This Week: Death Parade, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, The Rolling Girls, and Yatterman Night.
One animator ended up deleting their Twitter account this week due to speaking out about their schedule for one of these shows, but you will need to read on to find out who and why.
Death Parade [Episode four]
A very tricky episode, and so far for this show it may be the most difficult I feel for many to come to terms with.
The fighting game selection, as a writing tool, makes it a very simple and direct tool. Much like how a series like Sega Hard Girls makes use of Virtua Fighter first to deploy its elegant and straightforward little structure so the larger series exploration can be draped around it, a lot of space it opened up by using such a efficiently oriented game genre. Two rounds, though no time limit for the play of the fighter itself. The players in this case are not even lined up next to each other, like in darts, or one at a time with a nice seating area like in bowling. Yousuke and Misaki each have their own cabinet, directly opposed to one another.
They can not see each other from a playing position, only if they are around the game station itself.
It is a clawing and aggressive setup, as we explore the pains of each of the participants.
Yousuke went through a hard time as a result of his parents marriage failing and eventual divorce.
The fights. The escapism into worlds like anime and video games. Being unwilling to accept the woman his father later married, let alone refer to or identity her as a mother. A cycle of self blame, depression, opportunities, and in the end their rejection in favor of suicide. One seemingly consisting of as near a sense of momentary whimsy as he may have had for quite a long time. “Merely,” if such terms can be used in a situation like this, throwing himself out of his own window on a sunny day after beating yet another video game and having a nagging sense of boredom after the credits rolled.
Misaki, as the one who starts the episode presented as being much more in control of the situation at hand, by all means in life had a lot fewer things going her way.
In many respects she is a victim of systemic cycles of violence and neglect. One thing leading to another in one’s youth causing unplanned pregnancies, sudden weddings rushed along, her domestic situation destabilizing and turning into a pit of domestic abuse. Matters seem to suggester her initial partner walked out on her, in turn leading to the financial stability of the household and her children necessitating working hostess clubs with a sideline for prostitution. More men, random at that, and further situations for physical and mental abuse so as to maintain that roof over her and her kids. It was only later on she became something of a TV star and managed to have the ability to, in the end, commit physical violence on her own manager and in turn receive lethal retaliation. We do not know the manager’s story, but, from a conflict resolution standpoint it is not uncommon for victims of long term cycles of violence to have very different view on its application and use. Really, while it seems Misaki was a royal pain to work with at times in the behind the scene of TV business, she also had enough social grace to have made it that far. She slipped, in a sense, hard as it may have been.
Even with displaying that behavior again in the game at hand, I doubt she would have made the start to climb up the charts if she had not been busting her fiber of her being to do so. Especially in a media world so quick to toss women aside after having children and bodies change. There is a certain rashness, to be sure, hardened by the cycle of violence. But also a lot more than that as well, and plenty of positive traits.
Misaki goes to the Void, and this is something that I have even in the short period since the episode aired anger and frustrate many. To be fair, I do not think Decim’s choice to use Heaven and Hell, as in the second episode we are told this is easier for most people to process, helps in situations like this.
I do not feel Misaki was punished, or judged as a bad person.
I think she was freed.
To reincarnate Yousuke, where he can have the option to potentially accept a mother’s love all over again in a different life, that provides him a line at making good on his regrets here.
Misaki’s situation is far and away more complex however. To reincarnate her would necessitate sending her through the cycle of violence all over again to reach a similar “decision” point as Yousuke. It would be a very abhorrent thing to do, in a sense, to put her soul through similar situations like that all over again. She can not regret the children themselves, and choose to not have more in another life, because she loved her kids so much and gave so much of herself mentally and physically to keep them all. They were the point of so much, as stressed in the game and through her avatar super moves.
They loved her.
Decim specifically tells the both of them that they each did good, comforting them both, and that is not without purpose. Misaki can not go back to her old life of course, and to be granted a new reincarnated one to potentially have to do so many similar painful choices again would would itself be a kind of living hell. The only judgement option then is the Void, and the removal of her soul from the cycle of violence.
It is a difficult, nuanced choice. And not without its own arguments against it. But in a series so much about understanding human lives with both perfect and imperfect information, it is a valuable exploration.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode sixteen]
Just last week I was talking about the series being much more drab and colder than the original, in many respects, and we finally get to see the Build Busters team and the Tryon 3 in action.
As this week also brought about the introduction of sound effects into the introductory credit sequence, the design of the Tryon 3 (using the ZZ as a base) is a super robot love letter. Three machines forming together as one when called upon, a liger manta ray and bird. While shown in their individual forms at the end of the last episode, what they would do next to form a complete unit and The King of Braves GaoGaiGar style beat down was still a welcome injection of fun and style. Especially for a series that seemed to want to have more of a G Gundam spirit via Sekai and the like, things have been too hardened and clinical with a lot of these new characters as outlined last week. To an extent, one could make an argument of this being a natural extension of ever increasing focus and strategy formulation revolving around Gunpla Battle, distilling ever more efficient and powerful strategies or mentalities.
But, I am not convinced that makes a swell narrative through line, you know?
I mean, this is a series which exists in the same universe as Bearguy kits being used by professional models in a racing event. Last season, we had a race as a part of the mainline competition itself. So my back of the head concern for the potential sidelining of super antics given the larger sameness I have been getting from various new rival characters I do not feel has been unwarranted.
Speaking of, we do get two full fledged battles this week
In keeping with a hope I expressed far earlier in the show, a mobile armor is deployed in the high level competition: the Vagan Gear K. That being said, this is also met by the simultaneous disappointment of it being used for a one one one diminishing by Shia in the Gundam Portant as her two teammates sit the match out. By rules of her being much more required and Kei always being presented as a character nobody could ever recall even seeing before, she wrecks his unit and elegantly maneuvers around swarms of seemingly unmissable missiles.
A problem I have with this approach is we really do not have a good idea of how useful mobile armors are in the Gundam Build Fighters universe. Folks clearly use them in competition, and indeed are willing to deploy them on a national stage. The Apsalus III showdown early on the first season was even quite compelling even as a fight between loan sharks and the youth on vacation! But when the armors are featured in competition they seem to just utterly crumple on screen. So even with Shia slicing and dicing all manner of appendages off the Vagan Gear K, there is little in the way of scale or comparative history for just how much of a hard knocks lesson she is dishing out on the thing.
Inversely, the Vagan Gear K is rendered in 3DCGI and comes from Gundam AGE, a rather big failure. As Build Fighters does delight in allowing passionate 2D animation staff do all kinds of cool tricks with robots and mechanical illustration that would be otherwise tough to fit into most shows, this would seem to suggest something of an intentional joke. But, even at that I am not sure that counterbalances my other mobile armor thoughts regarding their power scale and the like.
With the montage for Round 1 covering a lot of fights in short order, I can say I am most looking forward to seeing more of Team SD-R and the Shiki triplets.The GM Sniper K9 fight with the Renato Brothers was a key highlight battle for me in the first season, as it made a lot of use of situational circumstances and three dimensional battlefield tactics while packing in a lot of utility options. The trio of SxDxG Gundam’s look to carry that tricky tradition forward, and to do so in the potentially even more devious SD size.
So I do feel the series has a lot of great things in store, even if it took us a long time to make this turn back to some grander and fun times.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode eighteen]
Cleanup continues in the soil and miscellaneous debris field, and so many factions are scrambling for the G-Self one would almost think it was the lead character on a harem program.
Granted, this does also mean that the various armed groups are for a time linked by a similar goal: Acquire the Gundam for themselves. Not that they are working together of course, merely that they all desire the same thing. So the chaos that comes from that convergence, the frenetic scramble made all the more so by the idea that beam weapons and other long range equipment should not be used lest massive damage occur to Kabisha Mikoshi or a host of sites around the ship, that is justified.
In context, this chain of events does also provide what would probably be the most “legitimate” reason so far for someone to willingly smash the taboo and related rules of order. Ringo does question if a few errant beam shots are from folks who have temporarily lost their mind and forgotten where they are, as the rush to get the Gundam is one and the Megafauna and its forces are running away as fast as they can. Even more than that however, would be Rockpie genuinely going berserk as he hits a personal breaking point to get the targeted mobile suit under allied control and unloads everything he machine can do in the process.
Of note, and I am not entirely sure how relevant this would be, but Rockpie’s previous unit was dubbed a Moran, and this one is named as Gaitrash. But as related to the matter at hand, Rockpie throwing caution to the wind and going for the mission objective come what may would be a swell use of someone smashing their orders or the taboo’s for what they thought would be a good cause. To get the Gundam, and thus an ace tool to have as a bargaining chip for the days that would follow.
I feel this is another case where this sounds much more compelling when I put it to page like that though, even though I am not exaggerating much one way or the other regarding what happens. Even with the papering over provided by a combat mission as choppy as this between multiple sides, the editing it still its usual state. I do not feel Rockpie gets a good breakdown catharsis at the end of his mission or such as he collapses when it is all over, and the series is literally seconds away from giving him a solid character moment there.
But, the production values plot-plot-plot above all else given what I can only imagine its cutting room floor must look like, so he does not get the critical character space in the episode after the G-Self gets away that he really would have benefited from.
The crescent ship the Megafauna and crew busted their butts to make it safely behind, in that it both acts as something none of their opposing forces would shoot trough and it is leaving for Venus soon, does cause something of a mental conundrum.
Bellri resonating with the G-Self way back earlier on, due to what we now know are sensors that were built into it for that very purpose of responding to his bloodline. That’s one thing. That it gives him a little pendant of the family crest, that is another. That he has seemingly worn it all this time to the point of continuing to have it on him is another, especially given how the series for a very short while seemed like it wanted him to be at odds with his identity and now he knows what that crest means.
A scene of him rejecting the pendant would have been completely apt, for instance, even also necessitating one where he came to better terms with his background. The crescent ship having a Rayhunton response capability though, in that Bellri’s pendant can quite literally boost the engine so that now it can leave for Venus immediately rather than idling for a few days, this pushes the boundaries even further out. That these objects can act as keys in such a way to various objects in this manner did not even come up when the resistance people who helped engineer their orphaned escape to Earth were talking about their plan and the whole series of mechanisms they had to put in play with the G-Self to find them again.
I am not necessarily against the idea, mind you, as there then comes a very real responsibility of power since Bellri and Aida could in a sense “wake up” some of this technology in ways that could prove disastrous if done incorrectly. But it does also almost seem like a potentially neat little idea I am watching from a separate program, as Bellri does all of the things with booting the engines up without even knowing that is what his card could result in. He just sees a place where it can go, and goes with it.
I would hold out hope that this with mean the rashness that permeates the very core of this series, given its flow and editing, would have a strange sort of narrative payoff given the calamities that could result. But at the moment that seems like granting the series too much credit given how long I have been on this ride.
The Rolling Girls (Rolling☆Girls) [Episode four]
Takahiro Shikama was very, very happy earlier this week. And then probably a bit less so, once some folks began to figure out what he was talking about.
He is a skilled animator, and even if you have sat the (now thankfully retired due to their loud volume) Crunchyroll ads with lots of yelling and showcasing shonen series like Naruto, you have see his work. There is a bit featuring Blue Exorcist, where Rin is screaming close to the frame while ascending with his sword. Shikama drew that bit, and if you are interested in a small video collection of his cuts from various productions I would recommend this MAD.
That he would be contracted in to do some work on Rolling Girls is natural and expected, given the somewhat mercenary nature of these things. As mentioned previously, and even within the context of my Rolling Girls episodics themselves, animators are generally paid per cut rather than raw volume of drawings. This does not mean certainly quality expectations go out the window though (or at least, that’s rarely the goal), and for a studio’s first original series there is certainly also the desire to make it look as great as possible.
I mentioned last week the episode seemed almost more like a workflow management choice in places, given the vibrancy of a place like Always Comima and some of the choices it took. This seems to have been truer than expected, as in the time since Shikama has finished his contracted work on Rolling Girls and was very publicly pleased (as social media accounts go) to rid himself of a show with an awful schedule. He did not say what show he was talking about of course, but one’s hand can only work on so many productions at the same time at a high level on a week to week basis, and he has since removed his Twitter account once folks were catching on. His words do also like up with some other rumblings of scheduling grinds and the like related to Rolling Girls though, and what the expectations seem to be versus time allotted to perform the work. Supposedly, much of this downward pressure is more from executive management than the production end.
Even so, Kotomi Deai will still end up forced to navigate this ship through what may be increasingly choppy waters, if this is indicative of any larger storm brewing. A very trial by fire situation.
For the actual episode at hand, we remain in Always Comima. So we do have more roombas to follow along and see skitter about.
Especially since one of them has been let loose to act as a prank device. Which is actually a bomb. By virtue of… not reading the very large print on the documents supplied with the package that clearly stated a bomb was attached to said roomba, as a free of charge extra. To be fair, for as slack as I may be regarding this series (viewing it almost more as an experiment or test kitchen demo reel for folks), the writing I have never regarded as much of its strong point. This episode has a lot of seemingly arbitrary creative choices transpiring, from the lack of characters realization with the bomb deployment to the resident Always Comima Best getting a rather large amount of character attention. The effect is a meandering, winding path, and I feel that would be appropriate for a series that wants to be as road trip like as Rolling Girls if not for the fact there does also need to be something that grounds me.
As an example of what I mean, we have Chiaya’s big scene with telling her mom over pay phone that she has friends now. She is out in the world with them, traveling, exploring, etc, and so does not need to stay put to wait to be picked up. And in isolation, as a thing unto itself, the idea of that scene is very resonant. A great thing to do. Yet, this comes in at the end of episode four, and there is so little of these fours girls being, well, friends together like she says they are. To be sure, they are by no means enemies. They are together, and they as a group are away from home. But so much of the show has not been focused on them as people, or their developing connections to each other as they get to and around these prefectures to solve trouble. It seems to recognize this, as among the very last things is them all realizing they have the same stickers on their vehicles and thus enjoy the same band. But even something as low level as this comes after Chiaya’s phone call, so it almost seems like something told out of order. A series like Kino’s Journey was able to walk more of an observer role, and in that case it worked, but it was also structured very tonally differently and featured a much smaller consistent cast.
There are good pieces in here,. I could see how scenes like the pillow fight or the never giving up versus running away to fight another day argument would, could, and can work very well. Those are good scenes for an episode four to have. But I do not feel, given the way the series has progressed, we have had that level of time really with them to sell the scenes.
It is very much like watching a music video made of highlight clips from a show I have never seen. The weight and impact misses me. But in this case, it is in fact the full episode.
At least everyone finally realized the stones are indeed what cause the Best’s to have their powers. Though again, this is parlayed as an expected given by our Always Comima leader while our leads are floored by the news. If they are in fact the last to know about everything, then I suppose they do in their own ways have an out of whack schedule too.
Yatterman Night (Yoru no Yatterman) [Episode four]
It is hard being an upstart hero gang on the run when you do not have a vast family fortune, a hefty contacts list, inherent god tier levels of physical force, or the like.
You have a nine you old girl, two farmhands, and a pig. Now also a young blind woman and her childhood friend. And everyone has to eat somehow.
In what is a running theme which is either going to feel to some like it is bashing them or the head or emphasizing the scope of how warped the Yatter Kingdom and its heroic legacy has gone, we do see a lot more of the systems of oppression this week. An eighty percent sales tax rate for this area of the rural countryside, to insure lines of revenue remain despite reduced crop yields (as, again, people do need to eat). The Yatterman troopers calling citizens vermin.
Even more so than any of that though, which most general dystopias would be able to dole out without much of a second thought, does come the aspects of superhero theater and imagery as well.
The Yatterman pose: a physically awkward action involving jumping, bending the left knee, kicking out the right leg, and holding both hands holding each other in a position upwards and to one’s left. In its original context, it is a silly and comedic thing, as well it should be. There are some pretty high odds for falling over with that kind of move, and stretches limbs in ways the person performing the move would ordinarily not be inclined to without purpose.
Here, the move is still used as an introductory salute.
But, because of our change in focus and the general corruption of the Yatterman idea, it is now more of a tool showcasing how throughouly their oppression goes. Get woken up in the middle of the night by the Yatter robots? You have to do the salute. Many months pregnant? You have to do the salute. To fail to do the salute, as there is such expectation for it, would itself be a criminal offense and punishable to hard labor or worse.
Even the thought, the idea that one may not be doing the superhero pose fast enough when called upon, is a terrifying concept that clearly shakes people.
That this is on top of “normal” expectations for what an oppressive and villainous system looks like.
Such as General Goro reneging on his promise to forgive a thirty-five year labor term in exchange for Doronjo’s whereabouts, because there was no way that was not going to happen. I feel gives it enough differences from the the run of the mill Big Bad Empire to avoid feeling too repetitive or cliche for me. If the series wants to go for broad strokes swings at superheroics and their being warped, pushing them to the cackling doom fortress tier of the spectrum feels warranted and fitting enough for now. Particularly given that the heroine is herself someone who did have these pie in the sky ideas of what heroes were like, Yatterman or otherwise.
And at the end of of it all, in this particular episode despite their best efforts, she and her team do end up failing to rescue a family in need.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.