Fall 2014 Season Anime Thoughts (November)

Another month. Another few episodes into the fall season. Still haven’t dropped any of my three shows that I’m watching. Well, here is what I thought about them.

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Shirobako (Episode 4-8)

Mushashino Animation has been going through a rough patch in their production of Exodus!. Kinoshita, the director, hasn’t finished the storyboard for the final episode and is locked up by the chief producer Honda in order to finish it. In addition, Endou, the animation supervisor for the eighth episode, has abruptly quit due to a spat between him and the 3D director Shimoyanagi, regarding whether to use key frames or 3D for a key explosion scene, and it’s up to Aoi and her co-worker Taro to resolve this crisis. These problems are an interesting look in the behind-the-scenes process of creating an anime. It definitely feels like watching a documentary with the different processes and positions involved. The good part about this is that these problems don’t get resolved in just one episode, but take a couple of episodes to develop, which makes it feel a little more realistic. There are some problems as the storylines and points-of-view switch around during the course of the episode, which can seem to drag on a little bit, but I like how they manage to focus on the other characters beside the main five.

On the other side, there are also the struggles of two of the main five characters. Shizuka, who is a newbie voice actor, has been trying to land a role and go to auditions, but has yet to find a part. Ema, a key animator who works at Musashino Animation, struggles with the balance between speed and quality and ended up making mistakes on the cuts for which she was responsible. We can see how the stress from working in the industry has affected them. They feel down and sad, lamenting that they aren’t having the success they were expecting when they graduated from high school. This shows how tough it is to make it in the anime industry. There are thousands of voice actors, yet only a limited amount of roles. In addition, the deadlines that the animators have to make can cause a lot of stress, especially with how little they are getting paid. We feel for these two and hope that they can get better and achieve their dreams of becoming successful

The next episodes are setting up for a great finale of this arc, and hopefully, everything will go smoothly as we transition into the next where the main cast makes another anime with more experience.

Rating: 8/10 (Great)

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Lord Marksman and Vanadis (Episode 5-8)

Tigre has been branded a traitor by the Brune Kingdom, and an army has been sent to kill. Tigre has to employ the services of Elenora again in order to fight them off. Here, we are introduced to more of the war maidens. Ludmila is a long time rival to Elen, who wields a spear capable of manipulating ice. Sofya serves as a mediator for all the war maidens, who wields a priestess staff who can deflect most weapons.

If there is one thing that Marksman has going on, it is the tactical side of the battles. A narrator is explaining the details of the strategies employed by both sides while a graphic with CGI chess pieces move along a map and simulating the battle in front of us. Unfortunately, that is the only good thing about this show. Tigre, despite his rural background and his use of a bow in battle, is just too perfect. He doesn’t have any real flaws about him. In battle, he is just like Legolas, who can hit any shot with his bow. Those shots are just impossible to make, especially one where he shot an arrow high in the air and killed a knight’s horse a few seconds later with that same arrow. While indeed cool-looking, he seems just too powerful during battle, only getting injured once. Additionally, there are so many harem elements that just come off as cliche and tired. The bathhouse scene where Tigre walks in on Ludmila. The “armor” that the war maidens wear during battle. It’s just not that interesting.

Lord Marksman and Vanadis is not a good show. I’ll see it through the end, since I’m already two-thirds of the way done, but I’m not really expecting anything interesting to develop.

Rating: 3/10 (Bad)

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When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace (Episodes 5-8)

After such a great start, Supernatural Battles has lost some momentum going into the middle stretch. Jurai is still his lovable “chunni”, but again shows why he is such a good main character. This time, it’s his interaction with Tomoyo, a closet “chunni” who Jurai can relate to. Tomoyo is aspiring to be a light novel author, but has been struggling in the competitions she has been entering. Jurai supports her, and she ends up passing the first round of a light novel competition. Sayumi also get her own episode, where her past as a middle school student council president shows her ideals and how her experience in trying to force them on others has changed her. However, the most dramatic episode came when the series focuses on Hatoko, Jurai’s childhood friend. She is in love with him, but can’t seem to understand the world that Jurai lives in as a chunni. In a two-and-a-half-minute impassioned speech (you can watch the speech below), Hatoko vents her frustrations on why she can’t understand him and his chunni ways. The way Hatoko puts her emotion into that speech was brilliant and heartbreaking. Often times, it’s the weird kid that tries to fit into the “normal” society, but this time, it is the other way around with Hatoko trying to fit into Jurai’s world.

Unfortunately, some of that momentum is lost in episode 8 where we are introduced to another group of students, who obtained supernatural powers, led by Tomoyo’s older brother. According to them, there is a war going on between these people with superpowers for the entertainment of these fairies. The “Supernatural Battles” from the title certainly took effect here in this episode, but it really runs away from the themes that could have been explored with Hatoko’s breakdown. In addition, this sudden shift from a slice-of-life show to an action shonen would have been good if Jurai’s group had been more involved. To be honest, it was an unnecessary break.

This has been an entertaining show. While I don’t expect the ending to be conclusive, the balance between the comedic timing and dramatic elements really help this series a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 8/10 (Great)

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