This Week: Barakamon, Free! – Eternal Summer, Mobile Suit Gundam-san, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!, and Space☆Dandy Season Two
The most hectic time of the year! …That happens to show up every thirteen weeks or so.
I know I mentioned last week I was considering doing a last call wrap-up for the other Spring shows I had watched up did not cover previously, but to be honest the article was not really going anywhere. Most of what else I watched off and on (Black Bullet, Magica Wars, Mekakucity Actors, etc) ranged from either offensive power fantasy nonsense to forgettable cannon fodder for me. Writing a whole post about them all would be draining and do little for the blog as a whole. Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure: Stardust Crusaders and the second season of Mushi-Shi, which had the most definite potential to shake-up such a Spring season ending post, are still things I am behind on. So I did not have any ringers to pull in like Hōzuki no Reitetsu was for me during Winter season.
Instead, I wrote a post ranking the films of Mamoru Oshii, which I feel was a much more productive use of my writing time if you missed that from the other day!
Summer season then.
To be honest: I do not feel like having “heavy” shows this season. Which does not mean I will not write a bunch (have you seen how much ink I spilled over Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara over last season?). But rather, at least where I am, it is a time of being able to have nice relaxing days out and all the rest. When looking over the season charts and thinking what I wanted to watch weekly, I wanted more light programming to complement this feeling. This means much popularly anticipated anime like Aldnoah.Zero and Terror in Resonance, among several others?
All right out the window. To be perhaps picked up on my own time before the end of the year.
Here is what I boiled my write-up list down to instead:
– Free! – Eternal Summer (airs the same day as these posts, so I may slip some weeks)
– Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Short episodes)
– M3: The Dark Metal (only when I feel like catching up, continuing from Spring)
– Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (continuing from Spring)
– Space☆Dandy Season Two
– Tokyo ESP
Sailor Moon: Crystal, while I watched the first episode at 6am just like I did when I was younger, enjoyed it, and aim to continue to catch it every two weeks, I will not be writing about in these posts. I feel if it follows the manga too closely going forwards, I will not really have a whole lot to talk about. And it is not like one is going to be lacking in Sailor Moon: Crystal coverage elsewhere from folks way more qualified than I!
Hanamonogatari will likely get a wholly separate Hangers: Special post or something from me, as by current news the full five episodes will be available all at once come August. That seems like too much content to try and squeeze into one of these weekly posts with everything else. I only ever tackle Monogatari entries in full arcs anyway, like they were a film series of extremely varied quality, so it works out. Second Season was a favorite of mine last year because it essentially spent its entire running time showing us how interesting its world could be and how much Araragi royally blows as a protagonist. So I am indeed interested for what Hanamonogatari wants to pull after that.
This should cover most of my immediate top level thoughts, so let’s start watching some gosh darn cartoon shows.
Barakamon [Episode one]
“From the studio who brought you last season’s Black Bullet, comes their newest young girl/s teamed up with young adult male adventure!”
Ah, that is not really fair though, given how studios operate in general. And hey, director Masaki Tachibana helmed that King of Fighters: Another Day OVA where Alba was out rescuing kittens! And Barakamon is probably the kind of anime to encourage rescuing kittens.
The whole “slice of life in the country” thing is a reliable well to draw from, as it is a historically robust means of whirring fish out of water / culture clashes / learning to find oneself / make new friends gears. The natural go-to comparisons most folks are going to make then would be to Non Non Biyori and Silver Spoon, as they have each had anime come out and do well in the past year. At least in this first episode so far, Barakamon seems to be straddling a sort of middle ground between them, if that makes sense.
The nods regarding the wider social community, professional craft, or Seishuu spouting lines like “Maybe [the sea] doesn’t look pretty because my heart’s gone hard” echo elements of Yugo’s more mood twist moments in the later. Meanwhile, naturally, some wackiness or timing execution of jokes that seems more in line with Non Non Biyori, to say nothing of the at least two little kids we will be seeing throughout this series. Not that Silver Spoon was not wacky at points, but Yugo going over the top tended to result in him overloading and overthinking himself, while here by the end of the episode Seishuu is cackling and hurling ink all over the room before a giant canvas.
And none of that is a problem! Though, I do hope that going forwards the series manages to carve out more of an identity for itself for viewers to latch on to, and discussions regarding it do not devolve into a series of comparisons to other countryside slice of lifes.
The calligraphy art angle it wants to tout is kind of interesting on surface levels, but this is going to be more of a “has” calligraphy than “about” calligraphy sort of thing, I feel. Unless this is going to pull a Silver Spoon and try to slip in some informative little bits here and there. But that series could get away with it naturally due to the agricultural school, class, and practicum settings. Barakamon is a dude living on his own with a bunch of neighbors he will not be able to get rid of, for worse and for better.
Free! – Eternal Summer [Episode two]
Intentionally or not, this episode actually provides a pretty solid visual aid for comparing to the last season, by use of cute mammals.
This otter is the first season of Free! Pretty cute, having a grand old time in the water, and sorta coasting along on that while perhaps lacking some definition.
This [same, but few moments older] otter is the second season of Free!
More drawing, stronger water effects, a bit of a more refined sense of purpose about itself.
But, if you did not like the otter to begin with, one may not find anything the second otter image is up to very interesting.
Before this metaphor completely breaks down: I think the aspects where Rin now has to build up this new relay team nifty enough to give it fuel to work with. Complete with his old friend Sousuke who is now overly domineeringly possessive regarding Rin’s relationship with Haruka but while our shark toothed dude seems to also want to retain what he rebuilt last season.
Throw into that the notion where Sousuke has already been scouted out, so he already has his post-high school plans in order, and there is the additional levers to add to the conflict vector raised that week. What will come after these days, and if the swimming will have to end with it. And we know Rin wants to break into the more global scene, so him being drawn to what Sousuke may be able to engineer to keep him away from the other has some legitimacy.
Plus the fact our cast is naturally split up by going to entirely different schools, adding to the divides that could cause going forwards, and there we go: pretty much everything one needs to have a sequel that is doing new things with the existing universe to keep those who already like the show invested while they also get the visual business, innuendos, and camp we all signed up for.
So, yeah, I am still pleased to have the show back for Summer.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode one]
There are shorts, and there are shorts.
Two and a half minutes, thirty of those seconds being the end credits, plus four other sub skits. I assume the opening credits will change over time, since this was very Char heavy and directly a part of the “plot” of this episode, so I count them as a skit for now too.
I know this is based on a four panel gag comic, but that is tight.
This is less of something I feel I will watch to really comment upon analytically, and will instead become more of a “look at this picture!” kind of thing.
I mean, the end credits have everything from Angry Birds, to Haro lighting up like they were The Great Will of the Macrocosm from Excel Saga, to Amuro Ray stripped, ball gagged, and bent over a wooden horse.
Toss in what looks to be some Robot Chicken style toy visuals, except scanned and manipulated from there rather than stop motion, and that sounds about the direction this show wants to go on. And I am fine with that.
But, if one is not prepared for a barrage of quick draw Gundam jokes, heavy on the Universal Century side at that, I can not say this series has much of anything for them.
I think though going forwards there are maybe some definite opportunities for reflecting a bit on my own relationship with Gundam or its characters via whatever the series chooses to their antics in a given week, that sort of thing.
At the very least, I managed to get material when I was trying to comment on Miss Monochrome every week last autumn, and that was only four minutes including the credits, so I’m sure I can come up with something for little ol’ Gundam-san!
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Kishi!! Matsutarou) [Episode twelve]
The Cat-obsessed Wrestler.
…is this where the show has settled into its stride? I do not mean that sarcastically either. If one takes the Tanaka episode that may as well been a Spring season finale, the near aversion of match fixing last week, and this, we have settled into a nice little rhythm here. Sure, even as a slice of life character series I can not say I get into it on the same level as numerous others, but I do not really mind the show either. It airs, I watch it, and I do not really feel too bad about it. Which I feel it had some struggles with in the past Spring, as some weeks were definitely wildly different in tone or compatibility with me than others.
This episode was Matsutaro sitting in the backyard giving voice narration to cats on a fence as if they were dates he was having. Another cat comes along and chases them away, so he has arguments and confrontations with said cat, who is actually a stray being fed by Inokawa because he considers it a good luck charm. Matsutaro causes enough problems where the cat and Inokawa are then no longer in the same place at the same time. So the elder wrestler puts up a reward, going back to the prize money and reward issue from the previous episode. Matsutaro wants reward, but shenanigans ensue and he fails at that but the cat is back safe and sound.
And you know, that is fine, you see. Even reading the plot on here condensed like as is. Nothing really wrong with the story as executed, a pretty classic amount of jerkiness from the leading man, and works as pretty much the definition of a standard weekend cartoon show episode.
It is a far cry from the material that tended to chase a lot of folks out during those very first few episodes months ago, at any rate, even if it is pretty simple stuff that is rather hard to screw up.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode one]
I am just going to go back to what I was doing during season one in the Winter ~
Episode Director: Masahiro Mukai, Animation Director: Yoshiyuki Ito and Kazumi Inadome, Storyboard: Goro Taniguchi
The most significant thing Mukai has under their belt is being the director for the Hyperdimension Neptunia television series. It is just as well we have dual animation directors this week, Ito as the more senior one having done a lot of key animation work on things like Cowboy Bebop, various Ghost in the Shell entries since even the original movie, among others. And I do not think anyone would argue against that this was much more of an episode being led by the animation team. On the storyboarding end of the chain, Taniguchi’s previous Space☆Dandy episode was the great space race in episode seven, so he does well in an unrestrained episode like this.
And I have to say, between the megaton avalanche of reference gags both classic and modern alike as our character hopped between timelines, this definitely did feel like an episode that could almost be taken to extensively screw with those who tried keeping any kind of universal continuity or charts between episodes. This just ain’t that kind of show, baby.
I do fully understand why some folks do not really enjoy Space☆Dandy all that much.
Unlike even a more standard slice of life show where “nothing happens,” there is really nothing to predict regarding tone or quality from week to week. Not in visuals, antics, pace, anything. You may not want to settle in for what you hope will be a nice funny cartoon show episode, and then you end up watching a puppy die instead. And so sidelining the series is a pretty reasonable course of action then. Just like those who may want something more narratively driven, to really sink their teeth into the arcs or the like, which this show just can not provide.
But, I like the roulette wheel, as it keeps me engaged even when an episode misfires for me comedically or otherwise. I have no expectations from week to week other than that the series shows up on my television at the same time, so it is hard for me to ever dread watching it.
This was more of a wacky ~ wacky -~wacky episode than many of the other previous episodes, but as a “I’m baaaack!!!” outpouring after bursting through your door from a season absence? I think it did pretty much exactly what it needed to do, and I look forward the rides it wants to take us on.
That the staff have already said the second to last episode will have an extremely low budget so as to bulk up the funds for going full bore animation team insane for the finale has me quite pleased. This show is such an opportunity vehicle for the professionals involved, and they sure as hell are going to leave absolutely nothing on the table before they are through.
So even if you do not watch Space☆Dandy, I do hope you will at least tune in come the end of the season.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.