Summer 2017 Surprise #1 – Princess Principal

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“Sometimes, a lie will become a truth in the telling.”

Studio 3Hz gained quite a name for itself as well as a loyal following after last years arthouse adventure Flip Flappers, and this year, it’s returning with a show that masters the style and smooth classiness of old-school steampunk and mixes it with an episodic spy-centric storyline. Welcome to Princess Principal.

The show centers around it’s titular spies, the stoic and compulsive liar Ange, the smug and rather gothic Chise, the always energetic yet inconspicuous Beatrice, the charismatic and verbally assertive Dorothy, and finally the enigmatic yet strangely mysterious Princess.

The characters all have distinct and fascinating personalities, especially Ange, who is cold, calculating yet never predictable and always surprising. Her stigma about lies and deceit lends well to the show’s narrative, as it plays with the audience’s expectations and always results in things never being as they seem. This makes for constantly twisting episodic narratives that feel complete and concrete.

The setting of the show is a strikingly detailed steampunk-ed London, which has all the workings of a functioning and believable world. It pulls no punches about it’s dirty and dusty rawness, from the actions performed by the main and supporting cast, as well as by the moving parts of the story itself, which all weave together solidly and have no moments of either narrative downtime or of inconsequential scenes.

The fact that it’s original also lends itself to the medium of animation rather well. Adaptations from manga or light novels have vastly different pacing, mostly revolving around the reader’s own speed while reading, but here, the story it feels properly condensed into the entire episode.

The fight sequences (aside from feeling frenetic yet always lighthearted, sort of like Lupin III) have interesting connotations to them, from regular gunfights in corridors, to car chases with gravitational components to them, to many more. They’re always different, always fun, and never feel interrupted by it’s dialogue and witty banter.

Another aspect that I’ve come across is the vast amount of fan theorizing that’s been going on even after just the first episode. The 1st episode’s story (while being rather uncomplicated in the grand scheme of things) is packed with little tidbits of potential secrets for the future, and knowing that the show is heavily steeped in lies, it’s not difficult to get carried away with predictions, and that also makes for fascinating conversation, especially in 4chan’s /a/ board, where watchers have already made character evolutions, revelations and more that all have solid backing and just increase the interest in the show ten-fold.

Researching the show’s staff, we get some very concrete ideas as to what this show might be about. Let’s take a look:

  • Director: Masaki Tachibana, most known as director of .hack//Quantom, Barakamon, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, as well as storyboard for Evangelion 2.0, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (and 2nd GIG), and Noir.
  • Script and Series Composition: Ichiro Okouchi, known as as scriptwriter and series composer for Azumanga Daioh, Code Geass (and R2), Kakumeiki Valvrave (and Season 2), Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Planetes, and Turn A Gundam.
  • Art Director: Nobutaka Ike, most famous as art director for Paprika and Perfect Blue.
  • Music: Yuki Kajiura, who’s a legend in the medium and famous for the soundtracks and/or theme songs of the .hack franchise, Aldnoah.Zero, Arslan Senki, Baccano!, Boku dake ga Inai Machi, Chrno Crusade, Portrait le Petit Cossette, Fate/Zero (and 2nd Season), Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (and 2nd Season), the Kara no Kyoukai films, Kuroshitsuji (and II), Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Mai-HiME, So Ra No Wo To, and Sword Art Online (and II).

From these staff members (except perhaps Yuki Kajiura, seeing as her music, while excellent, doesn’t affect the story at all), it’s easy to determine the nature of this show and what it will try to be, and from the first episode, the signs are all there.

It’s a half action, half spy story, with moments of violence being preceded with secret plans and political manipulation, with massive twists coming in at the show’s climax upending everything we know about the show. These are all traits found in shows like the extremely frenetic and insane Code Geass, as well as the complexity and nuanced narrative of GITS, mixed with the excellent action choreography and visual style and flair that Kabaneri has. The art direction and backgrounds are all impressively realistic and detailed, and the design of the steampunk world itself is very concrete, but the show still lends itself to moments of interspersed warping and vastly “out-there” scenes, like the opening of PriPri as well as in certain scenes in Paprika. The show might be told in a non-linear way, seeing as episode one was labeled “Case #13”, and might either skip cases entirely or regress back in time to the forming of the team of spies.

It’s all very viable as of right now and up for debate, but this show is definitely one to check out. It’s not difficult to understand if you’re paying attention, but it does require some more inquiry and attentiveness from the viewers in order to be fully grasped.

P.S.: Don’t believe her lies.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episodes 42-46 (The Ragnarok Arc PART 1)

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So, for this, since I’m slowly losing material on which to write about, I’m going to simply binge this entire arc and post a full, absolute analysis of everything I can find interesting to talk about. The individual episode posts have become either completely reaching, factually wrong, or plain uninspired, and seeing as this is quite possibly the biggest and most bombastic arc of the show thus far, there will definitely be plenty to talk about for the next 13 episodes. Take note that I’ll be typing many of the paragraphs as I’m watching, so many answers that I’m asking might be answered in later sections of the post.

The Gjallarhorn blows, and Ragnarok begins.

Firstly, since Julian mentioned this in the beginning of the episode, Federica Greenhill might be fully head-over-heels in love with Yang, and if this is the case, it adds further fear into my heart about her wellbeing. Federica has been a figure of comfort and peace for Yang and myself, as a beautiful, pleasant woman who packs a punch of smarts and charisma. While love does bloom on the battlefield, in this one specifically, love tends to be obliterated by lasers, and that’s the main concern that I have. Kircheis seemed unstoppable, yet he perished sloppily and completely out of the blue. I know my two best boys Reinhard and Yang are fine for now, but people like Julian, Federica, and Schenkopp on Yang’s side, and Oberstein (not kidding), Annerose, and Hildegard on Reinhard’s side.

Back to romance, the idea of Yang being with someone in a fulfilling, wholesome relationship seems strange and off-putting. Yang has always seemed above carnal desires (aside from his best friend the alcohol), and not one to reciprocate intense feelings of affection. He’s a slouch, a layoff and a very irresponsible adult in the very mundane connotation of the word. He might lead thousands of ships into victory multiple times, but Julian was the one who fixed him up and pushed him out the door. He might’ve even remained in that state of perpetual laziness were it not for some type of external help. He seems tired of the age in which he was born in, perhaps thinking he was born too late into humanity’s lineage. Perhaps that’s why he wanted to become a historian so much.

After Reuenthal’s fleets try to assault Iserlohn, and ends rather anticlimactically (this is all that happened in episode 43), the Empire’s troops leave Odin and prepare to strike through Phezzan. As they take the planet with as minimal casualties as possible (I believe we saw no more than about 3 or 4 dead, but probably more), Julian plans to escape back to Yang, and Reinhard establishes himself as the Kaiser of the Phezzan, things seeping underground are slowly permeating out into the breathable air, and more and more things are left open-ended and mysterious.

Firstly, let’s talk about the execution of the two Imperial soldiers who mugged and raped a Phezzani woman, and how their deaths may be the start of a much harsher system of law enforcement and oppression. True, the act they committed should be punished accordingly, but personally, I’m still not familiar with the sight of a fully public (and even televised) death penalty, and especially not from a firing squad. In our society, that’s not a thing anymore, but knowing that it is a viable option in the Empire, it scares me to think what other methods of capital punishment there are. Especially knowing that perhaps, lesser crimes might be punished in a way that vastly undermines it’s justification. Will thieves’ hands be cut off when caught? Will adulterers be stoned to death? The Empire seems above this, but this display was a little shocking, if technically morally correct.

As Phezzan gets captured, we then see the sheer insanity and desperation that the politicians are going through thanks to the fall of Phezzan, from the anti-Lohengramm Imperial Prime Minister and his subordinates, to Bucock and the remainder of the Alliance’s fleets, to even Yang and his crew, as they must prepare to act under these dire situations. People are dying from heart attacks and aneurysms, nobody knows what’s going on, and some remain unfazed, perhaps by shock or simply by knowing that this day finally would come.

The Empire have the obvious upper hand ten-fold, and it’s looking more and more like the Alliance is coming to an end sooner than later. Wu Cheng mentioned the possibility of Yang holding up in Iserlohn, and how it’s a bad choice, but will he truly move into the open in order to fight the incoming Empire? They are at their doors, while Yang remains put in Iserlohn. It’s all up to Yang, so hopefully he manages to at least reach a satisfactory stalemate.

And immediately after I wondered this, Yang and all of the soldiers and civilians from Iserlohn escape and return the fortress back to the Empire without much trouble, except perhaps for Lennenkampf. Other than this, this episode served not much else, except some obviously preachy Yang quotes. Been there, done that.

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 41

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Firstly, I’d like to formally apologize for my incorrect historical anecdotes from yesterday. I thought I’d stumbled on to something interesting, and even if I was half-right overall with my main point, there was a lot of detail that was just plain wrong. I’ll stick to either what I was doing before (character study and symbolism) instead of the more research heavy historical allusions and other real-world similarities (unless I actually know about them).

Anyway, with that out of the way, we can delve straight into the nitty gritty of today, and how the next few episodes will be pure chaos incarnate.

Firstly, Yang is getting all of his closest subordinates and advisors relocated to other positions, and as stated by Bucock, this is a terrible idea. No real need to explore this point, since it’s rather obvious why it’s a total 180 from what would be the most effective scenario. Or is it?

Yang might lose a lot of his effectiveness when away from those he trusts, but those people aren’t completely useless on their own. Perhaps allowing Yang’s chosen ones a more broad platform to defend, they might turn up with a turnaround for this seemingly impossible feat. The Empire sure is looking unbeatable, though.

Next, Operation Ragnarok! Reinhard’s final plan for total universal domination, and this time, no punches will be pulled. Over 1 Million ships will be deployed for this full-force assault on the Alliance, and the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher. But, again, as this show tends to upend it’s own expectations, this plan will most likely be either a complete failure, or events in the battle will go so out of control that something new entirely may form in turn. Will Reinhard finally snap and go full maniacal laughter? Will Yang become the supreme democratic ruler of the now broken Alliance? Anything is fair game now.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 40

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Wow, today’s episode was something completely fresh and fascinating! An in-depth  documentary about the history and progression of the Empire and Alliance? Sign me in!

We’ve already explored the history slightly, but never in such a vastly different way. Portraying it in a History Channel-type TV segment is genius, and it further establishes the concreteness of the world. It’s obvious that such an event would have countless documentaries made about it (just like another conflict which I’ll touch upon in a bit), and it serves to show just how full this fictional universe is and how it’s brimming with real-world similarities that extent past the surface level. Attention to detail, man.

Rudolf is the key to this whole story, and reminds me almost completely of another man in history, who also started as a soldier, rose up in the political ranks, and eventually became so powerful and influential that he reached deity status: Adolf Hitler.

The most interesting thing about Hitler is hearing not about how many people he killed (even though this cannot be denied, of course), but about what he did to better the lives of his country’s citizens, and with Rudolf, there’s very much the same level of transient morality that goes to both extremes at the same time.

Hitler was a deeply troubled and hateful being, but his reason for doing so was a love for Germany and his perception of evolutionary superiority. Because of this, he turned Germany from the most economically pathetic, socially broken, and universally despised country on Earth into one of the most powerful nations on the planet, all within a time frame of 10 years. He was elected Chancellor in 1936 and by 1942, Germany was waist deep in a continent-spanning war that it was winning without much effort. The German people were given brand new roads, vehicles, technological and entertainment inventions, cultural expanse and much, much more. How could they not fight to protect this seemingly perfect society?

Now, let’s take a look at Rudolf. During his reign, he managed to push humanity into a new space age, practically destroying any problem that the species had to deal with. The Galactic Empire was formed because the people living under Rudolf’s rule were so in love with him that they put him on a pedestal made for gods. His speeches were charismatic, filled with an unquantifiable power that struck deep in the hearts of those hearing it. Who’s another person that was treated in much the same way? Hitler, of course.

Rudolf, like most people, also had some personal views on superiority that might’ve gone to an extreme level because of his god-like state, and decided to enact the “Inferior Genes Exclusion Law”, which shares most (if not all) specifications with Hitler’s eradication of Jews and other “inferior humans”. And, much like in World War II, the actual percentage of casualties was a microscopic amount in relation to the population of the planet.

The similarities between Rudolf and Hitler are too strong to ignore (especially after even the narrator mentioned that the nobles Rudolf chose were all white and with Germanic names, which makes it all much too obvious.

It’s true that Rudolf was a very controversial figure in the world of LoGH, but there’s no doubt that excluding all the atrocious actions he committed, he also pushed the boundaries of humankind, taking the fight to the stars and making the world what it ended up being.

And I’d say Reinhard’s story is looking a little too much like Rudolf’s story for this not to be important in the final test.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 39

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Today, Julian bids farewell to Yang and Iserlohn, departing on a trip to Phezzan, and hopefully revealing some of the inner workings of that mysterious place.

Julian leaving for Phezzan might possibly be my most anticipated occurrence, since finally we might be able to get some information about the Earth Cult that’s located there. Yang and Julian’s conversation about Phezzan being involved with religion is obviously dead on, but the nature of the Terraists is still deeply unknown and strangely foreboding. Their methods of control have not been described, but only it’s results have shown the light, as the cultists have appeared within the hierarchies of both powers, in some ways with some obvious control over the government. Truniht seems to be wholly on their side, smiling emptily and delivering vapid words of reassurance. He knows what’s going on.

There’s a little line that Yang says that I think really speaks about Julian and the journey he’s taken.

  • “When we meet next, he’ll probably be a little taller.”

Height in storytelling isn’t something that has much value or weight to it. Character height is usually secondary, if existent at all, and it seldom plays into the development of the character in a story such as this one, filled with larger than life personalities and intergalactic conflict. Here, though, it’s the metaphorical implications of Julian’s height that really come out.

What Yang was alluding to was Julian’s mental and moral height, his abilities as a soldier and his skills in logic and diplomacy. Not to mention his maturity. Julian was introduced to us as a teenager who cleaned Yang’s house and occasionally dealt with his responsibilities. This obviously helped Yang a lot with his own independence, but it’s more than that for Julian. He admires Yang, loves him to an extent, and always calmly listens to his ramblings and lessons. He’s always been under Yang’s shadow, protected by his intelligence and captivated by his personality. Today, though, Julian takes the biggest step he’s taken, away from Yang and into his own goals and dilemmas. Sure, he still does it for Yang’s sake, but he’s beginning to delve deeper into the political world he lives in, and does it of his own accord in the end. Julian has grown, and Yang knows that the experiences he will go through in Phezzan will make him a stronger person overall. Taller than before, if you will.

Another aspect of this episode is Yang’s propensity to drink, and how it’s led to a level of obvious dependance. His reasoning for consuming alcohol is valid, but what worries me is that alcohol is a depressant, and Yang is known to spiral downwards into nihilistic trains of thought, and alcohol might just enhance the feeling of pointlessness and abandon than he already feels. I’m not saying that he’s doomed for enjoying a brandy or two once in a while, but that if he continues, it might be for the worst.

Finally, Yang talks about the nature of absolute righteousness and pure evil, and how they are not possible. “Embodiments of evil do not exist other than in third-rate television dramas”, and this show is proof of that. There’s a diagram passed online a lot about “villain tiers”, and the highest tier talks about a villain whose motives are hard to find fault in and are arguably better than the hero’s, and I think this is what Yang thinks of Reinhard. He obviously respects the blond brat, asking Julian if “Prince Lohengramm really is the embodiment of evil”, which of course Julian can’t answer. Yang knows that Reinhard fights with a concrete, believable reason behind him, and that in his mind, that idea is righteous and earned. Just like everyone else.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 38

Today, it seems as though a war has begun, with all this blaming. Shit has just hit the fan in a major way.

During this, some tidbits of golden dialogue are sprinkled throughout.

– “You are terrible, Admiral Attemborough! Why is it only the man gets named by his real name, while the woman gets anonymity? Is not that discrimination?”
– “Because women have human rights.”

Throughout history, men have been the gender that has caused the most atrocities, by far. From the sexist religions of olden times, to the delayed voting rights, to many of the stuff that goes on today, it can all be attributed to men and their selfish ways. Don’t get me wrong, women can be evil too, but men are just more active with their horrible atrocities.

Men are the vast majority of presidents, dictators, and other figures of history known for their brutality. If one gender is due for the blame, it’s us males, no question.

Still though, implying that men do not have human rights is something that the show has alluded to. The military is almost 100% men, Reinhard orders the deaths of men above 10 years old, the whole show is a carnage where the vast majority of victims are men.

I see it as some sort of payback for the years of ridiculous occurrences that men have bestowed upon human history. This is another example of thematic paradox, where the show is deliberately commenting on the insane nature of gender history, but also actively contradicting that by making that gender suffer as much as possible.

– “Most people seem to have lost rationality and logic because of a seven year old child.”
– “If it was a pretty sixteen year old girl, the degree of enthusiasm would probably be higher. Because people in general love princes and princesses.”
– “In fairy tales, it is been long recognised that princes and princesses are in the right and ministers of state are not.”

I’m a firm believer in the sparingly used term “moe mobilizer”. This term applies to the points that Cazerne and von Schonkopf are talking about, and it’s something that really does affect real life. Something cute and relatable is the ultimate crowd winner, as people have a natural desire to protect and support children, and especially girls and women.

Politics has so many old, rickety people in suits speaking unemotionally and throwing jargon through the air with every breath, it’s turned boring. When there’s something there to relate to (something like a sixteen year old girl) then people will pay attention and follow more easily.

– “You are free to think, but never free to speak.”

This rings true in more ways than one. In a world where opinions are taken with much more weight than they need to be, and where saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can get you killed, this is scarily relevant. Not to mention the fact that in times of war, saying something demeaning about the government could get you arrested or killed, or perhaps even worse. Speech is a powerful weapon, but it can also backfire and destroy the one using it.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 37

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Today, the wonderful thing known as the “butterfly effect” begins to take place, and it’s all due to the kidnapping of a single child.

This fact is pretty fascinating, since just last episode we were talking about Annerose as a catalyst for the events of the show, and now the abduction of Kaiser Josef will be the catalyst for the events to come. Small actions can have huge repercussions.

The capture of Josef is done without any hiccups, and goes about as smoothly as you could ask for. For a second I even though that the lady who discovered Landsberg and Schumacher would get shot, the whole operation would turn into a bloodbath, somehow ending in some horrible atrocity. This show can be nice sometimes, it seems.

One of the fascinating aspects of such a plan as portrayed in this show is that we get to see the level of stress and fear that people are feeling when they don’t know what’s going on. Reinhard, Oberstein, Federica, all of them know what’s going on and have basically predicted the entire ordeal, even planning ahead for the eventual retribution. Many of the side-characters and extras today (as well as in the past) truly show us how ignorant and clueless most people are about the situation. People are being used left and right, the guards are panicking when we know that this is exactly what will benefit them in the future, Vice Admiral Molt commits suicide due to the event, and nobody knows what the fuck is going on. It truly shows the level of speed at which things happen in this show, the frenetic nature of political chess and how everything can go wrong in an instant, but it was all a ruse in the first place. Absolute madness.

The best part of the episode, though, is probably the conversation between Reinhard and Oberstein. Their chemistry has always been supremely passive-aggressive, both of them constantly on their edge when speaking to each other. Let’s take a look.

  • All heroes have established thrones atop not just their enemies but a large quantity of allied corpses as well. There are no monarchs with clean hands. Their subordinates also know that. I would like you to consider that at times, to grant death is also a way to repay loyalty.” – Oberstein
  • So you are saying that you also would not mind spilling your own blood for my sake?” – Reinhard
  • If it becomes necessary.” – Oberstein
  • See that you remember that.” – Reinhard

Oberstein’s absolutist mindset is the perfect verbal sparring opponent to Reinhard’s fleeting righteousness, and their dichotomous moralities clash beautifully in the battlefield of the conversation. Not only that, but these are very real and very important topics for the future of the series, and it’s obviously filled with foreshadowing.

“Allied corpses?” This is too much of a powerful phrase in order for it not to spell out certain doom in the near future. If heroes have stacked the bodies of both enemy and friend to rise to the top, then is it safe to say that all people with power cheat and backstab to reach the top? Hard to believe, but even Rein has gone through that. Oberstein knows this, but his plan is nothing out of the ordinary when he mentions these things.

Oberstein isn’t megalomaniacal and egotistic, he’s a man deathly loyal to his Empire, and will do anything and everything to achieve victory for it. Reinhard on the other hand, still holds Kircheis’ judgement weighing him down, a constant reminder of his deeds and of his emotions. Sure, he does some sketchy stuff, like kill all men above 10 years old if they belong to the noble families, but past that he’s also shown some hesitation from outright becoming one with Oberstein’s way of scheming.

He still holds Oberstein as a subordinate, taking his advice with pause and reminding him who’s in charge, so he’s not completely lost yet. Will he be able to keep this up for long? Based on the implied repercussions of Josef’s kidnapping, perhaps he may be closer to breaking than previously seen.

The seeds of paranoia have been planted, and now it’s time to watch them grow into beautiful, deadly flowers.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 36

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Today we kickoff the beginning of a new conspiratorial plot! Spies and sneaks and stabs, oh my!

We learn that the nobles aren’t all chunks of space flesh, and their plan revolves around the capture of Kaiser Erwin Josef II, and his relocation to the Alliance. This plan is honestly perfect for Phezzan’s plans, since they ultimately want entire universe domination. Giving the chance for Rein to invade the Alliance with a believable justification is perfect, but Rein won’t fall for an easy roundabout trick like that without first packing some punches of his own. His demand for access through the Phezzan Corridor is a great tactical trump card and one that truly keeps him above Phezzan in terms of control, as he is the one they need and the one that’s calling the shots. Rein is gaining more and more power.

Other than this we have probably one of the most heartfelt and emotionally charged conversations in the whole show. Hilda, worried about Annerose’s wellbeing (due to the potential threat of kidnap) goes to visit her, in her isolated country house. The biggest quote here being this one:

  • If not for this woman, current history just would not be the same.

Annerose is the catalyst of this entire story. Everything that has happened that has involved Reinhard or Kircheis, or any of their action’s ripples are all due to Annerose merely existing. Does this realize this? Does she know that she’s been indirectly related to all of the carnage and death that has occurred?

Now, I’m not saying that a story without Annerose would have led to everlasting peace, as the 150+ year war would have probably continued without much interruption.

In this timeline, though, these exact events all share the origin of Reinhard’s motivation to topple the corrupt nobles and save his sister, these events often being displays of brutality and cruelty. It would be interesting to search through the annals of our own history, as far as we could, to the single person that (directly or indirectly) began WWI, or WWII or the Vietnam War. At the heart of it, there’s always one person who began it all.

I apologize for the length, but today has been hectic with AnimeExpo, new season shows, and IRL stuff. Hopefully we get some more packed and nuanced subtext in tomorrow’s episode!

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 35

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Today we get some much appreciated delves into the specific political psychology in our two main leads. It kind of reminds me of Fate/Zero and how the mages and servants were all different ideological opinions, fighting to prove that their way of thinking is the “correct” one. This show, though, provides a much broader scope of themes and opinions, not to mention that it did it 20 years before Fate/Zero.

But due to this, there is something I want to criticize about this show. It’s nothing that detriments it’s intended effect, but it is noticeable and it always reminds me that this was a novel first, adaption later. Well, it’s not much of a criticism other than a different point of view.

The show displays it’s dialogue and subtext with little to no subtlety. It is full-frontal in showing us exactly how the characters feel about the situation and in the way that they speak of it. Yang tends to go on tirades about the pointlessness of the war, lecturing Julian and Federica, perhaps as a way to vent about something he can’t do anything about. Reinhard will discuss the worth of human lives with Oberstein, and many other characters will also show no hesitation in talking about their views of the world and what should be done to fix it.

Of course, it’s easy to say this is blatant cheap exposition, but I’d like to prove otherwise.

You see, the exposition that is done in the show is not done for the sake of advancing the story. In a story where each person in it has a vastly distinct goal for human race, those goals need to be explained not only to us in the audience, but for the characters as well, and the way that they go around explaining how they feel is important to that character. Yang goes on rants because he needs to lay out some steam in order to not go crazy, and he gives this advice to those he believes will use it in the future, as a way to give himself hope that in the future, people might not become so royally screwed. Reinhard does this more to justify to himself the actions that have been done and to try to get rid of the moral conflict within him, due to those actions. The exposition is diegetic, it’s important for us in the audience to know the character’s mindsets, but it’s also important for the characters to talk about it with those close to them. Despite being exposition, it’s still necessary for the characters delivering it.

With that in mind, lest dissect some of the more nuanced quotes this time around, seeing as they do play a part in the development of potential events in the future, and also speak of the real world and it’s infinite problems.

– “Whether they steal it or build it, the first one there deserves the prize. That is only natural. However, for those who have come to power, wealth and glory not by their own strength and effort, but simply because of inheritance, what right do they have to complain? I think the very existence of such blood lineage dynasties is disgusting. Power is the property of one generation. It should not be transferred; it should be seized.

– “So, Your Excellency, you will not pass on your position and power to your children?

– “Children? My children, did you say? The person who succeeds me will have talent equal to or greater than my own. And, that does not have to be only after I am dead. Anyone who thinks they can take it by stabbing me in the back is welcome to try. However, what do you think will happen to them if they fail? I will let that give them pause.

Here, Reinhard brings up a point that has remained untouched in the show: the nature of power being passed down through generations.

The argument that Rein is putting up for his attack on blood lineages is that those who have it have never had to search for it themselves, the power simply falling on their lap when they’re born. This goes well with Rein’s past, since he had to climb all the way to ruling the Empire out of pure determination. His experiences have been painful, but they’ve landed him with the power he sought for so long, so he has reason to believe that to be the way for power to be distributed.

The problem with this, which Hildegard touches on sub-textually, is that someone like Reinhard comes along once in a blue moon, and those with the grit and passion to seek power aren’t born in already favorable positions like him.

Reinhard was born to a noble family and had ties to the government from day one. If he had been born as a poor child in a slum, perhaps he wouldn’t’ve had the opportunity to reach the level of power he has now. It’s all circumstantial, and based on luck.

Which brings me to my next point. What Rein fails to see, though, it’s that it’s not the people themselves that are detrimental to the state of the hierarchy, it’s how those people are taught about how to use their power.

In fact, blood lineages are not important in this case. If those in power were simply aware of (or emotionally affected by) the damage that being megalomaniacal and self-important does to those under their control, then things might be better. It’s all a matter of knowledge and an open-mindedness. Anyone can be born with a closed mind, but being taught from a young age about proper ruling can have a massive effect on the actions those with power have.

So, in the end, Reinhard’s best choice, in my opinion, is to have children, and to teach them how to run a country properly. He thinks of power as a thing people only fight for, as he constantly spouts phrases that allude to violence, betrayal, and death. His logic is based on some level of evidence, but he needs to acknowledge the fact that people are born with malleable and sculpt-able brains, ready to gobble up all the knowledge of the world, and if that knowledge is a sound one, and it’s delivered with compassion, patience, and understanding, any child can become a wonderful ruler.

Next up is our boy Yang, with two quotes with Julian that drip with his humble righteousness.

– “An army is an institution for violence, and there are two kinds of violence.

– “Good violence and bad violence?

– “No, not quite. Violence to control and oppress, and violence as a means of liberation. You know what we call a national army is fundamentally the former example. It is a pity, but history does not lie. When those in power confront popular opposition, there are not many examples of the army siding with the people. Far from it, in the past in country after country, the army itself evolved into a power structure and came to control the people with violence.

Here Yang is sinking his feet into the nature of the military, and how it acts more as a branch of the government than a completely separate entity. The biggest question here is why does the military side with the government in moments of public uproar or attempts at government takeover?

Could it be because of a secure future with money, safety, and freedom? It’s as simple as turning the guns on the other direction for the one thing the whole population wants out of the country to be gone. Is it then because those in the military fully trust in their government and their justification for their actions? Being myself experienced with these conflicts, and currently witnessing one where the military itself is at a tightrope of support, it’s difficult to say to what extent will people commit atrocities to maintain the power under the control of those proven to be ineffective at using it. What do the soldiers think when they hear of the hundreds of teenage deaths in protests, all of it staining their hands with blood, knowing they are responsible for it?

It’s a difficult question, knowing that you yourself might be killed or worse by putting up a fight against the orders, the mere hushing of conspiratorial words resulting in their outing as traitors.

– “The past? Listen, Julian, for as long as human history goes on, the past will continue to accumulate. History is not just records of the past. It is also proof that civilization has advanced to the present. Our present civilization is the result of our past. Understand?

– “Yes.

– “In the long flow of time, living things know nothing of their ancestors, except for the genes they have inherited. Only humans have history. Having a history differentiates humans from all other living species. That is why I wanted to be a historian. The only reason I am in this sad state is because I made the wrong first move.

– “But if there were no people making history, there would be nothing for historians to study.

Yang speaks of the nature of history, and how that serves as a proof of humanity’s existence.

A large theme in this story is how no matter what happens in the war, it’s all meaningless in the eternal ticking clock of the universe. This, though, does bring up an interesting counter-point for this argument. I’d say it’s another thematic paradox.

Let’s say that it’s the year 30,000 AD. Humans have become extinct, Earth now remaining as an an empty husk in the nothingness of space. Let’s say another civilization comes across our planet. Everything we made here on Earth will remain for eons after we are dead, regardless of it’s deemed importance or weight. Even existing changes the universe in some way or another. History is a proof of that, and even not everyone’s name will be recorded in the history books, there is a guarantee that you have made an impact in the universe in some way or another. History is that eternal watermark of humanity, one that will remain even when nothing is left of us in flesh and blood.

Many people disregard history, calling it “useless knowledge”. This, though, not only serves to learn of humanity’s mistakes, but also to learn from them so, as a species, we can progress ever forward.

Can this spiral ever end?

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.