5. Ah, What Pleasant Surprises Are These
I love a lot of anime, and I have many reasons for why I love the anime I do. I have 6 shows left to talk about, and each one is one I love for a very different reasons. I will discuss the first 4 here.
Ani ni Tsukeru Kusuri wa Nai was probably one of the most surprisingly fun time I’ve ever had watching an anime. I grew up with brothers, so watching shows that competently address the love/hate relationship siblings have for each other is always a fun time for me. Despite leaning much more towards “hate” for comedic purposes, this show still infused itself with enough heartfelt familial moments to make me bond with the main characters and hope for both of them to do well.
Of course, the main crux of the humour in Ani ni Tsukeru is that the younger, shorter sister is a martial arts expert with a proper disposition and a penchant for getting blazingly angry at her layabout wimpy brother, but fortunately the slapstick beatdowns that result from this dangerous mix of characteristics never end up feeling repetitive or boring. This is partly thanks to studio Fanworks’ excellent work expressing the energy of Shi Miao’s anger, but the dullness is also averted because Shi Fen keeps on finding new and more rock-brained ways to annoy his fiery sister.
It is obvious that the slapstick violence depicted in the show is not supposed to be taken seriously, but I can understand why some people would be disturbed by a show that is all about clearly-gendered violence directed by the main female character toward the main female character. I think however that this show successfully mitigates this potentially disturbing reading in a few ways: Firstly, the violence shown is so ridiculously over-the-top and leaves minimal (if any) effects on the victim, so the show is already signalling that this violence should be dismissed as unrealistic and humorous. Secondly, Shi Fen’s annoying behaviour is clearly shown to be provocative, so it is very difficult to call him an innocent party to his sister’s rage-filled outbursts. Finally, while Shi Miao is never criticized for her violent anger, she is also never rewarded for it or told that she did the right thing.
There isn’t very much to say about this show, it was a short little fun series and there are no deep messages behind it. I do think, however, that it is well worth anyone’s time, and that it’ll bring a smile to most people’s faces.
One of the pains of being an anime fan is knowing that it will usually take half an eternity before you can watch the anime movies that you’ve been excitedly waiting to see. I am still heartbroken that I was not able to watch either of Science SARU’s debut movies, I hope those get subtitled and brought to North America as fast as possible. One movie from last season that I was able to watch was Polygon Pictures’ Blame!. This movie is the first piece of Polygon’s work I have ever seen, although I was aware of their unique 3-D approach prior to watching this film.
The world of Blame! is a brilliantly well-realized dystopia of shining metal and creaking machinery where for the last thousand years, humanity has been hunted almost to extinction by a network of artificial intelligences that once kept humankind safe and secure. The aesthetic of this world in unmistakably unique, and the movie does a very good job of showing it off- every robot, every location, every surface is designed with an inhuman and uncanny feeling, there are hundreds of picturesque moments that would serve perfectly as desktop backgrounds.
Blame! does not use its setting to ask any philosophical questions, instead it tells a pulse-pounding action story. As my love for Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and Redline might make evident, I love me a good action story, and this movie certainly did not disappoint. The main character Killy is an enigmatic stoic badass with an awesome pistol, and in a story like this that’s all I need- watching him lay waste to enemy robots was never once any less than exciting. The human characters are all written enough to be endearing, so watching them get slaughtered is heart-wrenching enough to be effective. I also rather liked the design of their equipment, and their spear guns were really cool too!
Unfortunately, Blame! suffers from the same problem that many 3D anime projects suffer from- namely, at times the frame count drops enough for a few seconds for your eyes to notice that the action is a bit more choppy than it should be. This happens rarely enough that I was able to overcome the displeasure I felt when encountering it, but still, this impacted the viewing experience enough to make this an anime that I would only strongly recommend, rather than glowingly recommend. Any fan of awesome robots, badasses with guns and gripping life-or-death stakes, however, should definitely give this one a look.
I love being surprised by the media I watch, and for me, there was no greater surprise this season than Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?. This anime, made in collaboration by two studios I knew nothing about and displaying a thoroughly standard-looking artstyle and merely competent animation, was never a show that I expected to ever name a favourite from this season, but its second half took my previous judgments and entirely shattered them. I will do my best to explain why.
The world of SukaSuka is one that is slowly crumbling. Hundreds of years ago, a horrible accident that no one completely understands caused the surface world to be overrun by monsters of fearsome strength and insurmountable numbers, and now all remaining intelligent life remains precariously preserved atop a series of floating islands. No workable solution for this desperate state of affairs is ever presented or discussed, and so good people fight to the death again and again while meanwhile everything keeps crumbling and the islands fall one by one.
SukaSuka’s world is an unforgiving one, it is one where no one gets a happy ending. The crumbling of the world around them is mirrored in the leprechauns’ nature as ultra-powerful warriors whose strength stems from the same source that will inevitably consume their minds and personalities. Chtholly is the most tragic example of this- we, the audience, are forced to watch this beautifully lovable character have her thoughts, her feelings, her memories, and eventually her very self get eaten away by a force that no one is able to fight, and when an item that might have helped restore her was finally found, events beyond anyone’s control instead conspired to lead to her agonizingly heartrending death. The tragedy of Chtholly is a microcosm of the tragedy that inevitably awaits the world of SukaSuka, and it is this tragic lifeblood that imbues the show with an emotional throughline.
One of the questions SukaSuka tackles is what exactly makes a person their self, and how many elements of a personality could a person lose before they stopped being their self and became someone else. As a person with an obsessive fear of losing my mind, this thematic focus absolutely wrecked me on multiple occasions- I especially remember crying for minutes when Ithea revealed that she had lost her mind and became another person long ago, but that she had found a way to live on pretending to be the person she once was.
And of course, watching Willem be tortured by the unavoidable tragedy of his situation and be forced to watch everything fall apart around him was just right for me. Willem is a likably-noble guy with a personality that is just deadpan enough to make him fun to watch in comedic situations, and I became endeared to him just as quickly as I became endeared to the lovable and sincere Chtholly. The relationship that developed between the two of them was one of the most happy things the show offered, and I desperately wished that things could end up okay so the two of them could be happily together… Of course, this only made the final episode hurt just that much more.
If you are looking for an endearing yet tragic experience, there are few anime that do the job better than SukaSuka. I loved this show more than I ever thought I would, and I hope other people give it a try.
Before this season, I had never seen a single anime by PA Works. Sakura Quest ended up being my first, and when I found myself loving that show I noticed that the studio was also working on another show, Uchouten Kazoku 2. I was curious enough to give it a try, so I watched the show’s first season… and was promptly blown away. Uchouten Kazoku showed me a vividly-realized world where everyday life was a chaos of interpersonal conflicts, random happenstances and touching familial moments, and I loved every second of it. The visual presentation alone was a spectacular thing to experience- this series is seriously one of the most gorgeous things to ever appear on TV, I heavily recommend that anyone at least give it a try just to experience it! By the end of the first season, I was left excited and ready to experience more.
The first thing that needs to be noted about Uchouten Kazoku 2 is that its OP may very well be the most stunning OP of the season. Its action-packed, chaotic presentation perfectly fits the madness of the show it precedes, and it features the best integration of credits that I have ever seen in an OP! Also, the song is awesome and energetic and fun.
But more importantly, the show…
It is easy to see Uchouten Kazoku 2 as a retread of the first season- random events happen, Kinkaku and Ginkaku are troublemakers, Benten causes some trouble, everyone’s almost eaten by the Friday Fellows before the Shimogamo brothers save the day, and Ebisugawa Soun attempts a plot at becoming Nise-emon. This kind of repetition is actually part of the themes of the show, though: The Uchouten Kazoku series is attempting to allegorically comment on chaotic modern life, and so the events in it are supposed to feel both maddeningly incomparable and yet strangely regular, almost mundane. The series attempts to reveal the madness of our own world through the madness of its world of tanuki and tengu, and I think it is successful in that respect.
While the show’s general plot may feel well-trodden, what Uchouten Kazoku 2 brings is a huge amount of expansion. In addition to the three races of tengu, humans and tanuki, it is also revealed that oni exist and they live in their own uncanny world. The Shimogamo family is still the focus of the show, but Yaichirou’s marriage to Gyokuran and Yasaburou’s reinstated engagement to Kaisei swell their numbers while meanwhile a second broken tengu family consisting of Master Akadama, Benten and the Nidaime is shown. A troublesome new character Tenmaya is introduced, locales outside of Kyoto begin to be shown, and now the Friday Fellows must compete with a rival group called the Thursday Fellows. The world of Uchouten Kazoku has never been more crazy, and it all adds up to create a series of episodes that I honestly think were even more entertaining than those from the first season!
Perhaps the best part of Uchouten Kazoku 2 for me was seeing Shimogamo Yajiro begin his long path to recovery and take a journey. I relate to Yajiro in a few ways, so seeing him successfully work through his mental hang-ups and find the strength to quest for a better self was really self-empowering. Also, I really like the look of his human form, so seeing him get animated more in that form was something that really pleased me.
Of course, Uchouten Kazoku 2’s lifeblood is its characters. Watching its characters struggle and fail and succeed is entirely the appeal of this series, so if you never watched the first season or you didn’t enjoy it, this show is not for you. As a person who strongly enjoyed the first season, however, this season made me smile even more than the first did, and I really hope that it made lots of other people smile too.
And so the penultimate work is complete. I have never before committed so many words and hours to talking about anime, and I don’t have adequate words with which to thank anyone who has read through all of this… Thank you though, I only hope my over-emotional fanboy love has not made you cringe too much yet. As the 6th and final installment of this retrospective recap, I will be committing all my thought to discussing two shows that I will cherish forever- one, a modern legend told in an awesomely sci-fi way, and the other, an endearing tale that for me became a freakishly (yet beautifully) accurate mirror. I don’t know how long it will take for me to find the right words for these anime, but I definitely want to try to do them justice. One more time, thank you, and see you again in the next one.