One Week Friends Review

one week friendsStory:
Yuki Hase kinda sorta has a crush on quiet girl Kaori Fujimiya. But when he tries approaching her and asks to be her friend, he is immediately shot down. Determined not to lose, he makes his way to the school roof to eat lunch with her. But he soon finds out why it is that Fujimiya is so often alone. Every week her memories of her friendships reset, leaving her with no knowledge of those she holds dear.

Violence:
This is a calm slice-of-life and thus there really isn’t any violence on screen at all. We know through flashbacks and such that one character was hit by a car when she was small. We never actually see the damage done, however.

Language:
This section is pretty light. Aside from a few scare d-mns and such, there’s not much to report.

Nudity:
Another section that can be left largely blank. No busty characters exist in this show (a nice little break) and there really isn’t any fanservice either.

Theology/mythology:
If you were really bored (and likely pretty lonely to boot) you could probably come up with some ridiculous notion stating that Fujimiya’s memory loss is some commentary on current societies reaching for closeness without ever truely knowing those we love most or some such tripe. To be honest, this show is as straight forward as it comes and there’s simply no theology prattle at all to be had in this show. Unless, of course, you’re exceptionally bored (and lonely).

Personal impression:
Let’s cut to the chase. This show was set up to be the strongest of last season’s line up. It ended up as the weakest. And that last genre tag is why. Drama.
Now I get that pretty much every romance show has this. Action does, as well as quite a few other categories. Drama exists, in some form, in nearly every story. But too much of it is crippling. One Week Friends started out rather light hearted and warm, with a slow moving friendship that was actually building up over time. Then drama happened and closed every door of possibility this show was creaking open. Weighted down by Fujimiya’s past, the last, not half, not third, but quarter (never introduce major plot elements to the last quarter of your story. Never) of the show ended up in a sinking pit of doom of which the last episode barely managed to keep the leads’ heads high enough for air. But overall it wasn’t enough. With the light tones it began with gone, the end frizzled out and left a depressing note ringing in my ears.
As a writer, I do understand and appreciate that not all tales have a happy ending. But it’s one thing to naturally be lead to that lesser state and another for it to be painfully clear that the creators did so on purpose, thinking they could wrap it all up, and only just realizing last minute that, no, they don’t have the time and a rush ending must be rushed. What smiles existed in the last episode were forced. Brutally so. To say nothing of the intentions of the hero being thrown into question (so, it wasn’t about friendship at all, was it?).
Although the music and art remain laid back and nice throughout, the inconsistent story made this show a bore to me. But, hey. Those side characters were pretty adorable. Now that was an OTP. Too bad we didn’t get more of them instead.
(Note: Due to there being nothing really objectionable in this show, it’s rated pretty young. But young audiences would likely be bored to death by the subject matter. Just sayin’.)

Personal rating: All ages

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: PG
Genre(s): Slice-of-life, romance, drama
Company: Toho
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:


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Extra: Bookworms have a voice

(Aka the Ritsu appreciation post. Considering most of her real character comes out in the last part of Kawai Complex, be prepared for a few spoilers)

kc3As I mentioned in my post last week, I take what I can get. The last streaming season, as usual, didn’t really bring in anything that broke cycles in anime. But it did have some surprises and now I want to focus on one of my favorites: Ritsu, from Kawai Complex.

Ritsu is introduced from the very beginning as a stoic bookworm who honestly does nothing but read 24/7. In other words, a non-alien version of Yuki Nagato, from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Oh and without any super powers either. Which you’d think would make her boring. And for the first half of the series it does. But once the hero gets in a bad situation, one in which he is being bullied, Ritsu breaks out of that horrid stereotype and… speaks. Oh but she doesn’t mutter something short in a monotone. She looks right into the room and speaks, clear, strong and not to be argued with.

Now, I’ll admit, I was hesitant when this first happened. Sure she got shy again right after, wondering to herself how she managed such a feat. But it seemed so against her character type, I thought it might have been a simple easy out for the writers. Something they forced her to do to increase the romantic entanglement between her and the hero. Something they can brush off later as an oddity. But to my shock, this didn’t come to pass. As the series began to move towards a close, we got to see Ritsu stand for herself as well. She looks right into the eyes of a judgmental guy and states her differing opinion loud and clear. She then removes herself from an uncomfortable social position all on her own, without any aid from the hero character, or anyone else for that matter.

See, the problem I have with bookworm characters is that they are so often kept voiceless. Often opinion-less to boot. At best they might have a single outburst of feeling. Maybe twice. But more often than not it’s the main characters that must “stand up for them.” The bookworms themselves rarely, if at all, learn to stand on their own. And that’s pretty interesting considering that, in the real world, bookworms are actually pretty talkative. The invention of social media and various, rather nerdy, sites gaining in popularity have made it clear that bookworms have some pretty strong opinions in general. And as projects like the Vlogbrothers on Youtube have shown, nerds are very capable of speaking about those opinions. As a fellow bookworm myself, it’s pretty obvious that opinions run strong in us. You don’t read tons of books, all with different voices, situations, concerns and issues and walk away without feelings about such things. And while Japan is a super conservative culture as a whole, it still doesn’t excuse  the stereotype of “those that read hath not a voice.” It’s simply not true. No matter what culture you’re in, reading expands your world. It doesn’t make it smaller. It makes it larger. More vibrant. And while not everyone will wish to speak their mind openly on the feelings they have about the world around them, they will have an opinion. Often a very strong one, cultivated over years of looking at life through the eyes of hundreds of people who lead different lives than they do.

Ritsu still ends the series as herself. A shy girl, awkward and usually neck deep in a book. But she’s far more human than I thought she would be. Because she isn’t a voiceless bookworm. Not this one. Ritsu may be quiet as a rule, but she’s far from not having an opinion, let alone a voice. And that make her more real and a character deserving of the title “heroine.”

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior Review

kawai complexStory:
Kazunari Usa just moved into his new home where he will stay through his high school years. Full of hope that something good will happen, he is quickly reminded that he is not so blessed when all his housemates turn out to be insane creepsters. The only highlight? One fellow boardee happens to be Ritsu, his shy, bookloving crush.

Violence:
Even though a great deal of the show is slapstick comedy, some of the jokes can be violent and there is blood from time to time. It’s not supposed to be serious, but it is there nonetheless.

Language:
Aside from the usual d-mns and sh-ts, there are also b-words on occasion. This isn’t a clean show, but any accounts, though it’s not obscene about it either. At least not in this section…

Nudity:
Aside from one very busty chested character, there’s nothing too visually graphic in this show aside from the typical fanservice shots. However, it’s often what is joked about that’s the worst. One housemate is really into bondage and abuse. Against himself. This can be quite disturbing to some. Pair that with two other housemates that make a lot of sexual jokes and comments and this is the worst part of the show right here. Some comments were so bad I nearly gave this a WZ, so be warned on this front.

Theology/mythology:
Not much to put here. Besides characters bemoaning bad luck and such, there’s really nothing to note. Well. Two characters have a thing for ghosts and the supernatural. They are portrayed as kinda crazy and are only side characters, though.

Personal impression:
At first I only watched this show because I like the colors and it aired new episodes at a time when other shows did not. Aka it’s what was on. It wasn’t until the last half of the show that found myself really enjoying the episodes as they became far more about Usa and Ritsu than about their zany housemates. Don’t get me wrong. Crazy comedy can be fun at times. But that was not always the case with this show. Thus I found myself far more drawn to the romance angle, what there was of it, despite that being rather against my nature. It also took about that long for Ritsu to start showing up as more than the traditional stoic bookworm type. She began to have a personality and a strength. It was a shock, but a nice and much needed one.
As far as music goes, this show was pretty typical. And although the art was bright, it does almost go into the garish section once or twice. Oddly enough, it fits the tone of the show well as the comedy looks like that too.
If the nudity section didn’t put you off your tea, and you don’t mind the dredge through the first part of the series, this is a decent title. Especially considering the female love interest actually has a legit personality for once.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Comedy, romance
Company: TBS
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Shino and FPS love

ngnl03Gratuitous fanservice aside, No Game, No Life had a nice thing going for it with some of its characters, namely with Shino. And, yes, I’m very aware that this particular show clearly has no intentions of going against traditional, and very sexist, anime cliches as a whole. In fact, more than a few are used per episode. However there was one fact, near the end, that caught me off-guard.

Shino is a first rate first-person shooter gamer.

And, yes, I realize that both siblings are good at pretty much any game, but as the series goes on it does become clear that each has their own ways of playing and thus each have different skill sets. And this is where I was pretty shocked.

For most of the show, Shino is shown as being the ultimate set of brains between the two, while her brother, Sora, often has a bit more in the imagination department. We see Shino handle numerous chess matches, for example. Plus there’s her general personality, which is largely quiet with deadpan quips here and there. Simply put: she just doesn’t seem like the type to be a FPS gamer. Yet not only is she one indeed, she’s also extremely good at it, something I didn’t see coming for the simple fact that genius in strategy doesn’t mean one can pull off complicated hand-eye coordination moves with perfection. Intellect only serves so far. But that’s not the only thing that threw me off.

If you’re not a gamer yourself, let me lay down some facts. 1) Female FPS gamers are rare. Although this has changed slightly over the years, the fact remains that those kind of games are nearly exclusively targeted and played by men. The good side of this often ends up being that female players that stick it out despite all the sexual prejudices tend to be extremely skilled and very thick skinned. Although the situation sucks, at least those that get through it get some hardcore training in. Which leads to point two. 2) Although it isn’t necessarily true to life, most female FPS gamers are portrayed has a bit masculine and/or hyper violent/confrontational individuals, likely in response to all that prejudice, though some might reason they get through it all because they were already so hardened.

Although Shino is obviously skilled, she certainly doesn’t fit into the traditional mold of what a female FPS looks like. Or what most people think they look like. Which is the real key here. If you had asked me near the beginning of the show which of the siblings was best at FPS games, I would have picked Sora for sure. Not because I think women incapable. But simply due to the fact that those games are dominated by men, marketed to men and, let’s face it, I would expect Japan, with its narrower view of male and female gender roles, to stick to formula here. But, low and behold, it is a girl who is the FPS expert. And she’s not some man-hating, body-building, condescending and confrontational jerk either. She’s quiet, manipulative, sometime sweet, sometimes tricky and almost always cute. And while some might say it was just a play of the creators to have a cute girl run around with a gun (and they might be right about that), the fact that Sora explained his sister’s skills as pure fact and was not ashamed or compelled to defend himself, gives me hope. Too often are male characters (to say nothing of men in real life) quick to defend themselves when a female is seen to be better at a traditionally “male” activity. Yet No Game, No Life wonderfully skips over such tripe. Sora feels no competition with his sister, neither does he feel any shame at her being better at certain things.

No Game, No Life may not be anywhere close to being called “progressive.” But I take what little gems of hope I can get. So if this show can impress the reality that girls can like – and be very talented! – at whatever they wish, regardless of whether or not society finds it “masculine,” I’m all over it. Even if it is just one baby step at a time.

(I planned on talking about Ritsu, from Kawai Complex, as well, but ran out of time. Plus that anime review won’t be up until Monday anyway. So expect to hear about her next week ^^)

No Game, No Life Review

no game no lifeStory:
Sora and Shino are known in the gaming world as simply “Blank,” an ominous player as yet undefeated. But when the two siblings receive a challenge online and win, they find themselves transported directly into a game world they’ve never seen before. The game turns out to be a world where killing is off limits and the way nations “war” against one another is through various mini-games. But the cards are stacked against the siblings this time as they end up on the side of other mortal characters with no magic abilities and no real ways of cheating their way to victory, something all the other nations have no problem accomplishing.

Violence:
Considering that this show doesn’t allow killing, there isn’t too much violence aside from slap stick. You do see blood now and again as some “games” allow characters to be “killed,” though only for the duration of the game itself (so it’s not permanent). Also, some of the slap stick ends with a character bleeding from a head wound (who knew pounding one’s head into the stone floor could do that?), but it doesn’t stick as it’s for comedy’s sake only.

Language:
Although I’ve heard worse, this anime certainly doesn’t avoid bad lanaguage either. Every now and again you’ll hear a d-mn, sh-t and a b-word of one form or another. Although, it’s still far less common than your average American TV series.

Nudity:
The worst aspect of this show by far goes right in this section. The fanservice is extensive and nearly got this show a WZ. Very nearly. Aside from the random panty shot, you also have to put up with the big busted female characters, shower scenes with soap barely covering the details, games played where the loser must strip and an entire scene where a game played renders all female characters nude, but without details. Think of colored silhouettes. Although details are kept out of these nudity scenes, they’re still insulting and inappropriate. As are more than a few comments, jokes and such. Be prepared. This show is rated YA for this section all by itself and this is a strong warning spot. If any of this bugs you, skip this title.

Theology/mythology:
In the world the siblings find themselves in, various “gods” exist that once ruled the gaming world and one, Tat, now rules over even them. However, even though they are considered “gods,” they aren’t really worshipped as such. They are treated more along the lines of “they’re out there and are powerful” and that’s about it. So there’s no indoctrination. And, again, this is all in a game world, so it’s not “real” anyway.

Personal impression:
If this show wasn’t so strife with fanservice, it’d make its way to my Top 20 list of shows. Because, story and character-wise, I highly enjoyed it. But there was that fanservice, and as I mentioned above, it’s pretty bad.
But putting that aside, this show has a great set up, even if it does take a bit of time to take off and find a good pace. Genius gamers is nothing new to anime, but the addition of all other players being able to cheat and use magic while they cannot makes for an actual challenge. While you know they can likely pull it off, it’s extremely impressive to watch how they do so, despite the enemy trying every dirty trick in the book to beat them. The theme of humanity needing to make up for their “weaknesses” by playing smarter, not harder, is pushed throughout the show and actually makes sense. Although I could have used a bit more character growth for our heroes, the set up for more story and depth is there for season two, should that come to pass.
And I certainly hope it does. With bright and beautiful art and settings, alongside some throughly entertaining battles of wit and skill, this show was a fun ride, despite the stupid boob jokes here and there. If it only had more to the end besides a cliff hanger…

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, comedy
Company: Media Factory
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: Bit of an upset?

I don’t believe I spoke much about the shows I started to watch during the recent streaming season and my expectations of them. However, there was a reason. As lack-luster as the winter line up had been, this last line up was even more unimpressive. Of course, if you’re into strange art forms and such, Ping Pong was supposed to be the show this year. But although I like to venture off the beaten path once in awhile, I’m afraid that particular show was a bit too much out of my way. Thus my line up was composed of the following shows. And my last impressions of them weren’t exactly what I saw coming…

kawai complexThe Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
First impression:
This is going to be a dumb humor show straight through, isn’t it? At least it’s nice and bright. I like shiny things.

Last impression:
That was actually… sweet? Wait, how’d we go from a whacked comedy piece that was often funny and slightly disturbing to a sweet and honest romance with a strong female character? I don’t know how this happened, but I’m glad it did. Surprise number one goes to this show right here. And a nice surprise at that.

world is still beautifulThe World is Still Beautiful
First impression:
More run of the mill romance, except with far less comedy and a bit more creepy due to a serious age gap with the romantic leads.

Last impression:
The age gap really doesn’t go away, but I was surprised and happy with the end. Although a few romance cliches get thrown in there, they don’t really fall out the way most shows do, with tons of useless drama. The heroine is surprisingly practical and honest, cutting down on the drama by quite a bit. It wasn’t as big of a surprise as Kawai Complex, but it was nice enough. Too bad it ended in bit of a lull.

no game no lifeNo Game, No Life
First impression:
Oh, shiny! I can really do without the fanservice stuff, but this might actually be a bit of fun. Tad slow though.

Last impression:
Holy snickerdoodles, that was a fun ride! Out of the main shows I stuck with this last season, this one ended up as my favorite. Although it wasn’t quite enough to break records and end up on my Top Anime Of All Time list, it was a show with a great depth of imagination. Once it actually got moving. World conquest without any blood spilt? Genius players restricted to no magic or cheating pitted against those that use both relentlessly? Oh, this I can get behind. Definitely.

one week friendsOne Week Friends
First impression:
A nice soothing color palette and sweet characters and gentle pacing… This looks like it’ll be the better show this season. A nice, though slow, romance. Not too much drama and no disgusting innuendo comedy to hack through.

Last impression:
Another surprise, but not a very good one. This show actually turned out to be on the bottom of my “like list” for this season. While it started out sweet, and though we do indeed skip over any uncomfortable innuendo garbage (I love the lack of boob jokes, I really do), it pretty much just… frizzled out. The last stretch of the show was bogged down in depressing drama that destroyed the brighter tones the show began with and derailed the main plot into not accomplishing anything at all. It’s also a very forgettable ending. More than one other viewer bemoaned how the side characters had a better romance going down than the main characters. And I’m sad to say I totally agree with that. Can we just get a second season with the side characters, please? Cause they were cute as hell.

Although no show this past season really knocked my socks off, three out of four did manage to leave a nice taste in my mouth. Which is a far better record than last season. Yeah, I’ll be more than grateful if a show like Wizard Barristers never happens again. That just plain hurt.

(Stay tuned to this blog for full reviews of the above series!)