Highlight: Fall 2017 anime season

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“Traveling is fun, and even if I have to kill others, I still want to continue doing it” — Kino

Despite the hypes around Mahoutsukai no Yome, the show ultimately falls short. It did great in world building, audio-visual quality, and character development. However, it lacks suspension; it lacks a dilemma to overcome, an antagonist to defeat, or a MacGuffin to desire. The only villain appeared in the show thus far has been as flat as a cardboard cut-out, doing evil for the sake of evil, and he/she/it is defeated in two episodes, providing next to zero threat to our protagonists.

Moving on, we have a romantic modern comedy Net-juu no Susume where the virtual and the real world intertwined. It has a catchy opening tune that I can hum along all day and a plotline that gives off strong modern Cinderella vibe. The strong point of this show lies in its usage of open suspension, the kind where the suspense is not about the secret but about when the characters learn of this secret.

I have watched many shows utilizing this plot device and it’s absolutely agonizing when the revelation is inherently negative. It’s like watching the sword of Damocles hanging over the characters’ head. In contrast, a positive revelation is like the light at the end of a dungeon. It’s more pleasing to seek the light than wait for the sword to fall. And you bet Net-juu no Susume was pleasing to watch.

On another note, I submitted to Imouto sae Ireba Ii‘s guilty pleasure. While I’m not fond of the weird ecchi stuff, I’m quite keen on the show’s depiction of writer’s daily life. Their struggles, quirks, and nerdy obsessions are amusing to watch. In a sense, it is great because it grants a glimpse of the industry like New Game or Shirobako.

SEASONAL SELECTION

Show Expectation Rating
Kino no Tabi (2017) Cash cow Highlight (1)
Just Because! Question mark Runner-up
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou Star Excellent
Net-juu no Susume Question mark Excellent
Sangatsu no Lion SS2 Cash cow Excellent (Pending)
Imouto sae Ireba Ii Question mark Decent
BlendS Star Decent
Mahoutsukai no Yome Star Decent (Pending)
Fate Apocrypha Cash cow Decent
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond Cash cow Mediocre
Juuni Taisen Star Mediocre
Boku no Kanojo ga Majimesugiru Sho-bitch na Ken Old dog Nope
Dies Irae Question mark Nope

HIGHLIGHT: KINO NO TABI (2017)
KINO’S JOURNEY

Kino no Tabi is a non-chronological compilation of short stories revolved around a traveler named Kino and a Motorrad named Hermes. Each short story focuses on Kino and Hermes’s three-day visit to a country where they stand witness to a civil dilemma and sometimes the dilemma’s aftermath.

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I’m just an average citizen, an old man named Regel.

These stories often expose the most extremes of humanity the way the fables of old do. They depict kindness, ugliness, ingenuity, courage, and selfishness without reservation. The most powerful tales, in my opinions, are “Kind country ~Tomorrow never comes~”, “Country where humans can kill others ~Jungle’s Rule~”, “Country of Liars”, and Photo’s story “Before the clouds~Eye-opener~”.

These tales invoke awe, sadness, respect, happiness, and trust in the world’s kindness. They made me stand up from my seat, breaking into a grand applause with tears in my eyes. In the end, I think the main problem with Kino no Tabi is its choice of tales. It made commendable efforts to avoid reusing the stories already used in the 2003’s anime but this didn’t leave it with too many good stories to tell.

Yes, there was a Kino no Tabi anime back in 2003.

The new Kino no Tabi cannot quite escape from its predecessor’s shadow. Objectively speaking, the 2003’s show did have a much better direction, storytelling, as well as a superior selection of tales. Personally, I think people are just experiencing a typical case of Spectacle Creep.

One of the most important aspects of Kino no Tabi back then was gendered mechanics. The writer purposefully hid Kino’s gender from the audience while at the same time hinted that half of the in-story characters could recognize that she was a girl.

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That’s an impressive fifth-dimension reverse-trap transformation right there

The 2003 version did not hesitate to capitalize on her gender identity for storytelling. In “Peaceful country ~Mother’s love~” the curator whispered the following to Kino: “Once you become pregnant and feel the warmth of your child, you will understand how I feel”. It’s a powerful message that can only be delivered when the listener, the protagonist, was female.

In keeping her gender vague for the surprise reveal, the new Kino no Tabi has sacrificed much of this intricacy from its storytelling. In “Colosseum” story, the king asked the two female finalists to marry him and in the process revealed his insecurities, his humanity to the audience. It’s a scene only a female protagonist could witness. Kino no Tabi (2017) skipped that scene and this made the king look like a madman who kills without reason.

Ultimately, as these two anime covered different parts of the novel, I see no reason to favor one to the other. I highly recommend watching both shows and/or read the novel, which is available for free on Baka-Tsuki site (no official English publication available due to the original licensor going bankrupted and all).

RUNNER-UP: JUST BECAUSE!

Entrance exam panic, move-away lover, and unrequited love triangle; here seen the ingredients for a young adult romance story.

This happens when a series is so good, it starts a new trend.

Yes, Just Because! is yet another attempt to ride on Tsuki ga Kirei‘s success. Unlike the winning failure Konbini Kareshi last season, Just Because! mastered Tsuki ga Kirei‘s characteristic “Show, don’t tell” storytelling and it spent more budget on production quality, which makes the viewing experience smoother and more pleasant despite using the same industry-standard character design.

Just Because! follows the romance of five high school students who formed a two-girls-one-guy love triangle and a couple with the girl moving away (like, not this again!). The pacing is slow, excruciatingly so. Two-third of the show involves placing down Chekhov’s guns, developing characters and establishing relationships. At times, it felt as if the show was not moving forward at all, everything went into a kind of routine, a pure Slice of Life routine with only minute differences between episodes.

But small differences added up and before I knew it, drama!

Morikawa turned her back to Haruto because her family was moving away. Natsume risked her future, taking on an exam beyond her ability, all because she wanted to be at the same university as Eita. Eita would throw away his acceptance for a renowned institution if it meant he could be with Natsume at a worse university. Komiya hurt herself with an unrequited love and a confession she knew from the start would be rejected.

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Oh god, no, the feelcopter, the feelcopter is inbound!

When people care for one another, they can make decisions that are idiotic, painful and illogical to the observers. This is the meat of Just Because!. It tells a story of everyday life’s heroic courage as dramatic as any battle epics. Komiya’s last scene in the photography club’s room was incredible. The emotion, the lighting, the voice acting, the camera angle, everything fits together and delivers an emotional moment that is worth every measure of boredom I have to endure in the building up phase.

The execution is excellent. Animation quality is above average with advanced lighting, blurring and shading techniques being used skillfully. Stroke count and the number of shades per tone is still nowhere the level of Madhouse or KyoAni but this is very well done for a relatively new studio. I cannot praise the director enough for his camera work but the pacing needs a lot of improvement because, seriously, the slow build-up bored my brain out.

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