Room 208

Elaborate Burn

Posts from January 2015

2014 anime, the less-bulleted edition, part 2

Part one’s not too far away.

Ping Pong

It’s obvious that noitaminA has been getting more hit or miss lately – outside of Silver Spoon’s second season, Ping Pong is probably the only show that aired in the block’s 2014 schedule that’s really worth a watch. If you need a forceful case that the glory days aren’t totally over yet, though, this is it. The most obvious highlight is Masaaki Yuasa’s stylized visual treatment, which bursts with an unrestrained energy that The Flowers of Evil’s quivering linework only wishes it had. Like the best of sports shows before it, Ping Pong spends as much time getting us inside the characters’ heads as it does showing actual play, especially in the case of the show’s dual protagonists. And its Chinese cast members are actually portrayed by Chinese voice actors, one of whom is also fluent in Japanese! Seal of approval right there.

Tonari no Seki-kun

You might think that getting heavy hitters like Kana Hanazawa and Hiro Shimono to do a seven-minute comedy series whose premise can be summed up as “high school kid builds crazy things at his desk” is excessive, especially given that one of them never actually speaks at all. Tonari no Seki-kun, however, is one of those shows that lives or dies on its execution, and the investment demonstrably pays off. Maybe it’s because Hanazawa has been in every show from here to nigh eternity, but her exaggerated reactions to the title character’s antics make a terrific stand-in for our own bewildered amusement as the viewers. As for Shimono, meanwhile, you’d be surprised how expressive a few well-placed grunts and sighs can be. (He was apparently really pumped up during the dubbing sessions.)

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki

Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. It’s hard to describe what makes a funny thing funny without destroying the experience altogether, of course, but if I had to boil down the essence of Nozaki’s success, it would be its refreshing confidence in its own humor. There are no sly winks and nods attempting to make up for lackluster jokes, no lazy archetypal gags, and no phoned-in characterizations. It’s just a show that clearly enjoys itself, and earnestly wants you to join in on the fun. The gentle shots at shoujo clichés are icing on the cake.

Ari Ozawa’s performance as our main heroine Chiyo (that’s her in the orange there) deserves special mention. Ozawa put in a lot of voice acting legwork to keep the fast-paced bits hanging together, often moving from starry-eyed fascination to illusion-free sarcasm in the span of a line or two, and the results speak for themselves. It’s these unpredictable turns from her and the other cast members that keep the show so consistently fresh.

Postscript

Monogatari Series turned in another pair of solid entries last year. I’ve long given up on being able to judge the franchise on objective merits alone, but if you’re anything like me, Hanamonogatari and Tsukimonogatari are still the old friends you’ve come to cherish.

Shirobako and April Is Your Lie, two shows that started in 2014, but won’t end until this spring, are sitting pretty on my current list for 2015. Watch this space.

Dichotomy 4.1

This minor version adds HTML access keys for certain links and support for the apple-touch-icon used for iOS bookmark and home screen icons.

I’m a Tumblr theme developer. I have various bug reports and feature requests that I’d like to send in, not least regarding my continued inability to edit my theme’s description. Tumblr’s official venue for discussion of the theme API is a Google Group that has been dead for months, and was rarely trafficked by Tumblr devs even before it died. So, readers: Do I have any recourse for getting things fixed, beyond complaining a lot and hoping someone notices?

Dichotomy 4.0

After eight months of sitting dormant in a pre-release branch, here’s a brand-new major version of Dichotomy – major because it makes a couple of backwards-incompatible changes to custom settings. Sorry! I’m trying to keep those to a minimum for future releases.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about the new features instead! They include support for avatars (finally) and using profile header images as backgrounds, streamlined desktop layout options, updates to Google Analytics code, and a few tiny fixes here and there.

Version 4.0 will be available on the Tumblr Theme Garden shortly – at least I hope so. As usual, if you have any problems, drop me a message on Tumblr or report an issue on GitHub.

2014 anime, the less-bulleted edition, part 1

Here are some more words on things I liked from the year just gone by. Last time, I remarked that nobody reads long posts. I’m getting around that this go-round by splitting this one up into two parts. Ha-ha!

Golden Time

I won’t deny that Golden Time doesn’t make that great of a first impression. The premise of the romance drama reads like a gimmick, what with the main character having amnesia, and the first few episodes stick more or less to the fish-out-of-water formula. If I’d seen Toradora! earlier, too, hearing that both series shared an original author, Yuyuko Takemiya, would have set off more alarm bells in my head. It’s a good thing that didn’t happen, though, because Golden Time is one of the better entries in the genre to come around in a while, taking full advantage of its emotionally fraught setting to draw out memorable performances from Yui Horie and Ai Kayano. And hey, it’s good to have a show in this genre where the cast are all more or less adults for a change. Well, college students. Close enough.

Madoka: Rebellion

I already wrote quite a bit about the theatrical sequel to the original Madoka TV series in a spoiler-filled review back in May. For those of you who don’t want to have the movie ruined, though, or just don’t like reading too much, here’s a summary: stunning animation, a spellbinding score by Yuki Kajiura, and tremendous writing out of Gen Urobuchi – the last of which is all the more impressive given that the ending of the original series didn’t leave much apparent room for a sequel. (If only Psycho-Pass 2 had been in similarly good hands.)

Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s new films

The inimitable filmmaker behind Time of Eve struck again twice last year, and lo, it was good. Patema Inverted was easily the bigger of the two efforts, and it shows in the scale of the world that Yoshiura builds in the film, a (kinda) half-underground half-dystopia that is wholly impressive. The extroverted nature of action adventure isn’t quite to the usually more introspective Yoshiura’s talents – the lead antagonist is nothing if not cartoonish in his villainy – but what separates Patema from, say, Makoto Shinkai’s venture into similar territory with his Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is that Patema holds on to a genuine sense of awe and wonder. It’s a great all-ages film, on top of all that.

Flying further under the radar was Harmonie, a thirty-minute short produced for 2014’s Anime Mirai. A concise love story, Harmonie plays more to Yoshiura’s traditional strengths while displaying an atypical, but well-executed, sentimentality. If nothing else, it has one of the more ingenious twists I’ve seen on the old trope of fated encounters.

Stay tuned for part two. Or don’t. Your loss.

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