I really shouldn’t be calling this half-season anymore, huh…
Eh, whatever. ONWARD!
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! | KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
Director: Takaomi Kanasaki
Animation Production: Deen
Genres: Parody, Comedy, Adventure, Fantasy
Episodes watched/aired: 5/7
I won’t blame you for dismissing this title early. Hell, half of its first episode had me seriously considering giving up, after replaying the basic premise of Yu Yu Hakusho note by note in a way more obnoxious and pretentious way, thanks in large part to Aqua’s unfortunate existence (MC-kun isn’t far behind). However, before long, the stars aligned and I realised what this show is doing. Suddenly, KonoSuba became the comedy of the season.
The ultimate wish-fulfilment for many otaku, is them transporting to the fantastical lands of knights, demons and cat-girls, role-playing as the hero of legends. This season has no less than 3 shows that cater to this genre of ‘normal Japanese guy gets transported to and saves a mystical, alternate world’. And the bizarre thing is: each and every one of them go about it in wildly different ways. Whilst GATE takes a pretentiously nationalistic and political path in exploring the relational tensions and societal differences between Japan and the world beyond the Gate, Grimgar digs deeper into the psychological impact of sudden displacement of self identity and a sense of place.
So where does KonoSuba fit? Well…observe a typical and popular RPG and its players. Now give them traits that can reflect on their stereotypical tendencies in the worst and most humorous way possible. And that’s the show in a nutshell.
The shamelessly self-aware personality of KonoSuba is derived from the circumstantial and unexplained mechanics of the new world and the wildly unrealistic tics and flaws that plague the characters, as if they were acting as part of a selective microcosm that reflects the RPG and D&D worlds in their raw and utterly pathetic natural environment: the illogical desire to learn the most powerful spell, despite not having the level or mana count to properly sustain its usage in battle, or taking the stereotypical role of the ‘tank’ or Guardian of a raiding party, and injecting her with the lust and NEED to take damage and being violated. I think you got the gist of it.
Acting as part of a selective microcosm that reflects the RPG and D&D worlds in their raw and utterly pathetic natural environment
In retrospect, the humour that resides in this title, sorely depends on your knowledge of the foundational building blocks of fantasy role playing, and of course the idiocy that resides in such foundations. Got those covered, along with a decent sense of humour, and you will have a blast with this show, provided you ignore the subpar visual quality.
Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY
In many ways, this is comedic gold. Despite the subjectivity of comedy, the passionate vomit of material present here would be bound to have something that would engage any viewer with a knowledge or history in and with video games.
However, AVOID, if you are still salty about premises of this nature, for whatever reason.
Luck & Logic
Directors: Koichi Chigira, Takashi Naoya
Animation Production: Doga Kobo
Genres: Sci-Fi, Action, Fantasy
Episodes watched/aired: 3/7
Oh boy…what a train wreck…
This will be a short one, because I’m simply unable to detect any substance worth discussing. And I don’t think the show’s willing to explain anything, either.
Despite the lazily obvious attempts at being self-aware of its own tired tendencies and clichés, what infuriates me the most are the show’s attempts to incorporate external annoyances into the plot itself: the ridiculously overpowered main character Tsurugi is simply the single most annoying element of the entire show, including his stereotypically oblivious and blind devotion to ‘save everyone, even at the cost of my own life’. Funny enough, his unceremonious introduction into the Logicalists’ team dynamic was also a central plot point so far, causing both jealousy and angst (rolls eyes*…this is taking ‘plot convenience’ to a new level…), since his speedy promotion to the team leader position was both illogical in the fact that he hasn’t battled for years, and the impossible notion that he’s already perfect in his fighting prowess and leader tendencies, despite lacking experience. An immediate breaking of tension for the audience.
As a result, this is a VERY annoying show to sit through.
Final say: AVOID
Unless you want to see Ayato or Kirito reincarnated, stay away.
Myriad Colors Phantom World | Musaigen no Phantom World
Director: Tatsuya Ishihara
Animation Production: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Comedy, School, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action
Episodes watched/aired: 8/8
Funny thing about observations: your verdict can change based on the surroundings, rather than the subject of observation itself. Here’s the thing: Phantom World is guilty pleasure through and through, with downright bizarre premises, nonsensical cinematic directions, and possesses a sense of visual and animated brilliance that is practically unmatched in this season. However, can one consider this ‘quality’ entertainment?
Short answer, no. There’s little underneath the spectacle that can command the collective resonance of the masses: the show is thus far content with separated instances and episodic plots that exists as separated spaces of perception, which allows the characters to mesh and interact for comedic banter.
The thinly veiled base of philosophical and scientific oversights that the main character presents to the viewers at the beginning of each episode are varied in style, visual creativity and topic coverage: everything from the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment, to the cultural significance and health benefits of baths in society. This repeated root of episode progressions seem to be the only aspect of the show’s ongoing thematic identity that remains constant. Subject matters of the episodes themselves are as different as they come.
The true source of entertainment Phantom World offers are simply the nonsensical personality of its world, and its enthusiasm in embracing the creative freedom of twisting whatever logic base or cliché that are presented in the prologues. The fun resides in the fundamental groundworks of visual comedy, which usually relies on the unexpectedness of happenings and the simple flip of circumstances: what if an episode that was meant to be based on Schrodinger’s Cat, involved a lonely feline phantom, who is turning everyone in the nearby vicinity into cat people? What if, a stereotypical spa bath episode featured the entire school ground turning into a spa inn? Instead of going to the spa, the spa comes to you.
The above examples pretty much showcases how the creators tweaks and flips the expectations one has for a superpower high school light novel adaptation, whilst still retaining the fan service value and the reason for its existence: easy and shallow fun. In other words, director Tatsuya Ishihara and Kyoto Animation have somehow created a work that pampers to the lowest common denominator, yet does the absolute best with the material and packs it with their usual creative and visual flare. As it stands, for its genre and the season as a whole, Phantom World’s production value and visual vibrancy still retains the renowned animation studio’s reputation.
Side note: A true KyoAni fan never wavers in the face of unjust hatred and pretentious elitism. 😛
Final say: Follow Weekly
Despite the nature of its genre, Myriad Colors Phantom World is a really fun watch, with a extravagant visual style to match and a decent amount of diegetic fan service to properly satisfy fans of 2D girls.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Director: Mamoru Hatakeyama
Animation Production: Deen
Genres: Josei, Drama, Romance, Historical, Performance
Episodes watched/aired: 6/8
During my times of vacation residences in Chengdu, my hometown (a yearly occasion), I sometimes get dragged into the aimless conversations of the televising crosstalk or 相声 (xiangsheng) performance, where the comedic mixings of 2 polarised personalities aimlessly argue over the miniscule and the mundane. I could hardly know why I might’ve liked a performance more than another, but I suppose there’s that sense of unknowing blindness to surroundings when exposed to good entertainment: everything else doesn’t matter anymore, when you are watching 2 men fighting over the underlying meaning of a passing woman’s comments.
How fitting then, for me to watch a show about a Japanese one-man storytelling art form, where a knelled performer utilises his every tic and expressive weapon to entertain his audience, through dialogue and altering personalities.
Every once in a while, a show is brave enough to glorify the forgotten arts, passionate enough to advocate for the hidden beauties that the fast-moving world has forgotten, and is genuine enough in its thematic diversity and organic plotlines to deliver humanity in its drama.
And yes, my choice for best title of the season, is actually Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. So suck it ERASED!
In many ways, Rakugo is the art form of storytelling: an array of well known tales, documented in script-like forms for the performers to memorise and recite during a performance. The well known nature and the content of rakugo tales, essentially means that the performance; not the story itself; is the main attraction. It’s the personality, diversity of self-invented styles and the performer’s ability to invade the audience’s collective consciousness that makes the art form worthwhile. In turn, this art form creates an expressive window for the audience to peek into the self-reflections of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s characters.
It is this reason, that Shouwa Genroku’s understated character drama captured so much of my appreciative consciousness, with a story that boils down to 2 men trying to find their sense of self, in a world that has moved on. There’s a gradual yet…easily detectable sense and style of knowledgeable framing and sophisticated theatricality that bathes in the style of mid-20th century Japan, where cinematography and meaningful angle choices creates a sense of intimacy, amplified by the stunning voice work by a team of well-utilised actors; infinitely imperative in the world of rakugo and entertainment.
Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY
Needless to say, this is the hidden gem of the season. Any advocate of good storytelling or those willing to indulge upon the pleasures of culture, should be keeping this on the watchlist from beginning to the eventual bitter end.
By all means, HOLD FOR MARATHON, if you desire what I expect to be, a deeply interwoven web of beautiful character and human expressiveness, that extends across a timespan and storytelling mastery that is bound to leave you breathless.
Snow White with the Red Hair 2 | Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2
Director: Masahiro Ando
Animation Production: Bones
Genres: Drama, Romance, Fairy Tale
Episodes watched/aired: 3/8
Shirayuki’s journey for self-improvement continues. And…I have nothing much to say about it at the moment (note the ‘episode watched’ count).
The quiet character interactions throughout the series so far have pretty much defined the meat and bones of the series: a cast of characters who strive to better themselves. And it’s where they start that makes the whole journey so interesting to follow, as the different starting podiums for each characters means steps for self-improvement and judgement are fundamentally different.
If any character perfectly defines this sentiment, it’s Raj. Truly, when a series can somehow turn a worthless throwaway bastard from one season into an awkward and likeable prince who’s trying to improve his standings in his own way, it’s a keeper.
Final say: FOLLOW WEEKLY
As I’m currently following the solidly produced broadcast dub by Funimation, I’m a bit behind in the following, but my judgements changed little from the previous series: this is a quietly enjoyable show with plenty of gentle cuteness to go around.
After totally NOT rushing this post due to the despicable timing of this publication release, and the unexpected pace of the mounting assignments from a new university semester, I bid you all farewell once again. Until my next post, じゃあね！(jaane!)