This Week: Nagi no Asukara, The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara.
I always feel Spring anime season busts in and tries eating all my food before I have even set out the dinner plates.
It is an exhausting wall of selections, and none of the downtime I get from the other times of the year. What’s that saying? “April showers bring May flowers?” Well, I think we’ve got a torrential downpour of anime going on out here, and I’m going to have to start filling in the doorframes with towels.
Before we get started, one last plug for the winter shows and my write-ups:
If you would be interested in my final spoiler filled opinions on Kill la Kill, Space Dandy, Pupa, and Gundam Build Fighters, please check last week!
If you would be interested in my overall summarized thoughts on Robot Girls Z, Wooser’s Hand-to-Mouth Life: Awakening Arc, Hozuki no Reitetsu, or Silver Spoon Season Two, check out my post from earlier this week!
Spring cleaning time then.
By my (cursory) calculations, we have forty-seven standard length television anime series launching. And that is not counting continuing series, or the various 3-5 minute short weekly shows either. It is a dizzying minefield, even without my commitment to not dropping what currently airing series I do select to write about. Now that winter is over, my board is completely wiped. The three holdovers from autumn wrapped up, Space Dandy is on break until summer, and Pupa mercifully drew to a close. So I have a lot of leeway this time around to choose with.
The tricky part is several of the biggest critical interest shows of this season (the new season of Mushishi, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, etc) are things I am behind on in their initial versions. While I will aim to catch up and may watch these series in the background, I will not be writing about them until perhaps the end of the season.
I feel writing on five series during winter was a good spread (how on earth I ever thought nine during last autumn was a good idea is beyond me), and I like maintaining variety, so right now my picks look like this:
– Ping Pong The Animation
– The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii)
– Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou)
– Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare)
– Free space to be decided
I may not even fill the last spot, and instead use the space to bulk up the others each week. We will see what I think after everything has finally had its premiere, but feel free to offer suggestions!
I hope all of your own anime selections this season treat you right. Best wishes to us all, as nobody needs another Pupa:
Nagi No Asukara [Episode twenty six; END]
“Isn’t it a problem that there’s been no progress?”
In what is a shocking turn of events, Kaname of all people may present the single most pertinent question regarding this series.
I must level with you: I have not been enjoying this show for some time now. Maybe you’ve been reading my concerns about it for weeks, perhaps this is your first time here due to the new season. For me, this series has excelled in taking every intriguing and fascinating concept I hoped it would run with and has been methodically casting them overboard. There was so much crying in this finale, so much screaming, and I just wanted it to end. For my sake, not theirs. By what should be its finest moments, everything these characters do only hits me like a wall of static now.
With Miuna taking the former place of Manaka with the Sea God, with so much calamity occurring in the tortured currents above and any number of potential outcomes, Tsumugu tells Hikari to hold on. Don’t do anything rash Hikari. It is a natural and logical concern. There is an encroaching ice age above, and the Sea God below. It would be nice to get a handle on the situation and what is going on. But Hikari tears away at the shell protecting Miuna anyway. Because that is how he always acts. It is what he has always done. And it works without any lasting consequences. Because that is what always happens. Miuna is not accidentally killed, Hikari’s inability to undergo a sense that maybe just this one time he should not be so rash does not cause a further ice age, nothing. Everything is fine. Because feels.
Characters like the boy who had a crush on Miuna are brought up again just before the very end. And I am reminded once more, as if it was twisting every final knife it can draw, we could have done so much more with concepts like the shore characters having moved on with their lives. That maybe Miuna would have given up on the hibernating Hikari, and perhaps developed feelings for someone else. Then his return complicating matters, arriving without a day of aging just as he was all those years ago, the exact Hikari she had once felt for. To explore her feelings. There is a good character story in there, with great granular issues to explore. There are a lot of good character stories in here that could have been.
This series was my greatest winter disappointment. Over time, it squandered so much rich thematic material to explore in favor of the most baseline way this story could have been. And that makes me sadder than anything it put on screen.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode one]
This series seems to be getting wrecked a lot harder than I expected by the season start circuit. If one averages all the reader scores on spring shows from ANN, this ranks at the very bottom! Ouch.
Matsutarou is an ass, there is no ways to mince words about that. And a lot of folks do not like that as a lead figure. A kicks sand into puppies eyes, steals candy from a baby, commits grand theft auto to drunk drive, and so on level of brutish activity. But, you know, it is not like many in the town encourage or accept this behavior. Old ladies and teachers yell at him, and the only reason he can get away with anything he does is just because he is practically an ox in human form.
I think it is clear the series is trying to convince us his behavior is unacceptable. We are not supposed to think any of this is good. This is the descent of a lost man. And it is not supposed to be fun. Compared to, say, Sento Oumi from Charger Girl Ju-den Chan who repeatedly and savagely beats women with baseball bats if they disturb him, Matsutarou is a freaking saint because I at least know there is a sumo redemption story coming. So we may as well see him as low as possible first, as that is a sport of a highly regimented daily life with a large service and seniority system. We need the more intense contrast because of the process by which one makes it through a sumo stable.
This is the kind of series where the police cars are black and white with a single red cone on top. Our lead is in the intro credits wearing a purple and pink glittering dragon kimono singing the lyrics. Where Toei is stretched beyond belief this season with the raw number of programs they have, but their better studio folks are assigned to this show and its more classic manga aesthetic. The general arc is pretty much on the table plain as day. Dude is awful. Dude will hit a point of just before no return. Dude will find himself and become a better dude through sport of choice. Dude will have stumbling blocks along the way. I do not see it trying to pull many unexpected narrative stunts, so this is more of an execution and delivery series.
I’m usually not much one for sports anime. But, that this comes out in the same season as Ping Pong The Animation made it too appealing to try and pick up for contrast and potential future comparison.
Matsutarou will be fine. Someday. I just want to see the path he will walk.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode one]
The line “The world is not beautiful, therefor it is” happens to the the central philosophy messaging objective of Kino’s Journey, which is one of my favorite shows. I doubt the title of this series is supposed to be a nod to Kino and her adventures, but I can always hope that perhaps a bit of that spirit lives on somewhere.
Hajime Kamegaki as a director is the kind of fellow who has sort of hit a career brick wall for a long time now, peaking with the likes of Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres almost twenty and fifteen years ago. Those series, able to draw from a number of different genres and demographics at once, are the right kind of thing to be able to have in the back pocket here though. Princess Nike is the kind of adventurous and thoughtful yet naive and flawed heroine that can make her endearing to multiple audiences quickly. Elsewhere, we have the big orchestral music, shadowy military officials talking of a concern and plot in a crowded harbor town pub, and the kind of medieval Europe styled fantasy land where a horse nibbles on a girl’s hair and one wants to rip the bread off the screen and eat dinner with the characters.
As far as first episodes are concerned, this was excellent at setting me up and getting a sense of this being a world I want to spend time in going forwards. We get some light history of the Sun Kingdom and its ruler Nike is here to marry, but not too much. We have some action in the application of a scuffle or two, and a bit of magic. It is a display well oriented towards just breathing it in and getting a sense of things, much like Nike herself is by coming to shore and walking about in an unfamiliar land alone.
Then the show goes off the rails entirely for a few seconds with a forth wall breaking joke about a potential on-screen rape being fanservice for the viewers at home.
I have no idea what on earth that is doing in the final script, as it does not jive at all with the tone of the other twenty or so minutes. It is weird, it is jarring, and its the kind of out of left field humor that really hurts to see here. This line, this one “joke” near the end would likely be the most pressing thing a more general audience would end up walking away from it with. If not that, then the one other stumbling block where it trots out Princess Nike’s sisters in modern swimwear. It is just odd. Which is a real shame, as taken on the whole this material is the kind of stuff that really should not feel a need to succumb to such urges.
Could those two bumbling dunderheads make a recovery were they to become any kind of consistent characters? It is possible, as it is certainly a side misadventure and commentary routine that has worked out elsewhere, right down to the One Tall One and One Stout One character physicality. Heck, Turn A Gundam even had its own set.
I don’t necessarily mind if we see more of them if, say, they ended up becoming Nike’s go-to connection should she need them to grab street-level underworld information on something and the tomfoolery therein. Having tried to swindle her, then getting their butts kicked, they could in turn have a little arc as supporters. But I think they can do that without also trying to eyewink at the audience with really extreme jabs, which I think breaks a lot of the nature of such more classic slapstick hijinks, regardless of subject matter. Otherwise, you need to go full Waldorf and Statler and use them as if they were observers.
Princess Nike seems like a pretty swell lead, the kind who wants to spend time with the folks she will come to rule over. Her potential future conflicts with the opinions of her husband to be and whatever larger conspiracy is at work seems compelling. It has a world that is already engaging me intellectually, and visually it came prepared with simple but lively character designs and a country for them to live in.
More of all that, less fourth wall rape jokes.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode one]
This is the kind of series that makes me consider trying out new WordPress themes, as my present one and the formatting I use for these posts is just not equipped to handle these series with oddly constructed original titles, their pet name abbreviation, plus the English translation. Which works out to be If Her Flag Breaks, in this particular case.
Of all the anime coming out this season, this was the one that raised my personal interest eyebrows the most. The doofy light novel series adaption with the raw otaku bait concept of a guy who can see “flags” for things like love or friendship as if he was an insufferable walking TVTropes and visual novel junkie. But here we are, and there was a reason for it.
The anime series is directed by Ayumu Watanabe. He has helmed multiple years of Doraemon entries, the odd but I like it Mysterious Girlfriend X, as well as the recently concluded and critically acclaimed Space Brothers. So when this particular guy picks up this particular kind of show to tackle, he has my attention. He has a unique background to make this sort of thing work as a character series.
If I did not have that level of benefit of the doubt to grant it, I may have been potentially soured on it, as this episode is a brutally fast marathon.
Inside of nine minutes we have a car crash, a new transfer student at school, multiple students approaching him in various way and getting shot down, our lead girl Namani calling him out and dragging him to the roof, and the whole deal on how the “flag” seeing concept operates with him. It is efficient, I’ll grant it that, because we still have more than half an episode left after that for introducing another character, her background, and some quirks of the flag vision. It’s sprinting somewhere, but hell if I know why there is a race on. Apparently this first episode handles the entire initial volume of eight books. Crazy. If the objective is to quickly and cleanly get to that future stuff and to then slow down and spend more time with it, I can totally understand that approach.
Souta’s treatment of event flags in real life is the kind of plot device that would absolutely destroy this series if handled incorrectly. It is the entire engine driving character interactions forward at the moment, and for I assume will be the entire series. I appreciated how Namani, who for the time being lacks any decision point flags over her head, was able to drop the “Even if I did have a flag, it’d be immediately broken by your gloomy attitude” bomb. I like that line and the framework weight it could have quite a lot. Souta’s attitude at the start is the standard I Shoot Down All Possible Human Connections personality. Combine that with the armchair psychology quarterbacking thinking those most unbearable of TVTropes kind of persons views the world in. That every event can be boiled down into a “love,” “friendship,” or whatever decision tree that one need only provide the correct answer for their desired outcome. Even if Souta has previously focused on selecting the answers to keep as many people away from him as possible, the general idea still applies.
All this is a potent cocktail of potential growth for the series to focus on as he gets called out on his nonsense by the likes of Namami and makes better life choices he otherwise would not. Certainly, even by the end of this first episodes, the gears for such changes are already in motion and he has affected someone’s life in a way he never would have before. As this will in time become some variety of a harem series given the ending credits, that could lead to some intriguing interactions and approaches for the genre.
It is shaky in places, but if Watanabe can steady a manga concept as absurd as Mysterious Girlfriend X’s drool shenanigans into a show, he is the man for this job.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.