Category Archives: Usagi Drop

Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

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Mid-Summer Review, 2011

When the humidity is high and the  sun is making waves on steaming pavements, do you want to watch an anime like Aria, where the same is sometimes protrayed, or do you want to watch something from the deep freeze, like a scene from Spriggan? I don’t know, and it’s not like I’m getting either this summer.

So, a list of stuff I’m kind of watching.

I’m still keeping pace with No. 6. I want to start this post about No. 6 out because those … homoerotic gazes kind of bothers me when it’s put at the fore, so let’s put that to the fore. Those scenes bother me in the sense that “wait, there’s this long pause in which I am suppose to be feeling some kind of tension between the two male protagonists, but what kind of tension is it? Why is this pause here?” It kicks me out of the mind set in which I’m following this mystery about killer bee things, which is probably the main draw for the show. At least for non-fujoshi types. On a normal, sunny day, I typically like to think critically anyways. But when the show gives me a chance to–scratch that, more like when it invites criticism, I can’t help but to think in the negative. It isn’t necessarily a “wrong” on the show’s behalf, but that’s just how I roll. Some anime invite you to introspect, to reflect and consider what is happening in the story from a third-party perspective. Others invite you to take part in the action, to get the audience wrapped up in the narrative. There’s nothing special or good or bad about either approach. But sometimes the beams cross, so to speak. In the game of Magicka, it usually means an explosive, suicidal death. Thankfully anime is not some European-made exercise at self-infliction of pain.

I bring up Magicka because it is a game sold on its solid gimmicks. Gimmicks can be solid. I think this is why I still like R-15 a lot, half way through. The gimmicks, compared to, say, Yuruyuri, are random as hell and yet somewhat organic. It’s kind of like Xavier’s School for the Gifted; you have a bunch of kids who have some kind of special powers. Except by “power” we don’t mean cool mutant powers, but “the most random, most Japanese crap-anime plot generator” you can think of. Some of these “powers” are really creative; in order to top some of these, I have to go to fanfiction. And we typically don’t want to go there.

It’s easy to point to some show and say it is more organic than Yuruyuri. Because Yuruyuri is very…inorganic. I don’t know why and how, it just feels very stale in terms of its timing? Direction? Animation generally? I can’t quite put my finger on it. The writing works pretty okay with whatever that I feel that is stale, and once we can begin to tolerate the main characters, the jokes come alive. I think that might just be the strength of the writing to a degree. I don’t think the staleness is particularly a bad thing, it just makes it difficult to form a good first impression. When done right, staleness gives a show a unique flavor. Sometimes stale bread tastes good too!

Speaking of stale bread, Yune has the cutest scene with stale bread possibly in the history of anime. I mean, it isn’t something that comes into play on a regular basis. Croisee is a sharp anime, but it feels a little bit, shall we say, out of the water? It’s missing something, something big, that pushes the enjoyment level over the edge to the next level. For Aria, it was how it channels the mono no aware stuff, for example. As is, Croisee is just a cute and well-executed show.

That’s also what I’m going to say about Ro-Kyu-Bu. It’s just somehow one gets you branded as a lolicon and the other doesn’t, when in reality they’re kind of the same thing.

I am really enjoying Usagi Drop, but I also don’t really want to talk too much about it right now. Maybe when it’s all done. And maybe I’ll read the manga then.

I’m also really enjoying Mawaru Penguindrum, if it wasn’t clear. In a way this is the anime I always wanted after watching Utena. So it’s a long time coming. I just don’t think words do much against it; there’s a simple, calculated yet visceral point to the way the show is directed. It feels very theatrical (as in, a play) but yet not that over the top. Maybe I’m just too used to over-the-top stuff, but for a cartoon this is pretty okay. Given its Thursday lineup and the equal doses of girls-side pandering, I’m half suspect that this is real free-market competition versus noitanima.  Also it makes me suspect which show has done it before. It’s time to pander harder, Fuji TV.

I’m still keeping the pace with Sket Dance. It’s probably some form of penance. I guess without the trappings that Gintama is surrounded by, I find Sket Dance a cleaner version of kind of the same thing. It also slightly reminds me of Nadesico, in the way that Yurika and her crew would consistently making peace signs at the camera–something I am also watching it (similarly to how dm is watching CCS).

And oh, episode 16 was AWESOME. For a show as inorganic as this advance-formula Jump anime.

Blood-C? I guess I’m behind, but it isn’t bad. Just not really engaging until you get to episode 5…and I’m behind. It’s kind of a dangerous thing; nico comments boosts its entertainment value drastically, but I can’t say too much about the source material like this.

I’m also behind on Blue Exorcist and Tiger and Bunny. I just don’t have the time to catch up now that I’ve fallen behind. Maybe soon! I enjoy both shows (especially T&B) so hopefully I can make a run before some major climax goes to town.

Back to fresh stuff: The IdolM@ster is doing well. Is it canon to spell it “The Idol Master”  when the @ is an illegal character in the title? Or what? Anyways, this show doesn’t disappoint, but I don’t think my expectations was high in the first place. Still, given how much I loved episode 1, episodes 2-end have a lot to live up to. Also, this is definitely an anime that is made for the game fans, which is kind of refreshing. It’s done well enough to not bore me, giving us something of an episodic character focus while expanding on the rest of the crew, at least as much as they reasonably could. The Producer main character is interesting enough, which highlights something interesting coming from the game, too. Maybe someone can go wax poetic on the importance of assertion of the other self in first-person ADV games where the overall narrative is driven by intercharacter drama. Something a mix between Sakura Taisen and IdolM@ster?

Kamisama Dolls is pretty okay; I don’t particularly dig the character designs either (but it does make Utau cuter than she ought to be) but the story is snappy and enjoyable. There’s a little bit of everything to make it worth watching, even if the end is kind of telegraphed.

As for telegraphing, there’s a lot to be said about that in Nichijou. It’s pretty quality textbook example of how to do it. Is it doing the telegraphing right? For the most part; but that doesn’t automatically make the jokes work. For meta-humor of the direct kind…I’m not sure how to put it into words. It’s like if Nadesico (again) is an anime about meta of everything about itself, then Nichijou is just meta enough about the execution that it tries to do something about it. Where as a show like SeiZon is just straight-face meta. It’s like how in MLB, hitters adjust their swings to counter-game the scouting on them, over the long season?

Mayo Chiki is kind of the Seizon kind of meta, except it’s straightforward enough to make the jokes internally. Sadly it’s kind of boring if the lead characters don’t sell you. I’m not sure they’ve sold for me yet.

It’s a busy summer season that continues from a busy spring. Maybe Hanasaku Iroha continues to be the “bar” this year as to measure the effectiveness of anime to entertain. It flounders periodically and yet it hits the mark periodically, and like many series this year, the presentation is overall solid. What lies in the differences is how good they are at telling their stories. It’s also not a surprise the best storyteller anime (at least for battering average) is also one of the most popular and most anticipated series this year, Steins;Gate.

As for stories, totally random last note here, but big grats on Maaya Sakamoto x Kenichi Suzumura marriage. It is pretty awesome– they have canon OTP roles! There’s Shiki x Kokutou from Rakkyo, Haruhi x Hikaru from Ouran Host Club, Lunamaria x Shinn from Gundam SEED Destiny…and some not-as canon ones, like Sakaya Nakasugi x Shamyalan from Birdy Decode. Both are from the same agency, and despite the 5-yr age difference, Sakamoto got her debut before Suzumura. I guess they see themselves as from the same “era” or whatever. Anyway, congrats to two of my favorite voice actors! You can find a full pairing list here.


Summer 2011 Checklist

I better do this before Otakon washes me out. This being just a run-through on the interesting titles this season.

As usual, just because I couldn’t fit a show in here doesn’t mean it does not deserve it. I think it’s self-destructively amazing that I can still watch so much anime given my usual hours. And I’m writing about it. Probably just so I can then forget it and do something else. Anyways…

Are you ready? I’m ready. At least my body is ready, so they say.

Mawaru Penguindrum wins the visual award. I’m blogging it elsewhere, but hopefully it’ll make me want to write more about it here too.

Mood-wise, I am pretty partial to Kamisama no Memochu and Kamisama Dolls. The latter just makes me want to sing UNINSTALL for some reason. The former has that DRRR chic with match eccentric NEET-types. But I don’t know; both shows are wildcards in execution and plot departments.

A supposedly safer bet is Blood-C. In a lot of ways Blood+ was really flawed. Like a PS3 is flawed. Blood-C has potential to reboot the brand, while retaining what is attractive and boot what isn’t from its predecessors. But each reimagination sucks the life out of the original concept a little more than before. It’s also my Nico experiment target #1–something relatively high profile, good viewer numbers, and hopefully some slick comments will feature-add over the dumb comments.

Twin Angel is also a Nico experiment, except for the reverse of course. I now truly understand what people mean when they said they’ve watched really crappy anime on Nico that they would not have otherwise.

I thought the same for  R-15. The truth is, it’s the creative sort of crap anime that is sufficiently enticing that I would probably continue to watch it even without the Nico snipping. It may be a typical harem kind of show, but it’s sufficiently deviant from the norm to be amusing and thought-provoking (at least a little).

And that is way more praise than I can give for shows like Black Rabbit. I feel all Kuroneko about this anime, in the sense that it’s some pathetic chuunibyou attempt to cash in on some thing by using the most unoriginal source material. That is probably too harsh, but at least in Yumekui Merry there’s some kind of moe factor along with a sharp directional sense. We don’t get either in this. And why am I slamming Yumekui Merry? Obviously Index is the real true public enemy #1.

Dantalian at least looks passably okay. Nico comments do help it go a little farther, like Blood-C. But I’m not excited.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu is… Touhou animu. Too bad it’s not even funny.

The real dark horse this season is Ikoku Meiro no Croisée. I mean, it’ll be all culturally relevant and iyashikei with moe power over 9000. “A Jasc show” by all means. It’s got that huge advantage only because there is nobody pissing on it as everyone is too busy pissing on Usagi Drop. Grrrr.

Total aside, isn’t it ironic how a bit over a year ago Funimation has noitaminA on that partnership lockdown? Look at things now! Zero shows!

I think Number 6 will get its audience; the drama (in the noitaminA format) should be compelling as long as there’s some substance. It can’t be worse than Jyuohsei. And I watched Jyuohsei. Oh poor me.

The real guilty pleasure this season is obviously Ro-Kyu-Bu. And I’m doing it for the seiyuu marketing. Yeah. That’s it. But more seriously, if it can stay true for its three-episode-pilot about team building and your garden variety sports drama tropes, I can’t see how it’ll turn out badly. Unless you count the FBI breaking things up as a bad end.

Oh, speaking of those 3-ep-pilots, I thought R-15 ep2 was in every way superior than ep1. It’s like watching two different shows, the differences. Ro-Kyu-Bu also had a similar difference, but that’s more because the plot stuff didn’t kick in full gear until episode 2. What’s up with that?

Then again some shows are still playing true to formula. I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do with Sacred Seven. I probably will pass on it until I catch up on Blue Exorcist. Or something equally unlikely. It’s not bad, just not good enough.

But sometimes not good enough is fine, if you’re the only thing that airs on CR (so I can watch it on the road via 3G streaming) on Monday (man I miss Kaminomi). YuruYuri is just that.

Kind of wish that is true for Mayoi Chiki too. As is tho, it might not matter–if I can’t get to episode 2 by the time episode 4 airs, the odds are low that I will ever watch it.

Is this it? Probably not. I have a couple more shows that I want to try (ie., Manyuu!). I think I’m watching still a lot of shows left over from last season, which cuts into the new shows I can pick up. And then there’s stuff coming back like Bakatest. Oh well.

So the net total is pretty good; we’re talking about just two shows that I find even at all notable that isn’t getting a simulcast. Even Morita-san has it. Now we can argue about 1 hr or 24 hr or 72 hr or 144 hr or whatever, or if we can even call it simulcast (I don’t think we should), but in my book any of those is better than never.


Stray Thoughts on Usagi Drop

On Daikichi’s recent sacrifices, you can read a survey here from E Minor, which summarizes the issues that appears in Usagi Drop 3. However I was under the assumption that most of us have already internalized it on the basis of what child rearing means in general. I’ll cover a few things that E Minor didn’t.

1. On time spent on Rin–in general, at least in America, when your kid is 6, you are actually well positioned to re-enter the workforce full time, if you took time off to take care of his or her formative years. It’s easier to find child care for kids in that age range than, say, 0-2, with the onset of elementary school. The kids themselves are easier to take care of (and thus freeing up the caretaker to do more things). In Daikichi’s case, this was not possible simply because he has a different take on Rin’s psychological burdens than an average foster parent. That perspective gap is what drives Usagi Drop’s drama later on, as I can see it from manga readers’ reactions. At the same time, Rin probably needs more time with some stable parent figure to cope with the unusual events that has so far transpired in her short life.

2. But even if we don’t care about any of that, if Daikichi works 12-16 hours a day (and by that I mean it in the usual Japanese salaryman sense), there is just no way he can take care of a child simply on the basis of government-provided childcare. There’s also the “Daikichi seems to be entirely clueless about administrative burdens of parenting” angle. If he was a savvy parent, he probably could try to juggle a more-than-fulltime career with parenting especially given his social network (ie., he has one). This is a conceit on the part of Bunny Drop, I think.

3. At the same time it is exactly in areas like this that Japan feels so antiquated, compared to the west. It isn’t that westerners don’t sacrifice for their kids; arguably the time spent is actually more in the latter case. The impact of that on one’s career is just somehow less as a matter of corporate culture. It isn’t that women (and some men) are indirectly disadvantaged due to adding new members into their respective families in the west, but that gap is socially accepted. I should rather say, taking time off to care for a newborn (again, it’s not the direct counterpart to Daikichi’s unique situation, but it seems to maps the best) is a luxury that companies use to entice prospective employees. At least with a straight face, anyway; culturally it is considered as a luxury as well. And the fact that it’s somewhat government-mandated makes it easier for companies to just man up and do it that way.

4. While we can phrase it as a “parent’s sacrifice,” it means different thing to different people. I think if you are choosing between two things you love dearly, after failing to have that cake and eat it too, the fact that you can be regret-free after having one and not the other is not a real problem. To me, the term has a large component of respect that some how happens that the person has aligned his or her choice with the well-being of his or her family via spending time there. It is a selfish decision as well as a selfless one. So it’s not a dimension that I particularly want to dwell on. But if human beings make large career choices such as these based on reason, that’s where social policy can affect real change in the direction of its population. That is, if social policy can be changed in a way that shifts the nature of the Japanese corporate culture, anyway.

5. From this point we can speculate the other tangential issues that may come into play with a single-foster-parent situation. I always thought anime is kind of a weird medium to try to affect social change. Or manga, in this case. It is a good incubator of such thoughts, perhaps, and hopefully Japan will wise up and allow its people to live in the 21st century.

Lastly, there’s one thought that bothered me this entire time with Usagi Drop–people who are whining about the manga in the anime discussion. I normally don’t really mind, but some people really crossed the line when it comes to this title: Basically everyone who’s read the manga extensively and pisses on the title due to their colored impressions as triggered by the anime. I mean, sure, some people put “spoiler warning” on their posts and…if it wasn’t a FIRST IMPRESSION piece that would be okay! And what’s more this typically happens with people who … well, have a certain disposition which tend to make them interesting “first impression” folks that I read. Except in this case their true natures rear their ugly heads and I just want to forget it has ever happened. In my book that’s worst than the worst spoiler that you could have given. It’s simply irresponsible.

Actually that kind of extends to a general complain about people who whine about the medium-specific aspects of the adopted work because they’re judging it from some presupposed perspective as a result of an prior experience of the work in a different medium. Or, as before, whine about some non-specific aspect of the adopted work because they’re judging from a post-hoc position in the knowledge transfer process of storytelling from a different rendition in a different medium, before the transfer process has even started in earnest. They, for what it’s worth, can all die in a fire.

With that said, I think I might actually like the manga and its post-time-jump conclusion! I guess after the anime is over I will give it shot. Six volumes and all.