This Week: Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari: Kuro, Straight Title Robot Anime, and Galaxy Express 999
First of all, I was linked over to this thread last week, which was a really interesting read as I attempted to figure out how I felt about this series. There’s a sizable increase in sexual content compared to Bakemonogatari, to the point where not mentioning it seems impractical. I’m not completely sold on the need for all these scenes, but the points about the issue of varying levels of personal intimacy and camera control as it relates to fanservice (especially regarding the toothbrushing sequence) is certainly something I was trying to unpack while I was watching this show.
I’m not sure if it’s something with the source material or what, but the events themselves aren’t paced anywhere near as well as the first series. The first three episodes alone are practically a “here’s what all those girls from the first show are up to” rundown, which felt really forced and drained a lot of early momentum for an eleven episode series.
Visually, I think it makes far more extensive use of aesthetics as metaphors than the original (I don’t think Karen and her brother are literally destroying multiple superhighways or that their bathroom is larger than literally every other room in the house for instance), but I don’t think the same degree of narrative weight is behind them as in the original. It’s an interesting trade off, and the dialogue remains snappy, even if it’s just spinning its wheels most of the time.
But, I always felt less “happened” in Nisemonogatari that was actually moving things forwards. It essentially shifts those delightful little side conversations that flavored the original series so well into the forefront, for all that good and ill that comes with it.
I have a nagging sense the show could have been rewritten as twin movies, and I think it would have been stronger for it.
With it being the prequel, our cast is even smaller than usual for this franchise, which likely helped to keep it incredibly focused. That the story here revolves around Hanekawa also likely helps with never losing track of the plot. This is certainly a very keep-your-arms-inside-the-vehicle and moving-the-story forward production.
The art also tends to stay more locked into the baseline “reality” style compared to some of the interesting stylistic maneuvers its predecessors would pull. This is likely related to Hanekawa’s character, as the least irreverent cast member, and having the visuals reflect this. Also, there were far fewer instances of oddball side conversations or wordplay compared to the monogatari series as a whole, but that is again likely related to the small number of characters and the nature of Hanekawa’s character coloring the entire layout of the production.
All in all, it did what it needed to do to tell the story it wanted to tell, even if it didn’t go above and beyond. No muss no fuss.
Straight Title Robot Anime (Chokkyuu Hyoudai Robot Anime: Straight Title)
I’m someone who really enjoyed gdgd Fairies, which is the closest approximation I can give to this show (and staff from gdgd did depart to work on this). While we have the “three characters doing quirky things in 3D” thing going on, it has more of an objective than gdgd: a core plot of robots attempting to figure out how humor and laughter works.
In execution, this actually hopelessly cripples the series. The show has essentially one joke: robots do not understand humor, so they read up on humor clichés and attempt the humor they have read about as they explain to each other why and how the joke should work. Each episode is 10-15 minutes, but feels excruciatingly long, since the entire show is something akin to watching that guy at a party who really wants to explain to everyone why his awkward joke was really funny. The Narrator also drains any impromptu “Oh! The robots just made a joke properly but didn’t realize it!” realizations from the audience, since he’ll immediately jump in and tell you that’s what happened, so there’s no joy in catching those moments. Comedy is subjective, certainly, but unless someone really likes anti-humor humor, I can by no means recommend this.
I give it a point for what it attempted in its final message, that jokes and laughter require a level of freedom and ability to lose oneself in the moment that is incompatible with the efficient programming humanity gave robots. So laughter protocols are actually lethal, making laughter fully capable of ending the war as our main cast had surmised, just not the way they had originally intended. But the show was such a titanic slog for me up to that point that the death of all robots on the planet was nowhere near as significant as it should have been.
Galaxy Express 999 (Ginga Tetsudou 999) [Episodes 2/113]
I wanted to start up a longer classic series, and I’ve always been a fan of Leiji Matsumoto’s designs.
While I’m only two episodes in, what struck me is how quickly the show is already bringing up pretty powerful concepts: human-machine conversions, the destitution of the poor underclass who can’t afford them, and the loneliness of Mars when human space travel has advanced to where nobody wants to stop there because it’s not exotic enough. I wasn’t sure what the pacing was going to be for this show, given its length, but as of right now it doesn’t really want to pull any punches it seems.
That Mars episode in particular I thought was rather strong; it felt lonely, dusty, and abandoned by the outside. There was a sense of the pressure this creates, even if we only met a few denizens of the planet, and it was really well done. So this should be an interesting ride to go further with, wherever it takes me.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.