12 of 12 episodes seen
Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai solves the problem of how a harem anime tells its story because of the story itself. The series revolves around Keima Katsuragi and a demon girl Elcea de Rux Ima (Elsie) who hunt and capture Loose Souls that have possessed people—all girls—by using the emptiness in their hearts. To drive out and capture a Loose Soul from its host, the emptiness in their hearts needs to be filled with love—cue Keima’s romantic involvement. When a Loose Soul is driven out and captured, the girl loses all of her memories about Keima and the Loose Soul possessing her.
The brilliance of the story is twofold: The romantic interest built up for each heroine is self-contained (omnibus format) while still affecting Keima and Elsie’s development throughout the show (single route). It’s the best of a self-contained story and a continuous story.
But having the best of both worlds presents its own problems. As a continuous story, Keima repeatedly falling in love stretches the suspension of disbelief even by anime standards and such a problem doesn’t happen in single route harem anime. As a self-contained story, let it be known the omnibus format has its own problems of trying to properly develop each heroine within a limited time span. Fortunately, the heroines are all developed as much as two or three episodes will allow. And while they aren’t the most complex characters around, they don’t need to be when they’re all distinct from each other to please the heroine taste of as many viewers as possible. Added with the limited amount of time Keima spends with each heroine in-universe and it’s apparent they couldn’t be developed as much as one might want because of those time constraints.
Visually there’s not much to talk about. The colors and designs vibrantly represent all of the characters whether it’s the normally apathetic-to-the-real-world Keima, the bubbly could-bounce-anywhere Elsie, or even the placid and unassuming Shiori. There’s nothing to fault here but nothing that stands out too much either. Audio-wise, the music track that sticks out the most is the one that plays whenever Keima successfully romances a heroine; most of the show’s music is noticeable in every scene but not enough to stand on its own while occasionally using a lack of music to good effect.
The show isn’t anything more than good but that isn’t a criticism against it. After all, it’s uncommon for a story itself to address the storytelling problems a harem anime usually has. Being a combination of the single route and omnibus format approach lets the series take a unique role as a show that finds success from being a hybrid of two very different ways of storytelling. Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai’s lack of flaws and solid strengths make it a very solid anime that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. read more
11 of 11 episodes seen
To its credit, a story about an unnamed protagonist who continuously relives his college years in hopes of finding his perfect campus life isn’t something you see every day. For that matter, neither are the deliberately one-dimensional, “incomplete” character designs and background art. But originality doesn’t get you far, even if you have a goal, if you don’t know how to get to your goal.
To explain what I mean about The Tatami Galaxy having a goal but not knowing how to get there, I mean one of the show’s messages is heavily implied by the time the viewer reaches the third episode: stop aiming for perfect circumstances and be content with your current situation. But the message can’t carry the show because every time Watashi (meaning “I” or “Me”), our protagonist, relives his college years only the club he’s in changes; everything else about his experiences remain the same and the differences that should be brought out depending on what club he’s in are superficial: He joins the Tennis Club with the hopes of finding someone special but it doesn’t work out, he joins the Film Club for the promise of friends but it doesn’t work out, he joins the Cycling Club with the hopes of finding a girlfriend but it doesn’t work out, you get the point. Worse still is that Watashi relives his college years several times throughout the show; a few repeats of an identical situation to convey a message is fine but any more than that without enough variation on each scenario becomes an exercise in viewer patience. The Tatami Galaxy either needs less episodes, more variation on every timeline, or both.
The show is further brought down by its characters. Nearly everyone is defined by a single quirk or personality trait with little in the way of development; Ozu is nothing but the mischievous best friend, Akashi doesn’t go beyond being the sarcastic love interest that’s afraid of moths, and Jougasaki is a consistently overbearing jerk. It also doesn’t help the one-dimensionality of the characters when nearly every interaction is identical and happens with the same person. Ozu screws up Watashi’s endeavors, Watashi starts eyeing Akashi, and Jougasaki is thrown in somewhere to deliver the coup de grace to Watashi’s campus life. How about Ozu being in a love triangle against Watashi for Akashi’s feelings? How about Jougasaki being a bro to Watashi once in a while? Characters can also be defined by being compared to one another but unfortunately there’s hardly any change in who’s talking to whom. The Tatami Galaxy has repetitive character dynamics in the truest sense of the word (repetitive) on top of the cast itself being underdeveloped.
Of course, it could be argued that the characters don’t need to be developed because they exist to characterize Watashi. Since he usually shows a contrast with Ozu, Akashi, and Jougasaki, Watashi is defined by who he isn’t; he’s not a mischievous friend who screws up another’s life, he’s not a jovial moth hater, and he’s not an overbearing jerk. But since most of the characters are figured out by the third episode, by extension it means Watashi remains as undeveloped as everyone else. Furthermore, characterizing Watashi via showing what he isn’t doesn’t tell you who he is; not being mischievous doesn’t necessarily mean you’re honest, not hating moths doesn’t mean you love them, and not being a jerk doesn’t automatically make you nice. The Tatami Galaxy tries to characterize Watashi by saying who he isn’t but ends up being more descriptive of everyone else.
The one-dimensionality of the characters can also be supported by saying this is how Watashi views the people around him. He’s so focused on himself that everyone else seems one-dimensional to him and the way he sees them can reflect how someone doesn’t pay enough attention to anyone in real life. However, it’s difficult to believe Watashi’s perspective on everyone wouldn’t change because not only is he reliving his college years multiple times but he’s actually conscious of the timeline resetting. Nothing changing regarding Watashi’s relationships to everyone could be interpreted as the show’s other message: the end result will be the same no matter which path in life you take. But this makes no sense considering how The Tatami Galaxy ends; Watashi decides to stop pursuing “perfection” and be content with what he has and suddenly the end result changes for the better. Honestly, what was the point of hammering the theme of an unchanging destiny throughout the show when a change in expectations was all it took for Watashi’s college life to turn around? Because everything will suddenly work out if you don’t set your standards too high?
But as well-meaning as the message of “everything will work out if you don’t set your standards too high” is, it’s, quite frankly, hopelessly naïve. The struggles people face to reach their goals will not go away just because the goals are unambitious; in fact, it’s everything a lot of people can do to accomplish an everyday task but I digress. People might say there’s nothing wrong with a simple message but unfortunately The Tatami Galaxy is a show that’s clearly trying to be smart. The simplicity of the anime’s themes might have been easier to accept if the narrative wasn’t as straightforward repetitive as it is and the characters were properly developed and dynamic in terms of whom they interact with. Director Masaaki Yuasa makes the mistake of using thematic focus as The Tatami Galaxy’s means instead of its end because everything that’s more important to a story is neglected.
This is what I mean by The Tatami Galaxy being far-sighted. It knows what it wants to say but it takes more than a message to carry a show. It needs a narrative with enough variation on its timelines to stop it from being repetitive. It needs to develop its characters enough to stop them from being predictable in the truest sense of the word. But The Tatami Galaxy fails miserably in both of those aspects and ends up with themes that switch presence at the plot’s convenience. At the end of the day, it’s like this anime joined the noitominA Club with the promise of being profound but it didn’t work out; if meta-irony baloney was what Masaaki Yuasa was going for, he succeeded. Otherwise, The Tatami Galaxy is all style, no substance, and crushingly disappointing. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
The first shortcoming of Saki: Achiga-hen’s narrative is where the back story explanation for the main characters is placed. Almost everything we need to know about Team Achiga is at the beginning of the series. While it is often a good storytelling choice, in this franchise committing to character development so quickly is an exception to the rule. What makes the Saki franchise stand out is not the content itself but the way in which the material is presented. In the original show, many pieces of back story are placed in such a way so that each game can take on new perspectives or provide insight on the players. This directional move kept almost every episode fresh. Saki: Achiga-hen, in comparison to Saki, is straightforward and fails to revitalize many of its games.
The storytelling of Saki: Achiga-hen is made worse by its inconsistent pacing. Some of the matches move by so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to be immersed in the game while other rounds are slow to the point of distraction. This is further exacerbated by how the more “detailed” games tend to focus on the characters from the original Saki anime and “detailed” is used loosely. While these rounds focus on the characters from the first series, they do not focus on them enough to let them stand independently in Saki: Achiga-hen. Or in other words, this show is cameo-centric.
Unfortunately, Team Achiga itself is a bland group of characters. Shizuno Takakamo, Ako Atarashi, and Kuro Matsumi are barely identifiable from each other personality-wise while Yū Matsumi and Arata Sagimori do not have enough story development to really care about them. Harue Akada has the most development from the main characters but unfortunately her back story is nothing more than an excuse as to how Team Achiga won the prefectural tournament –in-between episodes–. The side characters are worse off as only one of them gets any substantial development; ironically, she is the best character in Saki: Achiga-hen and one of the best characters the Saki franchise has given to its audience.
It is through this character that the series storytelling returns to form in all of its deliberately placed content glory. It is through this character that shows how an event can be revitalized after going for a long period of time. It is through this character where the pacing is sharp yet subtle enough to catch viewers completely off-guard. It is through this character where returning fans of the franchise will once again experience the intensity of the main series while newcomers to the show will come to understand just what made the Saki anime so special. It is because of this particular character that Saki: Achiga-hen manages to redeem itself from mediocre to well above-average.
It is also through this character where many of Saki’s trademark animation quirks are most apparent though fortunately it’s still obvious in the rest of Saki: Achiga-hen. Thunderous tile dropping and dust cloud-creating footsteps are just some of the pointless exaggerations to be seen in this anime. Trying to make sense of how one character spontaneously grows cat ears or how another character’s arm transforms into a high-powered drill is ultimately futile. Then again, competitive mahjong is serious business.
Perhaps the only thing better than lightning eyes alluding to a player’s strength is the sound of electricity to accommodate it; every “ability” in the anime is given a unique sound effect so that even the quirks which seem to be nothing more than copies of each other will convey different messages. In particular, two characters whose abilities revolve around their eyes give a sense of “mastery” and “newly learned” respectively. The rest of the audio serves its purpose though does not stand out enough to warrant any mention. If nothing else, the ending theme switches between two songs depending on the overall mood of the episode.
Some people might be wondering why the discussion on Saki: Achiga-hen has been referencing Saki. Normally, the mark of a good show is that it is able to stand on its own. Unfortunately, this anime is cameo-centric to the point where only returning fans of the franchise could possibly appreciate all the appearances of the old characters. Then again, the spin-off lacks the storytelling or interesting characters that defined the main series so it might be difficult to like the show beyond the cameos. Newcomers to Saki could be worse off due to “side” characters who all but replace Achiga-hen’s “main” characters.
Of course, if you’re anything like me, having one particularly outstanding character will be more than enough to redeem the series. However, if inconsistent pacing, straightforward storytelling (bad for this particular franchise), and bland main characters are too problematic for you then feel free to either approach this anime with bated breath or avoid it entirely. This show is nothing but an afterthought for the main series whose greatest strength was likely not its main intention anyway. At the very least, Saki: Achiga-hen is an enjoyable if flawed experience.
On a side note, I would love to see the stand-out side character and her closest friend go on a double-d—er, play mahjong against Saki and Nodoka. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
Almost everything went wrong apparently.
The first four episodes were actually very nice to watch. Being the only focus of the story, Kodaka, Yozora Mikazuki, and Sena Kashiwazaki were able to ingratiate themselves to the viewers. It is here where we see Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena at their best. Awkwardly practicing to make friends and perhaps not realize that they’ve become closer already. While it wasn’t the most well written interaction available it was still reasonably amusing as Kodaka kept Yozora and Sena’s antics in check and by extension allowed the show to hit that special middle zone between gratuitous and outrageous. Best of all the mood of the series was consistent and knew what it wanted to do. The early episodes of Boku wa Tomodachi wa Sukunai are the best in the series.
Unfortunately, once the first four episodes pass the anime starts to add more characters than it can handle. Of course, as a harem anime not having more than two choic—err, I mean heroines was inevitable. The problem is that there was simply no time for a new character to ingratiate themselves to the viewer because more often than not another member of the Neighbors Club was introduced before the audience could be familiar with whoever just joined the cast. Worse still is that the anime’s tendency to show every character as much as possible has nothing to show for it. Either the series has no development to let the supporting cast stand by itself or what little characterization they have becomes dispersed by the imprecise ensemble focus to the point of being unrecognizable. A spotlight episode for Kobato Hasegawa, Rika Shiguma, Maria Takayama, and Yukimura Kusunoki would have actually been welcome since Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai focused on everyone instead of just Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena anyway.
Of course, even if the characterization and development took a hit there was no reason for the interactions between everyone not to retain any quality. I assume you would go into this anime expecting certain clichés and humor. It makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how inconsistently the dynamics are treated. At times Yozora’s cruel jokes on Sena are merely played for laughs while at others the outcome of the humor produces drama. Some people might say it shows Sena no longer tolerating Yozora’s antics but that explanation makes no sense because the first case of the humor being treated seriously doesn’t mark the end of it as a gag. The inconsistent mood is further worsened by some of Kobato and Maria’s bickering that reaches a point where it looks like it might become dramatic only for everyone else to treat their banter as irrelevant. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai can’t decide how seriously it wants to take itself.
Most damning of all, however, is how the show tries to seem meaningful at the end by showing flashbacks of mostly the Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena moments. Not only does it undermine the side characters that were introduced at the expense of the main characters in the first place but the main characters don’t have many moments to reminisce about because the side characters diluted the show’s focus on everyone. Ironically, if the side characters weren’t in the anime then this attempt at reminding the audience of all the time Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena spent together would have actually have had the nostalgic effect it was going for; Either the entire 12 episodes would have had more chances to develop their relationship or the series would just be compressed to the Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena moments. The side characters are ultimately pointless in the overall plot of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai and end up bringing down the main characters as well.
I say the anime got almost everything wrong because if nothing else the opening song, Zannenkei Rinjinbu, is very catchy and is sung by a group of prolific seiyus with Kana Hanazawa among them. The rest of the show’s soundtrack is decidedly average mood matching but at least there’s nothing particularly out of place.
However, as I believe I’ve already implied, the best part about Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai are the visuals. This is one of the few anime that piqued my interest solely for the delicious character designs so hey, at least I’m getting the fanservice I expected. There’s a variety of designs too so I’d imagine it’d be pretty difficult not to find some meat—err, I mean character appearances you’ll like.
Yet that’s about where the good points of the anime stop. The show looks delicious but has more characters than it can handle, nothing to show for it, inconsistent in mood even with its own dynamics, and ultimately defeats itself by trying to give everyone the same amount of focus; that doesn’t sound like a series that should be digested. On a side note, “Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai” means “I don’t have many friends”; if you’re making an anime as disappointing as this then you probably shouldn’t have any friends. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
The high quality of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s narrative can be attributed to the fact that nary a moment of the show can be disregarded. Every single scene of this anime is dedicated to developing the cast, continuing the story, or contributing to the characters and plot simultaneously. Of course, having no unprogressive space within the series does not mean a lack of moments which disguise themselves as meaningless. For example, there is a scene early in the series where Madoka Kaname and her mother are washing their faces in the bathroom. At one point during the scene, Madoka is feeling around the sink looking for a towel. Without so much as diverting her attention from what she was doing, Kaname’s mother slides the item toward her daughter. The previously described moment establishes the mother’s maternal instinct that would increase in prominence as the titular character’s situation became worse. Another scene of note is a comedic moment in Sayaka Miki’s classroom where her teacher goes into a rant about romantic relationships because the instructor had just broken up with her boyfriend. Sayaka and her friends respond to the teacher’s situation with a bit of laughter but the moment is harsher in hindsight considering the main point of conflict for Miki in the story. The main reason for mentioning the two aforementioned scenes is because some people would prefer to be ingratiated into a work, often with “meaningless” or filler moments, before the story progresses. Puella Magi Madoka Magica understands that easing the viewer into the narrative is just as important as wasting no scenes and does both at the same time.
However, every moment of Puella Magi Madoka Magica being important does not mean the time itself was utilized to the best of its ability. To elaborate, most of the anime spends its time developing the characters of Sayaka Miki and Kyoko Sakura instead of Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi. The counterargument of saying that the series main character and titular character need not necessarily be the same person would be valid, were it not for the fact that the eponymous cast member and Homura are the most important characters of the series. The writers of the anime seemed to be aware of how unbalanced the screen time distribution for the shows characters was, however, and provided an episode that would leave an implication as to why Kaname and Akemi were not developed over the course of the series to the extent that Miki and Sakura were. Although it demonstrates why Kaname and Akemi are integral to the story, the episode itself merely glosses over various events concerning Madoka and Homura instead of providing the singular focus which allowed Sayaka and Kyoko’s dynamic to be so believable. The anime could have used more episodes, or rearrange the time it was given, to provide a solitary focus on Kaname and Akemi’s friendship before showing the differing scenarios concerning the two characters. The lack of time spent on Madoka and Homura’s relationship serves to make their finale relatively underwhelming compared to the climax of Sayaka and Kyoko’s story arc.
Of course, a character in a story not being as well written as another character who shares the same narrative is hardly an issue when the overall quality of the cast is impressive enough as it is. Although it is certainly easy to describe them as cute, those who watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica may find themselves remembering the ensemble more for their personality than their attractive appearance. Many of the characters reasons for becoming a Magical Girl is entrenched in well-intentioned naivety and they soon realize the consequences of their decision to become a Magical Girl. As each of them goes about their duty in varying ways to cope with the severity of their situation—some approaches to the title of Magical Girl more ruthlessly practical than others—they will also make some of the worst decisions that could be done. One character may well be the most selfish person in the entire series while another’s selflessness ironically becomes her undoing. After all of her indecision another cast member’s only course of action deals with a side-effect of the problem instead of the issue itself. The characters of this anime have a lot of faults beneath their visual appeal but tasking young teenagers with the responsibility of essentially saving the world, realistically, would induce that sort of stupidity. Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s cast is not young for the sake of being cute; they are believably flawed because they are young.
However, conveying a show’s characters to the audience is as much a visual effort as it is a written one and this anime has a solid grasp on how best to use its stylistic graphics to represent its cast. For example, when one of the characters is driven to the brink of insanity the details of her figure—clothing outline, eye color and the like—are replaced by pitch black fill. The Witches themselves also represent the mental progress of sorts the Magical Girls have made. For example, early in the series the Witches tend to be indistinguishable from the chaotic background that accompanies them. However, as the story progresses the Witches become more identifiable from the rest of the scenery and it represents the Magical Girls becoming acclimated to fighting their enemy. What makes the unique presentation even better is that it is used sparingly. An excess of something used to create emphasis loses its impact the more it is used. The value of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s graphics is not the originality itself so much as how the style is used.
Yet the technical aspect which really lets this anime’s cast stand out is the music. One of the most prominent examples of befitting audio is the song Credens Justitiam used for a character that is only in the early part of the story. The upbeat and fast-paced nature of this choir piece conveys her personality extremely well. Credens Justitiam is also likely to be the most memorable tune as far as being associated with characters goes just for the fact that its character’s first appearance is accentuated by this composition. Fortunately, the rest of the series music is no less excellent than Credens Justitiam. The quick tempo and subdued lyrics of Sis Puella Magica is perfect as the theme for both Madoka Kaname and the show itself as the significance of its title becomes more apparent as the story progresses. A simple change in instruments between the songs of Puella in Somnio and Inevitabilis manages to communicate entirely different messages about Homura Akemi. The three theme songs of Sayaka Miki—Conturbatio, Decretum, and Symposium Magarum—represents how she changes over the course of the series. Confessio is a nostalgic composition that shows Kyoko Sakura’s sense of resignation; keep in mind the aforementioned songs are still being limited to character themes as there is even more the show offers in terms of audio. The soundtrack of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is as hauntingly perfect for the series as much as it is fantastic on its own.
More time could be spent on citing the rest of the show’s soundtrack but the character themes alone are varied and perfect for each cast member. Likewise, the stylistic presentation for the characters is used to the best of its ability without overindulging itself in its creativity. Although the series has its problems, let it be known that the flaws of this anime are still good. That is more than can be said for the faults of most other works. Perhaps the only real issue with this anime is overcoming the amount of hype surrounding it to watch it in the first place. Then again, the series is not embellished because nothing about its quality has been overstated. Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s combination of excellent storytelling, strong characters, and fantastic technical execution make it a very good anime. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
One of the reasons for questioning the storytelling quality of the series is the relatively weak beginning of the show. For the first seven episodes the main characters are the unassuming Shinji Ikari, the quiet Rei Ayanami, and the flirtatious Misato Katsuragi. Having two out of the three primary cast member’s personality being more subdued creates a monotonous start and is not the best way to gain the viewer’s interest. Of course a cast which lacks vitality would not be a problem in a brooding anime such as this one, were it not for the fact that the show’s mood for a third of the series contrasts greatly with the oppressive tone everywhere else in the work. Furthermore although brighter scenes can be used to create a false sense of security thereby increasing the magnitude of approaching drama, the less heavy moments of this show is concentrated toward the middle two-thirds of the series instead of the beginning or being distributed somewhat evenly throughout the rest of the work. Neon Genesis Evangelion cannot call itself a purely dark anime for the inclusion of many lighter scenes and the allocation of its less dramatic moments undermines their usage in regards to emphasizing the less optimistic events.
Still, Neon Genesis Evangelion must be praised for its excellent technical direction. Strictly speaking in an independent sense the music is not anything special but its strength is attributed more to how it is used; when the soundtrack during the fights is not representing the ever dangerous Angels through heavy and dramatic music it instead uses more upbeat fare. The audio dissonance for the show’s primary antagonists is very fitting considering the mythological origins by which the Angels of Neon Genesis Evangelion are derived from in real life. Just as a powerful being can be represented as a brutal entity focused on destroying, it can also be seen as a force capable of annihilation without showing a hint of effort or malice.
In a similar manner to the well-used music, the animation owes its value more to what is done with it rather than its actual quality. For example, when Shinji and Gendou meet for the first time in the series the former is on a bridge in front of Eva Unit 01’s jaws while the latter is on higher ground inside a windowed overlook behind the same Eva’s head with small monitors inside the room focusing on Shinji. The direction behind this scene is strong for four reasons: First, Gendou having the higher ground signifies his influence over the situation while Shinji being on the lower ground shows his powerlessness against fate. Second, the horn of Eva Unit 01 and the window of the upper alcove form a wall between Shinji and Gendou which shows their distanced and estranged relationship. Third, Shinji being in front of the Eva’s teeth demonstrates Gendou’s lack thereof guilt in putting his own son in harm’s way while being behind Eva Unit 01 shows his safety from danger. Finally, the monitors in the elevated room all showing Shinji provide foreshadowing for when the series would discuss the Hedgehog’s Dilemma; for all of the indifference Gendou shows toward his son it raises the question of why he has all of his cameras focused on Shinji. It could be to have someone to mock or more likely it is because he wants to be close to Shinji in one sense and far away from him in another aspect. The Hedgehog’s Dilemma, after all, is about someone being hurt when somebody else becomes too emotionally close to his or her person.
The Hedgehog’s Dilemma also creates much of the characterization for Shinji Ikari and Asuka Langley Soryu as they refuse to become emotionally close to anyone but maintain their distance through contrasting means: Ikari opts to withdraw into himself while Soryu uses an abrasive façade. On the other hand, Misato Katsuragi’s internal problems hardly affect her outward actions as she diligently commands much of the operations regarding the Eva Units and is Shinji and Asuka’s guardian. In contrast to the flirtatious Misato, Ritsuko Akagi’s serious demeanor gives an impression of greater focus than that of Katsuragi at first glance. Rei Ayanami can be called a female Shinji and it would not be too far from the truth. However considering her relationship with Gendou and the implications regarding her birth, the moniker of “female Shinji” is not necessarily a flaw as it unifies the problems of all of the characters under a single theme. The strength of the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion is how it reflects the reality of people handling nearly identical issues through varying methods of coping regardless of the benefit or detriment the “solution” actually provides as some of the characters would find out.
It would be safe to assume to that most of the people who would watch an anime like this are expecting thought-provoking themes but unfortunately having to question the narrative direction stimulates the mind as much as thinking about the religious aspects from which this series draws inspiration from or psychological examination of its characters. Ignoring the flawed storytelling, the show turns out to have a lot to like. Otherwise, the unconvincing narrative approach of Neon Genesis Evangelion might be too much of a fault to overlook especially when compared to its technical direction and its well-characterized cast. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
Part of the reason the large cast hurts the series is the method the narrative uses to characterize or develop everyone. While the spotlight episode approach highlights the personality, gimmick, or problems of the idol of the week, for most of the characters it is the only time to be truly seen by the viewer. Now assuming that all thirteen or so characters each has a dedicated following, then the unbalanced exposure inevitably raises the question of why anyone who likes a particular character should keep watching if two or more of his or her favorites are not present. Worse still, much of the development is wasted or artificially dictated as many of the reasons for starting a spotlight episode are never addressed again while the story arcs of others could only have happened due to the chronological events of the narrative instead of being moved by the cast itself. Now it’s true the aforementioned problems are a natural side-effect of having a few main characters and a whole host of side characters. However even the group the show focuses on outside of the spotlight episodes tend to alternate between only a few of its cast. The iDOLM@STER doesn’t have enough focus to call anyone its main character or characters and it doesn’t spread its attention to everyone enough to be called an ensemble.
Although looking past the wasted development and shafted characters those might be the only problems with this show. The story itself might be familiar to some viewers but the sincerity in which the idols pursue their dream and the semi-realistic nature of their progress is uncommon to say the least. Some characters move from rehearsal to live performances faster than others but nobody progresses from amateur to professional within the span of a single episode or even two or three. The fact that the most naturally gifted of the idols is not the first one to be drafted into a more independent trope highlights the reality of how even those with innate talent must hone his or her skill and avoid being complacent. Slowly but surely the thirteen idols come into their own with no sudden change from how much they help each other in the beginning to how independent everyone becomes at the end. It’s a very subtle approach presented by a seemingly transparent narrative and it’s impressive considering the thirteen different tracks of progress present.
So as the idols gradually improve and are able to perform in more and more concerts, the anime is able to showcase a stronger example of visuals. The offstage animation isn’t lazy in places it shouldn’t be and that same effort for the scenes where not much happens is carried over into the scenes where a lot happens which are the performances. The concerts are nothing short of an excellent visual presentation with very visible, constantly active choreography where the movements aren’t reduced to blurbs seen from the view of a camera that weaves above and around the stage and between the characters. A-1 Pictures shows some serious effort here as it could have left the varied character designs entice the viewer into watching but it seems the studio decided not to let the anime hinge on a single element.
Of course an anime with a premise such as this one wouldn’t be complete without music something which the show constantly keeps in mind. This is where The iDOLM@STER is at its best; every concert has a new song to sing, every idol has her own personal theme, every episode introduces a new tune. Every character song captures the personality of the idol it belongs to, whether it is the mischievous duo of Ami and Mami or the ever serious Chihaya, and retains its quality if only for the character associated with it. With thirteen different idols it is almost a guarantee that someone will find a theme to like. The non-character tunes aren’t any less impressive either as they summarize the general mood of each episode as the ending credits appear on the screen; there’s never a case of the music contradicting the mood but it is guilty of consistently and thoroughly complementing the tone.
It would be a fair assumption to say that most of the people who would watch a show like this only have an interest in the characters but unfortunately the development methods, screen time distribution, and prodigious size of the cast itself doesn’t make it the best show for an attractive character to entice the viewer. However ignoring the mediocre cast and focusing on the show’s realistic and honest perspective on becoming and being a superstar will make The iDOLM@STER a very solid choice. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
If nothing else, it certainly achieves the first two traits quite well. A show being simple popcorn entertainment isn’t bad by itself so long as there is an assertive force to draw in attention to the story, which this anime lacked in the first several episodes. All too often the suspension of disbelief is under-minded by the fact that the antagonist of the week is so mundane that it raises the question of how it manages to create any sort of conflict for someone with superpowers in the first place. Fictitious nonsense is fine; outright nonsense isn’t.
However, the introduction of Lunatic marks the point where the anime remedies the suspension of disbelief and changes the series from mediocre to thoroughly engaging. The villains now pose a legitimate threat to the heroes and by extension create a true sense of conflict, an overarching story is introduced, and the action became genuinely exciting and well-choreographed despite the options being limited by the powers of the characters themselves. While the CGI is noticeable on the designs of Blue Rose and Dragon Kid, the backgrounds and settings keep the same feel so as to maintain consistency, and it also prevents the kicks, punches, projectiles or the like from being reduced to motion blurbs; movements that could have been animated much easier by common tricks are instead presented in full.
Speaking of Blue Rose and Dragon Kid, they, along with almost all of the heroes, are given a spotlight episode. Normally a distraction at best, here the story still manages to progress and finds a method for incorporating the developments into later episodes, and are usually done smoothly so as to not disrupt a personality. Usually, because unfortunately one of the characters got shafted in favor for someone else to gain an extra modicum of depth, only for said development to become something of a plot device that’s entirely ham-fisted in hindsight. Adding insult to injury is the fact that even the main character, Wild Tiger, becomes somewhat overshadowed by the cool best friend in Barnaby.
Now while it is true that the conflict regarding Barnaby’s past is the only driving force behind the narrative, to dismiss the character himself outright would be a mistake. What the cast lacks in depth they more than make up for with dynamics, and the two leads are certainly aware of that; more than a battle of Good VS Evil or an action-packed superhero anime, Tiger & Bunny is about the rise, fall and redemption of friendship and trust. It truly takes a long time for Tiger and Barnaby to ally with each other back-to-back, so long in fact that there’s a timeskip between each cour because the scriptwriters couldn’t bother showing the gradual change. But at the very least, the end of the first half manages to show the start of the “rise”, alleviating the sudden excuse for development somewhat.
Still, even after the first several episodes are cleared the show ends up falling victim to a few inconsistencies, one of them being the power level problem where a character defeats an opponent portrayed as stronger than someone originally made to look more impressive than said character, among others. As previously mentioned one of the heroes is also left without a spotlight episode, but somehow Lunatic does, and subsequently ends up degrading into a punching bag towards the end. What’s worse is that the show inevitably finishes with more questions than answers, although it seems deliberate, indicating the chance of a sequel. Assuaging all of the loose threads later on is fine, but a good story needs to stand on its own, and unfortunately this show’s strengths aren't quite enough to make up for some noticeable weaknesses.
Despite my rather negative tone, this is by no means a bad anime. Taken altogether it’s solidly above average and definitely something that superhero fans or even action fans in general should take a look at. However, the uneventful beginning, shafted characters and plot holes are just enough to stop me from being quick about recommending it otherwise. Tiger & Bunny is flawed yet enjoyable, far from the best, but not a complete waste of your time either. read more
6 of 6 episodes seen
What immediately jumps out upon watching the first episode is the fairly down to earth design and coloring of the backgrounds and characters; with the exception of Momo and Daniel, there isn’t anything with a stylistic flare, which works just fine considering the subject nature of this anime. The amount of detail put into the artwork and the frame-by-frame itself is much more dated than something that was released in 2006 -should- be, yet it’s also a boon as it creates a hazy, dream-like quality to the whole experience. And if the visuals are a dream, then the soundtrack is pure heaven.
But there isn’t actually much BGM in a traditional sense, though, as most of the sounds are mere ambience that one would expect from its setting: raindrops, sirens, footsteps, and the like. They work fine, but what little music the series does have is nothing short of mesmerizing. Keep in mind, it isn’t so much how memorable it is more than how well it supplements the mood, and it does its job amazingly well when the tracks are actually used correctly. In other words, the main problem with the music is that as good as it might be it isn’t used properly most of the time, which actually goes hand-in-hand in another area of this anime that Tomomi Mochizuki had trouble pinning down for its first half.
And that would have to be the story and characters themselves. What makes the light novels so impactful is how well it communicates the semi-realistic issues of whoever the narrative focused on, and what makes the anime the exact opposite is its lack of direction. Even without being compared to the light novel, though, the execution is all over the place, either by trying too hard with inappropriately used music, or not trying at all by rushing through events without properly conveying whatever drama someone might be going through. As a result, people who are completely new to this series might find the anime passable at best, whereas the audience from the light novels is liable to dislike how much the emotional scenes fall flat.
It isn’t all bad news, though, because after episode three, Ballad of a Shinigami progressively gets better in terms of the narrative flow, properly establishing the issues of its cast while mastering a scarce but powerful soundtrack to its fullest extent. It ends on a rather heartwarming note, but the contrast between the first three episodes and the last three episodes is so stark that one must wonder how much better it could have been had it continued for a proper cour, because it seems Mochizuki fell victim to the old saying of “too little; too late.”
The enjoyment that would be derived from this hinges on your patience for an episodic series to actually pick up, which is counterproductive seeing as how standalone episodes normally don’t lend themselves to gaining steam, but it was for this one. Ballad of a Shinigami has -a lot- of heart, but simply doesn’t show it enough and ends up feeling mediocre as a consequence. It’s not a total waste of your time, but it won’t be winning the hearts of those who prefer an emotional connection to a story any time soon. If, however, you wish to see this idea done correctly, feel free to read the light novels if you can be bothered to track them down. Otherwise, approach this anime with caution, don’t expect much, and you’ll be just fine. read more
50 of 50 episodes seen
But first, let's talk about how this world is brought to life. Its artistic detail isn't anything spectacular, yet doesn't hit any awkward spots either. The character models stay consistent, and surprisingly, so do the various ships and mecha, even during the midst of combat. So while the fight choreography isn't anything special most of the time, it's compensated by Bones' persistence. If nothing else, they once again prove their talent for quality animation.
The audio side of Eureka Seven isn't too bad either, but some of the tracks are rather misplaced. BGMs that would have been better suited for the beginning of the series are present towards the end, while some of the music gets overused as others are hardly utilized. For the most part though they complement their respective scenes quite well, and OP tune lovers are in for a treat, as the four opening numbers of this series are quite distinct from each other. Pick and choose a lyrical favorite, basically.
And now for what should have been the best part of the show, the characters. There are loads and loads of them, but don't worry if only a few of them are worth caring about; they're probably the only ones relevant to the story anyway, or were actually explored at all. To elaborate, the character development is devoted mostly to Renton, Eureka, Holland, Talho, Dominic and Anemone. They're very much flawed to the point where facepalming toward some of their actions is expected, but it's precisely because of their imperfections that they're so interesting to watch. How they eventually change is slow and punishing, much like learning how to surf (or in this case, Lift), but it's all good because they're what makes the show what it is. Everyone else, though, starts out with some promise then degrades into a plot boomerang at best. Now as previously stated, the story turned this show's biggest strength into a liability. What would be meant by that?
Let's put things into perspective here: Eureka Seven is basically without any real story for roughly -3/4- of its run. So it's going to have to rely on its characters to make it worth anything. Of course, the writers did a good job for the part of the ensemble they actually bothered with, right? However, good as those six characters were, it's the way in which they were presented that ruined their impact. To elaborate, almost every single episode after the first 1/4 of the series incessantly abuses the drama tag. Now, thrusting a work into TNA (Total Non-stop Angsting) isn't bad by itself, but the impact of a heavy scene can be easily lost if the viewer becomes desensitized to the problems of the cast member in question, and there's hardly any "normal" scenes throughout the series.
And therein lies the problem with Eureka Seven: it's so intent on spamming drama that it forgets all too often to take a break with something lighter. Basically, the impact that the dramatic middle half is supposed to have is hampered because there simply isn't enough of a glimpse as to how the cast will behave under "normal" circumstances. After all, can one really understand what sadness is if it were the thing they were predominantly exposed to? Would said person even be aware of their own feelings if almost no other emotions were ever experienced? Of course, other shows have gotten away with being rather depressing, but usually they either know how to balance the heavier and lighter moments, or had no softer scenes at all since a dark atmosphere was actually their intention, and Eureka Seven hardly bills itself as "dark."
To sum it all up, Eureka Seven is 75% character-driven with the technical qualities to match, but ultimately falls short because of how the story--the narrative--presents its cast. There's really nothing wrong with it from a production standpoint, but the imbalance between the angst and fun is sure to turn off quite a bit of people. If, however, you do not mind a lack of icebreaking and are in need of an overtly dramatic series, feel free to watch this as you please. read more