Tag Archives: Psychological Thriller

Subete ga F ni Naru [The Perfect Insider] [85/100]

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The [not quite] Perfect Insider

The Perfect Insider takes the classic locked room mystery and gives it an interesting twist, inserting digital technology and gendered elements… elements that don’t quite hold up under scrutiny, which may be a deal breaker for some.

Isaac Asimov in an introduction to his collected mystery short stories wrote that there were essentially two schools of whodunits. The first was of a logical puzzle sort that had to be deduced by the protagonist (and also, natch, the reader), with the locked room mystery being the ultimate example. The main pleasure to be derived in these sorts of stories was the logical coherence of the mystery and the way in which it could be solved as an exercise of the intellect. Asimov, as we might guess, wrote mysteries in this form.

The other sort of mystery, Asimov said, was the sort where the actual mystery was really second to the process of deduction – what might now be termed a police procedural. The main dividend  for the reader of these tales were the myriad amusing insights into human behavior, a sort of cynical morality play. Asimov gave Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories as the ultimate example of this school of mystery, adding, perhaps a bit ruefully, that they were really more shaggy dog stories than actual mysteries.

Having read every Philip Marlowe novel more than once, I can say that even now I don’t really remember what the mystery in any one story was exactly, or how it was even resolved. But the mystery was ancillary; an excuse for Marlowe to get involved with a colorful cast of characters, make clever remarks, and have adventures (a contemporary homage to this type of mystery is the Big Lebowski).

We can say. then, that The Perfect Insider represents a classic bait-and-switch: we are promised a cerebral locked-room mystery, and instead end up with an enjoyable character study and a somewhat disjointed adventure yarn. How annoyed the viewer is by the work’s admittedly unscrupulous deception depends on how amused they are in spite of it all.

Personally, I liked it so much that I now want to watch the live action adaptation.

The Perfect Insider opens with a simple confrontation between two young women, one of whom murdered her parents, and the other who had her parents taken from her in a tragic accident. From there begins an insightful, but also at times uneven, exploration of what it exactly means to be in control, and whether that is synonymous with freedom, a central theme that quietly flows beneath the surface of the work.

The next scene is takes up the rest of the first episode, and consists entirely of Moe Nishinosono, the young woman who lost her parents, talking with her professor.

If watching a cartoon about a professor’s office hours is something that intrigues you, then you will probably enjoy The Perfect Insider. For me, the episode was amazing. The professor,  Sohei Saikawa, is the series’ gumshoe stand-in, a haggard, unconventional chain smoker who can move effortlessly from  Zhuang Zhou to bootstrapping operating systems.  Moe Nishinosono falls into the Girl Friday role, but both characters color outside the lines enough that the conventional roles they play are more homage than hack work.

By episode 2 the duo find their way to a remote island, of course, where a storm cuts them off from the mainland, of course, and then a murder happens, of course. Thus, we finally arrive at the mystery, which involves the other young woman introduced in the first episode, the brilliant but deadly Shiki Magata. Again, the series’ charm lies in its spin on traditional elements of the mystery: the femme fatale, who in this instance never even meets the male protagonist; her seductive power for him lies totally in the realm of abstract thought.

A major plot point hinges on a real-life problem in programming, the overflow or wrap-around error, which I thought was a very clever and daring touch, given how unfamiliar and technical an issue it is, from the perspective of a general audience.

Of course, as I later had pointed out to me, while such an error is theoretically possible, it is highly improbable, even given the time period the source material was written in (the anime is based on a novel written in the early-mid 1990s). Essentially, the error involves an overflow on a 16-bit unsigned integer, which is a digitally stored whole number that has to be equal to or greater than zero, with no negative sign. However, by that period in time in Japan even video game systems had at least 32-bit CPUs, implying that the standard integer size on computers used in a state-of-the-art research laboratory would have to be at the very least twice the size of the one given in the story.

A detractor here would say that this is representative of the series’ general shortcomings; it’s only kissing to be clever, don’t think for a second that it’s going to go all the way, or that it even cares. I think this somewhat unfair, at least in this instance. It’s not something a casual viewer would ever catch, and even those people who sense it’s fibbing on a technicality would still be wiling to grant the artistic license and maintain the suspension of disbelief. Biologists and paleontologists are still able to enjoy Jurassic Park, right? Still…

In fact, what we can say is that the work as a mystery really, truly is sloppy. The mystery isn’t solved so much as it unravels in big heap in front of the viewer. By the final episode I was completely lost; not, I suspect, from a failure of intellect on my part, but because the story had so many loose ends you could make a mop out of it. At least, I hope that’s the case – FilmSnark has a much more detailed analysis of everything that didn’t add up (most of it).

And yet, after finishing it, I immediately wanted to watch it again. The main characters are a lot of fun, salient points are made regarding intelligence being used to excuse sociopathic behavior, and the soundtrack is awesome, like imagine if Phil Collins scored the original Lupin III series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 85/100

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] Episode 4

Episode 4 Production Details

Episode Director: Shinya Watada ( Episode Director on Bounen no Xamdou episode 9 / Episode Director on Sword Art Online episode 4 / Episode Director and Storyboard on Gundam Build Fighters episodes 8, 17 and 23 / Episode Director on Hitsugi no Chaika episodes 1 and 6 / Director and Storyboard on Gundam Build Fighters Try Second Ending Sequence)

Storyboards: Shinya Watada

Script: Taku Kishimoto ( Script Writer on Gin no Saji series / Script Writer on Haikyuu!! Second Season episodes 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18)


Neat idea to have a film reel moving backwards to recap what Satoru has already experienced.  Makes these mundane recaps of the previous episodes a lot more intriguing. Sachiko should win mother of the year award.  She really loves Satoru a whole lot and I like how much focus there is with their relationship both visually and in depicting the family dynamic between Satoru’s mother and Kayo’s mother. Satoru’s conversation with the girl at the beginning of the episode re-introduces to us in plain view that we’re seeing a 29-year old think and interact through the eyes of a child.  Sometimes I wonder how this conversation would have gone down originally or if it did at all. I also like how calculated he is–thinking about the day Kayo will go missing and establish a back-up plan in case something should happen.  On the other hand there is also a weakness to Satoru not being in his original body–he slips up and says what he thinks out loud providing some solid comedic moments between him and Kayo.  That was pretty cute when he says he couldn’t get them to go on Saturday because of a date with her.  I mentioned last time how detailed this series is with just about eery scene–Yashiro and Kenya meeting up builds on that weird cliffhanger from last time.  I wonder if Kenya and Yashiro are somehow involved with Sachiko’s death from 2006 given how close they appear to be. Speaking of evil and this show’s use of top notch sound direction especially where Satoru gets the guts to confront Kayo’s mother and get permission to take Kayo to the Science Center.  His slip ups are going to be a problem for hm later on if he is stuck in a situation like this with the killer.

Sachiko saving the day and smoothing her anger over really saved Satoru and provides more depth to him.  At the beginning of this series he wasn’t too fond of his own mom staying at his apartment let alone meddling in his affairs especially his relationship with Airi.  Now that he knows she could end up dying again in another 2006 timeline he appreciates her more and wants to protect her.  She’s perceptive in that she knows there might be some good in Kayo’s mother given that she dresses her up nicely rather than wearing ragged clothes.  Even at 29, Sachiko is teaching her son things about life I really like how mature their family relationship is.  I enjoyed that scene a lot because it builds the foundation for Kayo’s mother to stop her abuse and strengthens Satoru’s relationship with Kayo.

Deja Vu plays a vital role in Satoru understanding the world he’s in and how to change it.  The manga sees his ability in a different light and   Reciting lines in his head of what Kayo is going to say next is not a good sign.  The future is heading towards her inevitable disappearance again and how he’s going to change that will be entirely up to even his smallest of actions.  Right down to believing in himself.  The frame cuts in this are still amazing as ever–the teacher’s entrance in the classroom always uses this top shadow covering his eyes so that we just see his mouth and nose.  Interesting that the animation portrays this style because if you pay attention it can distract you into thinking could the killer be him?  Especially when he’s grading the essay about the Polar Bear eating the teacher.  These two scenes with Yashiro might play a role sometime later on but for now it’s just extra detail.  This was a pretty cheery episode we got to see how Satoru was going to save Kayo from X Day and that scene where he’s looking at the clock right outside her house was very tense!  This gave him the courage to keep protecting her and the reward by the end is a birthday party where its revealed that Kayo’s birthday is the same as his.

I like how this show continues to deceive us.  I originally thought Yashiro’s request to Kenya to help out at the clubroom was so much more but in actuality it was a realistic view of school life and how close students can be family to their teachers.  That birthday party and Yuki Kaijura’s score was a bit too overpowering this episode.  Satoru running home after believing he’s changed things for the better with Kayo’s situation while had some solid acting was too orchestral and needed to be more subdued.

Satoru has had dreadful events one after another and it’s about time we’re seeing happy situations unfolding throughout this episode.  A calm before the storm style of storytelling that also gives this sense of uneasiness.  Just when we believe everything is alright (just as Satoru has felt for the majority of this episode) this show drops a huge bomb–Satoru hasn’t changed much of anything and Kayo has disappeared again.  That’s how to make a cliffhanger!  Perhaps Satoru did in fact change things but the murderer changed his mind about Kayo becoming the first victim.

All in all this was a nice shift in tone, a feel good episode.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Just a side note, I’m hosting an ERASED event covering the full series.  The first half, episodes 1 through 6 will be April 6th. The second half is scheduled for May 11th.

Prizes will be included in a raffle for both nights.

Episodes 1-6 First Half Marathon:

Official Japanese retail CD w/ DVD Anime Edition Opening and Ending SINGLES

The first 10 Attendees will receive ERASED coffee mugs

Other prizes and items are TBA.

The huge raffle for the grand prize will be only available to those that show up both nights.

If anyone is interested in going or if you want to help fund the event please contact me at beatslars@gmail.com

 

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] Episode 3

Episode 3 Production Details

Episode Director: Takahiro Shikama ( Key Animator on STAR DRIVER: Kagayaki no Takuto episodes 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 23 and 25 / Action Animation Supervisor on Sword Art Online episodes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24 / Storyboard alongside Shigeki Kawai on Sword Art Online II episode 19 / Key Animator on Rolling Girls episode 4 / Action Animation Supervisor, Episode Director, Storyboard and Key Animator on Boku dake ga Inai Machi episode 3)

Storyboards: Takahiro Shikama

Script: Yutaka Yasunaga ( Script Writer on Gin no Saji series / Script Writer on Haikyuu!! Second Season episodes 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18)


This is one of the most beautiful looking episodes of the season!  That sequence with Satoru and Kayo looking up at the night sky was breathtaking!  The animation flowed smoothly and Yuki Kaijura’s soundtrack all came together wonderfully.

Picking right up from last time, Satoru is trying to figure out exactly how he’s going to save Kayo.  The torn gloves is a big clue that Kayo is subjected to abuse and I like how believable Kayo’s mother in that it gives us a solid view of a family life that’s shattered.  Yuki Kaijura delivered in strides throughout this entire episode!  The drowning scene was amazing!  That song as Satoru is discovering Kayo’s abuse out in the open was creepy.

The red eyes might not symbolize the killer rather it uses the color as a red herring.  In order to avoid only predictability and focusing on one person being the culprit from the get-go.  Jun Shiratori has them in a closeup shot in this episode as well as Kayo’s mother, the father-like figure and Sachiko’s killer from the first episode.  Anyone could be the culprit.  The color plays a huge role in this series as its also the focus of death.  Kayo Hinazuki goes missing and is found dead in the previous timeline and it’s interesting how objects in this show like her coat is red signify this archetype of mystery.

Another piece that Boku Machi excels in is distracting its viewers with the importance of the smallest details and actions.  Jun Shiratori’s magazine collection and his quick reaction when Satoru sees them builds a level of suspicion on him especially when we are seeing it for the first time just as Satoru is (or had forgotten in the previous timeline).

I like how quick the animation cuts from 1988 to 2006 act as a sort of catalyst for Satoru understanding some truth about the timeline that he’s stuck in.  Seeing as how Jun looks from his time in jail plays on the mystery of this series wonderfully and removes the idea that he is Sachiko’s killer because he according to Satoru has been wrongly accused.  Gaku Yashiro is also a suspect due to the etherial soundtrack and that awesome angle shot upward with Satoru being caught by surprise by him.  Really love that entire scene because it’s so tense and gently bring back the idea that there is more to this story than the time travel and murders.

It’s been so nice to see this show not push aside everyday life.  While everything that Satoru does is crucial to a new timeline where he might be able to save Kayo and Sachiko it’s great that we get scenes like finding out when Kayo’s birthday is and the tender hearted moment Kayo and he share in the climax of this episode from the foxes running around them and the christmas tree.  There’s a lot going on each episode and I’m glad to see how much depth they’ve put into the main cast and even the adults of this series.

ERASED doesn’t forget the important topic at hand right now–removing custody of Kayo from her mother.  I like how Gaku is very concerned for Kayo because this episode at one point puts suspicion on him by Satoru and then in that one conversation with him he’s seen in a completely different light.

Incredible framing during the christmas tree scene!  Director Takahiro Shikama got to animate the hell out of this climax and it paid off!  All these top animation shots and closeups throughout Satoru’s experiences give off a very real perspective from the eyes of a child.  Amazing!

The one thing I don’t like however is the suspenseful cliffhanger between Gaku and Kenya.  What’s going on here?  They should have put that scene somewhere in the middle of this episode because it makes this show run dry when you put too many cliffhangers at the end of just about every episode.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

 

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] Episode 2

Episode 2 Production Details

Episode Director: Toshimasa Ishii ( Episode Director on Nanatsu no Taizai episodes 6, 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso episode 18)

Storyboards: Toshimasa Ishii

Script: Taku Kishimoto ( Script Writer on Gin no Saji series / Script Writer on Haikyuu!! Second Season episodes 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18)


 

The cinematography in this series is ridiculously good.  It has a good balance between lighting and shading and long wide shots that emphasize the importance of a person’s facial expression whether the whole face is shown or not.  Loved that introduction of the teacher as he’s moving from the shadow and into the light to begin class!  There is a mix between close up shots of objects and character’s feet like this episode utilizes to build on the atmosphere throughout Boku Machi.  We also get a bunch of wide angle shots that establish the mystery surrounding Kayo’s inevitable disappearance.  The color red as we saw last time plays a significant role in depicting villainous actions–the killer’s eyes and now the amazing Kayo’s abuse scene from the perspective of Satoru was tough to watch.  Satoru’s inner thoughts remind us that he’s an adult stuck in a child’s body.  I’m glad that the creators got an actual actor to portray his 29 year old self because it’s his introspection and situational awareness that make this series so intriguing.

The sound effects play a large part in this and the scene in the very beginning where he’s reflecting on the situation at hand establishes this perfectly.  The closeup shot of his face as he’s sweating is very tense.  The cuts that play after these scenes develop a big picture that Satoru truly is in a different time.  It plays on how Kenya is suspicious of Satoru wonderfully.  I feel bad for Satoru because one of the last things he sees in 2006 is his dead mother and now he’s trying to figure out the world around him 18 years prior because of it.    It took me awhile to notice this but there are few key things from the premiere that you might miss from one viewing.  Remember the scene where Sachiko is on the phone on the park bench and there is that wide shot of her?  Right above her head is a shimmering thread which I’m sure will come into play later.  Also before Satoru experiences a Revival there is a blue butterfly moving across the screen.  This represents the idea of the butterfly effect–small causes can have large effects.

Yuki Kajiura weaves in quite the emotional slow-moving piece to pull in the idea that Satoru will finally see his mother again but in a different time.  This is the first time we are seeing him fall into his 11-year old self–the hamburgers and his power of revival are gradually making him lose sense of his present-day life.  Here is where we see shifts back and forth between him remembering small things like his friends and more importantly what he had said to Kayo the first time he was 11 years old.  This pulls you into the atmosphere of this show even more! From the very beginning scene where we see Satoru as a kid for the first time from episode 1 the creators did something smart in differentiating between past and present. The widescreen.

I believe the intentions of this episode are to shape how Satoru will change the future (his present day 2006) and hopefully save his mother.  His friends capitalize on this in a big way in that in order to save Kayo he has to make friends and others to realize kids are disappearing.  Love how Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy are mentioned it builds more depth to the pop culture of 1988.  Hiro and Kazu and Osamu are typical kids, they play videogames and I like how authentic their entire conversation is when it shifts to Kayo Hinazuki.  From his adult standpoint he has to save her.  From his friends’ point of view is the quick notion that Satoru has strong feelings for her.  Love how this entire idea acts as an obstacle for him in figuring out exactly how to save her and in how he thinks clearly as a 29-year old.  Fantastic script during that!  The bruises on Kayo reflect reality and the harsh life she has and Satoru’s desire to be a part of hers and make it the timeline in 2006 a better one.

It’s still great to see that Jun Shiratori is viewed as the murderer.  As little as we’ve seen of him I think Satoru is similar to him–they are both trying to fit into their society as normal people.  The first episode indicates Satoru doesn’t clearly fit in because he can’t seem to handle Airi’s affections and this episode finally shifts the focus of a love theme with Kayo in the picture.  Especially when Kayo says the same thing Airi said in the last episode about when you keep wanting to believe in something over and over how it can ultimately in the end shape your reality.  These words are quite true to Satoru’s revival ability and his desire to write a successful manga.

Kenya’s relationship with Satoru is interesting it’s more mature than any of the other students in the class.  There’s a lot of observation on Kenya’s part and it definitely keeps Satoru on his toes because by the end of this episode he’s acting as if nothing will happen to Kayo in front of his friends.  In the words of Kayo and Airi, keep believing that it is a crush, and her death may actually be avoided.  This entire idea spells out the ending in a touching way–Satoru says exactly what he’s feeling about Kayo and it’s great to see his resolve finally take form!


OP: “Re:Re:” by ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION

Directed by: Tomohiko Ito

Storyboards: Tomohiko Ito

Animation Supervisor: Keigo Sasaki ( Character Designer on Ao No Exorcist / Character Designer on Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda / Key Animator on Magi First Opening Sequence)

This was my favorite song from the ‘Sol-Fa’ album!  I’m glad to see they are re-styling it! It’s a nice homage to this series central themes!  This song rocks and its lyrics captures Boku Machi‘s time travel motif perfectly!  The visuals give a good look at school life when Satoru was a kid and it’s smart Tomohiko Ito decided to not show this until the second episode until the point in the actual story that he’s stuck inside 1988!  The transition cuts are quick and there is a lot of foreshadowing going on.  Especially the water rushing sequence as the instrumentals on the guitar get quicker and going to the chorus!  Love that part where Satoru is colored in all black and the timeline is swirling around him as he’s shapeshifting between 29 and 11 years old!  You can also see a potential spoiler if you pause the video at just the right time!  Awesome opening!  I like the film reel at the beginning with the two Satoru’s viewing their life as an entertainment form! The entire sequence translates into the story amazingly well!

ED: “Sore wa Chiisa na Hikari no yō na” (それは小さな光のような; That was like a small light) by Sayuri

Directed by: Masashi Ishihama ( Director on Shinsekai Yori / Character Designer on Uchuu Show e Youkoso / Director, Storyboard and Animation Supervisor on BLEACH Fifth Opening Sequence / Animation Supervisor, Director, Storyboard and Key Animator on PSYCHO-PASS 2 Opening Sequence / Episode Director and Storyboard on Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)

Storyboards: Masashi Ishihama

Animation Supervisor: Masashi Ishihama

Sayuri did incredible work on Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace’s ending ‘Mikazuki’.  This ending is tons better than that one.  Sayuri’s voice is very emotional for this song!  Everything just comes together in this!  Hands down one of the best openings of the season!  Thanks to the amazing art style by Masashi Ishihama, one of my favorite animators and the lead director on the anime adaptation of 2012’s Shinsekai Yori!  His style is influenced by a variety of talented animators from Masami Obari to SHAFT’s Akiyuki Shinbo which is why we see some pretty amazing closeups of Kayo and other female characters throughout this ending!  The color palette is to the extreme in this!  It’s otherworldly and has a strong mystical vibe to it!  I really love how his animation is erratic–Kayo hopping to the down beats of the music track in a small detail that is incredible!  Wild movement from female silhouettes flying, lying down, closeup shots of a mouth moving and my favorite part is the blinds covering the girl as she quickly turns around and points!  Remember how I mentioned the string from the first episode above Sachiko? You can find that image here.  It shows up throughout this entire ending sequence!  Between binding the girl that’s lying down in two scenes and the string actually getting cut with scissors!  Satoru’s revival ability was nicely touched up as we see him standing on top of what looks like a train car being protected by his ability!  Those aqua flames look very cool!  Awesome work on this ending!

I don’t usually post additional screenshots but that ending using the string idea was fantastic work on Ishihama’s part!

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

 

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

 Satoru Fujinuma is a struggling manga artist and pizza delivery man who has the ability to turn back time and prevent deaths.  ~ANN

Animation Production: A-1 Pictures

Director: Tomohiko Ito ( Director on Sword Art Online / Episode Director on DEATH NOTE episodes 2, 7, 14 and 17 / Storyboards and Episode Director on Michiko e Hatchin episodes 4, 12 and 19)

Series Composition: Taku Kishimoto ( Series Script Writer on Gin no Saji / Series Script Writer on Haikyuu!! / Script Writer on Prince of Stride: Alternative episode 2)

Character Designer:  Keigo Sasaki ( Key Animator on Le Chevalier D’Eon episodes 3, 8, 11 and 22 / Key Animator on Shingeki no Kyojin episode 1 / Character Designer on Ao no Exorcist and Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda)

Music: Shiroh Hamaguchi ( Music Composer on Ah! My Goddess TV and film / Music Composer on Galilei Donna / Music Composer and Orchestra Conductor on Final Fantasy VII Advent Children / Music Composer on Shirobako / Music Composer on Tari Tari)

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Tomohiko Ito

Storyboards: Tomohiko Ito

Script: Taku Kishimoto


 

The new season is finally here and with it another Noitamina series.  I’ve been very un-interested in a lot of what this season has to offer but from the announcement of what was going to be airing there were three that had my attention.  Josei series Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, science fiction action series Dimension W and this. Adapting a Kei Sanbe manga was the right choice for 2016.  It’s about time we get one of his works.  He’s known for writing enthralling characters and putting them into situations that evolve their characters to great heights.  I was actually quite surprised this would be the series to receive an anime adaptation before some of his earlier works in the 2000’s. After seeing this premiere however, my mind has changed on this.  Boku Machi takes a college-aged student, gives him an extraordinary ability to time travel and throws dreadful situations at him one after the other.  This is by far one of the top premieres this season–stunning visuals, tense atmosphere not to mention fast-pacing.  Tomohiko Ito compiled an entire volume in just 25 minutes!

Even better is the fact that we’ve got two extremely famous Japanese actors voicing 29-year old and 10-year old Satoru Fujinuma.  Only other time this has happened, If I remember right, is Michiko e Hatchin.  I give props to them for handling this entire episode wonderfully.  The narrative warrants Boku Machi as the “stand-out” show of this season.  I really like how real Satoru’s personality is influenced by his power. He’s well aware of Katagiri liking him but doesn’t want to get closer to her probably because of what he’s seen with his time traveling.  His relationship with his 52-year old mother is very much real–the conversation they have about Katagiri being marriage potential was one of the more subtle scenes that explores his family relationship very strongly.  I’m sure when we see his childhood scenes its very different–lot less respectful.  His mother, Sachiko clued in on the incident that happened when Satoru was a child and what a great way to foreshadow the ending by using serial murderer Jun Shiratori as the red herring.

An aspect that keeps me coming back to watching a variety of anime is how an episode is storyboarded.  This episode used a ton of distance shots to capture this theme of time really well.  The composition is ridiculously good for a television series.  Great framing on the characters to build up the tense atmosphere surround Satoru’s ability and I really love the shot where it pans around Sachiko’s keen sense of another abduction attempt.  There both just standing there–Satoru is trying to figure out with his time traveling ability what’s out of place and his mom definitely knows something isn’t right and figures it right out!  Given how we’re left with a cliffhanger I wonder how this will pan out since the director announced he was going to be following the manga’s ending and it hasn’t even ended yet! There’s sure to be a lot of material cut.

At first the narration had me a bit worried.  There’s a lot.  However, it works in that Tomohiko Ito was able to keep the momentum going while trimming down from the source material.  If there’s more manga parts left from the anime I really hope the execution of this series stays true because if that’s the case this might be the best anime to air this season!

The sound effects were very strong.  Coming from Another’s and PSYCHO-PASS‘s sound director Yoshikazu Iwanami this was pretty impressive for its first episode.

My club just recently had our after holiday anime party. This was one of the episodes shown including holiday-themed episodes from Nisekoi and Ranma.  Feature film was Tokyo Godfathers.  Boku Machi received a huge applause after it was shown.  Really good to see Noitamina’s picked up a gem.  Next one they should do is Omoide Emanon.  Gorgeous artwork in that manga and a fascinating story!

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Duarara!x2 Shou [88/100]

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After a five year gap between this season and the original a lot of the charm that made Durarara!! such a success remains the same.  It follows Ryogo Narita’s light novels pretty closely–  there’s the kidnappings, the exaggerated Shizuo’s strength putting fear in Ikebukuro’s criminals and centers on the intertwining lives of its citizens.  It’s a series that neatly rolls so many genres seamlessly together from action to comedy to horror and even the subdued romance between Celty and Shinra plus Anri and Ryuugamine.

I believe where X2Shou outshines the first season is how closely connected the new cast is with the old.  The Russians are back and have the addition of Egor, Varona and Sloan providing a much needed backstory to their part in Ikebukuro; something that the first season needed a lot more of.  The singer Ruri was a brief mention in the beginning of the first season that it was great to see that even she has her strange secrets:  the identity of Hollywood.

My one large complaint is Studio Shuka’s animation.  Rather than sticking with Brains Base the creators went with a company that may have done a decent job in background designs the character’s facial expressions are a bit distorted at times.  There were a few times where the animation hadn’t been as fluid as the original.  For the show it doesn’t help in keeping up with the same dark artistic integrity it once had but from an anime industry perspective its brilliant.  They’ve established a new studio using a former producer of the classic Durarara!! [which is why we see tons of familiar staff working on these new seasons]  to helm the overall animation production for x2Shoux2Ten and x2Ketsu.  Smart move.  I’d really like to see this done on shonen series like BLEACH or Kyoukai no Rinne.  Rumiko Takahashi is known for doing long series so it’d be a good move to do what Studio Shuka did and follow their influence.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [88/100]

Duarara!x2 Shou Episode 12 [END]

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Noboru Takagi is the series writer for this season and here is where an hour-long special would have worked extremely well by adding on to the conclusion of this.  I was pretty unimpressed by this episode.  However the highlight is that this entire episode was animated extremely well.  Studio Shuka’s budget was used quite a bit on this finale–  those fights were drawn with a strong attention to detail and had some nice fluid animation to back it up.  Especially when Shizuo is dodging Varona’s bullets!

Shizuo’s fight against Varona is the real highlight that closes out this season nicely just in time for xTen.  The motorcycle that is hurled into the air towards the crowd of Dollars and Saitama gangs fighting each other was a great way to introduced Shizuo the final episode.  For the most part he cleans up house between the gangs but one part that doesn’t make much sense is how Varona can hold her own against Shizuo but can’t win against the Awakusa group.  Sloan and her get taken out leaving quite the cliffhanger.  It was a good way to show off how powerful the Awakusa group but don’t use the incredibly powerful Varona to achieve this!  Doesn’t make much sense after she was able to survive the encounter against Shizuo!

On top of that we get another narrative thread–  Yodogiri Jinnai shows back up and decides to kill Izaya for meddling into his business.  Which given that the teaser is already out we see he’s very much alive.  As for Ryuugamine he’s showing how weak he is by accepting Aoba’s agreement on being the leader of the Blue Squares.  Another reason why this episode should have been an hour-long special.  Felt really rushed.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 5/10

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 11

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I don’t believe I’ve seen another series that had people getting kidnapped as much as Durarara!!.  This has to be one of the most important episodes of x2 Shou to date because a faction of the Dollars group decides on kidnapping Chikage’s main girl.  The Dollars are more of an organization than some gang.  They jump on chat rooms and preach their believes and on-goings.  This is one big reason why I like this series–  it’s use of social media trends.

Many of Durarara!!‘s original villains show up in this as a sort of group that goes against Ryuugamine’s intentions.  Great to see tackling a redemption style for its bad dudes–  Ryuugamine getting beaten up is one way to tie in a bunch of narrative from the first season as well as mixing in some of the new cast from this season!  Kadota’s fight with Chikage took up most of the runtime here that sets up Varona’s fight with Anri, Kadota’s crew with the other Dollars members and Shizuo’s arrival at the climax!  I enjoyed this episode a lot the blurry effect at the end was a fairly solid way of illustrating how beaten up Ryuugamine was and that Shizuo was the shining hope at finishing the mess he’s gotten himself into.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 10

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I’m slowly catching up on reviews of the past couple of seasons.  The summer season has begun and I will definitely be following quite a few series on the season.  This episode does something really smart–  focuses on Akane’s backround.  She learns her Awakusa family name is feared throughout the entire city.  This is another episode that points out the school-life aspect that the first season didn’t dive into as much.  Here is where we’ve got this plain girl trying to make friends and sees that one girl is bullied.  Akane feels she is standing up for what’s right and I really like the foreshadow, the overlay behind being part of her family–  everyone gets along with each other out of fear.  The other girls wanted to pick on her and its great to see that how everything is oddly normal before her friend tells her why those girls had been so kind to her.

It’s like it was building up to her running away from home, tasering Shizuo and making new friends through Izaya.  She’s in quite the complicated situation with her crime syndicate family and it’s about time we’ve got an episode that takes a backseat to all the fast-paced antics.  It doesn’t leave it behind though as Shiki quickly recalls Hollywood from the first arc of this season!

The narration by Akane was a nice touch and at least from what I can tell especially with this episode is that Anri is less depressed than she was in the first season.  She can control he Saika power even more so when she is finally able to protect Akane and Ryuugamine.  Rater than closing out this season the creators have wonderfully placed Ruri back into the story–  her Hollywood identity mentioned by Shinra and the television segment is proof that there is so much story left to tell!  Not to mention how much I can’t wait to se Shizuo’s encounter with Varona.  Love at first sight?

The Samurai Flamenco video was really cool to see here!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 9

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Taking off from last episode this one uses the build-up to distinguish one large fact about Durarara!! as a whole:  it’s a show that uses teen to young adult melodrama and juvenile pranks to keep the story moving forward.

The Blue Squares and the Yellow Scarves stunts back in season 1 got the attention of the police quite often:  with the Saitama group involving themselves in this second season with a heated argument with Celty’s group protecting Mikiya Awakusu’s daughter Akane this episode took a more serious leap in terms of involving a dangerous yakuza-like group Awakusu.  Shifting the attention away from kids to adults.  I believe what emphasizes this immensely is Shizuo’s strength.

One of Awakusu’s members trying to explain to their boss–  he’s not a man to be taken lightly.  Especially where Shizuo is confronted by Mikiya’s men in order to find the location of his daughter.  He doesn’t beat them up he avoids any unnecessary conflict but when he has to he’ll pick up a street light or a car and uses them as weapons.  Sound ridiculous right?  Well that’s the charm about this show it doesn’t shy away from the silly supernatural traits these characters inherently have and what we as viewers come to associate them with.  In other words, Durarara!! doesn’t try to be too realistic in its moments of situational development it layers on different elements in order to stay fresh in context being as wild with the narrative as can be.  Really.  It’s a shame Rie Matsumoto couldn’t direct this.

As for Ryuugamine, he’s put in a pickle with the Saitama gang showing up giving more leverage Aoba can use and what does he do?  Quickly yells out Big Boss towards Ryuugamine and even goes to threatening Anri–  I like this point in the episode because Celty saves him from a constant reoccurring problem that’s been nagging at him.  How should he handle being the leader of the Dollars?  Now this is where I can see how the multiple seasons can work extremely well:  and split-cour for that matter.

Sloan and Varona’s confusion about their targets coincidentally meeting up (Celty and Anri) will add a lot more action for future episodes!  I didn’t notice this the first time watching but it was in fact Izaya that sent the warning message to Ryuugamine disguised as Masaomi.   Izaya and Aoba are a lot alike and Celty sees that which puts a lot more emphasis on Izaya’s desire to cause chaos in the city out of boredom whereas Aoba wants to see the destruction because he isn’t too fond of humanity.

I really like all the easter eggs in this show!  From Mahouka to Aldnoah.Zero!  Will we ever get to see Baccano!‘s Isaac and Miria again?

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10