In alot of ways, what keeps a longer manga engaging isn’t its main characters, but the side characters. Though our initial emotional investments as readers are in the main characters, the supporting cast and their links with those main characters are what keeps the story fresh.
One of the saddest things about NANA is that its creator Ai Yazawa (who has been fighting against an unspecified illness since 2009) hasn’t been able to finish it. NANA is a story of dreams and ambition, and the characters have struggled too hard and for too long to be left hanging. I hope Yazawa rediscovers her desire to finish it.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
The older I get, the more I start to wonder if the messages in anime are still relevant to my life. I’ve even started getting self conscious about what I watch. After all, what long term artistic value is there in something like To aru no Index Season 2? Don’t get me wrong, Index is a fun show, but it’s generally not very thought provoking. So when I hear about a more mature show like Bartender I get excited. Finally, a show I can watch and still feel like an adult! I was generally impressed with Bartender. However, I think the show erred by relying only on episodic stories instead of doing multi-episode arcs.
Writing, even anime blogging, can be hard. We all have ideas about what makes good writing and that’s why, sometimes, I have trouble doing it for this blog. I want to write posts that are, in their own ways, perfect. I know that’s an unrealistic goal, but I try anyway, and this whole process gradually becomes a huge weight for me to carry. I’m insecure; I’m rarely happy with how any given post turns out, but I keep trying anyway, because I hold out the hope that you will want to read these words, flawed as they may be.
This was all dragged up by the Run, Melos! arc of Aoi Bungaku, two of the loveliest and most emotional episodes of anime I’ve seen.
Farewell Satoshi Kon
It’s difficult to express the disappointment I felt when I learnt of Satoshi Kon‘s passing last week. Since then, many heart-felt tributes have been published and half-way through writing this, I started wondering whether it was worth posting at all. Alas, what is blogging if not personal? I liked his films and, at the risk of merely adding to the white noise, I just wanted to bid farewell to Satoshi Kon in my own way; on this blog.
As such, I humbly present these following, short impressions of his 5 films, written and screen-capped after I (re)watched them all last week.
This is the Naruto I remember
There were times when I considered dropping Naruto.
What is the Cowboy Bebop ending trying to say? It feels like such a waste! Spike doesn’t have to face Vicious, he could just stay with Faye and Jet, leave Mars and fly away, but he doesn’t.
No matter how many times it’s replayed, there will always be that choice hanging over Spike in the end, but then, isn’t that why Cowboy Bebop‘s still so fascinating? Consider Faye Valentine.
The tide of violence
I’ve read only 26 chapters of Vinland Saga so far but its quality is such that I have to admit it’s already one of my favourites.
Thorfinn is the main character, an Icelandic warrior joined with a band of Viking mercenaries sailing the seas of Europe and sacking the villages and cities of Norman France and England. His talent as a fighter is chilling, if just because he’s still just a small boy!
This had me hooked straight away. You have this kid (a rag-doll, really) fighting in a bunch of gruesome, heavy battles, cutting the throats of soldiers and decapitating their Captains for the rewards.
It doesn’t shy away from the violence or cruelty of the infamous era of the Vikings, but there’s more to it than just brutality.
It’s the eve of the latest spring season, but I’m still playing catch up with a lot of last year’s finest. Last week it was Xam’d, and this week it’s Michiko e Hatchin and Toradora.
I’m only too aware that the anime community is driven by an insatiable desire for ‘newness’, and I’m really excited by some of this new anime too, but there has always been a feeling that a more considered, ‘concentrated’ and, dare I say it, slower viewing style is the ideal way to go. It’s true that sometimes a good series is impossible to resist, but I’m also thinking that there is so much more to gain from taking in only one series at a time.
Such is the way I’m approaching most anime these days. If nothing else, at least I’ll have the opportunity to write about something different each week, and this time, one of those things happens to be Michiko e Hatchin.
Since Shinichiro Watanabe was attached to it, this was one of my most anticipated anime of last year, but generally speaking, I would have watched it anyway, because, basically, Michiko e Hatchin looks really cool. It has a punk rock style, with a strong emphasis on things like fashion; the clothes are ever changing, the hair is messy and the voices are lazy. As if to suggest it couldn’t give two shits about whether you like it or not, it’s like the perpetually sneering, Johnny Rotten of anime.
If style was all that mattered, then this would be perfect, but to really admire something, I need characters to care about and a story to be fascinated by, too. Michiko e Hatchin has none of these things and as such, it ends up feeling ever so empty and aimless. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I was able to watch all 22 episodes in one week, so, obviously, I found it entertaining and beautiful to look at, but reflecting on it now, it just feels like there is nothing left to say. The fusion of anime and South American culture is a cool idea, but may be too much emphasis was placed on recreating the visual style and tropes of, for example, Brazilian cinema, to the detriment of a good story.
Then we have Toradora. I watched the final four episodes this morning and not expecting much at all, I was surprised by the impact it wrought on me. I’ve been back and forth with my opinion of Toradora for a while now, but, undeniably, the finale was hugely involving. We had the soulful dreaming of characters like Ryuuji and Taiga, Minorin’s conflicted smile and Ami’s desperate loneliness, each of them contemplating the state of their lives, while searching for happiness in indirect and painful directions. I lost a lot of faith in the series when it descended into cheesy Christmas songs and illogical plot twists, but the finale won me back over. It may be a generic set-up, but, in the end, Toradora was an honest and heartfelt drama. I couldn’t ask for any more.
Why I'm enjoying Toradora
I am enjoying Toradora, or rather, it’s something more like tainted enjoyment. The show is marked by several moments of evocative character insight, like eloquent sparks of light that flicker briefly across some hidden depths. They are such brief vignettes, beautiful, but they aren’t really enough for me to say that this is excellent anime. The characters spend the majority of every episode playing dumb, acting up to their generic archetypes, only to suddenly pull back, to reveal something different, a moment of insecurity, doubt or confusion. Then, just as rapidly, everything switches back to the same old stupid jokes and harem routine.
With this vague sense that something is desperately trying to break free, I keep on watching. Toradora could quite easily pass for harem anime, with the overriding emphasis on the female characters and their attachment to lead-boy Ryuuji, but it isn’t quite that generic. I suppose I like the characters, I like how they seem to be, on the one hand, so archetypal and monotone, but on the other, so clearly fraught with emotion. In that way, Toradora can be a really sweet story.
Saying something, but meaning the exact opposite, all to avoid being hurt. Minori and Ami are particularly interesting, since both go to such great lengths to conceal their true feelings. The former tries to avoid feeling anything at all by being so energetic and competitive, while the latter’s superficial facade is too nice and cute. Ami sits in-between the vending machines at her school, cramped and alone, but able to drop her facade for a precious few minutes. Gazing into the starry night, Minori tries to conceal the loneliness that forever tugs at her heart. Both seem to be struggling with life, insecure around others, just wanting to fit in, to live a normal life, have a normal love, but what is normal, anyway? Societal expectations can be a bitch.
I still feel like I can’t completely give myself to Toradora, but, in an emotional sense, I think I understand the characters. At times, they are funny and superficial, at others, serious and deep. I want them to be happy, to feel better about themselves. Their whole situation may be a little contrived, but that’s alright. I suppose every story is contrived anyway, all that should matter is empathy, and I get that from Toradora.