Summer 2015, part I

Sooo, uh . . . hey, guys.

I’m—yeah. Hey.


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Million Doll

Suko who [sic] has a special ability. She can make any idol popular just by writing about them on her blog! One day, while being forced to go to the supermarket by her sister, she happens to see a live performance from the Fukuoka based idol group “Iotrio”. Suko decides that she will do everything in her power to push them into stardom. Unfortunately, she has to compete with the charismatic otaku blogger Ryu-san who supports the underground idol Mariko!

Suko is “forced” to go out because she is a hikikomori—a culture-specific form of social withdrawal often associated with (male) otaku, so it’s interesting to see a cute girl filling this role. It can be assumed that besides her sister, Suko’s entire social circle exists online, which is probably why she’s such a powerhouse of the blogging world.

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She’s frustrated with fans who waffle from one idol to the next, abandoning those who still need support in favor of those on the rise. So she settles on one group as the target of her efforts to stick it to DDs (short for a derogatory Japanese phrase meaning “loves anyone”) like Ryū-san, who has fallen for Mariko, a local idol who seems to befriend him at a fan event. It appears that Ryū and Suko have not formally met in-series, but I imagine the show will become a matter of Suko opening up her social circle, Ryū cooling it on the idol worship, and the both of them overcoming their nerd differences to hook up in the end.

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There are nice backgrounds, but the animation is sub-par and there’s lots of scrolling across still frames. (Even the stills can look sloppy and off-model.) The opening looks like a Perfume music video but in creepy CG, while the closing credits center on Suko and Ryū-san defining otaku terminology (“DD” was one of two addressed this time). Oh, and a little innocent fanservice, if you’re into that.

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The characters are not that compelling yet, but I’m always interested to see Japanese fandom through Japan’s own lens, so I may keep up just for the sociocultural aspect. Bonus points for being a shorty, with the first episode clocking in at only eight minutes. [4]


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Ushio and Tora

Long ago, a ferocious monster terrorized the land, until a samurai, wielding the legendary “Beast Spear”, sealed him away. 500 years later, a middle school student named Ushio Aotsuki accidently uncovers the monster in a hidden cellar under his family’s temple. The unsealed monster and the spear attract many other supernatural creatures to the temple and Ushio is forced to release the monster in order to defeat them. Ushio names the monster “Tora” and unwillingly work together to battle other spirits and demons.

Accidental research tells me this is a remake of a ’90s OVA, so oops. Still good to know, because I would’ve called it shounen Natsume Yuujinchou without this knowledge. In fact—take the spaz from Yowamushi Pedal, put him in Dragonbleach, throw in some youkai for good measure, and you have Ushio and Tora.

Ushio and his monk dad seem to have a very Kurosaki relationship, in which they mainly communicate via beating the crap out of each other. So while dad is traveling, Ushio is ordered to take care of the old books in the storage shed or something, which of course reveals a trapdoor he’s never seen before. Which of course houses a weird giant vaguely humanoid monster pinned to the wall with a crazyass spear.

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Apparently only humans can remove the spear, which the monster implores Ushio to do. He is wisely hesitant, first asking the monster what it will do once it is free.

Step 2: Kill all humans!

Step 2: Kill all humans!

Which is not exactly the right approach for supplication, and prompts Ushio to not only not remove the spear, but to enthusiastically jam on the haft.

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This is the correct response.

So all is well, and Ushio is going to have some stern words for his father when he returns. Right? Except that simply opening the basement released five hundred years’ worth of the monster’s bad juju, attracting destructive mushi from all over. With two school friends in mortal peril on the premises, Ushio is now forced to free the monster in order to have any chance at saving them. There’s a short power struggle, but since Ushio has the magic monster-killing spear, he’s clearly the boss. Here is also where it resembles Natsume for me, in that the protagonist is a basically normal human with leverage over a chaotic neutral entity, which just barely keeps him alive. And similarly, this leverage also comes in the form of borrowed power—the spear itself. “Using” it transforms any human into a hyperpowerful Tarzan man that can defeat monsters. Which, again, Ushio uses to coerce Tora into behaving.

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Asserting his dominance.

I did quite a bit of laughing aloud; this show seems to know it’s a ridiculous thing, which I can always respect. Ushio as a character isn’t all that bright, but he is still somewhat Genre Savvy and understands the import of what he’s getting into. As for the music, the OST was rather good—lots of mischievous orchestral stuff and impressive instrumentation—and the opening theme is hilariously hair metal, balanced with a catchy and enjoyable (if dubstep-tainted) ending. I didn’t care much for the art style, but that’s just a matter of taste, and the animation was clean and consistent. The story doesn’t interest me much, but the presentation is charming, and all around I had a good time with this one. It’s just not going in my queue. [3]


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Rokka -Braves of the Six Flowers-

Legend says, when the Evil God awakens from the deepest of darkness, the god of fate will summon Six Braves and grant them with the power to save the world. Adlet, who claims to be the strongest on the face of this earth, is chosen as one of the “Brave Six Flowers,” and sets out on a battle to prevent the resurrection of the Evil God. However, it turns out that there are Seven Braves who gathered at the promised land…

Pretty much went as advertised. Except for that last sentence, we didn’t get to that part yet. It opens with some kind of public ceremonial fight, which Adlet interrupts, causing him to get mad arrested. The ceremony was run by the rulers of this weird pseudo-Central American native culture (see above ziggurat), and the point was apparently to determine who the six braves will be. But nobody seems to have informed them that humans don’t determine who the six braves will be. By the end a mark has just magically appeared on the chosen, a la divine summonses.

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So far there’s not much beneath the surface; the characters basically seem to be . . . well, just what they seem to be. Adlet is visited in jail by an airheaded girl who claims to be a fan; turns out she is the battle princess that the ceremonial fighters would have ultimately challenged. (She also ends up with a mark of the chosen.) She and Adlet share a protracted conversation that doesn’t add much to the story progession, even in its exposition; what’s exposed isn’t exactly useful information. Like the names of the first six braves summoned 700 years ago. And the six braves summoned 300 years ago. Like. No one’s going to care/remember this. And I guess Adlet is supposed to be mysterious in his aloofness and stupid big ego—countless times he refers to himself as the “strongest man on earth”—but he comes off as a slight sociopath.

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Still—we have very pretty art (however bogged down at times by Conspicuous CG) and interesting compositional/directional choices. There is a short sequence in the jail where, instead of cutting back and forth between the two characters, the camera tracks quickly from one to the other. It doesn’t sound all that special, but it was certainly eye-catching and not something I’ve noticed in animation before. Soon after there is a series of ultra-quick fast cuts, where the dialogue is seamless but the characters’ positions change drastically between shots, implying either heavy “editing” of the conversation, or general extreme quirkiness.

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And something about it gives me major DanMachi vibes. While the characters are much less sympathetic, it’s similar in its quality of animation, clarity of action scenes, and bombastic music. But I think the vibes have more to do with thematic elements and atmosphere. I think. Some link-clicking reveals that this series shares both art direction and art design with Samurai Flamenco (whatever those things mean). Which could explain why even though the parts are not that impressive, visually the whole compels me. It’s just. It’s weird. I can’t put my finger on it, and I may try to figure it out. [4]


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Danchigai

Based on a four-panel manga by Kazusa Yoneda, Danchigai focuses on the life of Haruki Nakano and his four sisters, all of whom live together in the same apartment complex. The only boy of five siblings, Haruki lives with his older sister Mutsuki, difficult younger sister Yayoi, and mischievous twins Uzuki and Satsuki.

An even shorter shorty (three and a half minutes this time) but with far less story. It makes sense, coming from a four-panel, I guess. But the characters are nothing you haven’t seen before, including incesty tsundere sister.

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I mean. That’s pretty much all there is to it. In such a condensed form you sort of have to go with played-out archetypes. It’s just . . . I don’t really see the point.

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The rest of them

As you can see, the art is hella sharp. That’s the best thing about it. Wait, jk, this is the best thing about it:

Kitten alarm clock?

Kitten alarm clock?

I don’t know. Not for me. [2]

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