In this week’s installment…
WE’RE BACK! Classicaloid and March Comes In Like a Lion return for the first installment of the Winter 2017 Roundup, joined by Onihei, Interviews with Monster Girls, and a new feature: The Little Witch Academia GIF of the week. We’ll have more shows next week as more second episodes air, so stay tuned.
Jel: My biggest concern with Onihei was that it would turn into a soulless crime of the week police drama, or even worse that it would resort to violence and sex to try to grab your attention. So I was rather delighted this episode gave us a little snippet into Heizo’s past. Seeing what he was and what he has become tells you a lot about the kind of man he is, plus the particular anecdote they shared packed quite an emotional wallop in a very short period of time. Maybe it’s just something about big manly men who are actually sensitive or the nostalgia that comes with approaching your late 30s, but man they really got me with this one. Sure there was still a dash of sex and violence and the animation is still extremely questionable, but so far I’m totally on board with the storytelling and atmosphere.
Jel: There was a lot of good things going on this episode. It was cool to see Bada finally unleash her Musik, but ironically (or maybe intentionally) Tchaiko-chan really stole the show. Between her reaction faces and her giving in to her old man instincts, she may have broken my screen-capping button. It was also fun to see Kanae out of her element. We only ever see her brow beating the rest of the cast for rent money, so her failed idol debut was a nice change of pace. While not quite reaching the absurd highs of the last few episodes, this was still a fun and solid outing to help me recover from all the terrible First Looks we just survived.
Interviews With Monster Girls
Aqua: Interviews with Monster Girls‘ offbeat creativity is by far its biggest strength, and luckily there was a whole lot of that in this episode. Machi’s misadventures get a lot of mileage out of the most basic of “what-if” scenarios, and the entire scene with her body staying behind with Hikari while her head hangs out with Takahashi is a recipe for imaginative gags, including the world’s very first “anime girl needs to go to the toilet” joke that is actually funny and not, y’know, super creepy. Speaking of super creepy, though, I was disappointed to see Interviews with Monster Girls going down the tried and true path of Machi crushing on her own teacher. While once again framed from a somewhat more interesting angle that neatly reinterprets classic monster tropes in a context of modern-day teenage angst –– if Hikari’s vampirism kinda, sorta mirrors (queer) sexuality, I suppose dullahans stand in for people with physical disabilities? – the student-teacher romance trope remains boring, unsettling and worst of all, utterly pointless in a show that has an actual credible reason for teachers and students to interact outside of the classroom. Here’s hoping Interviews with Monster Girls doesn’t forget what sets it apart from other monster girl harem anime, and continues to focus on what it does best.
March Comes In Like a Lion
Jel: Right after I lavished all kinds of praise on March in our Catch Up post, it manages to drop one of its worst episodes. I’ve said many times the actual shogi matches are the biggest weak point of the series and this is the first episode that I can recall that was devoted entirely to them. What’s worse is the matches seem to be a foregone conclusion. Even Smith himself knew he couldn’t beat Gotou, and while Rei’s match is till in progress, they’ve spent so much time building up the consequences of him losing another match that he seems unlikely to lose again for the rest of the series. If there was even one scene with the sisters or even a little more Nikaido to break things up I think we would have been fine, but as it was this was a pretty dull, dry episode. Hopefully with some of this necessary business out of the way we’ll be back to normal next week.
Little Witch Academia TV
Gee: As much as I love Little Witch Academia, there honestly isn’t enough to write about to make full posts for it. It’s a charming thing that I can’t recommend enough, but at the end of the day, I’ll probably spend most of my time highlighting specific pieces of animation in a given episode. I’m going to start off a little unorthodox and highlight something from the ED sequence because it’s an absolutely gorgeous piece of effects animation. Japanese animation aficionados are likely familiar with Yoh Yoshinari’s excellent hand drawn effects animation, whether it be sparks of light, smoke, or globs of magical energy. This 15 second clip in the ED is practically a demo reel of his mastery of this specialized but highly valuable area of animation. If there’s anything I advise watchers to keep an eye out for as LWA continues to air, it’s these kind of effects and the way Yoshinari’s skill at drawing them highlights and enhances the scenes they accompany.
10 thoughts on “The Roundup: Winter 2017 Volume 1”
I learnt how to play shogi a month ago, and my enjoyment of the episode was enhanced by it. It does take some investment so you get the added thrill of understanding the stakes on the board along with the nature of the characters. Like learning the Hyakunin Isshu while watching Chihayafuru.
That would probably help. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the dancing shogi cats.
I think part of the problem for me is that the pieces are just not visually interesting or easy to tell apart. With chess, you have the iconic silhouettes, whereas in shogi the only differentiation is writing.
Perhaps you should consider learning some Kanji? Isn’t it about time you delved deeper into your hobby rather than expect the Japanese to cater to your Western perspective on their centuries old game?
I don’t think learning the language would help the aesthetic difference that I meant by that comment. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring it out by now, but it still doesn’t make the samey pieces any less drab.
I grew up playing both Western chess, and Chinese chess. The mild way to describe my reaction to your criticism of Shogi is bewilderment.
I was going to ignore the second part of your first comment, but I suppose I have to respond to it now: I’ve never considered enjoying entertainment as having a hobby. Hobbies are something you apply skill to over time, entertainment is just something you enjoy for stimulation. If you’re talking about blogging about anime, then you would see I’ve been much less present in the past few years. I really don’t have the same passion for it anymore. I have no real reason to have a deeper knowledge of Kanji.
At the same time, I don’t think I need to learn anything about Japanese in order to make a value judgement on aesthetics. It would perhaps eliminate problems of identification. I see I did talk about that so that problem is solvable, but that doesn’t change what I said about the pieces themselves. If you have a problem concerning that, then you should address what exactly I’m missing comparing the pieces of chess to the tiles of shogi as matter of form aesthetics.
Simply put, I kind of feel as if there is a standard of aesthetic that you are unfairly placing upon chess pieces that are widely used with no issue in cultures where kanji are used to represent different pieces. It is literally from my perspective as easy to tell one piece apart from another simply because the piece is labelled on the board, and the directionality of it.
Furthermore, Shogi’s development is influenced by the reuse of the same piece (a point of distinction from Western chess) where the directionality of a piece indicates its present allegiance. Flipping to the underside reveals a second character signifying the promotion of the piece. An innovation in promotion that is less easy to achieve should the pieces be defined by their shape as in Western chess, where promoted pieces need actual substitutes (I remember using coins at one point to represent promoted pawn-Queens in one of my games).
So when you wrote “I think part of the problem for me is that the pieces are just not visually interesting or easy to tell apart. With chess, you have the iconic silhouettes, whereas in shogi the only differentiation is writing.” it felt rather condescending towards a culture which sees absolutely no problem with the setup and design. I can understand where you are coming from, but that is applying Western standards of familiarity with chess, on top of a desire to not understand the underlying rules that are relevant to the anime in question, where a clear understanding of Shogi is a definite requirement to enjoy a major aspect of this anime.
In essence, if you want to enjoy something that makes Japanese culture a central part of the experience, you need to learn more about that part of Japanese culture. Like how I picked up a few books on the Hyakunin Isshu so I can enjoy Chihayafuru more, or already know the rules of Go, so I can enjoy Hikaru no Go. Or from the Western perspective, the Code Geass scene where the King was moved to check the King.
If you are not willing to make that investment of time and effort, of course you will not find it enjoyable, and in fact as this write-up shows, that ignorance has caused some negative feelings of exclusion.
But how fair is that to the creators and producers of the series who have made it quite clear that Shogi is an important part of the protagonists life? They even made an episode to explain the Shogi moves through song and dance! They did the very thing you wanted them to do: give flat piece silhouettes and upped the ante with movements and characterization!
The latest episode even makes this schism clearer to those who know the game to those who don’t. Watching Kiriyama’s desperation as his pieces are reset to a position that is literally the opener and failing to find any good moves from there emphasises the gap in skill between him and his opponent, and adds further layers of understanding to his absolute arrogance in only focussing on Gotou.
And that is why I believe criticisms of this episode are extraordinarily out of touch and unfair, particularly with a line like “it manages to drop one of its worst episodes.” when one has to constantly remind themselves that they are watching something made for the Japanese.
Woah now, Jel said that and he responded to you saying he probably should pay more attention to the shogi cat educational video. You shouldn’t have any reason to have a beef with him.
I don’t have a beef with Jel. I simply gave the long version of my “The mild way to describe my reaction to your criticism of Shogi is bewilderment.” to your request for additional thoughts. Frankly, I wouldn’t even had bothered writing it if I didn’t have so much respect for all of you, and thought this was one of those rare occasions where your views disagree with mine so diametrically.