P.A. Works

Final Impressions: Shirobako

Mar 28 // Josh Tolentino
Honestly, there's not that much more to say: After the director and Aerial Girls creator Nogame worked out their compromise in the previous episode, the only hurdle remaining was to actually produce the episode and get it delivered...in under three weeks. Of course, animating five hundred cuts and ten thousand tween frames at a quality needed to cap off a popular series is a monumental task in and of itself, but at least there's no crisis like the wrath of "God" affecting production as last week. Nevertheless, it's an all-hands-on-deck effort, as pretty much everyone at the studio, and many more beyond, are pulled in to work on the Aerial Girls finale. Even Segawa transfers to the office proper, resulting in much strange awkwardness from Endou and fueling the imaginations of a thousand fanfic authors. There's even a hilarious reference to Nichijou, another anime series which I'm positive was as much a "passion project" for Kyoto Animation as Shirobako is for P.A. Works. Even the show's final challenge, an epic six-way cross-country scramble to get the final on-air tapes to broadcasters out in the boondocks, feels almost perfunctory. Fun as it is to watch it's little more than a way to hark back to Aoi's drifting talents in episode one, and see their roots in office manager Yuka Okitsu's past career as a legendary production assistant. Then again, the train ride home from Hiroshima serves as a way to tie up Aoi's character arc, in its own way. Viewers paying attention will note that Aoi's been struggling to find her own "reason to fly", and trying to find out why she perseveres. In that respect, the creative and technical types like Midori, Ema, Misa, and even the long-suffering Shizuka have it a little easier: They've tailored their skills towards making anime, so that's naturally what they'd try to do. By contrast, Aoi's experience in production is more managerial, only rarely interacting with the final product. The episode even implies that with enough time, Aoi's future career could mirror Okitsu's, with even less involvement with the things Musani makes. Given how much anime and manga life advice tends to hinge on finding one's niche and leaning into it - seriously, how many times have you read a line like "This is something only you can do!" - that's a tough challenge for a generalist like our Oi-chan. And what it takes is a bit of soul-searching and deciding, for realz, that making anime is what she wants to do. That might not seem like a big step, but consider how many people go through life only thinking about getting to the next day. Aoi declaring, with confidence, that this is what she wants to do, is probably the most important thing she could ever do at this stage in her life. Good on her. As to the "why" of it, that's covered in her speech at the after party. Honestly, it's almost cringe-inducing in its earnestness. Hell, if you replaced the references to anime-making with stuff about ninjas and "The Will of Fire" you'd be able to slide her comments into a chapter of Naruto without missing a beat, it's that sappy. And I still effin' adore it, and her, for saying it. This is because, as I said last week, Shirobako is not a documentary. It's an ideal, a love letter, and a statement of intent. It celebrates the making of anime and the people who make it, and hopes and prays that everyone's doing it because they love doing it. That's not the same as "whitewashing" away the industry's many, many problems, though. There's no question that the show is light at its core, and never intended to be the kind of tough wake-up call that some think is needed. But that's sort of the point, in a way. Shirobako's intent is to put the spotlight on the people who "make it happen", and focuses on the good. But the bad's still there, lurking in the margins. Heavy drinking, bad food, worse pay, and lengthy hours are all more than evident, enough that anyone paying enough attention might actually be scared away. No one is going to come away from the show thinking that any of it is easy, and that's all that really needed to be said. And so ends a lovely little series with a whole lot of heart, about how tough it can be to do a good job, but how wonderful it can be to see it through all the same.
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(Do)Nuts About Making Anime
Spoiler alert: Shirobako ends happily.  Of course, that's really only a spoiler to the most stubborn and obnoxious of curmudgeons. There was really no other way for this show to end. And to be frank, it ended as it should have: Full to bursting with sappy, sentimental, idealistic, feel-good cliche. I love it. 

Annotated Anime: Shirobako episode 23

Mar 23 // Josh Tolentino
Despite being one of the "realest" anime series in years, and touching on points that are clearly quite close to home for the many people that create and enjoy anime, Shirobako is, and shall remain, fictional. If it weren't obvious enough: It's not a documentary. Whether it should be is a different discussion, one I shan't tackle here. What I'm getting at here is that episode 23 sees Shirobako - and by extension, P.A. Works - acting to tell and resolve a plotline, rather than reach deep and expose some of the guts from the anime-making process. Director Tsutomu Mizushima and his crew are being storytellers right now, not pundits or commentators. To step right out and say it: This latest climax was perhaps a little too narratively convenient, but screw being cliche, I loved it.  The crisis cliffhanger of episode 22 is out in full force here: Aerial Girls creator Takezou Nogame has rejected the whole of the anime's final episode outright, and given little feedback as to what he wants. It's essentially the character design crisis of earlier in Aerial Girls' life, but with the stakes at their highest possible point: "God" hates the ending you wrote. Fix it! A different story might have converted Shirobako into a tragedy: Stressed and out of options, Musani ends the show with a recap. Jiggly Heaven returns, to send Kinoshita's career down the toilet, along with any prospect of Aoi advancing. Show's over. Aria will never fly again, just like Nogame-sensei insists. Here's where I'm happy that Shirobako is not that kind of fiction, and I don't care that there's a risk of making the show lesser in the eyes of some, for seeking the lower-hanging fruit that is a happy resolution.  Musani finally gets a sit-down with Nogame, after Kinoshita commits a massive foul (in Japanese corporate politics, at least) by going around the editorial staff and contacting the author directly. The two have a meeting - after an epic action sequence featuring the director literally throwing his weight around to get into the Yotaka Booksellers building - and reach an accord. A compromise is arranged that will allow a happier ending for the series without compromising Nogame's vision of the manga. And the editor, Chazawa (aka Mr. "Funny Story") gets his comeuppance for being so willfully obstructionist about it all. After Hiraoka got his human side shown last week, he's the closest the show has gone to having an actual villain, much to the consternation of a few actual Japanese manga editors, who reportedly went off to complain on Twitter about unfair portrayals. And to be fair, episode 23 really isn't that fair to Chazawa. We never get a look at why he was such a jerk about denying access to Nogame (apparently against Nogame's wishes), and editors can and do serve an important role in their position between writers and the people adapting their writing. Then again, more unbelievable things have actually happened in the world of anime adaptations. Jerks also exist in real-life, and the reasons they act that way aren't always valid. In a way, Chazawa comes across as an amalgam of both Tarou and Hiraoka's worst traits. He's Tarou's incompetence made dangerous by Hiraoka's cynicism and uncaring demeanor, marinated in a pool of oily snark. I hate him already, which means P.A. Works did their job just fine. Honestly, though, I can forgive this seeming lapse in narrative integrity on Shirobako's part. One of my favorite movies is 2006's Stranger Than Fiction, and it's essentially about how having the classic "happy ending" is sometimes worth the price you pay to have it. Even if the resulting story is weaker for its presence.  As if to affirm that this conveniently happy resolution was in fact worth it, the tears in Aoi's eyes as she sees Shizuka finally, finally, finally land her anime voice-acting gig, voicing a new character in Aerial Girls, is our reward for this minor compromise. Really, seeing Zuka-chan's long train of suffering finally stop was worth a high price indeed. Well-played, Shirobako! Of course, there's still next week, the last episode of the season. And hell, they aren't even done with the episode yet. The damn thing's still gotta be made, and only then can we think about the future, and how close the five girls from episode 1 have come to their dreams. [Watch Shirobako on Crunchyroll!]
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Showdown time!
Exposition. Rising Action. Climax. Dénouement. These should be familiar, if you remember your grade-school literature classes. Real life, however, isn't so convenient. More often than not, life is a lingering anti...

Annotated Anime: Shirobako episodes 20-22

Mar 16 // Josh Tolentino
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Shirobako is one of the most "adult" cartoons I've ever watched. And it's not because of boobs, gore, or dark themes. That "mature" stuff is what kids tend to look for and prize. Instead, what's adult about Shirobako is its constant reference to the kinds of travails that only grown people could truly, deeply understand: Office drama.  Sure, a schoolkid could comprehend what happens in the episodes, especially since it's signal-boosted through anime's natural penchant for exaggeration (not to mention that P.A. Works don't shy away from truly cartoonish antics on occassion). But only someone who's been through working life, at least for a while, can genuinely empathize with what people like Aoi have to deal with. Everyone's met their own Tarou or Hiraoka, or dealt with their own "Studio Titanic Incident", even if they don't necessarily work in the same field. In its way, P.A. Works made the right move by casting Aoi as the de facto lead character of the series. Her various duties in production make her day-to-day a closer match to the "average" experience of the modern company worker. She's the everygirl who just happens to work in the dream factory* that is the Japanese animation industry. At the same time, though, she's also an ideal. And let's make no mistake: Shirobako, particularly in its attitudes and message, is more of an ideal than a reality. We can hardly blame them for idealizing properly done work, but Hiraoka's situation, or at least his mentality, is closer to the norm than many people would be comfortable admitting. At the same time, it's refreshing to see that Hiraoka isn't made out to be some kind of villain, or even the kind of person we viewers can dislike unconditionally. Anime-making is a tough, stressful job like any other, and there are good places to work at and good people to work with, and there are the opposite. Every day people get their idealism buried under harsh reality. We (or at least I) can feel free to continue disliking Hiraoka because of his bitter cynicism, and his rather toxic attitude towards Midori (aka Diesel-san), but understanding where it comes from helps underline that people are making these things we like. That doesn't excuse bad work or mean we should pull our punches when giving practicing criticism, but better understanding on both sides is key to making good critiques to begin with. The train of pain doesn't stop at Hiraoka's station, though, as the longest-suffering member of the cast, Shizuka, continues to not have a job that brings her closer to her dreams. If Hiraoka was a broken man, Shizuka's being tested, drowning her sorrows in the dark while watching another up-and-coming voice actress, one who was, painfully, right alongside her in the earliest episodes, find success before she can. With only a few episodes left in the cour, one can only hope and pray that P.A. Works will show mercy. Shirobako may be somewhat realistic, but here's to wishing for a happy ending all the same. Not that it's just Zuka-chan on the hook, though. If you needed another reason to dislike Hiraoka despite his humanization, the position his corner-cutting has put Aoi in is a good one to add to the quiver. Being in charge sometimes means going to bat for your people, and like it or not, people like Hiraoka and Tarou (who remains barely competent despite being much more likeable these days) are hers, and she puts her own name on the line with Segawa to keep Hiraoka working. And just at the end, in true anime cliffhanger fashion, we hit the iceberg, and it wasn't even the fault of Studio Titanic. Funny story, it's about the author of Aerial Girls, who put the kibosh on the entirety of the last episode. And in the time of panic that is sure to follow, the Hiraoka doctrine of "Just getting it done" may end up looking more appealing than ever.
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Working it at the office
As we roll into the endgame for Shirobako, our longtime Producer-san Jeff Chuang faces a crisis at his own day job, and called me in for support. So far, so Shirobako, and here I am to take over the weekly recap for the time ...


Annotated Anime: Shirobako episode 6

Nov 16 // Josh Tolentino
Indeed, if all you wanted was a pure How It's Made, but for Japanimation, Shirobako disappoints with its relative lack of exposition. The show is really an office drama that happens to use the animation studio setting as a conduit for the creators to really know what they're talking about. And the familiarity P.A. Works has with its own processes (I can only imagine that the goings-on at Musani are at least a tiny bit drawn from reality) does matter. Compare Shirobako's specificity with the vagueness of Servant x Service's description of life in a local public office, and you can see the difference that extra layer of detail can make. We didn't really need to know the minutiae of key animation versus 3D CG to get the gist of the story last week, but knowing those little bits really drove home the scenario, one which at its core will be familiar to pretty much anyone who's worked in an office environment and seen the devastation that a series of innocent misunderstanding can bring. Hell, I was practically being triggered by Takanashi's incompetence, my hands clenching and unclenching at the thought of wringing the neck of the buffon who would ruin Exodus! forever. But that was last week. This week, the situation escalates, then gets resolved. Granted, the manner of resolution: Getting both Endou and Shimoyanagi to make up over a shared love of Space Runaway Ideon Space Exodus Idepon (complete with the best impressions of old-school anime stylings since Gundam Build Fighters had Sei channel Amuro Ray) was a bit convenient, as was the seeming insistence on crediting the chance encounter to some impression of Miyamori's "people skills", but this is fiction, after all. Things didn't need to get messy to prove the point, this time, so there's no reason why the resolution can't be a bit "unrealistic" at times. More pertinent than the actual Idepon, however, is the running theme of each character remembering what it was that made them get into the business in the first place. Be it Anders Chucky, Idepon, Beauty Dreamer, or Waiting for Godot, recalling the passion that spurred you to take up your career is invaluable for dealing with the petty crises each day brings. And anime-making comes with crises aplenty, if even a fraction of what goes on at Musani is anything to go by.
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By the will of Idepon
Shirobako continues to be an important anime series for anyone that's interested in how their favorite Japanese cartoons are made. Not to say that it's some kind of primer for how the industry works, though it goes furth...

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Music

The Dose: Nagi Yanagi


So soothing
Dec 06
// Hiroko Yamamura
I got to tell you, the weekend couldn't have arrived soon enough. It's been a real fun week of music. We've mostly been jamming out to some energetic rock & roll jams, keeping us motivated at our desks, and dealing with ...

First Impressions: Uchouten Kazoku

Jul 12 // Brittany Vincent
While I wasn't particularly enamored with every bit of the first episode, it laid the groundwork for what has the potential to become a sleeper hit of the summer season. Fans of The Tatami Galaxy may find themselves immediately drawn to Uchouten Kazoku, though the two series feel inherently different. In fact, the tale feels just like what a Tomihiko Morimi story should. There's a note of quirkiness in the way characters interact, their mannerisms, and their likenesses. You'd expect tanuki to be mostly playful and exuberant, but there's a darker side explored via the tengu.  Our hero, Shimogamo Yasaburou, is a tanuki who prefers to shapeshift into an alluring young girl. There's a deep history between his old master Professor Akadama, and that of a shared love interest for Suzuki "Benten" Satomi, a gorgeous lavender-haired human with the tengu power of flight. The trio are tied together through an event known as the Demon King Cedar Incident, during which Akadama broke his back and lost the ability to fly. The fractured relationships between the characters is due in part to the fateful day, and despite the playful banter, there are some darker feelings at work here -- understandably so. The complex interactions are what kept me watching, even when the semantics of tanuki vs tengu vs human became lost on me. A young and graceful Benten of the past grew into a cold-hearted beauty, for instance. Why's the past so mysterious? Despite some slower moments, I genuinely want to know what's coming next. P.A. Works' animation is fluid and excellent, though characters' ears are large, oddly-placed, and distracting. I chalked this up to whimsy, as they do seem to fit the overall aesthetic, but they are extremely jarring at first. Perhaps that's something I'll get used to in time. The energetic opening is a good indicator for how I think the series will play out, though at present it's much different from my initial expectations. It'll be interesting to see this Eccentric Family will get along in the future. I also think it's unique that our lead Tanuki-san retains a male voice and male persona despite a penchant for taking a shapely female form. As long as the show keeps me on my toes in that way, I'll be in it for the long haul. [Watch The Eccentric Family simulcasting on Crunchyroll!]
Raccoon looks like a lady photo
Raccoon looks like a lady
Shape-shifting tanuki and soaring tengu, huge ears, and atypical animation are the pillars on which Uchouten Kazoku is built. It's an intriguing mishmash of elements that certainly don't sound as though they could work well together, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a series with such seemingly disjointed elements tell a story that seems as though it could blossom into something beautiful.

Red Data Girl stream photo
Red Data Girl stream

Red Data Girl stream starts over at Funimation tonight


Can your computer handle her?
Apr 10
// Hiroko Yamamura
Red Data Girl may have already started airing in Japan last week, but if you've been waiting to watch the P.A. Works show, you're in luck. Funimation will begin airing the show starting tonight! Hulu subscribers, that means y...
P.A. Work's newest anime photo
P.A. Work's newest anime

Get ready: Uchoten Kazoku is P.A. Work's newest project


Get ready to rejoice, fans of Tatami Galaxy.
Mar 21
// Salvador GRodiles
I feel bad for not watching Tatami Galaxy, since I've heard nothing but good things from everyone that has laid eyes on it. In order to compensate for my shameful deed, I'm hear to tell you that P.A. Works's newest anime ...
Red Data Girl photo
Red Data Girl

New visual data for Red Data Girl


Spooky
Mar 04
// Hiroko Yamamura
The clock is slowly ticking down to the release date of PA Work's new series, Red Data Girl. The story revolves around a young lady, raised away from society in a shrine, due to the fact that she basically destroys...

First Impressions: Tari Tari

Jul 12 // OxKing
Let's break it down: The show begins by introducing an assertive, kind of annoying teenage girl named Konatsu. Eventually, Konatsu wants to start a choir club with the goal of blowing the school over at the end of the year with their singing. Okay, fair enough, but throw in a new exchange student from Austria named Wien, a badminton player (the only one in his club) named Tanaka, and a stoic, blunt chick named Wakana and you have your (inevitable) cast of musicians. The plot synopsis itself is about as dry and unimpressive as any other show focusing on music and school girls from the last few years, but the real kicker is that this series is more inspired by PA Works own HanaIro than anything else. With a strong focus on a large cast of characters and the theme of dealing with changes in life, there's actually a lot of actual content in the first episode of Tari Tari and enough motivation to keep it from being monotonous. Akin to last winters' Chihayafuru and 2009's Sora no Manimani, there's a stronger focus on building a club and reaching a goal as opposed to funny shenanigans. Put frankly, if you dig any of PA Works other stuff (specifically HanaIro), you know what your getting with this. Our main characters aren't particularly (all) annoying, though I am fighting off a mighty case of remembering names and telling apart faces. Maybe I would give these girls a little bit more credit if there was a little more pizzazz in their personalities, though I feel this show is trying to get me to feel sorry for Konatsu instead of rooting her on. It's easy to care for her when the teacher yelling at her is a spiteful wench with no tact, but at the same time, it's unfair to have feelings for a character based on what another one has done, follow me? It's even tougher to root her on when I can already guess on how this show will play out. To have our protagonists start from humble beginnings before making it big is such common theme in a lot of modern TV shows, movies, books and anime that Tari Tari already suffers from a disadvantage on the story side by default because of how common and cliche it is. What can help are some curveballs, some awesome moments throughout the season that catch the audience off guard. Genuine surprises, believable plot twists and moments of failure from our main characters is what this anime could benefit from and truly make it a great series for summer, and because PA Works has a history of keeping its viewers on their toes, it's very likely there's something more than meets the eye in store for the show. It's really tough to see how this show will fare later this season... mainly because whoever didn't want to see it won't, and those who did really wanted to watch a PA Works show will continue to watch it regardless. A key rule of mine has always been "If it's tough to call an anime good or bad, then keep on watching it", and with the gorgeous animation this show has, it won't be terribly too hard to continue watching Tari Tari.  In a really cramped time of year for anime, Tari Tari perhaps is the most fitting for the melancholic heat of summer and the notion of "going with the flow" this season. It way not yet be particularly well, but give it a chance and maybe it'll become something more interesting than only being easy on the eyes.
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It's easy enough to write up a First Impression piece on an anime when you strictly focus on how good or bad it was, but it's the shows that are just average throughout that people here on Japanator have trouble writing up. T...

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Check out the first promo for Tari Tari from P.A. Works


May 02
// Bob Muir
P.A. Works is streaming the first promo for their next anime, Tari Tari. Based on an original work by Evergreen, this is the story of five high school students who are not yet adults, but don't quite feel like children anymo...

First Impressions: Another

Jan 10 // Pedro Cortes
Before the opening (a fairly standard ALI PROJECT song that raised my hackles), we get a quick heads up on the story of Misaki. A ninth grader that died 26 years prior to the series, her classmates kept her memory alive after somebody claimed to see her at her desk. They kept it up even through their graduation. Interposed with scenes that I assume will appear through out the series, it's a good primer to what you'll be seeing fairly soon. The show proper begins  with in a hospital in April of 1998. Kouichi Sakakibara is lying in bed with a collapsed lung next to his aunt and grandmother. Clearly unable to make it to class, several kids from Kouichi's new school show up to welcome him. The three students are clearly disturbed by Kouichi, particularly by the fact that he claims to have never lived in town. A lead character with a dead mother, a father abroad and a potentially unreliable memory? We're off to a great start! Later that night, Kouichi gets in an elevator to head outside and is surprised to find a quiet girl with an eyepatch behind him. She gets off at the second basement, which has the mechanical room, the boiler room and the morgue. Oh, and she says she's there to deliver something…and she's got some bizarre looking doll in her hand…and she says her name is Mei Misaki. Wait, Misaki? As in the girl from the legend at the beginning of the episode? HMM… A couple of days later, Kouichi is woken up by a call from his father abroad. He calls to wish him a good day at school and tells him that he too had a collapsed lung, something that I'm sure Kouichi would've liked to have known before hand. He gets called away by his grandmother for breakfast, but we see that his grandfather is still mourning the death of Kouichi's mother. OK, absent father, a mourning member of the family and an aggravating bird that won't shut up? The creep factor continues to rise! Kouichi makes it to school and is introduced to his classmates. After being assigned a seat by the hollow-sounding homeroom teacher, he notices that Mei is sitting at the corner seat in a busted up chair. During break, he gets pelted by questions from the members of his class while the camera pans toward the rest of the class. Before he's strangely passed to another classmate for a tour of the school, Kouichi notices that Mei is gone from her seat. Later at P.E., Kouichi sits with another exempt student with a heart condition. The guy staggers off to the nurse's office and is replaced by Yukari Sakuragi, one of the gals from the hospital welcoming committee. She mentions that their class is the only class that has P.E. alone before quietly freaking out at the mention of Misaki. Kouichi sees Misaki on the roof and goes up to talk to her. Besides forgetting that they met at the hospital and being generally mysterious and hostile, she tells Kouichi that his classmates associate his name with a particular death at the school and that his class is the closest to death in a school that is already close to it. She then leaves, warning Kouichi that he shouldn't interact with her. On the way home from school, he sees Misaki walking in the rain, but when he looks back she's gone. When it comes to horror in anime, it's hard for me not to compare any show to Higurashi no Naku Koroni. Both seasons of the show filled me with legit dread and freaked me out more than once. A combination of an excellent musical score, subverted characters that kept me on my toes, disturbing visuals and solid vocal performances insured that it wouldn't be leaving my mind anytime soon. In order for any new horror show to work for me, it has to meet or surpass Higurashi in some way or another. I'll take it point by point. Another's characters were originally designed by Noizi Ito (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Shakugan no Shana), a woman known for her adorable girls. Right there I know that there's going to be some seriously messed up stuff in the future. At least for me, seeing pretty girls in a horror show somehow makes things creepier. This is especially true if I'm suspecting that something awful is going to happen. If those images before the start of the episode are indicative of future events, I have a feeling that a swerve is going to catch a lot of people off guard at some point. Knowing that raises the tension for me. It's a circle of nerves that will continue until somebody gets it. Music has a lot to due with setting the mood for horror. When done incorrectly, it ruins any sort of suspense that the actors are trying to get across and will collapse a scene. Music done right can keep people correctly off-balance or have their nerves pulled tighter and tighter until the snap. Here is another spot where, uh, Another excels. Ko Otani (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Shakugan no Shana) makes good use of light piano and strings to make Kouichi's initial interaction his new classmates awkward and unsettling. Of course, the xylophone track that plays while he interacts with Misaki is tonally appropriate, if a bit typical of the mood that is trying to be set. Even when it's following along genre lines, this show is doing its job right. The voice work is thus far excellent. All the characters are acting to what is expected. Kouichi sounds weak and naive, Misaki is hollow and distant, the various members of Kouichi's class sound collectively nervous and like they're hiding something, etc. I particularly dug the noticeable change in Kouichi's homeroom teacher from talking to the new kid in the hall and addressing the class as a whole. The vocal change combined with his glasses glinting over shook me a bit. Finally, let me talk about the visuals. This is a pretty looking show, with some good looking characters and some beautiful looking landscapes. Well, perhaps not beautiful in the traditional sense. There's some deliberate work done to make everything in the school look decrepit and falling apart. Rusted rails, overgrown grass, distressed paint, broken benches, this school looks like the epitome of a run-down public school. That can't be a coincidence. Somehow, the busted up look of the school has to have some significance, especially after Misaki's little statement at the end of the episode. Oh, and the repeated shots of some downright disturbing dolls are cheap, but effective. So what do all these words I've typed add up to? I'm saying that Another is one of the best shows out this season, with a dead serious tone and nary a giggle in sight. If you want something that is probably going to give you goosebumps or raise the hair on the back of your neck, then I'm pretty sure that this show will deliver. Granted, there's no way that I can look into the future and say that it will keep the promises it's making with this first episode, but I have high hopes. [You can watch Another over at Crunchyroll.]  
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When I think of horror in anime, there are a couple of things that immediately pop into mind. It usually involves kids either in middle or high school, an ostracized or different kid is either killed or commits suicide, it's ...

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C'mon let's dance: Angel Beats! dated for July release


Apr 20
// OxKing
Section23 and Sentai Filmworks announced some time ago that they've snagged last years Angel Beats!, and now, they've finally released some more details on when we can get our grubby little hands on it. The date July 26th was...

First Impressions: Hanasaku Iroha

Apr 06 // Josh Tolentino
16-year-old Ohana Matsumae uses the word "dramatic" constantly throughout the first episode of Hanasaku Iroha. She calls her friend Ko's plan to wash out the corn remnants from a can of soup "dramatic". She states that the idea of "ruining herself" through indecision over her future sounds appropriately "dramatic". And when her flighty mom announces her midnight escape to god-knows-where, shuffling Ohana off to live at their estranged grandmother's traditional hot spring inn, Ohana claims that she's practically living a "dorama". Well, those aren't the exact words (neither in Japanese or on Crunchyroll's official stream), but close enough. Drama, drama, drama. That's what Hanasaku Iroha is about. But wait, didn't I just say Hanasaku Iroha was about having expectations subverted? Yes, I did. Let's get to that. To expectations, then. The first expectation subverted is the viewer's, who might have expected this story about a bunch of girls working and living their everyday lives at a ryokan to be another celebration of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things. It isn't. Again, it's about expectations being subverted, as well as a lot of drama. Next is Ohana's expectation that her flighty mom would take her on the aforementioned midnight escape. She won't. Also subverted is the viewer's expectation that there are actual child services in Japan. Seriously, with that kind of behavior Ohana could get herself emancipated and dock whatever her mom makes forever and ever. But that wouldn't be very dramatic, and Hanasaku Iroha's about drama, too. Third, that living at the ryokan would be a fun, easy sort of life. Regarded as neither a granddaughter nor a particularly useful employee, she's bottom-rung from the very start, already with another girl hell-bent on hating her. Then comes the slapping! It might seem a bit heavy-handed in setting up how much Ohana's new life sucks, but the point is that she kind of had it coming. Her very teenage, self-centered internal dialog and expectations for a "dramatic" life of meeting old ladies who hand out candy and living the hot spring life, and being a Cute Girl Doing Cute Things, were begging to be subverted in as heavy-handed a matter as possible. And from there comes all that drama. Pity the poor Ohana as reality comes to bite her right in the cheeks. I certainly do, and it's pretty much that pity which will drive me to the edge of my seat as I wait for the next episode of Hanasaku Iroha. Is P.A. Works celebrating its tenth anniversary properly? I'd say so.
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Hanasaku Iroha is a show about having one's expectations subverted, for good or ill. That lesson applies just as well to the viewer as to its protagonist. It's about wanting something new and dramatic, but then being a little bit confused as to what happens when one actually gets that thing.

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