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Errinundra's Beautiful Fighting Girl #133: Taiman Blues: Ladies' Chapter - Mayumi


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Blood-
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Joined: 07 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:36 am Reply with quote
Oh, puppy-kicker Errinundra I really hope you don't mean to suggest that Yuki's main function is to be an escape mechanism for plot holes. Is PoMoism the arid critical theory that inevitably leads its adherents into the desert of emotional austerity? I have no question both the original author and the movie creative team wanted viewers to be touched when Yuki hesitantly offered a membership application to the literature club. There is a love of sorts between the two. As joy-destroyer Errinundra says, Kyon loves Haruhi, lusts after Mikuru, but he has always had a sympathetic soft spot for Yuki. Yuki, due to her computer errors, reciprocates in her own fashion. All kidding aside, I think any viewer who, for whatever reason, isn't keyed into the Kyon-Yuki dynamic is really missing an important emotonal dimension that enriches the film experience, imo. But what a boring old world it would be if we all reacted the same way to everything.
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Animegomaniac



Joined: 16 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:06 am Reply with quote
So no one has ever considered the possibility that Disappearance is Yuki's retribution to Kyon for Endless Eight? This movie is open to a lot of interpretations because antagonist Yuki was always kept at a distance and her reason were only offered by third party interests at best... and I do include past Yuki as someone separate from present Yuki as I think what she called "bugs" were actually feelings she developed and kept to herself... so I am only offering up possible explanations. My own personal view of the movie is the whole thing was triggered by Yuki's rage against the heavens at being forced to be the quiet book girl so her reaction was to take her role to extremes, leaving Kyon a way to undo it but at the same time not making it easy for him. Less a cry for help, more a cry for attention and maybe a little more appreciation.

The end scene at the library was a movie original scene so I don't consider being a sign that some traces of Future Yuki's feelings still remains.

Blood, what you call love among the SOS members is what I'd call "comradeship" and that stretches from Haruhi's loyalty to her underlings to their ties to each other but it stops well short of being love. You get that spelled out from the "It's snowing" scene at the end... weird to say this but it's perfectly explained in Haruhi-chan by Kyon with his relationship with Koizumi: "There's a wall." It's one he put up himself and one he maintains vigorously with each of the members. Haruhi is Haruhi, Yuki is Nagato, Mikuru is Asahina-san and Itsuki is Koizumi.

Kyon values Yuki Nagato but does he even like her? He respects Haruhi, is physically attracted to Mikuru and is intrigued by Itsuki and their discussions... I can say Kyon likes the SOS brigade, that's a given at the end of the movie but I can't say he honestly likes the individuals. They're just things he put up with for sake of the whole and his speech for Yuki at the end was more to keep the Brigade together than for Yuki. If it was for Yuki's sake, why not just get rid of the DETI connection altogether, right?

And while Haruhi loves Kyon, 1) She'll never admit it and 2) She's been in love with him since she cut her hair in Melancholy so it doesn't factor as much into Disappearance. But she'd do the same hospital room wait for any Brigade member, it's just cuter for the audience because it's for Kyon this time. All together now: Awww!

Kyon had the right reaction to that sort of sentiment: I was thinking I wish I I had a marker to write on her face.
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Blood-
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:13 pm Reply with quote
@ Animegomaniac - as a viewer, I gravitate to the possibilities that resonate with me, emotionally. And like all sophisticated works, TMoHS can operate on several different levels so I would not discount the theory that part of Yuki's actions in Disappearance are payback ("Couldn't you have figured out that homework thing a little quicker, dumbass!").

And your personal view of Yuki's motives align with mine. I do think you are under-appreciating the regard Kyon has for Yuki. I believe the one of the main reasons he hesitated to initiate the recovery program was the sense that he would be abandoning this version of Yuki. I think part of him was thinking, "what if...".

That Haruhi has feelings for Kyon is indisputable. Note her silent irritation back in the Melancholy arc when the straws the Brigade draws fail to partner them on either occasion. I believe Haruhi's particularly horrid treatment of Mikuru during the infamous "love scene" in the Sigh arc stems from jealousy of how much Kyon was clearly irritated by it. However, for me, there will always be an asterick next to her feelings for Kyon because, as we found out in Bamboo Rhapsody, she is operating under a subconscious positivity towards Kyon due to Mikuru's time machinations. Had he not conveniently been forced into helping her that fateful night, I'm not sure she would ever have given him the time of day.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:34 am Reply with quote
This is my 100th review post in this thead. Shame it's such a feeble anime.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan


Yuki Nagato tries too hard to induce moeru. It renders her unlifelike. Alien, you might say.

Reason for watching: My regard for the previous releases in the franchise; my hope that it would address the unresolved plot thread from the movie - how Kyon manages to save himself - and because I was conned by a fellow mod. Oh, and its legal availability in Oz on AnimeLab.

Synopsis: Like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya season 2, this sixteen episode TV series can be broken into three disparate segments. Unlike that earlier series the story telling is linear. The three sections also have a different point of view (PoV).
1. The Yearning of Nagato Yuki-chan (my title - ten episodes): a pathologically shy Yuki Nagato must rely on fellow Literature Club members to find a way into the heart of her crush-object, Kyon. Told from the camera's PoV, this section focuses primarily on Yuki, though it does spend time with other characters.
2. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan (three episodes): after bumping her head when a car nearly runs her down, Yuki develops a more assertive personality, enabling her to finally express her feelings. For the most part a stream-of-consciousness examination of Yuki's experiences - the PoV is largely hers.
3. The Appropriation of the Story (my title - three episodes): Kyon tries to come to terms with what assertive Yuki has told him, while making the most of the remaining summer break. Begins by continuing with Yuki's PoV, reverts to a third person camera PoV as in the first section, but becomes increasingly dominated by Kyon's PoV until he becomes the narrator.

Question: What do you get when you take the PoMo out of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise?

Answer: The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.



Comments: With a new production studio (Satelight), director (Jun'ichi Wada) and source material author (Puyo) this series has a very different look and story telling style from its anime predecessors. Set in the Yuki Nagato created world of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, it adds the additional factor that Kyon is unaware of any alternative timeline. Until the second half of the last episode, where Kyon has taken over the narrative and provides hints about the rest of the franchise, this series presents itself as a mostly straightforward moe romantic comedy. It altogether lacks the fluid artistry, gag timing, quirky characterisations and memorable gameplaying of its Kyoto Animation, Tatsuya Ishihara and Nagaru Tanigawa equivalents. Instead it emphises the moe side of its titular character, Yuki Nagato. She isn't the only character to be diminished.

A feature of moe characters is that their principle purpose is to create an emotional reaction in the viewer. Achieving that doesn't require any realism in the depiction of the characters. Indeed, realism would be an impediment. Hence, in anime, which thrives on its artificiality and its rigid tropes, it follows that premise driven plots and clever ideas take precedence over character development and character driven plots. One note moe characters like the shy girl Yuki Nagato (for thirteen of the sixteen episodes, that is) don't have the depth to carry an extended story. (Tsundere personalities, being two note characters, have more scope and are more common as moe protagonists.). I said in my review of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that Yuki Nagato was its weakest part, not because she was moe, but because the behaviour trait was portrayed excessively in both its emphasis and frequency. This series spreads the problem even further. Yuki Nagato is too unreal for a love story that depends on character development and too dull to be endurable. The solution, when it comes, is to create a second personality for her. Unsurprisingly, the Disappearance arc is the most interesting and engaging part of the series. For a brief period it steps up to another level, conceptually, visually and musically.


Blank faces staring out. In my anime, I'd rather an uncomprehending goddess and a knife nut any day.

The other characters are also afflicted, losing their quirkiness, their secrets and their lively, Kyoto Animation rounded designs that so enhanced their personalities. Instead, their eyes are dead; their faces are stare flatly back at the viewer. When Yuki et al aren't speaking or acting they remain motionless as if golems awaiting some animating life force. I had the same experience with Kancolle and Bakuon!!, where it seemed that the characters were connected to switches, turned on and off as required. In other words, I could never escape the notion their behaviour was contrived. Haruhi herself, whose main role is to come up with activities for the others, is reduced to being a genki girl. In fairness, she has wistful moments, as she processes Kyon's apparent preference for Yuki over herself. Kyon, until the last episode is the bland, kind-hearted boy at the centre of nearly every harem anime ever made. (Thank goodness for School Days.) Mikuru, who almost completely sinks into the background, is no more than a clutzy butt for unfunny gags. Asakura plays a wise, tolerant, big sister type role to Yuki. Tsuruya, whose screen time is significantly expanded, is more a nutcase than ever. Only bland Koizumi stays on character, although his former mild creepiness has been replaced by a more overt homosexuality - despite his loyalty to Haruhi he makes multiple attempts to crack onto Kyon, most notably in the obligatory hot springs episode.

One could interpret the series as presenting the "real" story of the franchise. Several of the significant events of the first two seasons and the movie either take place or are alluded to, but in a quotidian context and with Asakura and Tsuruya as addenda. For example, a junior high school Haruhi inveigles John Smith to paint her message to the stars on the school sports ground, but this time it's a contemporary Kyon, not a visitor from the future. In another scene, Kyon and his younger sister are watching TV on a hot summer's day when Haruhi demands Kyon meet her and the Literature Club to plan their summer events. Everything is presented in such a dull manner, however, that I kept hoping for a previously familiar Haruhiism to kick in; for something, anything, weird to happen. As the episodes ticked by I had the sinking feeling that, no, this series was forever mired in its mediocrity. That said, the "real" story theory is given a boost when, in the penultimate scene, as Kyon, Yuki and Asakura are walking to school on their first day back after the summer break, they discuss writing a fictional account of their activities. Kyon observes that, with Haruhi involved, they ought to include aliens, people from the future, people from different worlds and people with supernatural powers all together. In the ensuing epilogue, we get a repeat of Kyon and his sister watching TV on a hot summer's day - this time, ominously, there's a baseball game on the screen - when Haruhi rings again, ordering Kyon's attendance to plan their summer break activities. For the first time we have a time anomaly - in the previous scene school had already restarted - and a hint that Kyon's creative imagination was finally kicking in.


Mikuru and Tsuruya: inanity and insanity. I like the way Asahina's hair changes colour towards the tips.

If the narrative and visuals are disappointing then the music is, contrarily, a memorable element in the show. The first ten episodes give us a combination of melancholy French (a sign, a sign of PoMo, I'm sure) pieces from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, original numbers from Tatsuya Katou, and borrowings from the earlier TV series (mainly as motifs for Haruhi). From Maurice Ravel we get Pavane pour une infante défunte, which might be one of my favourite classical pieces of music, but it does has add a slightly sinister tone when you consider it is used as a motif for Yuki Nagato and whose French title can be translated into English as pavane (ie, a slow dance) for a dead princess. That aside, its beautiful strains enhance the anime immeasurably. To that you can add Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune and Reverie along with Erik Satie's Gymnopédies, carried over from the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Despite the heady company, the highlight for me was a sweet, jaunty tune from Tatsuya Katou, Koi no Kirakira (Love's Glitter), with its girly chorus and whistled melody line. It became, for me, an anthem of happiness in a mildly downbeat show. Things change entirely in the Disappearance arc, with the the hitherto frequently repeated pieces replaced by sombre tunes with Coldplay-like chords and structures, nicely representing Yuki's inner thoughts and fears. The sunnier last section brings back Koi no Kirakira, along with more music from the original Haruhi TV series.

Rating: so-so. After ten years the first instalment of the franchise still seems as fresh as ever and after six the movie still engages and excites. This latest edition is less than two years old and is already past its use-by-date, with only the reputation of the franchise to carry it. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan ditches the first rate gameplaying of its predecessors and replaces it with a second rate moe sitcom. If you want moe slice of life with a quirky edge, watch the underappreciated Nichijou - My Ordinary Life; if you want a sharply observed moe romantic comedy with characters who gain maturity and self-awareness as the story progresses, watch Toradora!. I wonder if this has finally killed off the franchise. I wonder also if I'll ever find out how Kyon got out of his scrape with Asakura.


"Your skin is smooth, too," says Koizumi to Kyon. The one genuine surprise of the series.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2016 12:38 pm Reply with quote
Alakazam the Great aka Saiyuki (Journey to the West)

Reason for watching: After all the interruptions I'm back to the my survey of the early Toei films. This, from 1960, is their third. The version I've managed to track down was released in America by American International in 1961. It was given re-named characters and settings and a new soundtrack, including the dub (obviously) and the music. It may well be that the version I'm reviewing is different thematically and tonally from the original.

Background: As with The Tale of the White Serpent, Toei turned to China for its source material. The origins of Journey to the West can be traced back to an actual historical figure, the monk Xuanzang (602 - 664), who made a pilgrimage to India to obtain authentic Buddhist texts. His journey was fictionalised in the sixteenth century by Wu Cheng'en who added many fanciful elements, including three magical companions - a monkey, a pig and and a sand-sprite. The monkey, known as Sun Wukong, or simply Monkey, or Alakazam in the American version, has become an enduring character in his own right.


Representations of Monkey over the years. That's Alakazam on the left.

Oddly enough it was a Chinese animated film - Princess Iron Fan - that inspired the nascent Japanese anime industry. Made in 1941 under Japanese occupation, and covering one chapter of Wu Cheng'en's novel, it predated Japan's first animated full length feature film, Momataro's Divine Sea Warriors, by some four years. Upon its release in Japan it came to the attention of Osamu Tezuka who made his own manga version, Son-Goku the Monkey, which, in turn, became the source material for Alakazam the Great - Toei even commissioned him to provide the storyboards. So, finally, Toei and Tezuka cross paths. This collaboration piqued Tezuka's own interest in animation: Astro Boy would transform television animation is just three more years. Two of the animators on the Toei project went on to become notable directors in their own right: Shigeyuki Hayashi (under his alias Rintaro) and Gisaburō Sugii (Night on the Galactic Railroad).

Synopsis: The irrepressible and irreverent monkey king Alakazam, in a fit of boredom, decides to learn magic and martial arts from the famed wizard, Merlin, by chicanery if necessary. Thus empowered he challenges the heavens where he pinches a magic staff from Hercules before being put in his place by King Amo. As penance for his misdeeds he is sent on a pilgrimage to central Asia and India with Prince Amat (and, yes, the Queen of Heaven in the American version is Amas, ie amo amas amat, but you'd have to know basic Latin to get the dumb joke) to learn humility, mercy and wisdom. On the journey he defeats and befriends other characters who join him. In time he will learn the necessary lessons and return to his kingdom to rule benignly.


Alakazam impersonating the bride of Sir Quigley Broken Bottom (that's the pig) on their wedding night.

Comments: Where the first two Toei films are basically dramas with comic interludes, Alakazam the Great is a caper with serious moments and some obligatory moralising. Not only does the film give us the first ever animated Tezuka flying saucer eyes it's also redolent with his goofy yet irreverent humour. The protagonist is a little smart-arse who cocks a snoot at Buddha himself (the Amo in the American version). His sundry adversaries aren't that much different. There's a demon boy with a horn that doubles as a radio antenna for long distance communication with his master, a minotaur figure with a luscious wife, the aforementioned Princess Iron Fan. As he travels Alakazam ovecomes a lascivious, gluttonous pig (well, naturally) and a self-effacing cannibal, before earning their loyalty. It's hard not to like the entire pack of dopey rascals, but they are let down by the self-important straight guys from the heavenly royal family (I love, you love, he/she/it loves) and the cloying romantic interest, Dee Dee. They're on hand to make sure Alakazam finds the straight and narrow path so, like any good fundamentalists, they lack any redeeming sense of fun. Let them burn in their humourless hell!

The greater fun comes at the cost of mystery. The strangeness of The Tale of White Serpent - thanks in part to its visual style and music but mostly to the ambiguity in its female co-protagonist Bai Niang the snake spirit - has now been replaced by a straightforward quest. The film between White Serpent and Alamazam, Magic Boy, creates an aura of threat through the depiction of its hostile wilderness setting. In this third flim, despite deserts, active volcanoes and impenetrable mountains, the overriding optimism smartly kills dead any threat. Don't get me wrong, Alakazam is a more entertaining film than either of its predecessors, even if it isn't as interesting as the first. On a technical level, the film is another step forward. The animation is more fluid and more fun, in keeping with the overall tone. Contrarily, but again matching the tone, the background artwork is more prosaic than before, though there are some worthy set pieces. The rollicking party in the lair of King and Queen Gruesome (the Bull Demon King and Princess Iron Fan), is a visual highlight of the movie.


Fun and games. Clockwise from top left:
1) Alakazam turns his staff into an electric drill. The nearby powerpoint was handy.
2) Playing perscussion inside the cannibal's stomach.
3) Alakazam as dinosaur v Hercules as dragon.
(I imagine them as guitarist, drummer and lead singer of some dada band.)


It seems the American distributors were prepared to put some effort into the film. For its time it has a star-studded cast, including Peter Fernandez, Dodie Stevens, Jonathon Winters and Arnold Stang. Stand out is the narrator, Sterling Holloway whose quizzical yet wheezy tones give the film a comic, adult sensibility not common in subsequent anime, making it instantly distinctive. Also of interest was the recruitment of twenty-one year old Frankie Avalon - he of Beach Party fame - to do singing duties for Alakazam opposite Dodie Stevens as Dee Dee.

Most interesting, though, is the composer of the soundtrack of the American version, Les Baxter. I'd never heard of him until seeing this film, but I've now discovered he was influential in a sub-genre of lounge music known as exotica. Another exponent of the style, Martin Denny, described it as "a combination of the South Pacific and the Orient...what a lot of people imagined the islands to be like...it's pure fantasy though." Baxter's album from 1952, Ritual of the Savage is regarded as a pinnacle of exotica. I like this comment from critic David Toop on how it, "offered package tours in sound, selling tickets to sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo emotions before lunch, view a pagan ceremony, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home stereo comforts in the whitebread suburbs." Perhaps it's easy to laugh now but Baxter is highly effective in Alakazam the Great. He gives us bombast and vitality and gleefully rips off Stravinsky and Ponchielli to name two. Whatever the provenance of the music it is sympathetic to the animation and characters, enhancing the film.


Frankie Avalon, exotica, and Sterling Holloway: a lifetime away.

Rating: so-so. The film bombed in America, ending any chance of further general releases. It's included in The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way) by Harry Medved, Randy Dreyfuss and Michael Medved. That's so unfair for a mildly entertaining film with no serious faults. For sure, it shows its vintage but that's to be expected.

Reference material:
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
Wikipedia
Tezuka in English: Son-Goku the Monkey
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 3:19 am Reply with quote
Anju to Zushio Maru (ie, Anju and Zushio)
Sansho the Bailiff


Anju: spoiler[her suicide stems from both despair and necessity. The animated film foregrounds the grief, the live-action film gives equal weight to its purpose.]

Mind those SPOILERS now.

Reason for watching: Anju to Zushio Maru is the fourth and final film in my survey of early Toei animated films. In this review I will be looking at it alongside its near contemporary live action film, Sansho the Bailiff, which was released on DVD in Oz by those purveyors of all things anime, Madman Entertainment as part of their Directors Suite collection. Not being available on disc, I obtained the anime by other means. The two films adapt the same source material.

Context and background: In 1951 Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa, was presented at the Venice Film Festival, despite the reluctance of the studio that made it (Daiei Film) and the Japanese Government. To their suprise it won the Golden Lion award for best film. Rashomon introduced the West to Japanese films and heralded what is now considered Japan's golden age of cinema. During the 50s Kurosawa would make several more acclaimed movies, including Ikiru, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood; Yasujiro Ozu would make Tokyo Story; Kon Ichikawa (who, funnily enough, considered himself first and foremost an animator) The Burmese Harp and Fire on the Plains; and Kenji Mizoguchi The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. We also got Godzilla, while Studios such as Toho, Daiei, Shochiku, Nikkatsu, and Toei blossomed. The last named, as this thread has been highlighting, were also revolutionising Japanese animation. A film such as Anju to Zushio Maru needs to be considered not only in the context of the history of anime, but also understood as part of the Japan's febrile film industry of that time. Both Sansho the Bailiff (1954) and Anju to Zushio Maru (1961) are adapted from a short story by Mori Ogai, Sansho Dayo, from 1915, which, in turn is based on a legend mentioned in early Buddhist tales and mediaeval puppet plays. It is tempting to speculate that Toei opted to adapt the story in order to ride on the coat tails of the reputation of the live action film, which was awarded a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Toei Doga were experiencing problems nonetheless. Making one feature film per year, and not yet involved much in television anime, meant that salaried staff were idle when their role in the film for that year was completed. Putting them in teams, Toei simply told them to make whatever they liked. On the face of it that might seem like heaven to an enterprising animator, but wages were very low and, when the feature films were under way, the hours long. In a setback for the studio, following the completion of Alakazam the Great, Osamu Tezuka was keen to keen to start his own studio, Mushi Productions. Staff? He nicked them from Toei en masse, at inflated salaries.


Some of the exquisitely composed and choreographed scenes from Sansho the Bailiff.
Water and trees dominate, providing a sort of limit on human endeavour.


Synopsis: Unjustly accused of misdemeanours, Masauji Taira, an honourable governor, is sent into exile. His wife (Tamaki), daughter (Anju) and son (Zushio) attempt to follow him but are captured by slave traders, separated and sold. The childen grow into adulthood as slaves under the cruel Sansho, supporting each other and hoping to be reunited with their mother and father. Following the sacrifice of his sister, Zushio is able to escape to Kyoto, where he becomes the favourite of the Emperor's advisor and gains the opportunity to redress the wrongs that he has suffered.

Comments: When watching the two films in quick succession, and I've done it twice now, I'm surprised how closely both follow the structure of the original short story. What's more, even with the obligatory Disney-esque talking animals and song interludes (admittedly laments), the anime also maintains the melancholy tone of the live-action film. Consider this for a moment: Anju to Zushi Maru, is a family film yet portrays, as an essential plot element, the suicide of one of its most important characters. It's a boggling thing to do. Disney's 1961 feature release was 101 Dalmations: I can't imagine Walt Disney including such a thing in one of his cartoons of the time.


Anju to Zushio Maru relies on its natural advantage: colours. Trees and water still dominate.
Damaged cels - possibly from cleaning and reuse - can be seen in two of the images.


Of course, on a technical level Anju to Zushio Maru and Sansho the Bailiff must be very different creatures. Mizoguchi's film is justifiably famous for its deep, panoramic shots, with long takes and slow, gliding camera movements. (See the images above.) While complex, the effect is to create a reverie and a feeling of timelessness that complement the brooding cruelty of the story. Such technical prowess is impossible using animated characters against static, painted backgounds and minimal multi-planing. Toei are left to do the best they can with the means at hand, by providing artwork that is not only pretty but is consistently more sympathetic to its subject matter than anything in their previous three films, while also providing more fluid animation, even if it too often seems to be in unintended slow motion. It doesn't matter much - rapid character movement isn't a feature of the film. Because the tone of the story must depend only on the artwork and the script, it cannot match the majesterial impact of the live-action movie, but the odd thing is, knowledge of the life-action film enhances the experience of the anime. The talking animals also prevent the film from achieving its transcendant ambitions. Every time they appear the story must then re-establish the over-arching tone. They could have been excised altogether without having any impact on the plot. Their presence is a triumph of marketing over art, of short term profitability over long term reputation. But yeah, if you don't make money then you can't continue to make anime. Cute animals: one; consistency of tone: nil.

There are two other elements that distinguish the films. Thematically the anime is much simpler, being a straightforward conflict between virtue and cruelty. The good guys (the exiled governor, his wife, Anju, Zushio, the emperor's advisor) are nice (and I use that word deliberately) while Sansho, one of his sons (confusingly, the names of the good and bad sons - Saburo and Jiro - are reversed between the two films, or maybe it was a mistake on the subber's part), his overseer and the slave traders are uniformly nasty. If you're not sure, just note who the animals befriend. Like any good versus evil story, the protagonist must only defeat the bad guy to vanquish evil. So simple. At the end of the film Zushio stands tall as a good-guy governor. I say "good-guy" instead of "just" because we can only assume he will be.


Sansho: while clearly the bad guy, he acts rationally according to his social Darwinian outlook.

In Sansho the Bailiff Kenji Mizoguchi unashamedly wears his polemical heart on his sleeve. The children's father - Masauji Taira - isn't simply just, nor is his exile due to the false accusations levelled against him in the animated film. He is exiled because, in championing the rights of the peasants, he has stepped on the toes of the powerful landowners. While the anime is coy on the matter, the live-action film reveals that the children's mother was sold into prostitution before being blinded and crippled. In a system of serfdom, Sansho is the middleman, brutally wringing every penny out of the serfs in order to curry favour with a remote aristocracy. It is not so much championing freedom, as American narratives would, but rather, equality and justice in much the same way that ERASED does. It's a very Japanese world view, and one that I sympathise with. At the end of the film Zushio has renounced his governorship as being incompatible with his notions of justice.

The other distinguishing element is the anime's introduction of the supernatural into the narrative. When two of the characters die they are reincarnated as a mermaid and a swan, thereafter providing assistance to the good guys in a tight spot. Completely out of the blue is the plot device that allows Zushio to gain the backing of the emperor. When a giant spider descends from the heavens (true!) to attack the emperor, Zushio slays it, with a little help from his animal friends. First time I saw it I was left staring at the screen in disbelief. It has to be one of most bizarre creative shortcuts I've ever seen in an anime. The live-action film has hints of the supernatural: the children's shared dream, the song of despair sung by the mother that the children hear, and the role of the encased statuette that Masauji Taira gives to his son. The suggestions are so tenuous and subtle that they have little impact, other than adding to the overall atmosphere.


Zushio: spoiler[separated and reunited with his mother.]

Ratings:
Anju to Zushio Maru - decent;
Sansho the Bailiff - masterpiece
Due to its technical constraints and audience limitations the anime lacks the emotional and thematic power of the live-action film. Comparing it with what the 2012 Sight and Sounds critics' poll voted as the 59th best film of all time was always going to be an overwhelming ask. Nonetheless it is a creditable effort for its time. The take away: watch Sansho the Bailiff before you die; if you have spare time, consider Anju to Zushio Maru.

Reference Material:
ANN encyclopaedia (I really don't give us enough credit)
Anime: A History, Jonathon Clements, Palgrave MacMillan via Kindle
The Anime Encyclopaedia 3rd Revised Edition: A Century of Japanese Animation, Jonathon Clements and Helen McCarthy, Stone Bridge Press via Kindle
The Historical Fiction of Mori Ogai, ed David Dilworth and J Thomas Rimer, University of Hawaii Press via Google
The Font of All Knowledge (Wikipedia)

Final note: I would have liked to finish this series with Arabian Nights: Sinbad's Adventures, Toei Animation's last film before Osamu Tezuka's test film Tales from the Street Corner and his first television series, Astro Boy. Sadly, I haven't been able to locate a copy.


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Jose Cruz



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 3:26 pm Reply with quote
When I watched Sansho the Bailiff, I wasn't very impressed: I though it was a rather forced melodrama and it was too slow for me. I should note that in Japan the movie is not as well regarded as it is in the West (where I would guess this type of simple Japanese muscular drama feels more original), although it is still a very well regarded film (I liked more The Life of Oharu and Ugetsu Monogatari from Mizoguchi, which are both more well regarded in Japan as well). I don't like also this almost religious worship of Japanese live action films from the 1950's although it's true that during that time Japanese cinema employed a huge number of people since it revenues were tremendous as people didn't have alternative forms of entertainment, Japanese cinema's decline was mainly caused by the rise of manga actually (a far more mobile and practical form of entertainment). While today Japan's media industries employs many more artists which have better tools and also are also better educated than artists of the 1950's, so from a socialogical/economic point of view there is no reason to think 1950's Japan was the apex of Japanese visual culture as some live action film critics tend to think (although I agree it was the apex of Japanese live action film culture).

I never watched Anju to Zushio Maru but I congratulate you on your effort to "map out" the history of anime.

Although in fact, I think one would understand anime's history better by understanding the history of manga and not the history of Japanese animation or live action film. Most anime is first and foremost manga adaptations with rather plain cinematic direction that borrows heavily from the visual language of manga. Most masterpieces of the manga/anime world are manga and not anime (in fact manga is much bigger in Japanese culture than either live action film or animation) and most great anime are great (examples: Fullmetal Alchemist, Trigun, Hunter x Hunter, LoGH etc) because of it's "manga-like" qualities such as art style, writing, massive plot arcs and character development, rather than cinematic qualities like direction style.

I guess only the likes of Miyazaki, Takahata, Keiichi Hara, Hideaki Anno, Makoto Shinkai and Oshii are more "film like" rather than "manga like" animation directors in Japan.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 7:18 pm Reply with quote
My favourites from the era are The Burmese Harp and Rashomon.

While I agree with your general point that manga has had far more influence than live cinema on anime, only Alakazam the Great of the first four Toei films uses a manga source (as far as I know). In that instance the source was from the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka. He really got the trend going by adapting his own Tetsuwan Atom, which we know as Astro Boy. Gigantor, Cyborg 009, Sally the Witch and others quickly followed, to mention manga not from Tezuka.

One of the things I was trying to do was place the films in context. So, with Tale of the White Serpent being the first film from the company I briefly explained how Toei Doga started up. With Alakazam the Great, I showed how the inspiration and the material came from China via Princess Iron Fan and Tezuka's manga, and also how the experience shaped his career. And, lastly, given the obvious parallels between the two films Anju to Zushio Maru and Sansho the Bailiff, how creative and entrepreneurial the film industry was at the time.
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Jose Cruz



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:31 pm Reply with quote
Yes, I guess one wouldn't expect Disney to make an animated version of Schindler's List a few years after Schindler's List. Still it's rather weird they added talking animals, its like the anime industry in the 60's was trying to do art but since the cultural perception was that animation was for children they felt like "if we add talking animals the movie will make money, we can make art and everything will be ok". The only 60s anime I watched is Takahata's Horus and it also has talking animals (and that film is a very complex work of art).
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:00 am Reply with quote
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

Reason for watching: It's popularity and ANN Bayesian ranking; and the premise. I watched it with my Crunchyroll subscription.

Synopsis: Subaru Natsuki is a shut-in who finds himself transported to a fantasy world where death for him simply means restarting at an earlier moment in his time in the world, as if going back to a save point in a computer or on-line game. He takes a shine to Emilia, a silver-haired half-elf with with self-image issues, when she saves him from alleyway thugs. It turns out she's a candidate to rule the kingdom of Lugunica, but there are enemies at every turn trying to do her in. In spite of constant debacles he tries to use his strange resetting powers to protect her.

Comments: I'll say from the outset that I've rated this series as good. While there is much to like about it, I also have some reservations. In one sense, much of what is both engaging and bothersome is due to the signature style: exaggerated character behaviour and expression. When Re:Zero gets it right, it's clever, compelling and funny; when it goes too far, even sympathetic characters become annoying, while rivals/antagonists become excruciating. There are other issues, but let's start with what makes Re:Zero as good as it is.


Arguably the best things in Re:ZERO - twin demon maids, Ram and Rem.
Their disparaging commentary whenever Subaru awakens is a highlight.


It's easy, actually. The characters. Now, they aren't complex, nor do they develop much beyond their roles in the overall story, but they are, for the most part, memorably quirky. Best of a great bunch are the two demon maids employed by Margrave Roswaal L. Mather, Emilia's make-up wearing, clown-voiced, ambiguous sponsor for the crown. When Subaru wrangles his way into the household they initially treat him with hilarious, barefaced disdain. One of the ongoing gags is how they wait by his bedside for him to awaken, then critique, at once brutal and coy, his unguarded waking behaviour. It turns out that not only are they exceptionally diligent with their household tasks (and in Rem's case - she's the blue-haired one - a genius in the domestic arts) they also have, despite their sweet appearance, frightening powers (again, Rem, in particular). Subaru has ample opportunity to interact with the sisters individually and their growing regard for and trust in him is a treat to watch. Rem's description to Subaru of a possible future of married domestic bliss is about a sweet a thing as you'll ever hear in anime, even if the context is disturbing. The twins will become powerful allies.

Next on the list is Puck, a cat spirit who lives in Emilia's hair (or perhaps inside her skull). He's part familiar to her as witch, part mascot to her as magical girl, but mostly good-humoured comic relief for Subaru. He is the first to grasp Subaru's innate qualities, possibly swayed by the tummy rubs and fur-tickles he receives. There are hints that he is much, much more, with unexplained monstrous power. He appears to have an agenda all his own, but that's one of several things that we need explained in some possible future instalment in the franchise. Another catlike creature is the knight to one of Emilia's rivals for the crown, whose name was sometimes subbed by Crunchyroll as Felis (Latin for cat) and others as Felix (Latin for fruitful, favourable, lucky). Both would be appropriate. He's an effeminate tease in consant good humour and, like Puck, takes an immediate shine to Subaru. His liege is Crusch, the warrior head of the Karsten family who treats everyone with tough love. There's an imp of a slum girl - Felt - with a chip on her shoulder so heavy it might just crush her and a giant lump of a companion - Rom - whose laundering activities bely his gentle inner soul. There's a red-haired knight - Reinhard van Astrea - who's sweet, mild and resolves conflict with a minimum of fuss; a silver-haired knight - Julius Euclius - who's arrogant and prickly; and an older knight - Wilhelm van Astrea - with a broken heart and a cool, wise head. There's a Victorique de Blois (Gosick) type character - Beatrice - who guards a forbidden library that Subaru can find unerringly. She's another character who tantalises the viewer with what she might actually be. Again, we will have to wait to find out.


The best of the supporting characters (after Ram and Rem) - left to right/top to bottom:
A tough talking fruitshop owner, Kadomon Risch; Puck
Reinhard van Astrea; Rom trying to rescue Felt from a life of power and luxury;
Beatrice; Margrave Roswaal L. Mather
Felis/Felix; Julius Euclius
Wilhelm van Astrea; Crusch Karsten;


The next best thing about Re:Zero is the "Return by Death" ability gained by Subaru upon his transportation to the fantasy world of Lugunica. The scenario isn't original in anime. Puella Magi Madoka Magica and this year's ERASED both do something similar. It allows Subaru to relive events, giving him the opportunity to change things. The twist is, Subaru has to die to activate the ability. In addition to Re:Zero using the twist for some black gags, it also enables him to learn. He makes mistakes, experiences the repercussions, changes his behaviour. He becomes more self-aware and more honest with the people he comes to love. Obviously though, the learning will entail suffering, but more on that later. The ongoing machinations behind the scenes - the selection of the next ruler with the constant hints that a witch and a dragon may interfere catastrophically, along with the murderous activities of the witches cult - add a compelling air of mystery and threat.

Visually, the show is up to the mark. The backgrounds are sumptuous - although I sort of wish anime would move away from the current fashion for photo-realistic scenery. More expressionistic backgrounds would be welcome, but that's just a personal thought. While the character designs don't break new ground, each is distinctive, with features that suit well their often exaggerated personalities. The incidental music complements the on-screen activities without ever overwhelming things, which is a way of saying it doesn't draw attention to itself. The first opening theme, Redo by Konomi Suzuki, when used, gets the episodes off to a boistrous start. So much so, I get why it's sometimes omitted. I prefer the first ending theme, Styx Helix by Myth & Roid (Myth Android, get it?), with its gorgeous, synthetic harmonies and driving chorus that burst into the show. I'm listening to it on You Tube at the moment.

As I said earlier, the first weakness of the series is intinsically connected to one of its charms, the narrative and personality excess. With some of the supporting characters - rival Priscilla Barielle and the early appearances of Julius Euclius - the exaggeration can be borne thanks to their brevity. Subaru is another matter altogether. It doesn't help that he really just has two outward personality traits - excess enthusiasm and excess frustration. I find it hard to believe that someone with his innate enthusiasm would be a shut-in in real life. His constant screaming constantly spoils his otherwise engaging journey towards greater awareness. Subaru's mid-series mental breakdown isn't convincing enough to be harrowing, yet it's so laboured to be annoying. Worst of all is the major villain of the series, Betelgeuse Romanee-Conti. Whose idiotic idea was it to put this excruciating character in the series? From his ridiculous character design, to the hammy acting, to the inanities he spouts, he would possibly rate as the worst villain I've had the displeasue of encountering in an anime. Seriously, this is one instance where exaggeration is a turn off. Great villains give me shivers (Johan from Monster), or they are cleverer than anyone else (the Count in Gankutsuou: The Count of Monti Cristo), or they're misguided (the Mikado and his secret hunters in Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit), or their insanity is portrayed well (Hamdo in Now and Then, Here and There), or they enrage me for the best reasons (Kyubey in Puella Magi Madoka Magica). Betelgeuse managed to enrage me all right, but in the "I'm fed up watching this crap," sense.


Betelgeuse Romanee-Conti: that's how I felt watching him.

Another characteristic of Re:Zero is its frequent descent into viciousness. The unfortunate tendency starts from the very first episode in the form of Elsa Granhiert, aka the Bowel Hunter, who's aim in life is to rip open people's guts as painfuly and messily as she possibly can. Charming. Viciousness is another of the traits that I find so irritating about Betelguese. I can understand creators instilling cruelty into the personalities of the bad guys, but here it's also a frequent behavioural trait of the supposed good guys: mildly in the tsundere behaviours of Felt and Beatrice, but more disturbing in Julius Euclius's chauvinism, or Wilhelm's tormenting of the whale, or Rem's bloody wholesale destruction when in demon form. Death is depicted as violent, and accompanied by terror, pain in extremis, and an awareness in the victim, whether villain or otherwise, of their abject failure. Because of Subaru's return by death ability (and his deaths are as unpleasant as anybody's) we have the privilege of witnessing some of the characters die more than once. Betelgeuse dying is no guarantee he won't pop up again (in more ways than one). The cruelty is so pervasive I must conclude the creators are using it as entertainment. Along with the behaviour and treatment of Betelguese it is most excessively demonstrated in the destruction of the flying white whale. While I have no sympathy for the creature, we see it receive far more injury than it inflicts. Every cut, piercing, bludgeoning and crushing along with the terror, pain and rage in its eyes, is depicted in loving detail. What we get is two episodes of unremitting sadism. The villains are, of course, implacably bad and without any redeeming qualities, so, clearly, they warrant any amount of awful treatment. There's no nuance or ambiguous antagonist. As happens so often in anime, the problem is resolved by killing. Ultimately Re:Zero devolves into just another fight-fest anime, like Gurren Lagann or Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood or Attack on Titan, with their black and white enemies, martial solutions and valorisation of violence. Perhaps I should acknowledge that I'm not the intended market for this sort of show. Shame, because it has so much going for it.

I might add in parenthesis that the destruction of the whale by crushing it with an upended gigantic tree is redolent with political overtones. Both whales and trees are iconic touchpoints for the environmental movement. Japan thumbs its nose at Australia by hunting whales in waters Australia has territorial claims to in the Antarctic. We, in turn, clearfell our limited old growth forests for woodchips to be turned into paper pulp in Japan, who, for their part, care for their forests more than we care for ours.


Subaru and Emilia: good characters who ultimately disappoint thanks to defects in their realisaition by the creators.

The last problem I want to mention is the treatment of the female characters. I get that Re:Zero is aimed at a male teenage audience where the viewer identifies with the main character as hero with his retinue of cute girls. Catch is, the more the female characters interact with Subaru, the less interesting and more simpering they are apt to become. Rem goes from demonic killer to dewy-eyed hero worshipper. In one of the most disappointing scenes of the series she happily takes on the role as his #2 girl. I expect better than that from a demon. Emilia's grand redemptive moment (I say that ironically) has her tearfully proclaiming that Subaru has saved her (presumably from her low sense of self-worth even though she's far more capable than he and has at her disposal the most powerful personage in the show). Beatrice and Ram extend the harem, while even Crusch acknowledges she has an urge to join. Getting back to the Subaru and Rem scene where she fantasises about raising a family with him, one of the anchors of Subaru's personality is his absolute loyalty to Emilia. That he should propose such a thing to Rem may illustrate his despair but it critically undermines his credibility. Hers is enhanced when she gently reminds to him of his true loyalties.

Rating: as I said, good. Re:Zero's overall tone of exaggeration gives us both loveable and exasperating characters; both a great premise and disturbing thematic preoccupations; and likewise edifying and disappointing personal development. Despite my grumbles, watching it a second time over four days was only a chore in the Betelgeuse scenes. The things it does well outweigh the things that bother. If the latter aren't of particular concern to you then you will no doubt rate the series higher than I do.


Last edited by Errinundra on Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:02 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Blood-
Bargain Hunter



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 8:30 am Reply with quote
Errinundra, I can't tell you what a relief it is to read your review. Yes, of course, a lot of this is the simple pleasure one encounters when reading an opinion that almost exactly mirrors one's own, but it goes beyond that. Re:ZERO does some things very well as you point out. It also does some things very badly but that doesn't seem to have mitigated a reception that, from what I can perceive, has been generally rapturous. It's nice to encounter someone else who has watched the entire thing, evaluated it fairly and not come away proclaiming its masterpiece-y genius.
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Key
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:47 pm Reply with quote
I'll definitely agree that the treatment of female characters in the series is one of the series' weak points. It has some very strong female characters - in fact, they're all distinctly more powerful than Subaru in one form or another - but I was always a little disappointed with the handling of Emilia and Rem (the former especially after how she handled episode 13's epic conclusion) and thought Wilhelm came across as more than a little chauvinistic in those flashbacks where he's courting (sort of) his wife.

Can't agree on Betelgeuse. I thought he was great, especially if you look at him as the veritable embodiment of the insane situation that Subaru has been thrust into. I also think you're underestimating what the writing did with Subaru. Even some people who weren't "top 5 of the year" enamored with the series found him to be the year's best character.

As for the violence, I think that's a matter of personal taste. I found it all very fitting, as it emphasized the severity of the threat factor that Subaru was facing and how there were bloody consequences for his mistakes. And I hardly think that eliminating a couple of dozen warriors from existence is trivial in comparison to the harm done to him. (I will agree, though, that the whale-fighting scenes went a little overboard.)

Interesting speculation on the whale-tree symbolism, though. I hadn't considered that possibility.


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DuskyPredator



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:13 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
Subaru is another matter altogether. It doesn't help that he really just has two outward personality traits - excess enthusiasm and excess frustration. I find it hard to believe that someone with his innate enthusiasm would be a shut-in in real life. His constant screaming constantly spoils his otherwise engaging journey towards greater awareness. Subaru's mid-series mental breakdown isn't convincing enough to be harrowing, yet it's so laboured to be annoying.

Really, you can’t see why Subaru would be a shut-in? I think that one of the important things with Subaru’s character is to read between the lines. Subaru is a really fragile person, he can kind of take pretty personally, and being a bit of a recluse myself, I can see why someone like Subaru would have gotten recluse from the people around him after he might have gotten hurt. “Excess” enthusiasm”? Laughing It is kind of the first sign that Subaru has huge self-esteem issues, it is the sort of thing you do when you worry so much that you instead get enthusiastic because it stops you from showing your weakness. What we have to get is that Subaru became a recluse due to some even probably with other people that made it painful, so he likely took up escapist media and changed himself for the wish of living out such a fantasy where he could be the hero and save the girl, he even apparently took up exercise. In any other situation Subaru would just be pointless, but mentally Subaru was so ready to end up in that situation, one he was probably picked for.

Betelgeuse is a direct reflection of Subaru, we find out that the basis of Betelgeuse’s identity is that he feels like he is a special snowflake who deserves the love of the witch because he worked so hard for her. Subaru was kind of the same way with Emilia, and if you think it was silly, it is really facing the culture of storytelling from right back where knights saved damsels from dragons that turning the love of a woman into a prize as being something disgusting. Read enough comments from Otaku and you pick up that there is a pervasive kind of sick ideas where a female (character) despite the supposed love for them instead is possessive, and in the real world there are cases of abuse tied to this topic, but anime usually romanticises it. Betelgeuse everything wrong about Subaru, his insane ramblings done to cover up feelings of inadequacy, feelings of possession, and acts to screw over everyone else because it is his story. It was why it was kind of important that his powers were reflective of Subaru’s in coming back after supposed to being killed, and that Subaru is at risk of it. The answer was being humble, Subaru had to stop being slothful in his thinking and be humble about his deeds and that Emilia did not owe jack of her love to Subaru, and in exchange he was maybe kind of worth it in treating her like a person.

And the narrative does also turn it on its head with the female cast. Really Subaru just as much did not owe Rem his love to her for what she did, except maybe some gratitude, which he definitely does. But the argument already is that Rem might only do so for what Subaru did for her, and the amount of times that she sacrifices herself for him and such are evidence that she is not fixed after her thoughts of owing her sister, but the fact she could trust him enough to leave after being exhausted was proof that maybe she was growing. But Emilia is the smoking gun, more importantly is her connection with the witch. When Subaru feels the dark hands that pull him back, after a while he starts to hear the witch talking to him, and apparently the words she is saying is that she loves him, it is quite likely that she feels that Subaru owes his love to her for what she has been doing for him. And by the end it is still clear that Subaru is still thinking of Emilia as the damsel in need of saving, but she is actually far stronger than he thinks, that he is arrogant for thinking she is helpless, and in reflection she too is arrogant for thinking of Subaru as helpless. There is a duality there.

And I am against the accusation that Crusch wanted to join the Subaru Harem. What she said was that she liked him (as a person) and that she is no real interest in joining such a thing, because really it is okay for a woman just to like a guy as a person without love being involved, and it was just one more addition of healthy characters. By the end though it still kind of left that the relationships between Emilia, Subaru, and Rem is still a little unhealthy, that they lacked strength as a female character because they did things out of feeling they owed him. But at the same time we also got to think that Subaru was just as much a weak male character because he was saying that he was doing things for Emilia because he owed her, specifically for something she does not remember ever doing, and I am pretty sure that the whole hypocrisy was meant to be showcased. It was not a problem supposed to be unique to the female characters.

Did I write too much? My point is that a number of the imperfections were meant to be there for a reason, and very much was taken the idea that there is nothing more boring or wrong than something/one who is perfect, because it is not honest.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:06 pm Reply with quote
Thanks, guys, for the comments. I must admit that being challenged is somewhat alarming but it does help me understand the show more and also my own responses to it. I think the points of difference between us can be described as either matters of substance or matters of tone.

Regarding the substance - the underlying themes and character development - I feel that we're not all that far apart. I'll address the main points of contention.

1. The growth of Subaru. I think it's one of the strengths of the series, which I acknowledge in my paragraph on his "return by death" ability. Whether he deserves to be character of the year I'll discuss below.

2. The thematic role of Betelgeuse. I hadn't paid much attention to that aspect of him, so thanks again, Key and DuskyPredator, for your thoughts. I see now that he embodies some of the issues facing Subaru. He's still eye and ear vomit as far as I'm concerned, but that's an issue that also comes under the rubric of the tone of the show.

3. The treatment of the female characters. I direct this mostly at Dusky Predator. My issues aren't with Subaru - I like your comments about his developing attitude to them - so much as with Emilia and Rem. I hate it when strong female characters are reduced to defining their worth by their relationship with a male. Now matter what slant one puts on it, that's what they do. Regarding Crusch, while it was a throwaway comment on a metafictional level, I stand by the underlying point I was making. Re:ZERO has harem elements - the members being Emilia, Rem, Ram and Beatrice and the these days obligatory male member, Felix. Crusch telling Subaru that she was momentarily attracted to him is part of the harem game being played out. All six characters are ripe for shipping with Subaru by fans. I think that's intentional on the part of the creators. I'm happy with that.

Regarding the tone - how the themes and characters are presented to us - this is primarily where my beef with the show lies. I found it in turns annoying (Subaru), distasteful (Betelguese), and depraved (the cruelty). The way I see it, Re:ZERO has many fine aspects, so it doesn't need to constantly whack me in the head with its overbearing presentation. Dusky, you say, reasonably, that Subaru's excess enthusiasm is a mask for his lack of confidence. The whole show smacks of teenage bluster. It doesn't need it and would be better off without it. The last sentence of my review acknowledges that, should these things not bother you, then you would likely rate the show higher than I do. If you go to My Anime and sort by how I rate the titles, you'll see that I have a penchant for understated shows like Aria, Mushi-shi, Haibane Renmei or Time of Eve. I'm a person who's captivated by Noir and other Koichi Mashimo titles notorious for their slow pace. I'm bothered by Re:ZERO's tone and I think it's a valid response and one that needs to put out there to temper some other responses.

The tonal problems spoil Subaru as a character. His screaming and facial contortions during his breakdown phase are as overwrought as the rivers of tears in the last couple of episodes of anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Good writing doesn't need to do that. He doesn't need that. I want to be affected by what happens to him, not alienated by the overstated script.

I've only watched nine 2016 anime titles to date so I won't presume to nominate a best character in his place. I would, however, compare him, unfavourably, with Satoru Fujinuma from ERASED, where a similar gimmick is used in a much more thoughtful way. His grief and despair are explored far more convincingly. But then, the intended audience is different. As I acknowledge in my paragraph in the review on the violence, I'm not the target for Re:ZERO, which, when all is said and done, is a shounen anime. Maybe I'm just too old for it.
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DuskyPredator



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:23 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
The tonal problems spoil Subaru as a character. His screaming and facial contortions during his breakdown phase are as overwrought as the rivers of tears in the last couple of episodes of anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Good writing doesn't need to do that. He doesn't need that. I want to be affected by what happens to him, not alienated by the overstated script.

And I think that it is the problem to feel that you are supposed to be quite feeling for him in that scene. Subaru is both an otaku protagonist and stuck in a fantasy world protagonist, it is a double whammy at being super insert character, by the very nature it implies that he should be too easy to connect to and to what the audience would want, it should be a really lazy character to connect to. But then the show has him totally self-destruct in a way the audience should be screaming at him the entire time to stop, we don't want to have these as our insert actions.

But the point is that it was meant to reflect on ugly parts of the audience that we would not want shown: Being the "hero", even if specifically told to butt out by the persona supposed to be saving. Criticising a system/organisation different to what you are familiar with, when you are an outsider with no idea. Trying to act in someone's stead when really you are doing it to make yourself feel important. And really that the relationship with another person is out of possessive obligation instead of an actual connection. The whole thing was made to be alienating and ugly, while the audience might suddenly realize that they could see a bit of themselves or how they thought about another show/media in his motivations.

If the audience just felt for what Subaru was going through, it would have undercut that the whole thing was a scathing criticism of culture, and from the outside it can look outright terrible. And as for the rivers of tears towards the end, it was one of the cases that we were not quite supposed to feel for him as much as see that his character had to go through a total transformation, that the whole time he had been kind of imperfect for the role of the story hero because he had so many complexes and self loathing. It had to be painful to watch, and the tears had to wash it away, and one good deed or opinion of him could be the basis for a new sense of worth.

Errinundra wrote:
My issues aren't with Subaru - I like your comments about his developing attitude to them - so much as with Emilia and Rem. I hate it when strong female characters are reduced to defining their worth by their relationship with a male. Now matter what slant one puts on it, that's what they do.

And yet the same thoughts are not about Subaru defining himself by Emilia? I thought the show was kind of purposeful in how Rem had kind of switched her devotion of her sister instead to Subaru instead. Rem kind of hates herself, she hates that she was happy when her sister lost her horn, she hates that she disliked Subaru at first (enough that in some timelines she would kill him), hates that Subaru got cursed because of her, and probably others. The end of her early arc was that she had to love herself. But yeah, Rem sacrifices herself multiple times for Subaru, and it is kind of a flaw she still has.

And Emilia, she kind of cuts ties with Subaru upon finding that their relationship is not healthy. She never really asks for Subaru's help, and it is actually that he is surprised that she is strong because he is always mistaking her for needing to be protected by him. Almost to the end is kind of the implication that it is wrong, Subaru is kind of blind to her actual feelings like how prejudice defines how others see her, the fruits of her labour in training, and what she needed from him as someone who would treat her as just a person, or why Puck would go on a huge rampage if something happened to her. The season ended, but the characters were not finished. Well honestly Emilia was a bit of a problem because it feels like we did not really get to know her well enough beyond a lot of Subaru's actions.
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