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May 7, 2013 / Bradley

Notes from a DEAD BLOG: What I’m Watching Spring 2013 Part One

I’m like the last three minutes of Valverave. Just when you thought I was done…




A shallow analysis of this series tells me that it slots naturally into the GJ-bu/Yuru Yuri set of easy-going, otaku-focused adaptations. I tend to keep a backlog of these in my Crunchyroll queue, partly because some days they are just what I need when I’m feeling blue, but also because actually keeping up with them week-to-week can sometimes feel more like work than fun. These kind of series rest on a gentle vibe that I’m often not down with at the end of the day. But Yuyushiki is different. Because while it does have that vibe, that chuckle-worthy sense of humor, and that tilt towards gentle yuri perversion, it’s also unexpectedly better than the sum of that description. I’m not sure why, but I look forward to it every week. Some of it has to be the animation, by which I mean both the actual movement, which is generous for the subject matter, and the way characters express themselves, how their faces adopt a wacko looks in reaction to each other’s silliness. It has to be the comedic timing, right? It has that elusive quality that makes one comedian telling the same joke as another comedian funnier, because he gets the rhythm right. Yuyushiki is telling the same jokes as other anime, but it’s so polished that it’s easy to enjoy, even for veterans of this type of cartoon.

Hataraku Maou-sama

This series is the closest of the season to embodying that summer-movie ideal balance of comedy and action. All of its elements feel familiar individually- the fish-out-of-water comedy, the odd-couple set-up, jokes about being young and poor, and riffs fantasy cliches- but it comes to together to create a palatable stew. A lot of this comes down to competent production: the series has an appealing design and enough attention to detail to do things like create an alien language for our fantasy protagonists, which adds some much-needed immersion. The first story arc just finished up, and it was a satisfying story briskly told with enough jokes and even more of Emi, so I’m happy with it, even if it’s not quite as clever as the writing sometimes seems to think it is. (When the first arc’s villain shows up, Maou smirks, “This is just like a B-movie.” Yeah, that’s a funny coincidence  Maou.) I’m hoping that the series will develop its ideas and characters some more in the next arc, but I’m afraid it will be unwilling to let go of its mildly clever conceits and go new places. That fear isn’t based on anything specific, mind, other than a general distrust of anime based on light novels.

Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san

Some folks have found this series irritable and unfunny. Well, pooh to some folks- I’m having a lot of fun with this. In addition to being the best animated thing on TV at the moment, it also takes a boring gag (boy meets mermaid, mermaid crushes on boy, boy is not interested) and then pushes its conceit to its breaking point, breaks it without really noticing, and then proceeds like that was perfectly natural. Most of the jokes fall into one of two categories- either it flips the script on ancient monsters by making them more animal/fish than sexy-young-girl (would you please fertilize my eggs?), or riffs on ancient monsters being tame, modernized fish-babes with too much time on their hands. I suppose this would be a lot less funny if it didn’t look so good, but I see no problem with an anime being carried primarily by its visuals in a visual medium.

Flowers of Evil

Speaking of visuals in a visual medium. My take on the rotoscoping is something like this: yes, it’s not very good, in fact, it could fairly be the worst example I’ve ever seen, but it’s still unsettling, which seems to be the intended effect. To be frank, a lot of anime enjoyment is learning to overlook animation flaws, and I think that still holds true here, though I can respect how this could bother someone enough that they’d skip it anyway. We should also talk more about the story, though, which takes the mundane drama of being young, dumb and vulnerable and makes some affecting, twisted horror that’s as tense as anything else I’ve seen in anime. This shit is heavy. It rests somewhere between feeling very real and very true, and floating in a kind of dream logic. And when you put it that way, then the decision to rotoscope makes a lot of sense; it seems to complete the package, rather than just be a lame attempt to “not be moe.” It’s a potent anime, with the kind of power and gravitas that doesn’t come up a whole lot, so it’s no wonder some folks are excited about it. My one concern is that it might be too short, considering how much of the manga has been published so far.

Hayate: Cuties!

Essentially a collection of shorts focused on different (largely bishojou, though that term isn’t always appropriate for the Hayateverse) characters, all based on stand-alone chapters from the manga. Tezuka bless you, Manglobe, you’re too talented a studio for this, but I can’t hate you for making more of a franchise I’ve followed and enjoyed for so long, even as it starts to feel a bit washed out. Sometimes this series has the best episode of the week, such as Nagi’s episode that really nailed how kids can be sneaky and opportunistic, and sometimes it’s fairly dull, such as the episode that followed it about A-chan. At this point, I’m invested enough in the franchise to be very forgiving, but not invested enough to feel increasingly uncomfortable at how Manglobe’s run with the franchise is panning out. They’re trying to appeal to old and potential new fans, adapting new material from a very involved and complicated manga without alienating folks who haven’t read it, and the sum of their efforts make it feel like they are stretched thin by committing to too much.

I’m closing in on a thousand words here and since I’m only halfway done, I’ll stop here and continue next time with scintillating opinions on Attack on Titan and other Big Name Cartoons airing right now. Look forward to it! But first, a poll.

I rarely give recaps or plot summations in my reviews/previews, largely because I assume that anyone reading this blog is basically hardcore enough to know what I’m talking about with no introduction on account of my following being very small and niche. Is that true? Do you think…

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