Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu (Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club) is a blatant attempt to promote tourism in Kamakura as well as encourage more people to ride bicycles (read: buy bicycles and bicycle-type accessories). The show caught my attention because it stars Ueda Reina in the lead role, effectively making it Bakuon!! except with bicycles instead of motorcycles. Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu is not nearly as good as Bakuon!!, but it does have some real charm as an introduction to bicycling and to the Kamakura area.(more…)
Vividred Operation is not exactly a high-brow show, but it is consistently entertaining and there have been no occasions to complain about its production quality or execution. I'm also very pleased with its pacing through the first three episodes. Some people felt Vividred rushed Wakaba's introduction and integration in episode three, but while I would agree in the context of a 26-episode series, I don't think there's any time to waste during what will almost certainly be a 12- or 13-episode run. Hopefully, Himawari's introduction in episode four will be similarly quick.
After these introductions, Vividred can get down to business devoting the remaining eight episodes to unfucking Rei's shit, and befriending the Bejesus out of her. Or maybe Rei ends up killing them all. It won't happen, but I'd be okay with that. Rei is going to be the lynchpin behind the success or failure of Vividred. If you can suffer another not-necessarily-apropos comparison with Strike Witches, the Alone appear to be as unengaging and faceless as the Neuroi. I'm sorry, but you can't try to build action scenes around bland opponents that nobody cares about.
Using cardboard bad guys didn't work in Strike Witches, it certainly didn't work during the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS training arcs, and it won't work in Vividred with the Alone if Rei doesn't instill some life into the fights. It's possible to have have emotionless enemies that the audience finds engaging (see, for example, the first two Terminator movies), but they'll at least need to be menacing or unique in some way.
As long as Rei ensures there will be an antagonist we care about in future episodes of Vividred, then the show will basically have everything. You want fighting? It's got fighting. You want flying girls hitting things with giant hammers? It's got that too. Standing-in-circles magic and fancy transformations? Yes. Bridge operators swiveling around to holler SITREPs to the commander? Well, yeah. Befriending enemies? Count on it. A talking weasel/otter/ferret/probably-not-a-mink thing? Of course. Butts? It's got butts. Fresh fruit? Holy shit, it's got fresh fruit. And how. (Tomato is a fruit, okay.)
This is a little earlier than I typically like to post initial impressions for a new season, since I consider it premature to make assumptions about shows after only a couple of episodes. However, I'm already more or less familiar with most of the shows I'm following this season because they are either continuations or adaptations of things I've read. Only Vividred Operation and Love Live! School Idol Project remain unknowns at this point.(more…)
What is Anime Tourism? Is it when anime fans make pilgrimages to real-life locales depicted in anime (see, for example, the Lucky Star Hajj), or is it when anime characters venture beyond their usual stomping grounds as tourists themselves? Maybe it's both. This installment features London, England, as depicted in the K-On! movie and in a series of Detective Conan episodes from 2011.
Both K-On! and Detective Conan appear to be beneficiaries of an impressive amount of meticulous research. They accurately depict their locales while making only minor changes to avoid impeding their viewers' ability to identify certain settings. Some locations are simple yet still iconic and thus were shown virtually unchanged, such as this shot of the K-On! girls in the London Underground:
Of course, simple locations are not going to impress most viewers, nor encourage much anime tourism. Contrast this with the brief shot of the Tea Time band entering The Troubadour. A few seconds of film inspired enough visitors that the management now displays a K-On! poster in the window with a Japanese-language menu alongside its awards and positive reviews.
As you can see, inconvenient trees and light poles occasionally get removed, and the scale sometimes gets changed to better fit a scene. For example, the rooms at 221B Baker Street are much more cramped than they appear in Detective Conan.
Curiously, the K-On! girls also visit 221B Baker Street and pose for a picture, but appear to blow straight through the famous Abbey Road crossing without noticing. Had it been summertime, perhaps they would have been alerted by the crowds of tourists endangering their lives and making a general nuisance of themselves by playing in traffic.
I suppose the absence of crowds is a reasonable liberty in an anime movie. Anime "filming on location" generally seems to assume a best case scenario. Although blue skies are at least plausible in Ran's case since she visited London in July, the K-On! movie's depiction of the weather over Westminster Bridge during the colder months is somewhat optimistic.
So how is the K-On! movie itself? I don't actually like K-On!, having dropped the series early in its run, but K-On! is a juggernaut almost inescapable for anime fans. So despite only watching four of its 40 episodes, I still know quite a bit about the show and the characters (although my Twitter joke pretending to mistake Ui for Yui's mother flopped), making the movie quite accessible. I have to admit it's a good movie, and the K-On! characters are more agreeable now that they're better established. In many respects, the K-On! movie is a journey. The characters travel from Japan to London and then proceed to explore the city, but it's also a journey in the sense that the movie is very much about the graduating members of the light music club searching for the appropriate way to hand it over to Azusa. Neither are journeys the way Monster is a journey, but they effectively take advantage of the opportunities a feature-length project has to offer. There is a palpable sense of bewilderment and wonder as Mio, Mugi, Ritsu, Yui, and Azusa wander around London, and the movie presents numerous opportunities for the viewer to see and experience it from their points of view.
The unusually long London arc of Detective Conan episodes in 2011 is also a journey in both these literal and metaphorical senses. With regard to the metaphorical portion, the London arc advanced a fairly significant step in the relationship between Ran and Shinichi. From the literal perspective, Conan, Kogoro, Ran, and Professor Agasa race around the city collecting clues in order to stop a mad bomber, although the transitions are not as finely executed in these moments as they are in the K-On! movie. In the Detective Conan episodes, the characters seemingly pop up at various spots the story deems appropriate. Many of these cuts lack any real consideration as to how the characters got there, and some scenes ignore minor concerns that don't actually affect the plot. For example, Ran's fortuitous encounter with Minerva Glass at the base of the Sherlock Holmes statue outside the Baker Street Underground station (around the corner and a short distance away from the entrance to the Sherlock Holmes museum) advances the story, but doesn't necessarily comport with the traveling she does that day. The K-On! movie is much better at depicting travel around the city, and ensuring the corresponding scenes are generally geographically consistent; fans could potentially recreate much of the movie by tracing Hokago Tea Time's steps.
So am I actively advocating Anime Tourism? You mean like going to various locations around the world such as Italy or France or, well, countless places in Japan strictly for the purpose of seeing the 3D versions of 2D sites? Well, no, but if you're going to be in the area anyway, load up some screenshots on a portable device for comparison's sake. It's an interesting exercise in augmented unreality.
I wanted to write about the end of Nodame Cantabile: Finale, but what can I say about a show like this? Finale is basically the second half of Nodame Cantabile: Paris, so nobody should watch Finale if they haven't already seen Paris. And if they've seen Paris, they'll already know whether or not they want to watch Finale no matter what anyone says about it.
This is not to say that Nodame Cantabile: Finale is an exact continuation of Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter; there are significant differences. First, J.C. Staff has deemphasized the CGI orchestra in favor of regular animation that focuses instead on the expressions of the musicians and the audience instead of the technical aspects of the music. Second, the attention is back on Nodame and Chiaki instead of the supporting characters.
One complaint about the post-Japan Nodame arcs is that the supporting cast is not as interesting. I don't know that I agree necessarily, as I never found any of the supporting characters in Nodame Cantabile especially endearing. The Japan-centric cast may be more eccentric, but that doesn't mean I care more about them than Frank, Tanya, and company. Comparing Paris with Finale, however, I can say the supporting cast in Finale is not there to drive its own stories. The stories belong more to Nodame and Chiaki; the rest of them are just along for the ride.
So what else is there to say? Well, for one thing, it's the third-best show that aired Winter 2010 behind Cross Game and Kimi ni Todoke—first, if you only count series that began Winter 2010. From the looks of it, I enjoyed Nodame Cantabile: Finale much more than most people. I wonder if it's because I have never read the manga? Or if it's because I've come to view Nodame Cantabile as a story about Nodame's love affair with music instead of her love affair with Chiaki?
In other news, there are a few artistic liberties taken with the Nodame Cantabile: Finale locales. For example, the above setting does not really exist except as a composite of different (albeit admittedly nearby) views:
I'm guessing animating on location is even less convenient than shooting on location, what with all the staring by tourists and locals and prolonged exposure to the elements and whatnot, so it's excusable.
< rq> 3 weeks, $5,000. what are some good vacation destinations.
< cheese> stay at home and spend your 5k on anime figurines
< Evirus> You could conduct some anime tourism and visit Real Life settings in Japan.
< rq> i would need a guide
< Evirus> Maybe you could get on the Miracle Train and have Akari guide you.
Speaking of anime tourism, there are actually people who do this [Update: See also http://blog.livedoor.jp/kouhei14915/]. Naturally, most of these pilgrimages occur in Japan since the vast majority of anime series take place in Japan, but there are titles with settings in other countries.
Notably, Gunslinger Girl takes place in Europe—primarily Italy. Many of the scenes are surprisingly accurate, too. For example, a car chase in Florence—while impractical given the narrow roads and masses of tourists along the river Arno in real life—includes the appropriate turns to take the characters into the hills south of the city.
Gunslinger Girl also devotes a substantial portion of episode seven to the artistic treasures of Florence, including a short tour of the Uffizi. Aside from some fudging regarding the availability of WCs and the apparent lack of metal detectors at the entrance, the scenes inside the Uffizi itself are at least as accurate as the other Gunslinger Girl settings.
Aside from shows set in Europe like Gunslinger Girl, Noir, Monster, and a smattering of titles taking place in North or South America, I am hard pressed to recall many series set in realistically depicted locales outside of Japan. E.g., Eden of the East, sort of realistic. Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~? Less so.
There are obvious difficulties preventing more anime series from taking place outside of Japan, but it would be nice if more shows would make the attempt. At least there are occasional cross-border operations, as with Nodame Cantabile: Paris. Considering how many show have token "studied abroad" characters such as Mayu from Ai Yori Aoshi or "parents perpetually traveling on business" characters such as Eri from School Rumble and Honoka from Futari wa Pretty Cure, you'd think at least periodic throwaway scenes would be more prevalent. Heck, Full Moon wo Sagashite managed a trip to America, although that excursion was instrumental to the plot.
Another example is the fifth Maria-sama ga Miteru "third season" OVA which includes a whirlwind tour of Italy, hitting Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Florence if I remember correctly. Here, the Marimite cast visited most of the tourist hot spots, albeit briefly. (Anyone know if the seiyuu got a chance to go "on location" like the cast of Stratos 4 did?)
However, unlike Gunslinger Girl, the Marimite visit to Florence did not devote attention to The Rape of the Sabine Women. In fact, the OVA devoted more time to the Field of Miracles in Pisa than it did to all of Florence combined.
Those of you familiar with the episode may recall how different Rosa Canina's singing voice sounded compared to her speaking voice. While I don't know if a different voice actress pinch hit for the song, the tonal differences can at least be attributed to the exceptional acoustic qualities of the Baptistery.
On the other hand, Yoshino declining to ascend the final flight of stairs in the Leaning Tower of Pisa is incomprehensible. Although I can accept Yumi taking a pass on the better view, such a decision is completely uncharacteristic of post-operation Yoshino. It seems if Yumi and company were to abandon the climb, they would have given up at the (admittedly less photogenic) halfway point than, as depicted, the landing just short of the very top.
As far as I know, Sachiko (who wasn't there) is the only character afraid of heights, and none of the second-years are infirm anymore (at least not much), so the characters' mutual decision to abandon the ascent while in sight of the top is even more peculiar. Perhaps the animation department lacked the research to accurately animate the top of the tower and the surrounding view. I'm not familiar enough with the original novels to know how the corresponding scene played out originally.
This reminds me that I still haven't finished my Maria-sama ga Miteru posts as promised. Of course, I also haven't finished my Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu comparisons with Saikano. Hopefully the statute of limitations hasn't run out yet on either of those endeavors.
To that end, I shall digress from the current Anime Tourism topic to remark on a primary failure of the later Maria-sama ga Miteru seasons: Not enough Sei. The Italy OVA of the third season featured here is especially culpable of Sei omission. Because while she was there, she wasn't really there. (This is less obtuse if you've actually seen the episode.)
Picking Sei as one's favorite Marimite character is an uncontroversial no-brainer, but this is also a testament to the impact and influence she has on Yumi and the show as whole. Like I said before, the underlying theme to Marimite is Growing Up. Specifically, it's about Yumi growing up, to no small credit thanks to Sei's guidance (read: constantly fucking with her) when Yumi was a first-year student. (That we only see Sei herself grow up through flashbacks is our loss.) Sei's importance to Marimite, even in absentia, permits the fifth OVA of the third season to make her a MacGuffin that ostensibly steers the episode, setting the appropriate flags for Yumi's good ending, as it were, but she's still sorely missed.
If I can't talk about the plot of Monster, what else does that leave? Well, for one thing, there's the setting.
Monster is one of the few anime series set outside Japan. Nearly all the scenes take place in mid-nineties Germany, as Dr. Tenma, his nemesis, and Inspector Lunge chase each other around. The settings are well-researched, with accurate cityscapes, landmarks, and other details (such as bus stop signs).
Monster is also the closest thing to a road movie that you're likely to find in anime. Thanks to Dr. Tenma's travels, the viewer is treated to new locales (mostly in Germany), many of which are introduced almost as characters themselves.
For example, when Monster introduces us to "The Girl from Heidelberg," we don't only get to meet the lovely Nina Fortner, we also visit the Heidelberg Schloss.
Various landmarks and landscapes are depicted accurately and prominently without detracting from the story. Other shows depict well-known settings similarly, but such settings are usually in Japan. (How many times have we seen Tokyo Tower or Big Site, for example.) The mere fact alone that Monster takes us into Europe makes the show worth a look, although I suspect most viewers will be too quickly hooked by the captivating story to go sightseeing.