This Week: The World is Still Beautiful, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara, M3: The Dark Metal, and Free! Eternal Summer.
Post publication was put on pause due to power failure. Please accept this image of Haru as a merman for the inconvenience.
Last week of the season then for the weekly shows! Much like I did the previous Winter season, I may opt to make a final little roundup after this for various other Spring productions I watched, but did not write about. You can be on the lookout for it early next week then, lest I get sucked to far into the Summer season prep-work.
If you have been reading these weeklies as they happen this season, I certainly more than thank you. If I did not happen to pick up anything you were more interested in however, that is OK too! Summer season is about to cause all kinds of shakeups, as my plate will basically be cleared, and as of right now I have not firmly decided on what I actually want to tackle from it.
So there is, in the end, always next time to look forward to.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode twelve ~ END]
This show is a borderline case study example for the issues of the modern push for 11 – 13 episode television adaptations above so much else.
In the end, it had a fair enough standard little love story in here it wanted to tell. And the final arc allowed it to end on a stronger note than the rest of the show had been up to that point. But there is just so much bloat and waste in that front end of the series. A lot of folks described this as like a series length Disney film early on (and I do not exclude myself from that either), but going along with that, consider the following. Films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin only run about ninety minutes. The Little Mermaid barely pulls more than eighty. In total, watching all of The World is Still Beautiful clocks in at over two and a half times as long as such Disney romance musical films. And, well, it feels pretty much just like that: A story that would have made a solid film, but faced with the anime market prospect of needing to fill more retail SKU’s. In turn, a front end that really does not do much of anything for the first two-thirds of the show to draw things out and bulk up the package, until they can deliver the more focused content at the end.
Is it better to end on a higher note? Well, sure. As a scene or series of plot gears, things like Nike’s grandmother not coming to say goodbye because her plan had been foiled and she has been embarrassed, but having a change of heart and coming to sing Nike off at the end to swell the winds that pushed her out into the world once again? I like it! On paper. In execution, it just felt far more hollow, as this is material that had been so watered down by everything else in the show that the grandmother’s entire character arc is less of a curve and more a point or two on a line graph. Extreme, and with little subtlety or craft. She was cackling on a pier in a lighting storm out of pretty much nowhere not all that long ago, remember, and we barely knew who she was as a character even then. Likewise, Livius’s remarks about how the person he wants to see most he can never see again is well intentioned and all regarding his mother. But, outside of knowing that She Existed At One Time And Some Unfortunate Things Happened, there have not been much regarding heart to hearts on Livius reflecting on her. The show never really found the time for it, despite everything else it was stalled out regarding.
Hell, this show even pulled the “Remember these folks from that nice family at the very beginning?” move, which you can do in a tightly focused film without ever mentioning them in the meantime as a means of showing how far a character came. In a much longer television show though, I barely remembered who these people even were. So it looked like scenes from a much better show I would have prefered watching instead.
For a show that I at one point was describing as wallpaper paste, it did improve. And I am willing and able to recognize that. But, I would still say that only allowed it to close out as an average at best television series on the whole, where it could have been a far better and more attentive character story were it put to use in a different presentation format.
It could have even kept the white horse too.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode eleven]
After a two week break, this show is back on the air again. It was really strange timing, as now I am not really sure whether to call this a season finale or a new beginning, as the show will be continuing on into Summer.
The show was doing reasonably well for itself last time, with Tanaka getting his first victory and how that all played out (so it would certainly be a solid option to have had as a season finale, if we are looking at it that way). We resume then with Matsutaro really, really wanting a cut of the prize money he has been raking in through his own series of undefeated bouts. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that.
The notion that he would make a lot more money playing baseball is noteworthy to bring up though, even for an adaptation of a manga series this old, given the fits of decline in sumo over the years. The reason of course the whole stable system is what is of course goes back to the notion that the younger wrestlers serve, and the more senior members are served. Which goes straight through beyond even who does what chores to the winnings purse as well. It is not necessarily that sumo wrestlers are paid super poorly, as one also takes into account things like room and board, but certainly in terms of raw size of the numbers on a cheque, a different sporting career with fewer or at least different long term health problems can seem more appealing. One can rise up as a hotshot superstar a lot faster in other sports as well, should a team be willing to put someone on the first team in a game like baseball or football, while the highest levels of sumo have a fixed number of wrestlers one needs to break into. It takes a fair amount of time, generally speaking, so certainly something that would be seen as problematic for a guy like Matsutaro who is more interested in instant gratification.
I thought him meeting Okogane before their match and having dinner was going to go down a lot differently than it did. That the rich blonde whose family owns a number of restaurants was inviting him out in pursuit of getting Matsutaro to throw the game was expected enough. But, I suppose I was looking at it more as an opportunity that was going to play into intentional food poisoning or the like that our lead would need to try and shake off with later digestive effects (we did have that one episode that was a series of characters farting on other folks, after all). So that it came off instead as more of a direct play to the previously mentioned instant monetary gratification issue and the gifting of restaurants should the match be thrown in Okogane’s favor, well, that was unexpectedly nice. Well, as nice as match fixing conversations get, anyway. I prefer it being more upfront like this though over what directions it could have veered into.
The physics of this show still kind of throw me for a loop at times. We will be in extended series of events and even whole episodes at a stretch where we are pretty grounded in reality based gravity, then here we have Matsutaro bouncing a sizable sumo opponent so hard they end up in the upper level of the audience decks. It is not really a massive problem, as this is a pretty casual show to turn on that I do not feel a need to think too hard during. It just comes off as a little weird when things like that happen, I guess, while at the same time I do not really bat an eye at Matsutaro shrugging off an attack by multiple dudes in a parking lot.
Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara (Gaworare) [Episode thirteen ~ END]
Game over, as it were.
So I guess for those who didn’t make it this far, they did not get to see the swords, magic, duel wielding knives, and dragon summoning. Not like the combat sequences would be the lone saving grace of the series if someone was hating their time getting to the finale, but, for me it was nice to at least see everyone get to do a little fantasy game class move or two based on those character naming cliches laced through the entire show.
Going along with that, we do mosey along from that pretty quickly into running around the Premium Ambriel. And it did not in fact turn into another run-through of the trials as I was pulling for, but that is fine. It does instead give a better explanation than the previously mentioned chess game for how the virtual world protocols went about granting Souta fate flag determinability powers, with our cast being on the burning and collapsing Premium Ambriel within the confines of the simulation and Souta taking on their death flags and associated memory wipes afterward.
The way it goes about that is a little ham fisted, in that our power granter then becomes the Laplace’s Demon program, which is the kind of really overt “I read about this in a Wikipedia search once” concept name dropping that does tend to bug me a lot. Like when folks just throw out Schrödinger’s cat into a script. At least I can understand why Laplace’s Demon is brought up, since it is a determinism argument regarding the notion that if one could know the state of all forces in the universe at once, it would effectively be able to see how future events would play out. So, for purposes of our series, event flags boiling down seemingly complex human affairs if this were a dating sim or visual novel.
This would still leave the matter of why on (Virtual) Earth the Angelus Gemini, in their rebellious notion of seeking to take great global power, would ever have abandoned the program and their effective sister in the form of the Sacrament. But I am willing to chalk that up to ambition, greed, etc picked up by that artificial intelligence initiative. Which is probably a larger point tying back then to how intrigued Laplace’s Demon was by Souta’s notions of self sacrifice and doing what he considered a reasonable human being should, when it came to him trying to rescue her, the trapped man in the burning boat, saving all the others while dooming himself to pain and suffering, and so on. And from that, with Souta trying to then hurl himself into the wave motion gun, everyone joins together for one final sacrificial move on the Space Battleship Premium Ambriel. Effectively the cast committing to a suicide run, so far as they would know at the time in terms of their ability to be like this together ever again.
Arguably, speedy and condensed as everything was, the show was making a better swing at “the world is still beautiful” concept than the actual show named that this season. So there is that!
That is pretty much it then, until the OVA in December. Souta wakes up in the real world, and Number Zero was the real princess heroine from the original legend story. Souta gets to go to school for real with real Quest Hall (complete with real structural problems) and the real students, and the notion the cast may actually remember each other now that all this is in the past. No more flags.
With two “Kanojo” titled shows that are among the best rated things they have ever released under his belt for them, Hoods Entertainment should probably grab Ayumu Watanabe and make him an in-house director while they still conceivably have a chance.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episodes 7 – 11]
Because I don’t watch this weekly, but I really can not leave everyone hanging after the last time I covered this wreck of a series.
The Shoji Kawamori, Mari Okada, and Junichi Sato runaway train never stopped, it just kept right on chugging along. At least as far as getting out the door and onto the airwaves is concerned, as those home video releases have halted entirely under the cover of “to improve product quality.”
Speaking of which, Mari Okada gave an interview recently, which has some interesting quotes:
…be intentionally vague. If you give the animators every single detail, she explains, it’ll constrain their creativity. It’s better to give them something open enough they’ll think to themselves, “this is something I’d like to try to draw.”
Seems to me like the animation team gave up entirely then, because they sure as hell do not want to be drawing this show.
After our initial rounds of Dark Mystery, Evil Lollipop Munching Scientist, and Character Deaths from that front end of episodes, things have settled down a bit. Everyone is getting accustomed to their psychic links to various team members, as we keep getting Final Fantasy style nods they all knew each other at some point before. Maamu, who you may remember from this gif, keeps writing fiction based on real people in her Death Note, often speaking the lines out loud and at times within earshot of other people in the room. Her writings still come true in unintended ways, though it is hard to take her inner conflict, crying, and torment about it too seriously since she just keeps doing it even after other characters have called her out on it.
The show wants to actually prop up the Lightless Realm concept a bit more as it hurls around the Necrometal, Admonitions, and Corpse terminology, which is valid for not just anything resembling worldbuilding in this show but perhaps delving into Akashi’s repeatedly stated but never defined anger over his dead brother, who used to pilot the same machine he does now.
The Lightless Realm, incidentally, is the sort of thing that sounds pretty nifty in concept (a high contrast black and white or monochromatic look on the edge of our regular world) but looks like, well, a vague uncoordinated group project in execution. Clunky grey CGI robots with pilots in grey suits wandering around grey cityscapes fighting grey CGI monsters. The cameraoften feels like it fell asleep, with the kind of combat editing where things pass by or are otherwise launched past it, without feeling any pep in its step to keep up or show the weight of battle.
In this set of episodes, we do also see more execution on the real fate of Akashi’s brother, in that we learn he is not, in fact, truly dead!
He is… effectively the control system of the Argent / Reaper / Whatever we want to call the robot this week. And the show is super proud of this revelation, cackling lollipop scientist and all. Because a Necrometal infection would mean he was a goner anyway and science could do this to kind of save his life while also somehow make the robot better, essentially. To be honest though, it is really more of a “That one robot show Gainax made that got really popular did something similar” move than anything else.
So Akashi goes through some “My brother really was always there for me, and he is with me now as backup” motions, and there we go. Akashi still failed a mission to rescue two teammates and the Sable robot from the Lightless Realm even with this revelation, because fighting got hard so he gave up and walked out of the damn robot. But he “found” himself along the way or something regarding a nebulously defined brother complex and the soul of his family member leading him back to safety and confidence. So maybe that is done and over with (I doubt it). At least the lollipop scientist got rightfully angry about all of this, as of all the crazed and over the top lines of dialogue he has had so far him freaking out about the retrieval mission essentially being abandoned marks the first time he sounds like a reasonable human being.
This show feels like something a freshly minted Master of Business Administration graduate would make a design document for regarding a hypothetical television show, hurling in plot notes of things they vaguely remember being popular when they were growing up (Death Note, Final Fantasy You Know The One When They All Went To Orphan Kindergarten Together, etc). Then hand that over to a talented creative team (Kawamori, Okada, and Sato), and expect magic to be made. But while at the same time being very particular about how everything needs to adhere just so to the Excel spreadsheet or what have you. That is all me just adding an interpretive flavor of course, but it is remarkably apt for how sterile, cold, and just like a great big exhausted sigh this show feels like on screen.
This series must be utter hell to work on , near as I can figure out, given all that has happened to it both as a piece of media sitting before me and the meta narrative of the home video release just stopping entirely.
Free! – Eternal Summer [Episode one]
I would rather not end this Spring post on M3, so we may as well welcome back the boys of summer as one of the first shows out the door for the new season.
The last season of Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club was something I was actually able to watch with a physical group last season every week, and my assessment of the series from that still holds. I think it was a fine at want it wanted to be, which is essentially a “cute girls doing cute things” light sports series except with boys. It had nice water animation, more camp than some grilling competitions I know, with pretty standard archetype characters going through the motions of building up their school swim team and the power of friendship.
It was like a trip to the water park, basically, where while there is not really a whole lot of substance one can still have some passing frivolous fun with splashing about haphazardly or riding the slides. And the experience is likely improved in a group, where one can cheer and holler more.
Kyoto Animation, recognizing the massive viewer-base this series acquired and the resulting windfall of home video sales, then looks to have turned that dial up all the more for the return trip.
To be fair, if someone did not like the first season, I do not think Eternal Summer looks to change their minds. This is doubling down and going bigger than before, with more sparkles, more water animation, more abs, more everything. A chunk of this episode was dedicated to our Iwatobi friends trying to recruit new members to their swim team via an auditorium show involving gymnastics, saxophone music, popping their shirts off, and talking about their charm points.
You either find that amusing or you get off the bus, because this season long trip is barely even underway.
As Rin is back in good spirits with the rest of his childhood friends from last season, we can advance some time a bit and he quickly becomes the new captain of Samezuka Academy as the third years bow out. This, combined with the pool of cherry blossoms to deliver on a childhood memory and the talk of what comes after graduation, seems to be at least part of what the show wants to be playing at for this season: time, growing up, and what to plan for once high school is over and if the swimming would come to an end. Even the end credits, silly as they may be, do have the cast hamming it up in the uniforms of various professions. It is a good direction for the series, in that while I doubt it will try to pivot into a serious drama (I think people would be disappointed if it did) it is a solid natural scenario evolution from the achievements of the previous season.
I am not entirely sure if I will stay with trying to write about the series weekly, but I can assure you that I will be watching it each and every time its admission gates open up every seven days or so.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.