Analytical and Self-Indulgent Guide to the Summer 2017 Anime Season’s Top 11 Most Popular Shows

So, as an avid anime watcher, the constant, never-ending resurgence of new shows is something that elates my pleasures into astronomical levels. New anime every season? 40+ shows? Endless enjoyment, probably until the day I die. I could not be happier.

So, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 11 most popular shows of the season, and will analyze them accordingly. Why top 11? Because I like to take one step beyond.

If there’s a particular show that I feel has something deeper to explore in it’s themes or technicalities, I will post about that show. Remember that I’m doing a daily 750+ word long blog breakdown about one of the most dense and complex series ever made.

Anyway, on to the shows (sorted from highest to lowest number of members in MyAnimeList):

  • Hajimete no Gal: A series which overtook the #1 popular spot for Owarimonogatari S2, which is honestly baffling. The sequel to an entry in one of anime’s most popular series? Defeated by a 10 episode long, high school ecchi show by a studio (NAZ) whose most popular show is Hamatora The Animation? By a director whose most prominent show is the rather infamous Masou Gakuen HxH, from the Summer 2016 season? One thing’s for sure, this guy can give you fanservice. That’s either a pleasant surprise or a dark omen about the future of the industry. I can understand the need for it though, as a seriously simple, sexy show about promiscuous high school girls with big breasts fiddling and fondling around with a self-insert main character. I get it, I’m a guy too. When the title of a show literally translates to “First Time with a Gal Girl”, it’s not difficult to surmise that this romp is probably not going to contain some deeply nuanced themes about the nature of humanity or some frilly stuff like that. Straightforward, raunchy, and easy on the digestive track. Sounds like Summer fare.

 

  • Fate/Apocrypha: Yet another addition to the exponentially longer and difficult to understand Fate series, which has bounced from studio to studio so much that it seems more like a genre instead of a series of interconnected stories. This one, though, focuses on… uh… let me take a look at the synopsis.

    The setting is a parallel world to Fate/stay night where the Greater Grail mysteriously disappeared from Fuyuki after the Third Holy Grail War. After many years of silence, around the same time as the Fifth Holy Grail War would have happened, the Yggdmillennia, a family of magi, openly declares their secession from the Mage’s Association, and that they are in possession of the Grail. The Association dispatches fifty magi to retrieve it, and all but one are instantly slaughtered by a mysterious Servant. The one remaining manages to activate the reserve system of the Greater Grail, allowing for the summoning of fourteen Servants in total. In the city of Trifas, two factions will fight for the control of the sacred relic, each of them possessing their own team of seven Servants : the Black Faction whose members are part of Yggdmillennia, protecting the Grail, and the Red Faction whose members were sent by the Mage’s Association, trying to take the Grail back. For an event of this scale, the Grail itself summons its own Servant, the holy Ruler, to oversee the conflict. This marks the start of the Great Holy Grail War.

  • So yeah, the fact that this synopsis, which I imagine most of you read a little of, then subsequently skipped completely, is attracting so many people, that it’s a little strange. People who are seriously hyped for a new entry in the Fate franchise. This “snippet” of background lore made me confused and will probably mean this show is going to be too distant from me to ever make a mark. Why am I watching it then, if I haven’t seen a single instance of Fate except for 6 episodes of Prisma Illiya and it’s second OVA? Because it’s being marketed as a fully standalone edition. It’s a parallel world to Fate/stay night, but one that, according to some people online, doesn’t affect the story of Apocrypha. Not to mention that it’s done by a completely different studio, A-1, which means that it’s probably involving enough different people that it’s probably going to be different conceptually. A-1, though, has had a pretty bad history with me personally, The Asterisk War and Eromanga-sensei both garnering a 1/10 score from me, and their titular show Sword Art Online being a laughable meme instead of a creditable anime series. All in all, I hope this is at least entertaining to watch.

 

  • Owarimonogatari 2nd Season: This one came out of left field and seems strangely genius for the alleged “final” installment of the Monogatari series. It’s a 2-day long special, starting on August 12th and ending the next day. The sheer discrepancies between the main Monogatary season’s lenghts are something to dig into though,  because the fact that they are so different fits perfectly into the subversive and unnatural aura that the show emanates. Bake was 15, Nise was 11, SS was 26, Tsuki was 4, Owari was 12, Owari S2 is probably between 2-6, and finally Hana was 5. Outside of this, expect the usual colorful and layered shot composition, the delicious dialogue, gorgeous characters and trippy story arcs. It’s Monogatari, what else are you anticipating?

 

  • Kakegurui: Studio MAPPA is one that has released some gems of animation in recent years (Hajime no Ippo: RisingTeekyuu, Yuri!!! on ICE, Sakamichi no Apollon), but also some confusing and poorly executed mediocrities (Zankyuo no Terror, Punch Line, the latter half of Shingeki no Bahamut). Kakegurui, though feels drenched in a jazzy, classy vibe, apparent from it’s key visuals and it’s PVs, the only colors that stand out being deep crimson, shiny black, weak yellow, or pure white. The music feels Vegas-y, the cast of characters a deeply wacked-out and insane bunch. The theme in this one is gambling, and as a hardcore fan of the excellent Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor, the idea of high school focused entirely on gambling makes my pants evaporate. Not to mention the more adult-looking character designs, fancy attire, and terrifying personalities, make this look like a contender for a massively exciting adventure. My expectations, though, remain at the appropriate level: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

 

  • New Game!!: This one needs no introduction. New Game! was one of 2016’s highlights of the Slice of Life genre, and it’s perfect combination of cute and sexy character designs alongside it’s dramatic workplace setting instantly separated it from the moe-blobey standards of the genre that it’s sadly garnered. Poppy, polished color composition, moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and a sense of nonchalant positivity are things that are guaranteed in the second coming of the show, even though personally I’m hoping for a new spin on the formula. Studio Doga Kobo is a master at this style of show, with such well-regarded examples such as Yuru Yuri, Engaged to the Unidentified, Gabriel Dropout, and the super-popular Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. This is the safe bet of the season, and if you enjoyed the original, the sequel will most likely be more of the girls you love.

 

  • Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu: Studio ufotable is famous for their highly regarded adaptations of Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, but this time, they’re taking a previously untouched card game instead. The story revolves around time travelers going to the Edo period, to the year 1863. Their goal is to rewrite history, but their quest is halted when 2 spirits brought to life as warriors are sent by a sage are sent to fight the incoming invaders. Honestly, this one looks and sounds pretty run-of-the-mill action fantasy, and if you enjoy the Edo period and the fight sequences in Fate, then this show might be more than just regular Seinen action for you. This is Toshiyuki Shirai’s first role as director, having previously worked as Key Animator, Animation Director and Episode Director on random sections of Code Geass R2, Fate/Zero (+S2), Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (+S2), Soul Eater, God Eater, and Tales of Zestiria the X. At least you can expect some intense violence.

 

  • Koi to Uso: Japanese for “Love and Lies”, this is this season’s first delve into the often insulted and berated, yet also deeply desired realm of netorare. Couples cheating on each other is a source of pleasure for many lovers of romance stories, it’s taboo-esque nature adding an extra layer of intensity and “wrongness”. Studio LIDENFILMS is returning once again, right after putting out the most popular non-sequel show of last season Akashic Records. This time, though, the relatively generic looking designs of Records is gone, in favor of a pastel, low-key and sleek style that screams modern Shoujo. In Winter we had Scum’s Wish, which looked very similar and explored parallel themes,  and whether you personally like it or now, it’s was one of that season’s top 5 most popular shows. There is an audience for these shows, and seeing as this is the same director of Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, some level of talent is definitely being poured into this show.

 

  • Gamers!: Underground studio Pine Jam was formed in late 2015 and has yet to released a project that has broken new grounds. I’ve met some hardcore fans of Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou li Desukara, and it’s most popular product, the ONA Getsuyoubi no Tawawa, has garnered some level of community acknowledgement. This season though, they’re seeking a simple concept in the way of a high school gaming club, with a strong sense of romance to break up the comedic consistency and provide, as the show’s description boldly states, “misunderstandings”. At face value, it seems like a run-of-the-mill high school romcom, and learning that this is Manabu Okamoto’s first directorial debut, the future is not looking too bright for this one.

 

  • Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: With this new harem show come the first of the droves of isekai series that are plaguing this season like maggots, and this one starts and proceeds in the same way that countless others of it’s ilk are doing. Just like last year’s Re:Zero, our titular hero Touya has died and reborn into a fantasy land with his smartphone, and, as the show’s description proclaims, “travels around nonchalantly”, which immediately tells me that this show is going to contain no sense of drama or story at all. That’s perfectly fine, though, there are plenty of excellent shows that utilize this plot-less formula, some of them being the peacefully pleasant Non Non Biyori and the always funny and memorable Lucky Star. Production Reed has been rather unapparent in it’s history, it’s most famous show being Winter 2016’s lowkey Shoujo romcom Nijiiro Days, and Smartphone‘s director’s past experiences being 2014’s adaptation of 4-koma manga Himegoto, aside from the odd hentai. The formula isn’t difficult to pull off, though, so this show is probably going to deliver the simple harem isekai adventure romp that it wants to portray.

 

  • Netsuzou TRap: After reading the manga, I can say that I am slightly more excited for this show than previously perceived. The manga itself is nothing special, just your typical secret yuri story between childhood friends, but one thing that it does do rather differently is the sheer amount of hot-n-steamy scenes between our two main girls. It seems that every chapter there is a groping, or a passionate kiss, or a lust-filled moment. This is why I believe that this show is as short as it is, with episodes only lasting 10 minutes. This will probably be so these frequent scenes in the manga can be spaced out accordingly along the duration of the show, and I believe that that’s a smart decision in order to tighten the pacing and evade the often misused concept of anime original scenes or episodes. The studio behind the show, Creators in Pack, is another unknown studio whose largest show has been the panned Bloodivores, while it’s director has worked on the studio’s second largest hit, the slice of life Danchigai, but little else.

 

  • Ballroom e Youkoso: Industry legend Production I.G came out with a surprise, after adapting this sports manga about ballroom dancing. From the PVs, the show looks to have a choreographically astounding quality, with detailed and realistic designs and a wonderfully layered and complex attention to detail in the clothing. It’s characters looks like a hyper-stylized melting pot of Kuroko no Basket‘s tall, slender and mature anatomy, Haikyuu!‘s cartoonish and outlandish roundness and flow, and a bad case of giraffe neck. It’s director, Yoshimi Itazu, has only been director in the Fall 2015 movie Mitsuami no Kamisama, but he’s worked as key animator for Eyeshield 21, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), The Wind Rises, Paranoia Agent, Paprika, Usagi Drop, and Wolf’s Rain, many of these which are deemed classics of modern animation. The guy has his animation chops, at least, so we can expect some Yuri!!! On Ice level of dancing.

 

So, those are the Top 11 most popular coming shows of the Summer 2017 season. Hopefully we get something truly meaty and awesome. I’m betting on Classroom of the Elite.

See ya around.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 34

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This episode was, above all else, a display of the sheer size of the battles in this story. The supremely thought-out battle tactics, the usage of the nature of space and it’s capabilities and limitations, and more than anything the sheer brutality of those final moments, when you know you’re doomed to fail, to die in a flash of blazing hot fire, before freezing and cracking in the void of space. And it’s all beautiful to witness.

Yang and Rein’s idea of colliding both fortresses is a perfect one, since it takes the concept of mutually assured destruction, but under an optimistic and hopeful light. Iserlohn and Geiesburg are both the pinnacle of weapons development and defensive power that each faction contains. They are the index finger and thumb of God, able to literally erase people from existence. Do you remember that first demonstration of Iserlohn during the first couple of episodes? Those ships caught in the Thor Hammer’s beam don’t exist anymore. Having both fortresses he destroyed will regress the damage of the war, and will limit the severity of the coming battles.

I say this, but Iserlohn being the only one left, and under Yang’s control might be the break we need. Perhaps peaceful coexistence is slightly more possible now, since he’s got the upper rank in the weaponry department.

I kid, of course, that would never happen in this show.

Finally, I want to talk about something Reinhard says, that gives me a slight bit of hope as to what he will become in the future.

  • Do not misunderstand me, Oberstein. I do not want to steal the universe. I want to seize it.

This tells me that Rein still holds his morals in high regard, as he grasps the locket with Kircheis’ picture and hair strip, clutching it to his chest. He will hold his friend’s death literally and figuratively close to his heart, and will (at least for now) keep fighting with honor and righteousness.

Will this change in the future? I’ve been wondering this, an it seems as though, from a narrative sense, having Reinhard fall to the proverbial “Dark Side” is the direction that would make the most sense, but at this point, what else can happen to him to push him further down the rabbit hole? He has lost everything, and yet he still seems solidly in touch with reality. In fact, it’ safe to say that Kircheis’ death improved the situation, seeing as the Empire has now become a much more secure and complete society. So, what will cause Reinhard to eventually break and go full insane? It’s something that still exceeds my reach.

One thing to say, though, Rein’s hair is turning into one freaking legendary looking golden mane. Perhaps he’s slowly turning into a full-grown lion…

This episode was rather action-based, so there isn’t much to talk about in a symbolic and subtextual way. Regardless, as is the nature of this show, there’s always something interesting to talk about.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 33

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I’ll slightly touch on this episode’s quotes, since otherwise, it’s a massive, fortress vs. fortress battle that delivers on the grandiose and god-like scale that this series is known for.

  • And when I received news of his death, I felt as if an old friend had died. It might be called the hypocrisy of fighting opponents, but if he was here he might have become a bridge for the sake of coexistence between the Alliance and the Empire.

Yang barely knew Kircheis, but in that short time that they met, they must have had a conversation worthy of worldwide coverage. Kircheis really did have an air of trustworthiness, of mutual benefit and of camaraderie. If even Yang is talking about the possibility of Kircheis being the necessary figure to stop the war, then something about that person must have spoken to him on a deeper psychological battle. Also, it’s further proof to the audience that the situation could not possibly be on a more vertical path downward into annihilation, and now that Kircheis is dead, there may never be a chance to redirect humanity’s path and fix the state of the conflict.

  • Dictatorship itself is not absolutely evil. It is just another form of government. The point is how you run it for the benefit of society.

This is one point that I believe in wholeheartedly. A type of government isn’t inherently “good” or “bad”, and governments are controlled by human beings, obviously, so it means that different people running it will impose a different set of tenants and rules that the population below it has to follow. Reinhard is proof of this, as the show portrays, since he is technically a single autonomous ruler, but one that has propelled the Empire’s social political, and economic state into upwards improvement, it’s safe to sat his dictatorship is an objectively positive one. It’s just that we in the real world have only experienced deeply negative examples of dictatorships, those that use fear instead of love for their control of the masses. The idea of having different forms of government is because in different places, under different societal pretenses, and dealing with different groups of people, different types of government need to be employed. I’m a firm believer that there is a perfect government for every person, and that it’s a matter of finding it. Countries aren’t inherently a negative thing either, but make sure that they are run properly and that greedy people don’t run them. It’s as simple as that.

  • – “In reality, it is dictatorship rather than democracy that drastically advances government reforms.
    – “That is true….
    – “But I think humanity ought to avoid being united by a dictatorship.
    – “And that is because…?
    – “For example, while it is true that Duke Lohengramm might have that talent, what about his descendants? His successor? Rulers are not necessarily wise through generations. He is like a miracle which could happen only once every few centuries. I do not think that the entire human race should be ruled by a system where everything depends on one person’s character.

This conversation is more specific to the nature of LoGH, but is also one that affects the world just as much. In the context of the show, Reinhard is the perfect leader. He’s strict but open-minded, smart but compassionate, and has a rock solid perception on the nature of real life and how the world works. He knows how to speak, manipulate, coerce, persuade, and everything in between, but has used it to improve the lives of his country’s citizens. Just as Yang explains, though, all of those things are unique to Reinhard, which make him a shining light that lasts only a lifetime. Not to mention the fact that Reinhard is currently going through a state of emotional distress due to Kircheis’ death, and his currently sound being may hit rock bottom due to another deeply striking moment. What if this gold nugget amidst stone and dirt is just fool’s gold?

This is also applicable to the real world, where leaders have gone through every conceivable judgment and are all completely separate. When saying something like “Trump” bring forth certain images, phrases, events and quotes, those things encompass more than a person, they’re an ideal. Leaders have, in some way, become something more than human, their name means something more. A period of time, an ideology, an insult, their name is now timeless due to their actions and reactions as leaders. This propensity to elevate leaders to a state above humans is something that we as a species is detrimental. These are all humans just as confused, lonely, greedy, hungry, and desperate as any of us, and we’ve all seen that if pushed to their limits, the animal within you ultimately takes control.

And on that same note, Reinhard is also human. So watch out for him.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 32

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Beginning today, Yang keeps progressing forward with his inquiry. We get some gold-laden dialogue and quotes, which are all supremely expository and blunt about their purpose, sprinkled with passive-aggressive and witty remarks that mock those listening.

Yang has reached a breaking point, a level of disconnect with his country that has erased any sense of tension in his body, as he ponders to himself wether or not he just wants to entertain himself with his own boastful resignation. As discussed before, Yang lives repetitiously, with a monotonous and looping sensation that drains him of energy. This inquiry has pushed him further down this hole of nothingness, to the point of wishing for something, anything to get him out of the jarring schedules and cold demeanors he’s received for days on end.

He looks happy when he’s told about the Empire invading, making mention about his friends in the front line, wanting to return to the people he’s gotten so close to in this war. His different goals are conflicting.  He desires peace, for those in power to learn from their egotistical mistakes, for the war to end, for his friends to be happy, but also for this broken system of society to finally crack completely. It’s all clashing in his mind violently. He doesn’t want power, yet he needs it to do what he desires. He doesn’t want to fight the war but he needs to in order to keep himself and his closest companions alive.

Today was a real dissection of Yang, one that displays his fully exposed psyche to us all, and personally, it made me relate to him at a much deeper level than before.

Outside of this, the politicians conducting the inquiry get some of the much needed negative karma that they rightfully deserve, as not only they are forced to listen to Yang’s remarks about their hypocrisy, but also the realization that indeed, he is the most necessary and useful of all of those present in that room. Negroponty specifically, cannot rebuke any of the points expressed by the sharp-tongued Yang, as he devolves into a blabbering mess of weak insults and a scratched ego.

Enrique Oliveira tells Yang about a certain aspect that I discussed either yesterday or the day before, and it’s that humanity, to some degree, needs the war in order to evolve. Humans need conflict in order to better themselves and overcome that conflict, and a state of perpetual peace would stagnate the evolutionary process because nothing would need fixing.

Yang though, counters this very correct point by introducing ethics, something which is off the table for many debates tackling these topics. The idea of societal morality has always been very distant from anything revolving around evolution, because evolution is always thought of as a thing of the past. When thinking about the future of mankind, one has to think about it’s repercussions to today’s and future generations. How are mistakes that we are doing now going to affect the outcome of those growing up 50 years from now? Should we just focus on our immediate wellbeing and let them fend off for themselves? This what a lot of people are saying happened to the Millennials, and how socially twisted and warped this planet is due to the mistakes of the people now in their 40s and 50s. It’s something Yang is worried about.

And he rightly should be, because another 50 years of this war might spell doom for mankind.

Short Review of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s new album “Murder of the Universe”

The album is divided into 3 parts, the first one being a continuous, constantly progressing and regressing track that switches themes back and forth. “Altered Beast” and “Alter Me” flow into each other swiftly, it’s stakes and action being risen by a mysterious, ominous narration about cannibalism, death, and darkness. The percussion feels punchy, frenetic and anti-catchy. The guitars squeal in parallel with the vocals, as they warp and change speed, with lyrics of emotionless nihilism. Repetition plays a big part, as the cuts between bridges, choruses and solos smash against each other with no hesitation. The final song of the first third ups the whimsy in a spirit of optimistic desolation, before falling into a wicked and high-pitched descent into silence.

As the second section begins, a short buildup arrives at a droning warble of technological voices and synthesized instrumentation in “The Reticent Raconteur”. As the percussion kicks in in the song “The Lord of Lightning”, the power of the chords mixes with the incoming explosion of fast-paced and aggressive garage rock. Once again, the noises blend with the voices to create a parallax of sound. The epic nature of the riffs is consistent and always increasing, devolving into a frenzy of auditory input. “The Balrog” begins immediately and sticks to the pre-established quickness and quirkiness of it’s composition and lyricism. After reaching a massively intense state, it drops as the narration kicks in once again. “The Floating Fire” begins like a cultish ritual, murmurs and deep drums clouding the weak guitar. Oppressive and assertive vocals establish the mood of sheer power as the beat builds up in unison, persisting until it unleashes a stream of twisting and kinetic action. Finally, “The Acrid Corpse” drowns the scene in smooth and base-y tones, with a jazzy, R&B vibe that carries it and it’s female narrator into the end of the second section.

A apocalyptic scenario appears into “Welcome to an Altered Future”, as a digital voice welcomes us into the crazy nature and the hardcore metal feel of “Digital Black”. At the end of the song, the technological garble meshes into the metal’s solo parts, creating a distorted, alien sensation. “Han-Tyumi, the Confused Cyborg” changes the tone entirely, becoming a silly, sad story about a cyborg’s desire for humanity. It bounces and skates through it’s percussion without resistance, yet never feels out of place and the vocals merge with the background drums and occasional beeps perfectly. The cyborg continues into “Soy-Protein Munt Machine”, as a large screech is heard to break up the scene and return to the hard rock style of “Vomit Coffin”. As it screams again, the cyborg returns to telling his story of depression and nihilism, as it switches once more into a riff-layered chorus after it’s done. In “Murder of the Universe”, the lyrics melt into a pot of insanity and disgusting concepts of pointlessness as the background music slowly takes over the scene and reduces the speed for a striking, wobbly base as it’s absolute end.

Cardcaptor Sakura, and Exemplary Episodic Narrative

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Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the undoubted classics of late 90s to early 2000s anime, and one of, if not the most recognizable property in the widely loved subgenre of “Mahou Shoujo”, or Magical Girl. The poppy, colorful, and very pleasant aesthetic, the supremely adorable character designs and costumes, the level of detail on the backgrounds and settings, and it’s consistently solid and whimsical animation quality is to be expected of legends of the industry Studio Madhouse and female mangaka quartet CLAMP.

For those unfamiliar to the show’s plot, it stars the titular Sakura Kinomoto and her group of friends Tomoyo, Shaoran Li, Mei Ling, and Sakura’s own magical critter, Kero-chan. She’s exceptionally energetic, bad at math and a stunning athlete, who one day uncovers a mysterious book in her house’s basement. This book, upon being opened, releases dozens and dozens of magical cards (called Clow Cards) into the surrounding areas, turning them into monsters and apparitions. By doing this, the guardian of the cards, Kerberos (now the adorable Kero-chan) vows to help Sakura in retrieving the lost cards, and grants her magical powers in order to turn the beasts back into cards. It’s a pretty straightforward beginning, and it serves to establish the simple goals of the characters and the challenges that they will have to face in the course of the show.

What I want to focus on, though, is how the show manages to deliver on the “Monster of the Week” formula with such expertise, that it blows most other shows of it’s ilk out of the water.

In episode 6, titled “Sakura and Memories of her Mother”, Sakura hears rumors from her friends and classmates about sightings of mysterious apparitions in the nearby forest. She decides to investigate, seeing as this “ghost” that so many of her classmates are speaking about may be in fact a Clow Card causing havoc (as they tend to do a lot in this show).

Two things to note about Sakura’s character and the nature of the cards in this particular episode before we continue.

  • These cards take the form of the action, object, or concept by which they are called by. These can be solid things like “The Fire” or “The Water”, but can also be actions like “The Jump” and concepts like “The Dark” or “The Glow”. These then take the form of nymph-like creatures with the attributes appropriate for it’s name.
  • Sakura’s mother, Nadeshiko, passed away when she was very young, and while she’s never really been stricken with this fact, Sakura has always wished to be able to meet her. For the first 5 episodes, constant attention is given to Nadeshiko’s photographs and history, and she is always being mentioned.

When Sakura arrives at the forest, chills running up her spine (as she is terrified of ghosts), she encounters none other than her mother, a floating spectre, holding out a hand and inviting her into her embrace. Awestricken, Sakura follows through, walking blindly towards this etherial and beautiful vision of her lost mother. Sadly, though, as many of these Clow Cards tend to do, they can deceive and trick people, and Sakura is led off a cliff, her fatal fall stopped by Yukino, her crush and brother’s friend. Realizing that her mother would never bring her harm, she realizes that what she fell for was actually a Clow Card called “The Illusion” (which takes the form of what the beholder wants to see the most). Sakura then confronts her subconscious desire to see her mother, returns to the forest once more, and manages to capture the card.

What this little story arc does, in one episode, is establish a section of Sakura’s past that has been lightly touched upon in the past, use an in-world, relevant-to-the-plot way of weaving it into the Monster of the Week formula, and finally culminating with the capture of the monster, as well as the development for the character of Sakura. After this point, her reminiscence and longing for her mother will be much different, as she has accepted her mother’s death completely. She has finally moved on, her hidden wishes and emptiness now exposed and effectively gotten over. She’s a stronger person because of it.

While a lot of these special moments occur often within the show, it’s not only restricted to Sakura herself. Some of these are tied to many of the side characters and one-off encounters, painting a picture of the world around Sakura as a vivid one, constantly brimming with friendly faces and fully-realized people, with goals, regrets, and hangups. Almost every episode does this in some form or another.

What really sets Sakura apart is the ability to seamlessly congregate a simple card collection premise into a series of progressive character arcs that all function to set up the beginning of it’s second half, where all of the previous experiences, lessons, and emotions that have been building up all congregate into a greater dramatic storyline.

Most other “Monster of the Week” shows fall into the trappings of simplistic and non-creative storytelling, downgrading themselves by lowering the standards of the capability of episodic narrative. They thing that because they’re a “MotW” show that they don’t have to try as hard, because it’s mostly utilized as a formula for children’s television, almost underestimating the ability of kids to engage with a story for more than 24 minutes apiece.

Sakura knows that children are clever, capable people, in their own right. That they need to be fed solid, challenging lessons that make them think from a young age. Many children’s shows resort to the easy but detrimental mindless entertainment, something to pump out quickly to make some cash and leave it at that. This show respects it’s viewers, and hell, it surprised me more often than not with it’s solutions to it’s episodic problems. Want to take a load off and watch some kids solve some magical problems? Want to show your kids a show that might teach them something about themselves and the world around them?

Show them Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s a classic for a reason.

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Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 31

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One month of daily breakdowns… I swear it’s felt like three months instead.

This episode focuses on two parallel scenes, one on Yang’s hardcore secret questioning, and the other on Federica’s exponentially rushing search for Yang and his whereabouts.

Yang engages in some of the most intense verbal sparring I’ve ever seen, with some fantastic character placement and room design. The aptly named Negroponty, his strange demeanor, frilly mustache and overly fancy black suit provides enough bizarre uncomfortableness that the anxiety permeates the scene and sticks to the walls of the room like crazy. All of the men conducting the inquiry are physically above and around Yang, literally surrounding him and holding him in a human cage. The room is dark and ominously bluish-purple, without windows, and very personal. Something opposite from something like Jin-Roh’s questioning scene in the first half of the movie. That scene is as impersonal as possible, with the blinding white light of the outside, and the distant, silhouetted men asking questions from dozens of feet away. This scene, on the other hand is claustrophobic and overbearing, and it’s supremely effective because of it.

Despite this imposing and imprisoning sensation, Yang fights with grace, excellent word choices and rock solid stoicism. He progressively impresses and dissects those questioning him, mocking them and making rambling fools out of them. Yes, they still put up certain layered and difficult to crack inquiries, but he effectively deconstructs and redirects them at those above. In this scene, Yang proves his verbal prowess once more, but this time, instead of calmly analyzing the meaning of life to his confused subordinates, he takes that loosely objective approach and uses it to disarm the condescending words of his attackers. This scene was pure verbal sex.

The secondary scene in this episode is Federica Greenhill and Machungo’s quest for Yang.

After much frivolous running around and looking for permissions and information, Federica’s frenetic search for Yang reaches a daunting end as they fall into a trap, set up by the PKC and ready to kill our two heroes. This might be by far the most outright scared I was in the entire show. The scenes went by so quickly that I only realized that they were going into a trap mere moments before the man on the phone revealed it to us. As they stepped into the parking lot, my mind raced to try to predict what crazy situation they just fell into, increasing the sense of stress within me. The reveal of the PKC only brought back forgotten memories and a brutal sense of violence, and at this point I was readying myself for some blood to coat the dirty gray walls of the underground lot. Watching Machungo pummel and take on multiple masked men was a genuine hot-blooded moment of action, and Federica moments away from death has been some of the most intense couple of seconds in the whole show. The “about to die but killer gets interrupted at the last second” trope is still annoying and baitey, but it works regardless, and seeing this type of fast-paced action in a show like this is surprising and hits you like a truck to the face.

I’ve come to realize that while Yang and Rein might not get the axe until the end of the show (my prediction is that Yang will be the one to die in the end, placing him as a veritable tragic hero), who I really need to worry about are the side characters, since they don’t have nearly the same amount of narrative armor as our two main boys have.

This constant bounce between these two progressing scenes is nerve wracking, as one reaches a mini-climax, the other one builds up to theirs. The editing is tightly paced and always takes you out of a scene when you’re the most on edge.

Finally, I want to touch on Yang’s first and final scenes.

His first scene revolves around the writing of a plan to reach peaceful coexistence with the Empire, a plan which, not only I, but Yang has also thought about before. It’s the literal best course of action, and one that has been on the minds of anti-war advocates since the start of the series. The only thing that’s keeping this war in an endless stalemate (as I predicted like 25 episodes ago) is Phezzan, as they benefit from the war and have their agents deeply involved with both powers. We even saw today that the PKC had Terraist quotes on their masks, further proving that Truniht has been tampered with in some degree and is now working with the Earth Cult in some way. Again, these things are being hidden from us, but slowly revealed to provide a picture of the exponential control that this cult is gaining over the entire landscape of the war.

After this episode’s mess, Yang feels rightly frustrated, finally exploding in anger and beginning to write his letter of resignation. When the government you’re trying to protect is deliberately countering those efforts and reaching for reasons to oppose you, of course you’d be livid and seething with white rage. At this point, it switches from being a lack of understanding into the realm of complete evil. Yang knows that these people value human lives less than their own bodily waste, and try as he might to dissuade them, there really is nothing he can say that won’t either be convincing enough, or will lead him straight to prison for some reason or other. His only feasible choice? Resignation. Perfectly understandable.

Sadly, though, this probably won’t be the case, and just like Michael Corleone (and in turn, Al Pacino) in Godfather III, he’s going to be “pulled right back in”.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 30

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Today, sadly, I didn’t have much time to myself and will only be exploring one aspect of the episode. I apologize, and will try to adjust my schedule to better fit everything together. Not to mention that this episode is also pretty much nothing but plans either about to come to fruition or being conceived. It was rather slow.

Anyway, the part that I want to talk about is this little snippet of the conversation between Reinhard and Hildegard in the second half of the episode:

  • “Your Excellency, whether it is nations or organizations, in order for groups of people to form, there is one thing that is absolutely necessary.”
    “And that is?”
    “An opponent.”

This one caught my eye specifically because it’s something that superhero movies and comics (of all things) have started doing in regard to certain hero-villain relations. We saw it in The Dark Knight, and with Batman and the Joker’s relationship. We’re also seeing it here between Yang and Rein, and even though there are no such thing as total heroes and total villains in real life, Yang and Rein do fall in certain proximity with one of those specific labels. The kind, compassionate, and peace-seeking Yang falls more heavily under the hero role, while the imposing, aggressive, and emotionally maimed Reinhard under the villain role. The important thing to reflect on here is the sheer necessity of this rivalry.

It’s safe to say that people will only come together and work when there is something to work towards. It’s motivation that pushes people in order to spark the fires of change regarding anything they’re doing. In the case of political or military situations, this has to do with defeating an enemy that puts your and the people around you’s safety in question. This motivation to protect your ideals, your wellbeing, or what you believe in has been the source of the conflict for the past 150 years.

Opposition is the root of change, and especially when that opposition might take your life away from your hands. As discussed before, people seek freedom over most things in this individualistic society, so a threat to that freedom is something concerning to many, but terrifying to some.

This freedom doesn’t necessarily mean political freedom, though. The opposition could the lack of a roof over one’s head, or the lack of fire to cook the meal I just hunted. It could be the lack of proper currency, of protection of my skin against the elements. It could be a broken society formed out of destruction, or a system of government that punishes the poor while the rich frolic in their wealth.

All throughout human history, the one thing that unites us all is war. Without war, there would be no evolution, because without it, there would be no reason to evolve. Why change when everything is already perfect?

Conflict and rivalry is something that we instinctively don’t desire as individuals. But as a species, it is the most necessary thing.

This is the reason why true peace can never be achieved, why we’re always going to have a global enemy, a reason to keep fighting and changing. This can be from a friendly feud in the office to a years long ideological war in the Middle East. Conflict brings likeminded people together to invent better and better things.

And regardless of this, war is seen as a negative thing. Isn’t that crazy?

Anyway guys, this week college is picking up for me, so my posts might be rather inconsistent in their timing. I’ll try to do what I can to overcome this obstacle.

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 29

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We begin today with a rather hilarious scene, as an Earth Cultist draped in a blatantly evil-looking cloak calmly walks into a room full of serious politicians. Those folks really do have fun, don’t they.

This episode dives head first into hardcore political banter, and for the first time it seems as though the dialogue was whizzing through the screen at breakneck speeds, myself barely able to keep up with all the jargon.

The Phezzan plan of internal corruption has begun, as they will attempt to crush the Alliance from within, paving the way for a total Empire overtaking. This involves removing Yang by force (be it by simple assassination or political murder), leading the way for Reinhard to become ruler of the entire universe, and then subsequently killing him. This will result in Phezzan taking control of everything. It’s a clever plan, honestly, but as with every plan told in fiction, it will break apart in it’s most critical state. Because of the nature of storytelling, it’s easy to predict that this massive plan will fail. Not only does it require the killing of the show’s protagonists, but also the plan has been told through exposition to us in the audience, and in almost any condition, a plan explained will fail, because if it doesn’t, there is no surprise or twist in the narrative, resulting in a boring, unchanging plot. It’s not easy to explain, but it’s a common rule of written storytelling to have plans be ruined for the sake of a more interesting storyline. In this case, the appeal for me personally is seeing how this massive plan will fall apart, and under whose actions it will be from. Yang? Rein? We’ll have to wait and see.

All throughout this episode, Yang is getting constantly pummeled from all sides. Phezzan wants him dead, Truniht begins to suspect him, new rumors are being passed from mouth to mouth about his potential throne usurping, and questions are being asked about his actions during the Alliance civil war. Yang will be receiving the brunt of the universe’s attacks, as the Alliance is backed into a corner and might resort to anything in order to maintain it’s existence, since they are in the crosshairs of the now much more powerful Empire.

It’s rather fascinating that Reinhard is the only reason for Yang being alive, and serves to prove even more of a symbolic link between the two. It’s as if fate itself is making sure to pair these two up in some sort of conflict, eager to watch two great minds battle to the death.

Both of these gentlemen seem to be simultaneously their government’s most important and effective tool, but also their most difficult obstacle, as most of the plans of those itching for power has to do with removing both Yang and Rein from power in order to proceed with their plans towards total universal domination. Yang especially is, as they said, standing on a very thin tightrope, barely keeping balance due to his prowess in battle, and that’s truly interesting about the state of his being and of the way the government sees him.

Yang is one of the most politically prolific and intelligent people there are. He could easily change the course of the economic and legislative course of the Alliance, and turn it into a massively effective superpower. He’s proven that he’s positively democratic, hard to anger, lacks greed, and simply wants a degree of mutual peace with the Alliance, wanting an end to this pointless war. This is also what a big majority of the population wants, since the war does nothing but bring back bad news about millions being slaughtered, or allow for rebellious groups ready to murder thousand of civilians for even the slight possibility to get rid of political corruption. Phezzan and Truniht fail to see Yang as an effective tool of politics, as they are blind-sighted into his battle prowess. They only desire him as a tool for destruction. When that tool shows a very real possibility of actually caring about the country’s citizens, and of gaining enough power to topple their leeching and bloodthirsty regime, they want to dispose of him, instead of using him to better the Alliance’s situation. At this point, it isn’t just a lust for power, but an inability to understand basic improvement.

Finally, Cazellnu’s quote about Yang is also a deeply important one:

  • “Yang knows all about ‘yesterday’. He can also see ‘tomorrow’ very well. Nevertheless, such a person is apt not to know about ‘today’.”

Yang is a machine, one who focuses on work almost most of the time, the rest being devoted to endless mental spiraling into the war’s purpose. He’s an unaware man, not easily surprised and failing to see what’s right in front of him sometimes in favor of the most beneficial course of action to take in the future. He also seems to look often into the past with melancholy, remembering a more peaceful and simple time. This propensity to avoid the “here and now” is his biggest flaw, and an incredibly detrimental one when dealing with ruthless men who want him dead. Yang lacks suspicion, he falls clumsily into acts of kindness, and fails to understand the snake-like minds of his political enemies. He’s too pure for that, and that’s his most destructive tendency. Let’s hope he can learn to focus and doubt those around him. It’s an important tool to have.

I cannot wait to see how shit hits the fan in regards to this plan. Looks to be a very fascinating endeavor.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 28

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Right from the very start of this episode, we see the level of aggressive tendencies that the new and improved Reinhard is displaying.

His patience has decreased, he’s fidgety, anxious and raises his voice when he’s annoyed. He demands proper honorifics and probably sees these people around him as leeches trying to purely save themselves. It’s fascinating seeing how quick the transition has been, and it really shows how much Kircheis’ death has affected not only his emotions, but his judgement, compassion, and overall state of mind. As I said yesterday, it seems as though the only man Reinhard thought was legitimately a good person has been killed, so everyone else must be a sniveling snake. He speaks with the Kircheis in his mind, not knowing that he would’ve hated seeing his friend act this was towards everything, and would’ve probably pulled him away, told him some real shit, and patted him on the back, urging that he tried harder. But, alas, the safety to this gun was broken, so fire away. He complains that no one understands him, but he’s closed himself off to anybody else, deliberately isolating himself from the emotions of others, acting brashly yet strangely calculating. He’s evolved as a soldier but devolved as a man.

The we jump into a scene that is probably one of the best in the entire show: Mittermeyer and Reuenthal’s backstories and their history with women.

Let’s start with Mittermeyer. It tells the story of how he met his wife, and it’s told without words (for the most part), an etherial filter over the whole scene, and a very powerful Shoujo feel to it. It’s melodramatic, inspirational, and very romantic. It makes Mittermeyer incredibly relatable and turns him into the ideal man, infinitely respectful and kindhearted. Not to mention that his wife is a total cutie.

This method of conveying his past is absolutely perfect for our vision of Mittermeyer, as his visual aesthetic, mannerisms, and tone of voice all carry a very down-to-earth feel to them in the first place, so showing his backstory in this way does nothing but solidify his personality. He’s a country boy, simple yet passionate, loving yet levelheaded. This whole scene reeks with character depth, and connects with Mittermeyer completely.

This, though, makes it ever more obvious that Mittermeyer probably has a dark and deeply disturbing secret, covered by his pretty face and his pretty wife. Somebody this blatantly perfect doesn’t exist (other than our lord and savior Kircheis-sama), and this show has proven time and time again that people are not what they seem on the surface. Mittermeyer has something hidden, something truly evil that will come out of nowhere and punch us in the gut. I’m calling it now.

Reuenthal’s story, on the other hand, is told sadly, through drunken frustrations, and a weighty burden inside his mind. His past is told through his analytical prowess, as he verbally explains to Mittermeyer about his relationship with women, a very tight and unmoving nature to the visual imagery, showing evil looking, dark-haired and mature women, as opposed to Mittermeyer’s wife’s blonde and adorable aesthetic.

This is Reuenthal dissected, his entire being is displayed in front of us, showing his disconnect from people’s emotions, his slightly nihilistic outlook, and his overall dreary and lowkey attitude. A great dichotomy to Mittermeyer’s persona and experiences. A wonderfully packed couple of scenes, filled to the brim with meaning and depth.

So this leads me to believe that Reuenthal might have a saving grace, an aspect to his being previously unseen, but a side that will be beneficial to himself and to those around him. He can’t stay a monotone and sluggish man forever.

Finally, since today I really wanted to focus on this scene in particular, we get to touch upon the plan that the Empire will attempt in order to fight back against the Alliance-controlled Iserlohn. This plan revolves around increasing the energy in Geiesburg’s own cannon in order to match that in Iserlohn’s. Phezzan’s goal is on par with this, and seeks for a way to drive Yang out of Iserlohn so that the Empire can attack. I have a feeling that childhood friend of Yang’s will play a large part in this plan. Nothing much to dissect other than that.

I want to let you know that the approach to these essays that I’m doing isn’t to point out military plans and other political advances unless they have some deeper, symbolic or character focused subtext, since I often see those aspects of stories overlooked and feel as though this series in particular is perfect for this kind of analysis.