Hiroyuki Hashimoto

Animation Production: White Fox, Kinema Citrus

Music: Ruka Kawada

Genres: Slice of Life, Moe

Episodes watched/aired: 6/6

Sequel to: Is the order a rabbit? | Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?

This should be quick, because the obvious ‘final say’ I have for this precious little show is a gawddamn FOLLOW WEEKLY! Go watch it. Now!

Ok, actually, maybe I should provide a bit more substance than that…but I was telling the truth when I said that this show is precious and little: it’s a show about cute girls doing cute things; that’s it. No battles, no love octagons (ok…maybe ONE side plot regarding unrequited yuri…BUT STILL) and no conflict, just 20 minutes of crunching on sugar cubes every week.

As a pure example of a show that is just Slice of Life, Is the order a rabbit?? embraces its genre, providing us with a setting that oozes with atmosphere and a gentle sense of comfort. Set in a little town in the middle of Europe, the title follows Cocoa, Chino and their rag-tag band of friends, as they lounge around their workplaces (coincidently all differently styled cafes), parks and shopping malls, living their lives like there’s nothing wrong with the world. All in all; like its first season, this show offers little in plot-related substance, but instead focuses all its energy making you gush at the cute faces, and the scenery.

As a pure example of a show that is just Slice of Life, Gochuumon embraces its genre, providing us with a setting that oozes with atmosphere and a gentle sense of comfort

Speaking of scenery…In a collaboration between two major studios heading the project, White Fox and Kinema Citrus quite evidently placed particular emphasis on generating a fitting atmosphere: background artwork, scenery elements and background objects are presented with ludicrously intricate detail and a vibrant paintjob, complete with masterful lighting ambience: café interiors such as The Rabbit House are handled beautifully with homely emulation of candle and oil lamp lighting and well textured wooden frames and detailed replications of old-fashioned coffee-brewers and cups. The outside world isn’t losing any marks, either, with every element designed to reflect a comfy village, with inspiration from France.

Also taking the hint, composer Ruka Kawada returns from the first season, and was able to continue the quality venture she had managed for the title: the background music is playful and very diverse in terms of instrumentations; featuring a wide array of regional instruments such as the accordion, ondes martenot, cimbalom and acoustic guitar, in addition to the usual chamber ensemble of strings and woodwinds, with the welcome inclusion of the harp. The result is an incredibly energetic score; inspired deeply from European dance pieces, such as the waltz and polka; with its handful of reflective and intimate moments, performed beautifully by the ensemble. Along with the criminally adorable OP and ED songs, the soundtrack albums are a definite must for standalone listens.

The background music is playful and very diverse in terms of instrumentations…inspired deeply from European dance pieces, such as the waltz and polka

Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY

What can I say? Amongst the slew of action and thriller shows, one must need a few moments of relaxation. This show successfully offers that in spades, making Is the order a rabbit?? worthy of 20 minutes in your watchlist every week.

However, AVOID, if you absolutely refuse to acknowledge Moe as anime, and cannot comprehend the existence of shows that have no epic storylines and emotionally conflicted characters.

Noragami Aragoto

And thus, the hobo God returns.

Director: Kotaro Tamura

Animation Production: Bones

Genres: Action, Drama, Supernatural, Spirits, Gods & Mythology, Comedy

Episodes watched/aired: 7/7

Sequel to: Noragami

There are multiple issues when it comes to talking about Noragami Aragoto in depth, and most of them stems from the issue of it being a direct sequel to the first season of Noragami: essentially, character motivations, relationships and attitudes must be kept in the dark in this publication, in order to avoid spoilers. It is because of this; and the fact that this is merely a preview guide; I shall refrain from posting spoilers, with or without spoiler tags. This also means, that this particular topic will be dealt with briefly.

To sum up the entire franchise’s premise briefly: Gods exist, and they retain their existence by keeping their names relevant in the human realm, which they do so by granting wishes (and curses) requested along with prayers sent to them from their shrines. Some Gods, however, whilst managing to retain their existence, haven’t the luxury of shrines from which worshippers can pray and provide offerings. One of them just so happens to be our main male lead, Yato. Through the use of various modern gadgets and classic graffiti advertisements, Yato offers himself to any task given to him by people; for a 5 yen offering. These tasks so far have ranged from cleaning toilets to babysitting.

And…that’s pretty much the amount of information I can provide, without spoiling the information given in season one, such as Yato’s relationships with characters such as Hiyori, Yukine and Bishamon: all of which were introduced and developed in the first season and acted as paramount elements to the plot of Aragoto.

However, certain triumphs; which this title has managed to accumulate throughout its two seasons; requires me to extend my analysis briefly: Noragami knows the balance of comedy, drama and emotional payoff, and it has so far managed to find a certain harmony between these elements and deliver quite a few knock-outs, both in terms of tears from laughter…and of joy and despair. In short, the production team behind this has ample technique over comedic timing, and the right framing and perspective in its dialogue and scene delivery to drive home the emotional turmoil experienced by each character. Frankly, it’s a sight to behold.

Noragami knows the balance of comedy, drama and emotional payoff, and it has so far managed to find a certain harmony between these elements and deliver quite a few knock-outs, both in terms of tears from laughter…and of joy and despair

You will know why this made me cry buckts, soon enough.

Vintage Bones is back with Noragami’s production: the show retains an odd balance of clean simplicity and dirty grittiness with its footage post-processing, and delivered action scenes that were fast-paced, raw and full of impactful motion: sword clashes felt like they had weight behind them, and the dynamic camera angles; combined with the always well-controlled use of 3D space; makes Noragami Aragoto stand out once again, as a technical forerunner in the animation department.

Final say: HOLD FOR MARATHON

Noragami Aragoto has secured a well-positioned chance to be one of the best titles of this season and potentially this year.

Introducing a new verdict label for my season overviews. Some shows, I believe, will benefit from a more streamlined watching experience, due to the nature of their arc and plot element setups: Noragami’s episodes (both this and last season) likes to function with rage-inducing cliff-hangers which I believe not many people would like to endure week by week: and I’m one of them; having stopped following the show for 3 weeks in order to marathon episodes 4 – 6, just so I could stop myself from throwing objects at my screen.

Nonetheless, this functions as a great big thumbs-up from me to watch both this title and its prequel; as both have delivered stellar viewing experiences thus far. Noragami Aragoto has also secured a well-positioned chance to be one of the best titles of this season and potentially this year.

One-Punch Man

…Need I say morsay more? It IS just a show that *no one* knows about…

Director: Shingo Natsume

Animation Production: MADHOUSE

Genres: Parody, Superhero, Cyborg, Fighting, Gore

Episodes watched/aired: 5/7

I suspect, that this will probably be the most useless entry of the lot: everyone and their oversized bean bags are watching this. And with good reason, too.

Superheroes are some of the most weirdest creations from the collective human imagination: creatures or beings who possess magical and/or supernatural abilities, and exists to fight for justice and the greater good of the human race. Or Planet Earth. Or the entire universe. Take you pick.

The mentality behind such narratives and fictional creations had their roots in the need of a higher podium for symbols of moral guidance, heroism and human decency. They can also be occasional wish fulfilment creations for patriotism.

What connects all superheroes are a well-tread series of laughable and reoccurring clichés and tropes, of which One-Punch Man exploits to hilarious degrees

Throughout the last few decades, the Western world has seen creations of countless different superhero characters, worlds with far-reaching lore and the inevitable reboots of classic characters in new fictional environments; rushing the airwaves of television, cinema and dominating the comic bookstores worldwide. What connects them all are a well-tread series of laughable and reoccurring clichés and tropes, of which One-Punch Man exploits to hilarious degrees, whilst also taking advantage of these elements in more serious onscreen portrayals of social commentary, which are both featured in famous superhero plots, and in real life politics, corporate negotiations and the common society.

Thus far, the adventures of Saitama and his cyborg partner Genos had been entirely episodic and heavily leans towards parodying the superhero tropes rather than social commentary, however, with the introduction to a certain corporate organisation for licensing and ranking heroes, future episodes are practically guaranteed to contain well-worn scenes, set on depicting how much of a heartless race we humans are.

One-Punch Man.11.18_09.06.47].jpg
It’s like I’m trained to associate men in suits with heartless bastards…

ANYWAY, that’s not why we’re watching One-Punch Man, is it? The original, officially-released manga was famous for its stunningly detailed art, with each frame composed like a self-obsessed storyboard with way too much detail. Thankfully, all of the manga’s gorey and explosive action were competently handled by the high profile studio, MADHOUSE. Having hired a masterful team of animators of varying artwork styles, One-Punch Man the anime is a glorious visual feast, with seemingly conflicting art styles perfectly complimenting each other. Saitama’s facial expressions can change from an egg with drawn-on eyes and mouth, to a DBZ-inspired Super Saiyan poser, and the always entertaining action scenes are animated with some of the most dynamic artistic flare I’ve seen all year: the camera is not afraid to spin itself all over the 3D space, with the background elements constantly changing and interacting with characters’ actions (everything from collapsing bridges, exploding buildings to permanently altered landscapes) and the animation of the characters themselves are a blend of highly detailed and crudely raw and unpolished. What we get is a series of comedic, epic and awesome, all blended perfectly in one show.

Having hired a masterful team of animators of varying artwork styles, One-Punch Man the anime is a glorious visual feast, with seemingly conflicting art styles perfectly complimenting each other

One-Punch Man - 05.11.18_09.19.06]
Just casually redecorating the Earth…

Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY

Nothing more from me, you’re all watching it already anyway…

Shomin Sample | Ore ga Ojo-sama Gakko ni “Shomin Sample” Toshite Gets-rareta Ken

Shomin Sample - 01
Like what the subtitles said…Wasn’t I here for the girls?

Director: Masato Jinbo

Animation Production: Silver Link

Genres: Comedy, Ecchi, School

Episodes watched/aired: 7/7

Add this to the ever-increasing pile of artefacts, that exists to reinforce the notion that ‘Japan is weird’.

I’ve spoken before about my appreciation of shows that exists with no plots to speak of, but instead thrive on their more interactional contents and relational chemistry between its characters to be entertaining. The genre I’m referring to is Slice of Life, by the way. Over the years, this genre has evolved steadily from its rather bloated ‘Baby-Boomer’ phase of 2007 – early 2010s; promptly initiated by the combined monumental successes of shows such as the not-so-cult classic Lucky Star, and the arguably international phenomenon, K-on! (both thanks to the legendary folk over at Kyoto Animation). The notion of cute girls doing cute things (not every SOL title is based on this, but a significant amount of them are) with not a worry in the world is a whole different definition of escapism that epic Shonens and action adventures can never hope to achieve: escapism from conflict, worry and negativity altogether. From the utter simplicity of shows such as Hidamari Sketch and A-Channel, the Slice of Life genre’s maturing formula is shown by its recent birth to gems such as Non Non Biyori, Tamako Love Story and Barakamon: shows and films that not only encapsulates the simple appreciation of life, but also gently embodies the wealth of experiences, lessons and thematic richness that normal life can provide on screen.

Achieves its intended goals of attracting viewers by ways of lust and crude humour

So why did I bring up this topic? Shomin Sample’s form of entertainment is another genre of popular anime escapism that has some of its roots within the Slice of Life genre, but achieves its intended goals of attracting viewers by ways of lust and crude humour, rather than appealing to our human instincts to snuggle and pat anything that we deem as cute and adorable (try to resist patting a cute puppy or kitten the next time you see one staring up at your face, doing its thing), or relaxing and charming.

Puss-In-Boots-Shrek
Non-anime example 23A: Large eyes, pouting lips, cat ears. Try to resist this, people.

Ecchi has done it again. This time, we see our main male lead getting kidnapped and shipped to a secluded high class, (formerly) female-only academy, with the institutional goal of producing true ladies of elegance…at the expense of complete exclusion from common society. And the male gender. As the ‘Commoner’ Sample, Kimito’s attendance as the only male in a sea of pure females practically writes the show itself as a crude mesh of sex jokes, parodies of higher class societies and the usual Harem-like set of female characters to follow Kimito around. So it should be easy to note, that the enjoyment of this series sorely depends on your preferred brands of humour, tolerance of fan service and general level of snark when viewing anime.

As a stereotypical otaku-pandering title, Silver Link’s pilot on the show’s production was evident in its sparing use of budget and its general familiarity of character and background designs, when compared to shows of similar genre and subject matter. Nothing stands out as impressively well-produced or infuriatingly horrible.

Final say: INDECISIVE

Another new entry to my verdict tag collection (hopefully a rare one to appear on future publications, as I hate being indecisive). Like I mentioned above, Shomin Sample is a largely empty show when it comes to thematic depth and smart story telling: it simply exists as pandering and easy entertainment, with a decidedly precise target audience.

So, FOLLOW WEEKLY, if you enjoy mindless and tasteless banter as your weekly comedy dose, and love the continued use of the regular character tropes and interactional comedy material.

SKIPPABLE, if you enjoy comedy anime that doesn’t take itself seriously, but you prefer comedy on the similar level of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Nichijou or The Devil is a Part-Timer. Shomin Sample is capable of delivering laughter, but never at the same level of brilliance as the latter three titles as genre benchmarks.

However, AVOID, if you harbour intense distaste for regular fan service and the shameless use of common character tropes and unoriginal jokes regarding sexual misunderstandings.

The Perfect Insider | Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider

Subete ga F ni Naru .11.19_18.49.34]
Rich girl vs. crazy girl (can’t tell the difference these days…I’m sorry.)

Director: Mamoru Kanbe

Animation Production: A-1 Pictures

Genres: Mystery, Psychological, Thriller, Philosophy, Murder

Episodes watched/aired: 5/7

Finally, a show where I can go more in depth on exploring and analysing, without worrying TOO much about the implications of having pitchforks aimed at my backside’s waste disposal unit, for spoiling or over-analysing a show that was intended to be simple viewing. Because quite frankly, no amount of analysis is too much for this show.

If you remember my first post’s segment on Beautiful Bones, then you would be aware of one of my measuring sticks, in regards to judging this title’s right to be on everyone’s watchlists…as the second major mystery show that had its debuting on the anime platform this season, The Perfect Insider’s take on the genre is one that’s markedly more serious, claustrophobic and philosophical…which makes its target audience significantly more defined within the more intellectual crowds.

So how’s does a show that discusses the loneliness of the number ‘7’ cope with a mystery tag on its chest?

The Perfect Insider’s take on the genre is one that’s markedly more serious, claustrophobic and philosophical

If Beautiful Bones can be considered a rather clumsy attempt to replicate the atmosphere and success of Hyouka’s narrative design: combining ordinary high school life and ordinary searches for mysteries, then The Perfect Insider feels more like a philosophical gag-fest a la Serial Experiments Lain (minus the mind-f*ck), packaged inside a rather conventional shell of the classic locked-room murder mystery. I’m also unsure whether this comparison should be taken as a compliment, or as a negative critical remark, because the arguably dangerous choices made for the ever-expanding thematic canvas of The Perfect Insider, contains deeply disturbing imagery, implications of murder committed by a minor (amongst various hints of mental instability and perhaps incest) and a questionable amount of focus being instead placed upon universal questions of human society, the meaning of being human and the idea of voluntary isolation, rather than a more streamlined focus on the mystery at hand. Of course, when done well, these themes make great brush strokes that can contribute admirably in the finished artwork, and the focus on darker themes of mental destruction and childhood trauma are much appreciated in mediums of writing publications and film, when it comes to exploring the human condition. But when overly focused upon, the constant monologues and monotone dialogue; which this show loves to twirl and wag its tail about; runs the risk of communicating little substance over too much inactive filler.

Quite frankly, having Professor Saikawa as our main male lead doesn’t help with this issue of losing the audience’s goodwill and attention span. Whilst the young professor’s dialogue are well constructed and contains deep-rooted, conflicting meanings and interestingly expansive themes, the professor’s distant and frank acceptance of his mind’s superiority above the norm, and having that as his reason for socially isolating himself is one such trait that does not sit well with audiences’ ability to relate to him: we may either find him too difficult to understand, or too self-important and narcissistic to deserve our empathy, whether those judgements were justified or not.

The focus on darker themes of mental destruction and childhood trauma are much appreciated in mediums of writing publications and film, when it comes to exploring the human condition

vlcsnap-2015-11-19-23h19m36s153
Shots fired.

Our other main lead, university student Moe, whilst being infinitely more interesting to watch than the professor; due to her rather sassy attitudes and her surprising role as the deduction sprouter rather than the professor; doesn’t fare much better in relatability: being a extravagantly wealthy girl from a prestigious family of professors, her intelligence levels and the habit or being overly honest and brutal in her questioning and observational (e.g. judgemental trait on overdrive) skills also threatened her social abilities and her views on less intelligent people. However, those traits also deem her a worthy character of inhabiting the main character role in a murder mystery. Despite her character’s potential issues, my interest and relatively positive ratings towards Moe can be summed up by both her skills and her well-constructed chemistry and dialogue with Professor Saikawa, a relationship of mutual respect and…deeper appreciation from one side.

Moe’s immense appeal when on screen, is her well-practiced and extremely reactive observational skills: not only able to detect the slightest behavioural alterations and abnormal fluctuations and connecting superficial evidence and visual data into understandable info, but also being able to shift perspectives on her understanding of the linear data and perceive multiple deductions from varying angles simultaneously.

Thus far, The Perfect Insider’s appeal to its target audience is well-polished and much more focused than Beautiful Bones.

As for the murder itself, due to the fact that the case wasn’t revealed until the end of episode 2, this publication will not be analysing the so far available evidence and information in depth.

Being the production bullet train that it currently is, A-1 Pictures’ continuing venture of managing multiple shows per season didn’t seem to hinder The Perfect Insider’s production values, from what I’ve watched thus far. As one of the better-looking shows on broadcast this season, the background art and details of both the exteriors and interiors were replicated competently and well-polished, along with solid control over lighting across different spatial elements and settings. Also refreshing were the somewhat odd, but very much distinctive character designs; all of which were drawn to better reflect the diverse complexions of actual human beings of various ages, social status and of course, reflections of health and gender.

However, in my current state of being slightly behind in following this title, I’ve being informed of a possible implosion of internal budgets, as episode 6 was seemly modelled as a recap episode with little new content. Hopefully this issue is now well and truly past this show.

Also worthy of note, was the styling of the show’s OP and ED. The OP, in particular, was produced with ludicrous amount of quality and visual creativity. Modelled behind a music video that was styled with geometric elements and deconstructed models and various styles of choreographed dancing, accompanied by an energetic song, one could argue that the OP didn’t fit the show, but one could also argue, that the OP may act as a fitting counterbalance to the more sombre and slow pace of the show itself. For what it’s worth, this OP is in the running for the title of best OP of the year.

Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY

Thus far, the slow pacing of the show is very much a double-edged sword: fans of intense detail, interesting deductions and info-charged dialogue will find a lot to like in this show. As for my fears for the main characters’ relatability, I suppose that will always be left to personal taste and it certainly didn’t negatively affect my so far thrilling ride with the show.

However, it is very much SKIPPABLE if you dislike shows that opt for more dialogue scenes, rather than action. The Perfect Insider is not blockbuster material and it very much knows its distinct audience, and there’s no shame in not being one of them.

Utawarerumono: The False Faces | Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen

Dem tranquillity…
Dem tranquillity…

Director: Keitaro Motonaga

Animation Production: White Fox

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy

Episodes watched/aired: 7/7

Sequel to: The One Being Sung | Utawarerumono

First of all, good luck in successfully pronouncing the name.

As the sequel to a largely forgotten game adaptation from 2006, Utawarerumono: The False Faces finds itself in an unique situation, of having potential appeal to both viewers who had watched the original series and viewers who had never stepped foot in this world.

It also means that, the information censorship present in my Noragami segment must also apply here, but thankfully to a lesser extent; due to the so far self-contained plot that this title seemed to be taking, with the setting also heavily suggesting that it has been decades since the timeline of the original series.

The premise’s personality very much likens to a conventional Japanese RPG. The False Faces begins its journey by focusing on a nameless individual, who finds himself without memories and helpless in a world where he’s clearly not born in or accustomed to. After being rescued by a passing girl, this individual slowly gets dragged into adventures and worldly events and affair; eventually ending his journey as the saviour of all. At least, that’s what the premise was suggesting, before venturing into a series of events that hides Slice of Life banter behind the supposed intention of introducing characters…

…And there's a LOT of them (the scroll is MUCH longer than this, by the way)
…And there’s a LOT of them (the scroll is MUCH longer than this, by the way)

There are both strengths and weaknesses in what this title is trying to achieve thus far, especially when compared to the original series.

The premise’s personality very much likens to a conventional Japanese RPG

For the time being, The False Faces has adapted a slow-burning pace that very much tries the patience of the viewers who were expecting an epic, unfolding journey and discovering new lands and conflicts, since what they got were a whole lotta baths scenes. They also got a KEY harem-inspired ‘solve a girl’s problems weekly’ thing going on and generally not feeling any sense of tension, whatsoever.

However, this method of thematic development also serves to ease the audience onto this world, in which the creators have conjured up: like what good Slice of Life shows tend to do, The False Faces is very capable of generating a sense of ease and comfort, and a general likeability in the main cast: a lazy but innovative Haku (improvised name…with a baggage of nostalgia tagging along as free souvenirs) and his guardian/handler Kuon, a young traveller girl who has a tendency for slapstick violence and a fetish for baths. Along for a ride also includes an ever-increasing band of girls of various statuses; which so far includes personalities such as a closet Yaoi (um…homosexual art, if you must know) fan who also happens to be a princess, and a strict young sister who knows no concept of humility. So whilst the original series rushed forward with its increasing sizes of the theatre of war in a dramatic fashion, it sacrificed developmental scope and a sense of thematic depth, which ended up shallowing the impact of every inch of ground gained or lost during war.

The False Faces is very capable of generating a sense of ease and comfort, and a general likeability in the main cast

It should be noted, that prior knowledge of the original 2006 series is not mandatory, but would be needed to fully appreciate the quirky and very much likeable returning characters; which The False Faces reintroduces and allows the audience to re-indulge in their colourful personalities during episode 6.

Memories flooding back now for you?
Memories flooding back now for you?

If anything should be agreed upon unconditionally, it would be the obvious upgrade in the visual department and characterisation. Our new leads in Haku and Kuon all have eternally more personality than their prequel counterparts; their flaws and strengths were portrayed competently, making them very interesting and fun characters to watch on screen. In addition to this, White Fox’s handling of the series has given us a show with solid animation, but so far had little chance to show off its action chops. What we did get were a series of wonderfully immersive background stylings and artwork, perfectly showcasing the diverse cultures and architecture of the show’s world. Returning fans will also appreciate the steady showcase of advancing technologies from the original series.

Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY

There’s plenty to enjoy in the character chemistry and general world building alone, especially if you accept this show’s personality as almost a fantastical Slice of Life show for the time being, a la Aria: The Animation. With 24+ episodes in its total scheduled runtime, the show’s more recent episodes’ developments have suggested a grander scale of political intrigue and a possible new journey for our characters, so you would be doing yourself a favour to stick around.


And thus, ATMA & Funomena wraps up its first publication. Throughout the next few weeks, I will be working to compose a competent upload schedule for different publication topics, styles and mediums for talks, reviews, analysis and rants. I will also look to upgrading my ‘About’ pages and menus to include more content and details about the site itself and about the Senpai behind it. Diversity of topics covered won’t be an issue, I can promise you that.

arigatou gozaimasu!

And with that, BAM, I’m gone.

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