The Token End of Year Post 2013

Posted by DiGiKerot in Free Talk, idolmaster, Love Live!, Random Stuff at January 1, 2014 on 11:14 pm

For the fourth year running, I’m going to have to confess that I’ve still not watched Gundam Unicorn. Yes, I have all, what is it, six episodes that they’ve released thus far sitting on my bookcase, but that this point, I may as well wait until the last episode is released rather than struggle, as I did with the second episode of Code Geass Akito a couple of days back, to remember what happened in the previous instalment once the long wait for the finale is over.

As for how the rest of the year ended up panning out, at least anime-wise, I feel it’s gone pretty well. Maybe it’s just a warm afterglow of this last season of the year, with shows like Kill la Kill, Kyousougiga, Build Fighters and Yozakura Quartet, it’s been a really strong last quarter in terms of the kind of cartoons I enjoy watching, even if the New Years episode of Sword Art I’m subjecting myself to whilst trying to finalise this post leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

Anyway, on with the usual Token End of Year Post format. Just bear in mind that this is in no-way an Anime of the Year post, more just a bunch of things I feel like writing about – otherwise this’d be a whole mess of words about Yamato 2199 or Gatchaman Crowds (looking forward to that BD-version final episode) or some other show that isn’t about Attacking Titans that I don’t really mention. There’s plenty of others out there expounding the virtues of their version of the best of the year if that’s what you really want to know.

The “Where has All My Money Gone” Award for Wallet Emptying Merchandise – THE iDOLM@STER

Yet another year on the iM@S bandwagon for me, not that the few people who still check this blog could really have failed to notice.

With the anime being over until the release of the movie in the New Year, it’s not been the biggest of years for me in terms of the number of items, and merchandising for parts of the franchise slow down a little. I guess there was Puchimas in the early part of the year, though in terms of CDs, whilst I’ve still been buying things on a regular basis, I probably made as many Love Live and Aikatsu purchases. I think the single biggest ticket item was probably my Kotori cycle jersey, and even that was bought at a fairly significant discount compared to what most of my other Producer-bro’s paid for the things.

Still, I guess there’s been two big ongoing expenditures in the iM@S Arena. Firstly, the Cupoche figure range became a thing this year, with Haruka and Miki figures included amongst their number, and Yukiho following in the coming next year. I’m not really holding my breath for them ever getting to Ritsuko, at least not any time soon, but at least with Yukiho they’ve gone for a character which is usually somewhat lowered tiered than the usual Haruka and Miki’s when it comes to high-ticket merchandising.

Secondly, there’s the ongoing expense of iM@S Channel, or more specifically ShinyTV. Whilst I’m not sure I could recommend it has a sensible value proposition to anyone not deep enough into the fandom that they wouldn’t just buy it without questioning it, I’ve been picking up the new content drops every couple of weeks, and I’ve been getting a couple of solid evenings of entertainment out of the Shiny@TV Challenge Modes on each of packs. It’s more compelling to me than Star of Festa from the iOS version of the game, and I don’t really find all that much enjoyment in the grind-to-unlock systems that Project Diva tends to rely on to provide longevity. Honestly, I’m going to find it hard to justify buying any non-narrative focused rhythm game that doesn’t implement anything similar in the future.

Then again, I’m the sort of person who’ll set an alarm for 2 in the morning so I can make sure the new pack is downloaded in time for me to get a few songs in before work the following day, so I’m clearly a bit crazy.

(Also, I suppose my Ritsuko sketch from Dan Kims Kickstarter counts as a big expenditure, though that was an extra with a book I wanted anyway. Probably is, I think that edition of NNN is literally one of the nicest things I own, so I’m kind of hesitant to crack the thing open. Maybe I will just iPad the digital PDF version…)
(Also also, thanks to US P-san 7thwraith for the hot Ritsuko postcard, which I totally stuck in a(n admittedly cheap) frame, which I have nowhere to put, annoyingly)

The “How to Buy Action Figure Man” Memorial Award for Services to Toyetic Industries – Gundam Build Fighters

I’ve been buying Gunpla again.

I mean, not to sound like I’m at confessional or anything, but I’ve been looking at Gundam kits semi-frequently as of late. The back-half of Gundam 00 (I’ve not dared to subject myself to the movie) kind of soured me on Gundam for a while, and what I was hearing about AGE whilst it was airing didn’t really inspire me to get back into it.

AGE didn’t really inspire many in Japan to get into Gundam either, judging by reports of model kits languishing unsold in stores all-over Japan even at clearance prices. It turns out that trying to make a traditional-styled Gundam show aimed solely at trying to grab the attention of the younger audience does nothing but put off the older fans who most reliably buy your toys.

Build Fighters is Sunrise regrouping to take another stab at the same market, and it’s kind of depressingly hilarious that it’s almost certainly the most entertaining Gundam TV show in recent memory. It’s also the one which divorces itself the most from what it considered traditionally Gundam, and certainly the most honest in it’s intent.

There’s a lot that’s fun about Build Fighters, and a lot that is fun for completely different audiences. On a base level, divorced from the need to throw around a heavy narrative about the brutality and the oppression of war, the staff are completely free to simply make the robots look really, really cool – particularly given that they seem to have managed to uncover the handful of guys left on Japan who can do really slick traditional mechanical animation.

For someone who has seen any amount of Gundam before, it’s pretty joyous – a lot of these robots have never looked as good as they have in this show. It’s hard not to feel a tinge of pleasure when you actually recognise a particular robot from one of the prior shows, and it’s hard to fist-pump in delight when when you see a particular favourite turn up and do something awesome, even if, like the Tallgeese, it ultimately goes out like a punk. Also, I’m pretty sure the Sumo had more frames of animation in that one battle in the second episode than it did in all of Turn A.

I shouldn’t really sell the show short by purely suggesting it’s just fan service those already deep in the fandom, or even just big on robots, though – the battle scenes are spectacular regardless of whether you know the robots or not. The characters, whilst being a whole mess of stereotypes and caricatures, are at worst entertaining, and at best surprisingly nuanced. Whilst you probably have to be a nerd to laugh at Tilting At Nether-Gundams, the Bearguy-San Chariots of Fire/Rocky/Gunbuster training montage is something I’m pretty sure is universally hilarious.

The net result, aside from the being possibly the most unexpectedly consistently entertaining shows of the back half of the year, is that I want to buy a whole lot of toys. Gotta nab me that Quebley, man.

(Also, Smartest Thing The Industry Has Done All Year Award – making the show freely available on Youtube, aside from the hilarious dismissal of the Daisuki platform they have a vested interest in, was a really smart move given the nature of the show)
(Also also, Bearguy is Bestguy. Honestly, it’s a great kit, just wished I’d picked up a second one to try and throw a custom paintjob on)

The “People Keep Talking About This” Award for Shows I Need to Watch More Than Two Episodes Of – Yuyushiki/Kiniro Mosaic/Non Non Biyori

I’m just kind of grouping all of these non-Teekyuu Cute Girls Gag Comedy shows (or at least the better ones) into this one pot, because my trajectory on them all this year has been pretty much the same. Well. I guess it was the same with YuruYuri as well, so it’s not really just a trend as of late.

I always start these shows with the best of intentions. I watch them, and I enjoy them. Then there’s that one week that I inevitably miss an episode on the day it goes live – maybe I’m away for the weekend, or just otherwise busy. Then one episode becomes two. Then three. Without a pressing narrative to keep up with and be curious about, I just end up too far behind for me to catch-up on by the time we hit the season reset, at which point they are inevitably buried under a mess of new content to check out.

Which kind of just makes me feel bad, as it’s not like most of these shows aren’t better made than most of the things I end up keeping up with, but I guess my brain is just wired up to prioritise story, no matter how dumb, over cute jokes.

Of the three shows mentioned above, I’m probably most likely to go back and watch Yuyushiki at some point – I think the particular style of humour there is just more in line with what I tend to find funny, not to mention the particularly wonderful animation production. Kiniro Mosaic, I kind of feel I need to go back and watch the goofy story segment from the last episode, but despite only really getting two or three deep into the series, I somewhat feel that I’ve overdosed on it by proxy – such is social media, I guess. There’s a certain saturation point where things go from being curiousity-piquing to off putting, but goodness knows I myself have probably bored enough people with iM@S chatter in the past.

(Also, Teekyuu has as many jokes in one two minute episode than most of these shows have in two twenty minute efforts, but then again. Teekyuu has all the jokes)

The “Why Did You Have To Do That?” Award for Really Dumb Thing in an Otherwise Entertaining Show – Valvrave the Liberator

And something has to be really really dumb to be singled out as being particularly dumb in Valvrave.

Valvrave is a show which is probably best described as being “Peak Sunrise” – it’s a zany, trashy roller coaster of a show that tonally hybridises Gundam with some of the studios other recent output. Infact, it starts for all intents like a version of Gundam SEED with cuter girls, as a highly trained group of underaged special forces members from a militaristic nation invade a supposedly neutral space colony in an attempt to retrieve a top-secret robot weapon which our protagonist Haruto just happens to fall into in his time of need.

Then our hero is murdered. Then he comes back to life. As a body swapping vampire zombie. Then things go kind of bonkers.

Whilst, as with a lot of Sunrise shows, I think Valvrave tended to be significantly more entertaining when furthering it’s plot during it’s running battles (which the show totally nails for the most part, particularly during it’s first season finale) than when it tries to slow down for exposition, the show really stands out more for a collection of momentary high-notes than it does for any overall narrative. Things like Saki messing with Haruto having become a body switching vampire zombie herself, or when the hilariously monikered L-Elf has one of his crazy plans come to fruition, or that episode which climaxes in the entire school singing a goofy propagander song in an attempt to solicit charity donations for their fledging country. Then there’s a particular favourite of mine, when the shut-in computer hacker finally bursts out of her box fort whilst yelling “SUPERMARKET!” at the top of her lungs.

I like Valvrave an awful lot, and a lot of what others consider to be terrible about it, I consider to be very deliberate qualities, executed entirely on purpose. Which kind of makes the events of the tenth episode, and the subsequent, repeated mishandling of the fallout, incredibly frustrating.

For those who didn’t watch the show, it’s explained that those people who become pilots of the Valvrave units will slowly go insane and will attack people in order to obtain what is essentially fresh information, or “runes” as the show eventually describes them, unless they steadily obtain them from another source. In the shows tenth episode, having been reluctant to disclose the problem, or otherwise really do anything to tackle the issue, it comes to a head when the rune-deprived Haruto ends up attacking the fan-favourite, probably bisexual Vampire popstar giant robot pilot and possible love-interest Saki.

Except it’s not just attacking in the “I Vant To Suck Your Blood!” kind of Vampire fashion, as had been the case for much of the rest of the show up to that point, in that it contains considerably more inadvisably misplaced willy, if you catch my drift.

I’m really not the sort who would consider such developments to be completely off the board in terms of fiction, but Valvrave was hardly ever going to be the show that would handle it with the necessary delicacy. Rather, it pretty much manages to do it in the grossest possible fashion. Aside from the leery nature of the way they framed the sequence in question, it’s barely even a character moment for those directly involved – it exists merely to contrast with the scenes of jubilation being shown as the other member of the shows love-triangle celebrates winning Presidency over their space colony. There’s any number of ways they could have achieved the same effect whilst being entirely consistent with Saki’s character, rather than defiling it.

What makes matters worse is that the entire matter is pretty much forgotten about an episode and a half later, and pretty much in what comes across as an entirely too flippant manner. It’s rendered rather irrelevant. Even Haruto’s rune-craving state isn’t really taken much further than a couple of episodes into the second season, and why only this particular bout takes the turn it does is never really contextualised or explained within the fiction.

In the end, the entire thing is ultimately the worst kind of exploitative sensationalism, a twist to generate discussion which, more likely, actually put more people off than it attracted. It’s unfortunate, because it’s a big, messy brown stain on an otherwise really entertainingly dumb robot show.

(Also, I really don’t get what peoples problem with the ending was)
(Also Also, I find it pretty hilarious that Akira, the frumpy hikkomori computer hacker girl, was the only character to get a page to herself on the Valvrave 2014 calendar)
(Also Also Also, Vampire Link Vessel Rune Activate Viral Engine lol)
(Also Also Also Also, BLITZENDEGEN!)

The “Why Do People Still Use The Term Gainax Ending?” Award for Seriously? WTF!? – HAL

HAL is a pretty unfair movie.

I first saw HAL back at SLA in October, where it was played as part of a double bill with the first episode of Ghost in the Shell:ARISE (which I have no real comment about, other than finding the OP rather hilariously gal game-y – Borma is my waifu, I guess), but didn’t write about it because I was rather slacking that weekend, and wasn’t really sure it was fair to judge it on a single viewing. I saw it again at the Leeds Film Festival in November, and didn’t write about then because I didn’t feel like it was worth it.

HAL is a short SF movie about the use of robots in grief counselling. A young fellow named Haru, who hasn’t had the most pleasant of childhoods, dies in a horrific airplane accident following a steaming row with his girlfriend, Kurumi. In order to try and get Kurumi over her grief, they send in a robot replica of Haru to act as her caretaker, and hijinks ensue as Kurumi comes out of her shell, and Mecha-Haru learns what it is to be human.

Then, after thirty minutes of being kind of cute, the movie remembers it needs to end itself, and unfortunately does so by invoking what is best described as Babies First Robot Story Twist – SPOILERS, but it was actually Kurumi who died, and it’s her who was replaced by the robot. Haru has just gone kind of bonkers with grief.

The problem is that you really have to earn that kind of twist. There’s a certain sleight-of-hand that’s necessary to pull it off, and to be successful at it, the work needs to leave you with a lingering feeling that it was leaving clues to it’s finale in plain sight that you were simply far too dense to pick up on.

Which is why, to a degree, I felt like it was unfair judging it too harshly on a single viewing, but honestly, going back through it a second time, it really doesn’t earn it’s climax. There’s subtle misdirection, and there’s outright deceit, and HAL swings far more toward the later, resulting in more of an annoyed “what?” than any real kind of satisfaction.

Still, the comedy OAPs were pretty great.

(I still have the directors autograph, though, even though I don’t really like Titan either)
(Also, Viva Giraffes! The Giraffe was awesome)
(Also also, the number of segments in the Rubik’s Cube in the logo differs from those used in the movie, which kind of bugs me…)

The “This Is Only Awesome Until Everyone Else Sees It” Award for Bestest Anime Movie of the Year – The Magical Sisters Yoyo and Nene

Patema Inverted would probably be the more logical choice here, though I’m a bit cooler on the film than a lot of other people I know, and the fact that I’ve somehow managed to see it three times at this point suggests that it’s not that uncommon a movie to have seen. I also kind of wanted to take another stab at coming across a bit less negatively about this flick than I probably did the first time.

Yoyo and Nene is the new film from ufotable, a welcome break for many from the soon-to-be-returned-to Type-Moon dominance of the studios output in recent years. It just came out in Japanese theatres a week or so back, but some of us British sorts were lucky enough to see an early screening (or two, if you’re crazy like me) of the movie at this years Scotland Loves Anime event.

It’s a real fun movie. I do think those expecting to be overwhelmed by the animation will, outside of a couple of scenes (including an impromptu song and dance number I’m particularly fond of), be a little disappointed, and I think it underestimates the audience, even the younger part of it, more than a smidgen when it comes to expounding it’s morale messaging, despite it being a little thin in that regard, but the movie positively oozes charm. It’s heroine is refreshingly positive, confident, and angst-free for the most part, and Yoyo’s familiar Bihaku, the skull-cat, is totally Anime Cat of the Year. For once, it’s a which movie somehow manages not to overstay it’s welcome as well.

Whilst I do wish the movie spent a little more time in the magic world (Nene is practically a non-entity for much of the movie), I do recommend giving it a bit of a gander once it becomes widely available later into the year.

(Also, there’s what I’m assuming is, or am at least choosing to take to be, a pretty great offhand Back to the Future 2 gag)

The “Carnival Dayo!” Award for Excellence in Soulless CGI Eyes – Arpeggio of Blue Steel

I don’t play Kantai Collection. I don’t actually play any of these mobile or social online games – if I was going to jump onto one of them, it probably would have been with Cinderella Girls over a year back, and, frankly, I see so much KanColle content coming through my Twitter timeline that I kind of feel I’ve experienced the peaks by proxy without having to put up with any of the Compass-related frustrations that accompany them. Thankfully, whilst being an overwhelming dominant force in fandom this year, it wasn’t the only way to get some ships-as-girls action.

I kind of wonder how much choice Sanzigen have had for some of their major projects in recent years. I mean, from the point of view of learning from high-level, idiosyncratic talents in the 2D field anime field, it certainly must have been an interesting experience for some of the staff members working there. For 009 Re:Cyborg, they worked with Kenji Kamiyama, who has a background with, well, background art production prior to becoming a director, and it really showed in the approach taken in that picture, particular when seen in 3D. With their work on Black Rock Shooter (not to mention a couple of sequences in Panty and Stocking), they worked with Hiroyuki Imaishi in an attempt to capture his particular brand of jerky dynamic character motion in CG.

Whilst all this is probably apropos of nothing in particular (although I’m pretty sure 009 and Arpeggio share the same animation directors, at least), my general sentiment for a while has been that, if anyone was going to nail a full-CG anime series in the more traditional late-night mould, it was probably going to be Toei’s CG team. Otherwise, probably Sanzigen, and whilst I don’t think Arpeggio is necessarily quite there yet, it was a pretty good stab at it.

In terms of production, they probably did themselves a few favours with the setting. Murky underwater sections can mask a lot of imperfections, whilst having much of your action take place inside a submarine or other such limited location does rather allow you to get great mileage outside of a limited number of particularly well-realised locations. Being out at sea probably helped an awful lot with reducing scene complexity as well, assuming they had some kind of easy way to generate those rolling waves.

Not that it’s perfect from a production point of view anyway – it’s pretty clear where the effort was spent, and pretty sensibly, aside from Chihaya Gunsou and Makie, it was almost entirely on the humanoid incarnations of the ships. Indeed, it extends over to the rest of the show, with the other I401 crew members being little other than wafer-thin window dressing, devoid of any real character, while attention is lavished upon the ship-girls.

Overall, though, I feel kind of bad for initially writing the first episode off as being something of a throwback to the worst tedium of early-2000’s Gonzo productions – whilst I do think it it’s curiously reminiscent of shows of the era, particularly given it’s otherwise forward-thinking production, and I do think the climax threatened to hit (if not quite sinking, pardon the pun, to) Gonzo-original-ending territory, it actually proved to be a really fun show in aggregate. Whilst I think the ship combat in the earlier half of the show, which, let’s face it, would have been CG regardless of how the rest of production was handled, was the highlight for me, it’s all pretty good stuff. The overarching narrative is a little thin, perhaps, but it had entertaining characters and tight battles, so I don’t have too many complaints about it.

So, yeah, whilst I don’t think it’s perfect by any means (and I really wonder how much time they actually save doing 3D-only animation on what looks like the 2’s), it was far from the travesty a lot of people we’re expecting it to be.

(Also, Takao best boat waifu. Like there’s any argument to be had there)
(Also also, Carnival Dayo!)
(Also also also, speaking of CG, Oranges work on mecha battles has been pretty spectacular this year – Majestic Prince was one thing, but the battle in Code Geass Akito 2 was pretty darn fabulous)
(Also also also also, whilst Butch has been real inconsistent in his writing quality as of late, I’m really looking forward to Toei’s Exiled from Paradise, speaking of their CG team)
(Also also also also also, it’s nice to see that the CG work in Aikatsu has been steadily improving as it goes along. Let’s hope Love Live sees a jump in quality going into it’s next season too…)

The “Automatically Better Than Last Year” Award for Movie In Which Characters Actually Talk – Precure All Stars New Stage 2

Another year, another attempt by Toei to hook fans of the previous Precure franchise instalments into the new show by throwing together an increasingly unwieldy cross-over movie with the ever expanding cast of magical girls. This year, the Smile posse meet the Doki Doki girls.

The dropping of the DX moniker in favour of the New Stage one was basically an indication on the production staffs part that they’d tapped the series of pretty much all the easy-target fan service that they could – there’s only so many returning movie-only villains or monster designs they can retread before they’re out of options, and they certainly burned through them pretty quickly. The New Stage moniker is a symbol that a certain amount of the focus is moved away from the Precures, and onto the movies main guest character.

New Stage 2 actually starts with a massively implausible suggestion – that there is actually a school for Precure mascot fairies, where they are educated to be good Precure mascot fairies. Given how inept they frequently are at their point of introduction, it’s kind of peculiar. Even more absurd is the fact that their special guest teacher is Tarte from Fresh Precure. It does get bonus points for giving the Miracle Light safety guide in actual movie context, though.

It sets up the narrative focus of the movie, though – this is a Precure movie about the mascot characters, not the Precure. At least, this Precure movie has this movies guest fairy character, as opposed to another silly thirty-second guest Precure like Echo from New Stage, at it’s core. Infact, it’s about a fairy who is persuaded by an evil shadow fairy to try and steal the Precures transformation devices, with obvious consequences, particularly when he ends up handing over the handy FAQ Strategy Guide to defeating the Precure over to it as well. Good thing DokiDoki are too recent to be listed, although Mana is probably more than alpha enough to have powered through and won regardless.

It’s honestly kind of daft, and not necessarily what you really want from a Precure movie. As with how DokiDoki compares to it as a series, it’s not nearly as well produced, in general animation terms, as last years Smile Precure introduction movie. It also features considerably less dog murder.

It still manages, however, to actually be an improvement over the previous New Stage movie, mostly because the characters prior to Fresh are only mostly, rather than entirely extraneous, to the proceedings. Unlike in the first Precure New Stage, Cure Black and Cure White actually have dialogue, and indeed, actually have some of the best cuts of animation when it comes to the big smack down at the end of the picture, though Heartcatch don’t fair quite so well on the later.

(Also, unlike Cure Mamiko Noto, at least the guest Fairy gets to hit something)
(Also also, Lollipop Hiphop! I admit, the fact that I’m not particularly a fan of DokiDoki (wasted potential at every turn) colours my opinion of the movie a little negatively. I’m looking forward to seeing how Happiness Charge works out, though – it’s nice, or at least interesting, to see that Nagamine is back in the directors chair)

The “Well, I Guess This Is Actually OK” Award for Movie Which Is Way, Way Better Than Last Years Effort – Smile Precure: Big Mismatch In A Picture Book!

Saying that something is way, way better than the Suite Precure movie is, admittedly, not really saying all that much.

There’s not really much I have to say about the Smile Precure movie, mainly because I’ve not seen the thing since early on in the year. It was pretty OK – there was a little too much about it that is retreading elements that had already cropped up in the series proper, but the guest character Nico was cute enough. It had a reasonably constructed narrative arc. It had sensical characters and events that mostly made sense.

It was, intact, a functional movie, which is something you couldn’t necessarily say about the Suite Precure effort. It also had some pretty decent magical girls punching things scenes, which is pretty much all I really ask for out of this stuff. Also Cure Peace dressed as Monkey. That was pretty cute.

(Also, the general animation production quality on this one is pretty high. Significantly better than the majority NewStage 2, and comparisons to Suite just show how laughable it was)
Also also, kind of disappointed they just reused the TV shows ED for the dance number at the end)

The “That Was This Year?” Award for Show I Keep Thinking Was 2012 – Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

It didn’t even air in the first quarter of the year, but already my memories of the show are muddled and unclear. I remember a cute joke about translating some rather rude words thrown in the direction of our fish-out-of-water hero Ledo’s direction, and that his robot buddy Chamber was both a bro and probably the shows best character, but the whole back half of the series left rather less of an impression that the shows opening half did.

The problem, like with so many of these shows, is that it was far more interesting before it tried to develop some kind of actual drama. The more episodic stories centring around Ledo, having been raised in a wholly militaristic society in the depths of space, coming to terms with having to live within the peaceful and harmonious society aboard the Gargantia after he crash-lands on the submerged Future Earth, whilst trying to find his place in society, had a certain gentle humour and nuance to them which was pretty appealing.

The problem came when, at the halfway point, it devolved into drama teetering upon a series of ever more shark-jumping (well, weird space-squid jumping) twists and developments, and whilst I appreciate why they might have felt it necessary, it actually did more to lose my attention than it did to keep it.

Still, I did polish off the series, and the ultimate denouement wasn’t the worst thing in the world given where they’d left themselves. I guess that they’re going back for a second round, though, and I kind of dread to think where they might actually try to take it.

But I’ll probably watch.

(Also, I ended up getting that Symphogear Hibiki Nendoroid I mentioned last year. Also Tsubasa. Such great faces)

The “wait, that show was actually good?” Award for most not-terrible show which probably should have been – Fantasista Doll

When people pondered what would bring Goro Taniguchi back to anime after his extended exodus following the whole Code Geass R2 mess, it probably wasn’t really expected that he’d return as the Creative Producer for a goofy media-mix tie-in for some pseudo-fake-card-game cartoon.

Yet, that’s what happened. I kind of wonder exactly how many of his fingerprints are over this show, as it certainly displays at least a couple of his idiosyncrasies, even if he wasn’t the director.

Fantasista Doll is a pretty daft series. The shows doormat of a protagonist, Uzume Uno, apparently used to be really great at Childrens Cardgames (motorcycles not featured) until she decided that she’d grown out of them. One day, however, she ends up in the possession of a magical cellphone full of special cards which allow her to summon cute girls to do battle for her. Against, you know, other people who also have cute girl summoning cellphones, some of which are cute girls themselves.

The concept, whilst silly sounding, isn’t really that far out from from umpteen kids shows about collecting things or using cards to fight, but the execution is daft in a very specific way that makes it really, really entertaining to watch. I mean, most of these shows don’t have their heroines showing their determination by using a card on themselves that turns them into a half-girl, half-tank construct, or have a special attack in which their summonees construct a giant cannon to fire one of them at their opponent, complete with Uno performing an accompanying drum-roll (on a drum she just pulled out of nowhere).

Most of them don’t have a whale being punched in the face or girl pulling a clothes-rack out of her chest, either.

It’s that sense of arch-absurdity which made Fantasista Doll kind of entertaining to watch. If an episode promised to have some kind of fight scene, you could almost guarantee that at least something hysterical was going to happen in it at some point to make the whole endeavour worthwhile.

It was A Good Laugh, basically.

The “I Really Can’t Watch This Scene” Award for Show Which Can Only Practically Be Referred To By A Truncated Title – Watamote

Episode 8, the scene in the Library where Tomoko lying about having a boyfriend to her cousin comes to a head. If you’ve seen the show, you probably know what I mean – I literally had to skip forward a couple of minutes of video in the middle of the episode, never to return to the skipped scene. It was just too uncomfortable.

I feel the actual revelation with Watamote (or No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular, as it’s full title is frequently and rather awkwardly rendered in English) isn’t so much that it’s a good show, but the fact that Silverlink managed to not only make a show of the quality, but also somehow put out the entertaining and well produced (sometimes spectacular) Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya in the same season. Thankfully, the potential apocalypse signalled by the unlikely occurrence of Silverlink putting out two good shows at the same time was, in short order, countered when they put out the limp Index wannabe Strike the Blood a season later.

As for Watamote, I do think that certain media outlets have developed a habit of underplaying it’s comedic properities in favour of it’s character study elements, but I do think it’s a pretty funny show. Sure, a lot of it is cringe-inducingly difficult to watch at times, particularly for anyone who has suffered from any kind of social anxiety, but whilst it’s pretty mean-spirited in it, it’s done with a comedic eye more often than not. There’s a lot of British shows which try to do the same thing with considerably less success. I’m pretty sure I laughed at least once in every episode of Watamote at least, switch makes it more successful than many supposed straight anime comedies, at least.

The “I Promise This Is The End” Award for Show I Seemed To Like More Than Others – Tamako Market

I say this based more on real life discussions than necessarily Internet chatter, as I’ve had more than one conversation in the last year in which I’ve had to attempt to explain why I think the show is funny.

Whether it’s been a good year or not for KyoAni probably depends on who you talk to. Whilst it’s not necessarily been as successful as some of their prior works (though, honestly, what is as successful as K-On?), Free! was certainly as zeitgeisty as anything else they’ve made in recent memory, but I’d be hard pressed to say that anything they’ve put out has been as artistically accomplished as Hyouka, and it’s seemed that, rightly or wrongly, some quarters have just sought to slander everything they’ve put out this year. Such is success, I guess,

For my own part, I really enjoyed Chuunibyou and Free whilst they were being goofy, but the drama in both didn’t really do much for me. Whilst I got through all of Chuunibyou, and will probably watch the second season despite the fact that Chuuni-humour in anime somehow managed to go from cute to overplayed already, I feel I got much of what I was going to get out of Free by the time I bailed on it around it’s halfway point. Kyoukai no Kanata, well, whilst it was certainly beautifully animated and directed (though the climax was a bit of a confused mess), I found the aggressively forced character humour incredibly off putting.

Tamako Market, however, was totally my favourite thing which came out of KyoAni this year, and now that we know it’s being revisited with Tamako Love Story, I don’t really have anything negative to say about it that probably won’t be resolved in the feature film. Which isn’t to say that others don’t, obviously – as I say, I’ve had more than one discussion this year where I’ve mentioned how genuinely funny I find the show, only to be questioned, I’m sure partially mimetically, on the shows apparent lack of actual jokes.

The humour in Tamako is a little odd. It’s not devoid of what would be considered standard anime humour, though it’s spread surprisingly sparsely in comparison to director Yamada’s previous work, and certainly lacks much of the forced one-note character humour of Kyoukai, despite the fact that one of the primary characters is a talking bird. Tamako replaces this with a very dry, weirdly understated sense of casual absurdity. I think the key point is that it’s about as divorced from standard Japanese Manzai or reaction humour as anime can reasonably get – when the show drops a gag, or something that’s visually blatantly absurd, you don’t typically get the overstated reaction (like, say, someone exclaiming how unpleasant it is) like some kind of semi-contextualised canned laughter. There is no cue or missed beat to inform the viewer that you are supposed to be laughing, you either just find it funny in the moment, or you don’t.

I like that about the show. All filmed humour is, obviously, forced and contrived to an extent, moreso is an entirely constructed production like a cartoon, but I do like it when someone displays enough confidence in their own work that they don’t feel the need to rub your face in how clever they are being.

That said, the shows ninth episode, the one expounding on the history of Tamako’s father, comes together in a fashion so much more satisfying than the rest of the series that it’s not even funny. Even if the show actually is.

(Also Something Something Hataraku Maou-sama, because that show was pretty great, though I think everyone who at least watched some of that show liked it)
(Also Also, Something Something Love Live. I’ve probably written more than enough about that show in the last year, though)

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