Tag Archives: Winter 2015 Season

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 4

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I really like Narita’s writing it’s smooth and he’s got a knack for developing a diverse set of characters!  I’d like to see him work with Rie Matsumoto’s directing and Kazuto Nakazawa’s character designs on a crime-drama episodic series.

This episode really emphasizes Shizuo’s role wonderfully–  he’s the peacekeeper of the city.  He’s ridiculously strong [which we saw a lot of from the first season] and this episode shows his talent in stopping thugs and tying the relationships he has with Ryugamine and Celty wonderfully.

In anticipation for the next arc beginning July 4th I’ve been re-watching this series and for the sake of finishing up my reviews.  Durarara!! certainly doesn’t have the budget Kekkai Sensen does but it still has its charm.  Remember the guy Shizuo beat up in episode 2?  Ex-KGB assassin Egor finally redeems himself here and I really like how it isn’t just the main cast that is able to be overpowered.  Even the characters with smaller roles get a chance to hold their own!  Quite an action-packed episode!

While this still follows the ongoing story about Ikebukuro citizens cleaning up the city’s trash, it does (satisfyingly) conclude the first arc of x2Shou and keeps Izaya in the background as a kind of revolving villain for Shizuo to challenge whenever this series ends.  Aoba may be the villain of this arc but Izaya is the bad guy of this entire series.  Good to see he’s back, monologues and all and this episode shows that he’s waiting for the right time to really work his mischievous magic.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 3

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I think what really stuck out with me on this episode a lot is the soundtrack.  Music is very important in capturing each scene and with a series that shifts between timelines, characters and situations rather quickly in a single 24 minute episode it really has to capitalize on its transitions.  Bacanno! composer Makoto Yoshimori established this with the first season by creating pieces around its wacky cast that defined the personalities of each person.  The russians have a somewhat russian-style accordion piece, Hijiribe Ruri’s introduction has the casual piano scores the original Durarara!! worked with so well making a return and I think its nice how there are these ramped quirky instrumentals with Kadota’s encounter with the thugs.

I really like how toned down this third episode was.  Even more exposition to an already well-designed Ikebukuro that adds in Ruri as a makeup artist, pop idol [whom we saw early on in the first season on a TV screen] and now a serial killer.  It’s about time we get some character introspection on a someone from the main cast.  Going through puberty and questioning her own existence.  Human or monster but what she discovers is that being a killer can be quite monstrous in itself.  There’s for obvious reasons parallels to Saika in that there’s a desire to kill and seeing her with actor Kasuka makes her personality fleshed out even further and to me: much more intriguing.  Their escape was a great way to intersect Shinra’s story.  Also I find it fascinating how obsessed she becomes with Celty after meeting her headless form.  Really grasping here are definitely strange occurrences in Ikebukuro but being different and monstrous might be a wonderful thing indeed.

Shinra stuck in Celty’s web is entangled in Ruri’s mess of killing a member of the Yakuza.  This episode manages to show off Kadota’s fighting skills and tie together the thugs messing with the Orihara sisters in a very satisfying conclusion.  Ryugamine and Anri unfortunately meet with what looks to be some thugs from the same gang that gave the sisters trouble.  The magazine article was a nice touch in really illustrating how small details can bring this large cast together!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 7/10

Durarara!!x2 Shou Episode 2

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It has been about 6 months since I’ve last discussed this season’s first episode.  I’ve been extremely busy with real life activities between work, school and trying to get the Space Dandy event up and running in August.  Which will be happening!  I’ll be giving away prizes and what not so if anyone is interested in the event please contact me via email.  There’s also the possibility that I will be headlining sometime around November a Masaaki Yuasa theatrical presentation with the works of KemonozumeKaiba and Ping Pong The Animation.  It would be incredibly awesome if I could do a monthly screening like this featuring various directors’ animated works. Anyway, on to Durarara!!.

Durarara!! was one of my favorite series to air back in 2010.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve had this series back and its great to see the antics that made the first season so successful make a return here.  What’s even more is series writer Noboru Takagi is back and crafts together a somewhat solid exposition on Ikebukuro and the lives of its inhabitants.  This show is really tame compared to the awesome Kekkai Sensen of the Spring anime season.  This makes me think how good a series would be under Narita’s scenario planning and Rie Matsumoto’s directorial skills.

This episode moves its attention on Izaya Orihara’s sisters–  which we got to see in one of the OVA’s a few years back.  Two 14-year olds illustrating uncomfortable romance so well that it’s almost as if we’re seeing one person with a split personality.  With the introduction of the sisters, The Hollywood murders arc just beginning and classmate Aoba Kuronuma I felt this episode packed a bit too much into its runtime.  As confusing as some of its narratives were being thrown on screen it did have a solid pacing.  Aoba’s interest in the Dollarsgives off the feeling he knows the leader behind them.  He’s a lot like Masaomi in this regard and that he’s good-tempered student that may turn out to be a villain for Ryugamine later on.  I just get that vibe from him.

I’m glad to see the long chat room conversations return and with Masaomi Kida back in the picture but in an entirely different city!  A new crazy cast of characters to an already-developed setting where we’ve got tons of plot devices showing up left and right.  Keeping that in mind t’s a good thing this show is slated for at least 2 more seasons!

I would like to point out that I really like how we actually get to see events within the school.  Kururi is the target of the other girls–  she’s an introvert and is succumbed to school bullying —  something I hadn’t seen in Durarara!!‘s first season.  On the other side is Mariu.  The outlandish type–  throwing tacks at other students that quickly takes them on a wild ride of meeting Aoba and their encounter with the man close to death.  This takes shape their psychotic behavior and how close they are as sisters at a surprisingly steady pace considering how much information was given in this episode.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 6/10

Yuri Kuma Arashi [94/100]

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Kunihiko Ikuhara.  From Revolutionary Girl Utena to Mawaru Penguindrum comes a story about young girls falling in love.  His stories as I’ve mentioned previously contain a narrative pattern–  repetition, sexual symbolism and of course the addition of fanciful elements.  In this case its bears and what these creatures represent both for women and the important of the absence of males in Yuri Kuma.  I believe the reason for this is to enhance the dynamic between true love and lust.

Kureha Tsubaki lost her mother to a bear, fell in love with a bear and is coming to grips with Sumika being eaten by a bear.  She’s trying to find her own place in a world [the school] caught up in the Invisible Storm.  These Kumalia bears are depicted as the aggressors both out of survival instinct and sexual desires.  An incredible look at same-sex relationships by using a court system [which interestingly enough is led by males] to judge human compassion, the validity of friendships and how far people will go in order uphold these ideals. As strange as the beginning may have been for a lot of viewers its typical Ikuhara fashion.  A style I find engrossing.  The final three episodes were probably the best this show has to offer as it ties any sort of confusion together quite nicely.  The weird elements of bears ‘eating’ girls’, the imagery of lilies being deflowered/clipped and Lulu’s seductive behavior towards Ginko act as symbolic pieces to a fairly straightforward narrative about maintaining friendships and understanding yourself from a girls perspective.  Perhaps this is why Ikuhara decided on shifting the focus away from manly tropes–  Yurika’s father is represented as a male with female features in masculine clothing.  The judges aren’t even human which is why they are oddly designed to be a patriarchy with moe designs.  Really stick out with Yuri Kuma because underneath all of Ikuahra’s intentional softcore visuals, naughty dialogue and whimsically-driven storytelling lies a simple story about friendships and love overcoming societal structure!

One of the most incredible character study series I’ve ever seen apart from Simoun.  The focus isn’t just on Kureha but for most of episode 4 towards the beginning there is a look at Lulu’s life at the kingdom, eventually we get to see Yurika’s backstory and the motif behind bride-in-the-box.  What’s even more prevalent throughout is how dead characters are just as important as the main cast!  Sumika represents Kureha’s courage, Reira is the reminder to her that you should never give up on your dreams and accept things with your heart fully.  The picture book [and it’s incredible watercolor drawn art] amplifies innocence from Kureha’s perspective wonderfully.  Mirun, Lulu’s brother is the same as well!

The animation in this show is done amazingly solid.  This and Rolling Girls have some of the best background art of the Winter 2015 season!  Especially the storybook sequences!

The soundtrack is top notch.  Paint animator on Patema Inverted and composer/arranger Yukari Hashimoto wrote songs for this that are filled entirely with chromatic piano melodies, chorus and techno sections!  It fits Yuri Kuma perfectly with its transitions from downright weird to passionately engaging and heartfelt.

I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of Ikuhara’s other works.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [94/100]

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 12 [END]

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The ending is finally here.  It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about this series that aired in the Winter 2015 season: Yuri Kuma Arashi is extremely thought-provoking.  I’d really like to see him do an original work with Masaaki Yuasa.  The class excluding Kureha because she’s different–  she loves a bear.  Lulu’s bear death is the final key to Ginko’s courageous actions against the class.  Exclusion represents the Invisible Storm this series has frightened its girls with.  I really like how the rooftop is the confrontational backdrop in illustrating this somewhat simple idea about abandoning friends.

The girls with their rifles standing in a triangle shape, Kureha tied up, Ginko standing at the edge of the roof–  Yuri Kuma‘s imagery is the larger part of this series that explains more than what the story lets on to be.  Kureha is tackled by the chains of society, forcing to be accepted into a group of deceitful classmates.  The triangle these girls form is wonderfully drawn in as it speaks about gender equality, harmony between young girls, integration into a uniformed lesbian society and the Celtic belief about Birth (renewal), Death (Closure) and Transcendence (rebirth). In a way Kureha has passed all these obstacles and is about to transcend into a world these other girls don’t understand–  a true love that never backs down by becoming a bear herself!

Throwing away her existence she overcomes Lady Kumalia which turns out to be Sumika.  I like how Sumika has been the protection and courage for Kureha to stand up against anyone that’s been misguided throughout this entire show.  The repeating flashbacks where she’s seen moving her hair away from her ear, near the garden with Kureha and at the Tsubaki house alludes to her goddess nature perfectly!  This episode finally explains her existence amazingly well.

Standing up for her ideals, Kureha doesn’t back down on her love for Ginko through her Lily judgment in the Court of Severance–  I really like how Life Sexy gives off the impression he’s known all along about what was to come.  Kureha has to confront her past love, her human existence by shooting herself in the mirror in order to break the bonds that society has strapped her down to.  She’s made Ginko’s wish come true and the Promise Kiss to fruition!  Yuri Kuma Arashi wrote a very solid yet bizarre story about adolescence!  This ending was fantastic and what a charming way to give the robot bear a happy ending–  Kureha made it known that bears and girls can co-exist that scene amplified this nicely.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Death Parade [95/100]

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Perhaps I’m being too picky when it comes to Death Parade‘s finale.  I enjoyed it quite a bit and the conclusion to Onna’s journey was satisfying yet I wanted so much more. [sad that we won’t be hearing that groovy opening sequence again]  I really wanted this series to be episodic and channel its progress through the people that mysteriously end up at Queen Decim.  However, I do want to say that this series worked out extremely well as a week-to-week build-up narrative.  It’s incredibly awesome!  Realistically grim with its characters that adds in the supernatural elements with the various death games where we get to see how precious life is.

Rather than focusing just on its side-cast, Death Parade presents the dead as this sort of knot of human relationships that breaks just about every episode in order to build up the true intentions of this show:  what is that makes people human?  A question that Decim never would have thought of from an emotional standpoint if it were not for Onna.  Her past greatly enhances this question wonderfully and I believe where Oculus acts as the pendulum in establishing a power struggle within the staff is where we see this theme is explored from an Arbiter’s point of view more clearly.  Her desire to make Decim more human through Onna’s heartfelt experience as a side-kick arbiter gives us an emotional roller coaster ride with the help of some amazing animation by MADHOUSE!  The nod to Death Note‘s Light Yagami also represents how far this show gathers its dead people from.  Now lets see a second season of this with a Red Garden crossover!

Just a few days ago I re-watched this entire series.  There is a ton of foreshadow about the puppets being the humans that are brought to the bar and Nona’s plans.  I really like the part of this series in episode 11 where the puppets are clapping at the end of Onna’s skating performance–  a fitting send-off from QueenDecim and into another part of life after death!  Given that we see Episode 1’s Machiko in a later episode as a puppet I would venture to guess they were clapping as foreshadow that she would become a puppet herself.  Glad the ending left that portion of the story open.  It’s these final glimpses of a person’s life that Death Parade achieves near perfect in terms of character development–  Chisato’s real appearance as the elevator doors are closing, Yousuke crying over the fact he killed himself, Shimada’s obsession with avenging his sister by killing Tatsumi again, the desperation Maya has in being with Harada in her final moments and most importantly Onna crying over seeing Decim genuinely smile.  All these situations portray regret, compassion, anger, hatred, and so many other emotions wonderfully well throughout this series which is why these final moments in these characters leave such a huge impact each week!

I sure hope creator Yuzuru Tachikawa can make another one of these just as good as this one if not better!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [95/100]

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 11

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We’ve got a pretty new episode director with this–  I’m really impressed with this one here.  Yuki Yase helmed last year’s Mekaku City Actors so I can definitely see a few elements tied into  this episode with the obscure camera angles–  close up shots of the character’s body movements.  This does have some of the best music scores out of a lot of what we had for the Winter 2015 season–  Yukari Hashimoto is really amazing and helps elevate an already awesome character study about girls ridiculously well!  Director Kunihiko Ikuhara knows how to reel in an audience–  the repetition is for good reason especially with Sumika’s hair scenes and Ginko’s past (which we get to see more of here) all coming together.  I’m really glad that we actually get to see how Ginko and Kureha react to each other and the sacrifices that they make in order to be accepted into society.

Lulu being right about Kureha losing her memories about Ginko points out a great deal that these three girls are very much closely connected than I initially thought.  This is where the finally revealed camera angles come into to play–  the stairs but most importantly the roof of the school is a triangle.  I’d like to point out that every single time this rooftop sequence occurs is where one girl confronts another–  perhaps this is foreshadow that someone might not make it out alive.  Lulu is the sacrificial element that this entire episode needed in illustrating that Ginko and Kureha are destined together.  What’s interesting is how Lulu’s lustful desire for Ginko represents a bigger picture that that the love she never wanted to accept was in fact towards her own brother and he died.  “We hated you from the very beginning we loved you from the very beginning” really speaks volumes to a lot of the personal connections this anime depicts.  Lulu is considered a failure in her own eyes that the only way she could redeem herself is by living out someone else’s dreams but she came to fall in love with that idea and that person–  Ginko.  I like how its her brother’s Promise Kiss that provides the foundation for Ginko’s friendship with her and the death scene at the end here amplifies this immensely.  On the other side we’ve got Ginko and Kureha which they signify a hope of breaking out from society: which in this case is the student body class and the Life Cool, Life Beauty and Life Sexy.

So Ginko makes a trade with the Court of Severance in order to become a human.  She was shown as an outcast just as Kureha had been for being a bear.  I feel it’s this point that will be the crux of the finale of Yuri Kuma and another sacrifice [literally or symbolically] will have to be made.  This episode is all about a bear wanting to be a part of the very society Kureha is from and what Kureha may have to give up to realize their loving friendship as a reality.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

The Rolling Girls [78/100]

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The watercolor art style  by Eriko Shibayama and Ryou Kouno created some of the best background art I’ve seen out of any other series from the Winter 2015 season!  Eriko Shibayama is a very talented artist that I feel is one of those artist that if you see  their work you know it’s them.  Shibayama worked on Masaaki Yuasa’s Space Dandy episode 16!  I really can’t wait to see what these two animators will be working on in the future!

Along with the amazing art another big reason why I like this series so much is because of how diverse the episodes are. Rolling Girls uses the idol singers concept a bit further by adding a fantasy spin to it.  Nozomi, Chiaya, Yukina and Ai progress through their journey of finding heart stones that build upon a couple of larger themes:  coming-of-age friendships and establishing peace not just in Tokorozawa but the other Districts.

This anime really shines in its characterization of it’s minor cast–  about every two episodes or so we are introduced to a new district with different Bests handling their own problems in their own ways and for most of the time it doesn’t work out until the girls show up as a kind of peace treaty in closing up each arc.  I really wish that this series didn’t even have a main story–  I’m a huge fan of episodic shows and Rolling Girls had some really amazing episodes that capitalized on this style of storytelling.  Mie Motors arc and the Kamogawa Rockers arc were both incredibly different from each other yet still held up with some similar themes–  traditions of Japan tarnished by selfish ideas from a mob.  It isn’t about the main cast receiving development but how they would help grow the people around them–  these individual arcs were a perfect example that fitted how to blend long standing traditions of the old with generations of the new.  The stones which is revealed in the finale layers up the concept of people’s potential in doing something great for themselves, for others.  Just as the tagline for the series states.

These girls in a sense, even though Nozomi wanted to follow in Maccha Green’s footsteps, were their own mob holding onto the power of friendship as the key to success. This is why Rolling Girls can be such a delight for kids as well as adults!

However, the final few episodes were rushed because I feel that the creators really wanted to do something for the main cast which is why this show has such a haphazard ending.  They should have compiled that arc right from the get-go but instead used it as a climax that was less than satisfying.  About the only part which I may have mentioned before that I enjoyed was the very end with Kuranosuke’s inspirational monologue about how people can have the ability to draw out the stones.  Opening up for a possible sequel is one way to do it.  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso composer Masaru Yokoyama’s score there was very good.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 78/100

Aldnoah Zero [52/100]

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If only this show had been 1-cour it would have been spectacular that cliffhanger midway through was amazing but creator Gen Urobuchi went off the seat of his pants with the second half:  reviving characters and forcing the narrative to evolve into Slaine’s perspective rather than the overall turmoil both Empires are facing.

Inaho receives the robot trope that is often used in order to estalish a Dues-ex machina to the show in order to wrap character’s motives up quickly!  This is NOT how to develop your cast especially when there is little resolve with Rayet’s struggle dealing with her father’s death!  There really should have been more background on the chain of command behind United Forces of Earth.

What the first few episodes did so well with was building up the invasion, the conspiracy that the Vers Empire wanted to assassinate the Princess and the tension between Slaine and his comrades were just a small detail that unfortunately was the focus of the last twelve episodes of Aldnoah.  Urobuchi opened this up for another season–  is this for cash reasons?  The merchandising sales have been very high so I’m sure this might be the case as to why the ending turned out so lightly unresolved.

On a more positive note:  A-1 Pictures pulled off some really good designs on the characters and matched it to some very fluid animations quite consistently.  Fate/Zero director Ei Aoki established animation studio TROYCA in 2013 with a few friends of his–  Aldnoah is their first work that ends up in the final product having very good CG on the Kataphrakts!  Can’t wait to see their first full-fledged project later this year with Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [52/100]

Aldnoah.Zero Episode 24 [END]

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This finale is ok–  it does conclude the war in that the Princess of Vers establishes a peace treaty among the Vers Empire and Terrans of Earth.  Still can’t understand why the Knights would just go and disobey an order from the Princess after all that they’ve lost.  As soon as that scene came up I had figured Marito or even Inko would have been killed but this surprised me.

Urobuchi has gone way too soft with this series–  although it is good that he’s not carrying the death flag trope that he’s known for this time around.  What the first half achieved in developing I feel like the second half forgot what kind of story Aldnoah was trying to tell in the first place:  Terrans protecting their homeland against the the same race of a civilization built around lies and the power of the Aldnoah Drive.  I would have been ok with 1-cour with this show after this mess.

Slaine’s breakdown during his interrogation with Inaho was a bit too much and really shows how forced the ride would be getting to the end here.  Sidelining the terroristic war plot over angsty teenagers is definitely not a way to develop characters, enrich the world built up by them and most importantly craft an intriguing story with concrete substance that the first three episodes did so well in delivering.  I will say Asseylum marrying Count Cruhteo’s son makes complete sense–  they’re both from the same place with similar ideals that can support each other.  That’s about the only realistic aspect of this show.

Gunslinger Stratos has been terrible this season as well!  I just hope that his next work Chaos Dragon slated for summer 2015 is stronger than this because this second half was quite horrible.

Also I do wonder if they are trying to set up another season with everyone still alive. Cash in for A-1 Pictures and TROYCA? Hmmmm…

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 3/10

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