Anime Winter 2017 Mid-Season Review

After dropping KonoSuba, I realized that I was only keeping up with four shows this season.  Usually, I manage seven or eight.  Revisiting an earlier post made me remember that I had not yet tried out Little Witch Academia TV or Onihei.  Having watched the first episode of both series, those two are now on my watch list, and I hope to review them later.  I can already say that the animation of these two does not impress me that much, especially Onihei‘s reliance on CGI for figures in the background.  At the moment, I can say little more than that.

Why did I drop KonoSuba?  I’ve always felt on the fence with this show, though I enjoyed the first season well enough (7/10).  The comedy requires me to be in a peculiar certain mood, and the fanservice proves distracting.  The more these two drawbacks bothered me, the less inclined I was to enjoy KonoSuba‘s humor.  So, I washed my hands of it.  All the same, may those of you who enjoy the show enjoy it still more!

I’ll miss Megumin for sure.

On to the mid-season reviews.

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Top Five Anime of 2016

I’m late to this party, but better late than never!  In prior years, I’ve only ever named my favorite anime of the year, but couple of friends have requested a top five list.  The first four were easy, since they were the highest rated shows at four and a half stars.  Deciding which four star show should hold fifth place between four worthy contenders was far more difficult.  At the end of the list, the three which fell short will be listed as honorable mentions.

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Last year was excellent for anime, the only thing I regret about the shows last year is that none stood out as a classic.  In 2013 and 2014, I had at least one show rated five stars.  The year 2015, like this year, lacked a classic for my top fifty list.  But, this probably reflects my favored genres–action, adventure, fantasy, and samurai–not doing so well.

On to the top five of 2016!

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The Difficulty of Interior Change

Recently, I have been watching You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle.  Those of you who watch the show know that one character named Aoi is a transvestite/trap, who gives no indication of masculinity save for his height.  In episode six, a former superior who knew Aoi when he transitioned shows up and tries for a second time to make a man out of him.  He puts Aoi through judo and other tough training in order to accomplish this, but Aoi persists in being more feminine than the female heroines.  In the end, this superior gives up, and assumes that Aoi is fine living the way he does.

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Here, I don’t want to discuss the ethics of changing a transvestite to conform to their sex.  Instead, this episode reminds me of the difficulty of changing one’s ways–whether they be habits, opinions, vices, or sins.  A friend once told me that a man doesn’t change much after reaching the age of twenty-five.  (Though, many great saints experienced conversions around this age.)  I assume the same rule applies to women.  There is a strong likelihood of retaining all the evil habits one has acquired by this point to the grave; though, they will naturally ameliorate or worsen depending on our recognition of these faults and our attempts to overcome them.  Sometimes, one does succeed in uprooting a vice entirely through time, effort, prayer, and the sacraments.  During the long period of struggle, victory seems impossible as the long force of habit draws us again and again to sin–even over the course of decades.

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The Classical Source of LOGH

I promised to write this article a long time ago, and I’m very happy to see it published.  Legend of Galactic Heroes has garnered many fans throughout its three decades of existence.  (The OVA itself needed nearly a decade to complete: 1988-1997.)  Part of the charm of this series is that it asks an eternal question: what is the best form of government?  Monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy?  The dress and cultures of our heroes reminds us of the First World War, and we recall that great cataclysm in the obscene casualty levels of each interstellar battle.  Yet, does the Empire really represent the Second Reich and the Free Planets Alliance the Allies?

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The question on the best form of government has its antecedent far before World War I: Herodotus’ Histories contains a scene where Persians debate over the best form of government for themselves.  In the end, they decide on monarchy, since they argue that aristocracy and democracy are too unstable.  They say that the natural course of affairs is for one person to gain all political power anyway; so, they might as well establish a monarchy!

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Pride and Virtue Mix Like Oil and Water

Watching Chain Chronicle has proven quite fun so far. This classic fantasy provides the viewer with a bevy of strong heroes, implacable foes, beautiful warrior maidens, and a Luke Skywalker-ish hero for its viewers to engage in “egocentric castle building,” as C. S. Lewis termed it in An Experiment in Criticism. This is a fantasy fully in the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s fun, but nothing within the story thus far has struck me as uncommon.

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Bruckhardt’s fall from grace counts as the most interesting event of the story thus far. From the first, my ears heard “Blackheart” when the seiyuu pronounced the knight’s name, and episode three revealed his transformation to a Blackheart indeed. The twin scourges of pride and melancholy oppressed him on account of the preferment Yuri gave to Aram. This allowed him to fall easy prey to the evil influence of the Black King’s demon. There is no faster way to hell than pride: the way Lucifer fell and the chief fault of Adam. Even the early Church Fathers wrote that pride alone suffices to send one to hell, even as humility provides the surest means to salvation among the virtues.

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Rating the Anime of Fall 2016, Part 2

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(Here is the second part of my fall 2016 review.  Enjoy!)

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3) Izetta: the Last Witch – ★★★★

This show successfully combines elements from Strike Witches and Maria the Virgin Witch.  It provided us with two of the best heroines from this season.  (Only Kyouka of Bungo Stray Dogs struck me as a better heroine because of her greater moral struggle.)  The action was top notch, and all the WWII vehicles very realistic.  Aside from the magic, only a few moments in the show struck me as unrealistic: things like soldiers being able to provide Izetta with shorts while on campaign and Germanian guards being armed with Lugers rather than Mausers or MP 40s.  In other words, the show seldom rocked me from my suspension of disbelief.

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Rating the Anime of Fall 2016

Happy Feast of the Epiphany!  Here are my reviews of the six shows I watched this season.  Usually, I review some over at Beneath the Tangles but did not get around to it because of my hiatus.  (Feel free to read my fellow bloggers’ opinions in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)  To my surprise, my break from my column on BnT was longer than I imagined with the last post of “Examining Light Novels” seeing the light of  the interwebs on October 26, 2016.  Readers of the series will be happy to know that it shall return on January 18th with a topic from volume thirteen of Spice and Wolf.

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Anyway, let me get on to some general observations about Fall 2016.  The general quality struck me as quite high.  Many other bloggers were very enthusiastic about the season’s shows, and I myself rated one of the six below four and a half stars–not every season has a show which reaches that level!  May you recognize two or three of your favorite anime below or in part two.

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On Graphic Content in Fiction

Yesterday, in reponse to my latest reblog, a few of my friends brought up that Perfect Blue has some scenes that are plain hard to watch.  Another said that I should warn people about the nudity, sexual violence, bloody violence, and vulgarity contained therein.  That last request I hesitated to meet, but here is my content warning for Perfect Blue: it has bloody and brutal murders, a lingerie/swimsuit photoshoot which turns pornographic, a rather disturbing simulated rape scene, and an infamous masturbation scene.  (N. B. The last is non-explicit enough that one might not realize what’s going on–if memory serves me right–in that five second scene.)  There you have the worst content in the movie.  The question now occurs to me of why was I so loath to write about these details and even angry that they were brought up in regard to Perfect Blue?

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Moments of Crazy Anime Originality

We all got into anime because of the unique stories and scenarios offered by the medium.  Still, moments of originality become harder to come across the more anime one watches.  I just came across one of these moments of originality while watching Heavy Object of all things.  This is the series that nearly drove iblessall mad with how ridiculous it was.  The first five episodes are terrible, and the fanservice often becomes uncomfortable.  Why did I stick with it beyond those first five episodes of stupidity?  I liked the man vs. machine and buddy soldiers facets of the story, and it certainly made me laugh as it provided a good dose of action.

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The fun factor counts as the most important reason behind me never actually dropping the anime.  (My watching of it has frequently stalled.)  Last night, my decision to continue watching the show felt completely vindicated when I turned to a friend and said:

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Drosselmeyer Tea

A little detail caught my attention in Princess Tutu: Drosselmeyer favors a blend of tea he apparently made himself.  It consists of three parts Darjeeling and one part Assam.  Those of you who’ve followed this blog a long time know me for a tea connoisseur–at least, I am when I can afford to be.  One of the earliest posts on this blog was on Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea.  I’m a big fan of tea varietals but will drink blends also, especially English, Scotch, or Irish Breakfast tea.  English Breakfast tea is formed by Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas, Irish is stronger because it uses teas from Assam almost exclusively, and Scottish the strongest with the strongest varieties from Asia–even sometimes adding the pine-fired Lapsang Souchong.

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A New Addition to my Top 50 & Four Other Shows

As you can tell from the title, one of the five shows below got a rare five stars from me.  Keen readers of my anime posts might have an inkling of which anime made it to my top fifty.  Let me start from the bottom and work my way up.

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5) Kuromukuro

This show is not on the bottom because I don’t like it, but because I haven’t finished it.  One never knows whether the second half of the show will ruin a promising start.

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As of episode ten, the show appears to shine in three areas: the fight scenes, the animation, and the comedy.  I greatly enjoy the samurai’s cultural shock as he experiences modern life in Japan.  The sword fights surprise me with their realism: both within and without the mecha.  (I think that I caught a glissade during one bout.)  And the animation draws one in by sharp details and beautiful backgrounds.

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Patema Inverted, Psycho-Pass the Movie, and Vampire Princess Miyu OVA

Looking at my list of anime to write about, I noticed that five of them are series and the other three shorter works.  And so, I am writing about Patema InvertedPsycho-Pass the Movie, and Vampire Princess Miyu here and the other five tomorrow.  Two anime yesterday, three today, and five tomorrow: you can see that I’m trying to ease myself into National Blog Posting Month.  As usual, let’s see how long I last without resorting to a reblog.

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1) Vampire Princess Miyu OVA – ★★★ 1/2

Watching this OVA reminded me of the good old days when anime DVDs included only two or three episodes a disc.  This four part OVA came on two discs, and I was scratching my head as to why they could not fit all four episodes on the same disc.  I loved the old cell animation employed in this series, which has been lauded for the traditional style of the artwork.  Everything from the dark scenes to the music to the creepy characters worked to envelop the viewer into the mood of this eldritch tale.

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Our titular character, Miyu, happens to be tasked with the goal of sending Shinma–creatures half-god and half-demon (all demon, if you want my opinion)–back into the netherworld from which they came.  A female exorcist named Himiko becomes involved with Miyu during the failed exorcism of a fox demon from a comatose young girl.  Will Himiko survive her acquaintance with Miyu and her henchman Larva, and what is the mysterious link between the vampire and this young exorcist?

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Forgotten Summer 2016 Anime Reviews

Happy All Saints’ Day and first day of NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo–whichever you prefer to undertake.  I’ll be undertaking the latter.  The challenge for National Blog Posting Month is to post once per diem for the month of November.  Usually, I get through with a combination of original articles and reblogs.  So, you just might see a post of yours up on Medieval Otaku this month. 🙂  At the same time, my reading challenge on Goodreads shows that I need to finish fifteen more books, i.e. I need to read about two books a week until the end of the year–sounds doable.

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It occurred to me that I never linked my summer anime reviews on Beneath the Tangles to this blog.  That was remiss of me, and here they are: Alderamin on the Sky, Active Raid, Berserk, and Sweetness and Lightning.  That season, I also had the pleasure of finishing 91 Days and ReLife, which went unremarked upon.  Below, I hope to correct my overlooking of them.

Enjoy!

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Practically a Mid-Season Review for Anime Fall 2016

Here we are five weeks into the new season of anime, and I have yet to write a post about what I’m watching!  Keshikaran!  Mattaku keshikaran!  Procrastination counts as one of my worst vices.  It seems to have gotten worse of late, and one wonders how I shall manage to bear with NaBloPoMo.

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Limiting myself to six anime was surprisingly easy this season.  I’ve yet to watch Luger Code 1951, but I’ve kept up with the other five.  And so, I’d like to invite my dear readers to suggest a couple more for me to add to my watch list.  Without further ado, the following are the shows I’ve been watching:

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1) BBK/ BRNK II

The CG animation in this show is some of the best I’ve seen.  The second season started with its best foot forward: action packed mecha battles.  All the characters are as likable as they were in the first season.

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The greatest problem with the show thus far is how the characters all strike me as rather confused.  Epizo works for the villain, Guy, because he loves Laeticia–even though the villain intends to eliminate all Bubuki users in the end.  Despite being one of Guy’s most devoted allies, Kaoruko, Azuma’s sister, has betrayed the villain…and been simultaneously abandoned by our heroes.  Reoko looks like she’ll be a good girl this time.  And so, I find myself just going along for the ride as I hope for the plot to make more sense.

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A Brief Criticism of Drifters and Defense of St. Joan of Arc

Drifters stood at the top of my list among the present season’s anime, and I wrote as much in the chat of an entertaining conversation hosted by LitaKino.  Then, one of my best commentators, David A, pointed out that St. Joan of Arc was portrayed as a crazied pyromaniac in the show and as one of the villains.  This counts as the most wholly inaccurate and unflattering representations of a saint I have heard of since Wolf Hall, a show which portrays St. Thomas More as a corrupt fanatic.  I cannot get behind a show which calumniates a saint.  At least Joan of Arc’s portrayal in Shingeki no Bahamuteven though it presents a Joan of Arc who falls from grace for a time–still presents a character bearing her name as noble, courageous, and just.

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Calumniating the memory of the saints and great men counts as one of the blackest crimes a writer can commit.  Not only does the calumniator blacken someone’s reputation, but he damages the heritage of new generations.  Each generation has a right to have heroes to look up to and emulate.  One can claim that Drifters‘ portrayal is mere fiction, but most people get their information about the past from media, especially because schools don’t properly educate the youth on the subject of history.  Many people do believe that St. Joan of Arc was insane and delusional.

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Mercy in a Berserk World

While watching Berserk (2016), one cannot but be struck by how much evil exists in that world.  In that way, it imitates our own world, where every depravity has been committed at least a thousand times over.  Most figures in the story strike one as villains or mindless drones.  Few are like Guts in taking a stand against the forces of evil.  Decent people are mostly powerless against evil, and the majority only want to save their own skin–even at the expense of another’s life or hundreds of other lives.  This anime provides as bleak a picture of humanity.  Even death does not provide rest, as souls swallowed by demons remain trapped in their anger, hatred, and despair.

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But, I repeat that this world is much like ours: there is even the presence of grace though characters deny the efficacy of prayer and claim that only deeds count.  The concepts of grace and providence apply more to Nina than any other character.  Her surviving merciless soldiers, monstrous executioners, a fall of several stories, an ogreish inquisitor, and an army of infernal blob demons can only be considered providential and gracious.  Did she deserve it?  No, all her actions are selfish and call for punishment, from her clinging to life at all costs and participation at Satanic orgies to her consistent betrayal of associates and friends.

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The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

The latest episode of 91 Days inspires this topic, especially in light of what happened at the end of that episode.  Angelo has lived without purpose for the seven years following the murder of his family.  He exists in a cheap apartment with no signs of individuality and makes a living through theft.  He constantly thinks about his one great treasure, his deceased family, and has no desire to really live.  This makes him easy to manipulate as Angelo becomes embroiled in the power struggle within the Vanetti mob.  While he shows himself resolute, resourceful, and tough, he soon becomes a pawn barely able to exercise his own will.

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The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself.  Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy.  The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.  In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist.  Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland.  But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers.  In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration.  Contention and ostracism are feared above all.  At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for.  Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth.  The relativist blows with the winds of expediency.

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Quick Takes from Anime Summer 2016

Of late, I’ve been hankering to write a less formal blog post than the essays posted recently.  I’m not sure how many of my dear readers remember Nami, but she’s the blogger who introduced me to Quick Takes, where one simply rambles on seven things which are on their mind.  You can count this as a mid-season review if you will, though I’ll be talking about a 90’s anime as well.  Without further ado, let’s proceed!

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– 1 –

The new anime adaptation of Berserk surprised me by not revolting me from episode one.  (The manga succeeded in doing that by the time I reached the halfway mark of volume one.)  This series is causing me to modify my opinion that only the Golden Age arc was worth an anime adaptation.  Still, I find myself skipping the most unsavory parts of the anime.  (Similar to how I read Akame ga Kiru.)

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The Fragmented Heart of Mytho

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I’ve known about Princess Tutu since around 2004, but have only just decided to watch it due to Josh W’s influence.  One does not expect a fantasy show revolving around ballet to be this good, and part of the entertainment lies in how little of the plot is straightforward.  In the city where the tale takes place, storybook characters can enter the real world.  Prince Mytho stands as one such person and so is his antagonist, the Raven.  According to the book, written by an eccentric named Drosselmeyer, the Prince sealed the Raven’s power through shattering his own heart.  Though Mytho succeeded in his object, he has become the shell of a human being.  The heroine, Duck, is approached by Drosselmeyer and given the power to transform into Princess Tutu so that she might restore Mytho’s heart to its proper condition.  However, restoring Mytho’s heart brings him pain and sorrow which he would never experience without a heart.  Also, the advent of the Raven’s release from his imprisonment is simultaneously advanced by the restoration of Mytho’s heart.

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Interest in Project Itoh: Empire of Corpses, Harmony, and Genocidal Organ

I’m writing this simply to see whether anyone else is interested in Project Itoh.  Of the blogs I follow, only Beatslars of Konnichiwa Anime no Yuujin has delved into both Harmony and Empire of Corpsesand Genki Jason has mentioned the two works here and here.  Those two works and Genocidal Organ have their origins as light novels, apparently written by the only fan to ever understand Hideo Kojima’s video games.  The story behind the novels, especially how the author wrote them from his hospital bed as he lay dying of cancer, is fascinating:

Curiously, Genocidal Organ (still a work in progress) is the last of the three light novels to receive an anime adaptation, even though it was the first novel of them to be written.  Harmony, with its investigation into the nature of happiness and free-will, strikes me as the most interesting.  But, all three seem to delve into philosophical questions, even though Empire of Corpses sounds mostly like a zombie-slaying adventure.  Besides the philosophical aspect, the world building in these movies, either the steam punk 19th century suffering a zombie apocalypse of Empire of Corpses or the dystopian future where everyone’s minds are controlled in Harmony, strikes me as the sort which makes anime worth watching.

Here are a couple of short articles on Harmony:

Fantasia 2016 Review: “Harmony”

Book Review: Harmony

So, are any of my dear readers also interested in these works?  I certainly want to find time for them!