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Up to Snuff 3/4/19 – Bait and Switch

Not so fast…

The two powerhouse series at the top of every week’s rankings are widening the gap with everyone else. The reason is breadth of support – Mob Psycho 100 and Dororo definitely have the broadest appeal amongst the team. If anything it’s a battle of mass appeal vs. intensity with those two – Dororo appears on everyone’s ballot, but the ones who vote for Mob tend to vote it #1.

I’m back in the Dark Horse slot this week with a show that drives me nuts, but is unique enough that I think it deserves your attention anyway. And the “Ask the Writers” segment (featuring Miss Simplice’s debut) riffs on the old saw that “every good band has a bad album if they stick around long enough, and every bad band has a good song if they stick around long enough”.

Here are this week’s results:

 


 

Weekly Staff Poll

Mob Psycho 100 II – 23 points, 5 first place votes
Dororo (2018) – 22 points (1)
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze – 8
Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 7
Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue. – 6 (1)

 

Enzo’s Dark Horse


  • Enzo’s Dark Horse Series: Piano no Mori
  • I harbor no illusions about the face that Piano no Mori is a flawed series. It was originally the product of Fukushima Gainax, an offshoot unrecognizable to fans of the legendary creators of Evangelion and FLCL. Now it’s “Gaina”, all links officially severed, but either way the production values here are spotty to say the least. It’s also prone to the same trap all classical music anime/manga seem to fall into, idolizing individual interpretation and belittling faithfulness to the score, and the protagonist is a musical Marty Stu. But the fact is, if you love classical music your choices in anime are few and far-between (and generally not very appetizing). But while I take issue with this series’ perspective it does take the art of classical series very seriously. And while I also take issue with the visuals, Gaina does a very good job on the musical side, with each character’s performance handled by a different real-life pianist. There’s a bit of a “how the sausage is made” feeling to the depiction of the Chopin Competition, but it’s nevertheless fascinating. A niche show if ever there was one, but if this is your niche it’s the best game in town at the moment.
  •  

    Ask The Writers


    What’s the best episode of the worst anime or the worst episode of the best anime you’ve ever seen?

  • Enzo: My answer:The first decision here was which direction to go. While there are countless examples of shockers from otherwise great series – on bad finales alone I could write a book – I decided to be positive and go the other way. And that led me to a different sort of finale, the brilliant – and divisive – conclusion to Tokyo Ghoul √A. The series itself is a total clusterfuck, a confused jumble of half-baked – and half-formed – subplots loosely based on ideas Ishida Sui (with good reason, apparently, as they play like fanciction) never used in the manga. But what always saved √A from being a total failure was the genius of Oscar-nominated director Morita Shuuhei – amidst all the misfiring narrative his work always delivered moments of shock and awe. And for the final episode he threw off the yoke of Ishida’s rejected notions and production committee interference and did what he wanted. And in doing so, he delivered one of the most stunningly beautiful and elegiac anime episodes of all-time – a sober and reflective masterpiece that almost redeemed the entire misguided series – and bade farewell to the the Ghoul-iverse forever.The experience of the first two seasons of Tokyo Ghoul was so bitter for Morita-sensei that it may just have soured him on TV anime for good, and that would be a terrible shame because he’s a monstrous talent. The finale of Tokyo Ghoul √A may be the most superbly directed anime episode I’ve been privileged to watch, and it’s comfortably in my all-time top 10 anime episodes.
  • Choya: Welcome to the N.H.K. is one of the most iconic psychological anime of the mid-2000′s with its examination of the hikikomori lifestyle and isolation. But because it was produced by Gonzo, the art was bound to get inconsistent at some point, and it doesn’t get any worse than Episode 04, “Welcome to the Real World”. As Satou is brought out to Akihabara for ideas on the dating sim that he and Yamazaki are making together, the animation degrades and the characters turn into deformed blob people. This is not an artistic decision meant to be poignant or offer some sort of meaning. The animation is so poorly done that it distracts from any of the events that occur in the episode. What was meant to be an episode where Satou was getting adjusted to both the outdoors and the otaku lifestyle that Yamazaki embraces ends up being visually hideous and diverts attention away from the actual content of the episode.
  • Zaiden: If I saw the worst anime or something, I’d probably have dropped it long before it pulled out anything worthy of redeeming. So I’ll have to settle with the worst episode from one of the best anime I’ve seen. In terms of what I think is the best anime, if we consider Clannad in its entirety, I wouldn’t pick out a singular episode. However, the Fuuko Arc almost made me drop the show near the start. So pointless, so bad. And starfishes are stupid.
  • Stilts-han: The original Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode four. I think they remade it for the DVDs? But the original TV episode four was a shitshow. The animation took a turn, the story was goofy and tonally confused, and it was generally puzzling from start to finish. For such an amazing series, I always had to reference episode four when recommending it. “Just kind of ignore episode four,” I’d say. “It’s an outlier. The rest is the BOMB.” And so it was.
  • Miss Simplice:Erased is one of the most compelling mystery/sci-fi series I’ve watched. As a big fan of mystery, I do think it falls short in creating the guessing-game I love so much, but it’s a well produced and well written series with important themes that entice viewers to watch as the story unfolds. It does a good job at establishing the different timelines and the idea of an older consciousness living in a younger body. However, I feel like the ending could have, well… not been. The finale depicts a certain someone’s confrontation with the culprit. I remember feeling so disappointed by how anticlimactic it was. I’m not talking about the moment the villain is humanized but about the way in which someone chooses to reveal the serial killer. [A certain scene at the end] felt rushed and, to be honest, a little forced in comparison to the rest of the series. A less Scooby-Doo ‘expose the villain’ ending would have developed the anime into something greater, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the watch!
  • Stars: I’m not sure if this can be considered the worst episode, but it certainly was the weirdest. Cowboy Bebop is, without a doubt, one of the best animes ever made. For me, it was a gateway into Japanese animation. Now, does anyone remember the trippy episode about the mushroom zombies? For a series that balanced comedy, drama, and action impeccably, an episode that leaned so heavily on humor and surreal imagery felt tonally out of place.
  • Producer Notes: Miss Simplice’s entry was slightly altered due to spoiler tags being wonky. I think there’s a line that was adjusted that may give a little more information than what I wanted, but nothing that hits “spoiler” territory. Direct any and all complaints to Takaii and I’ll be sure to address them by the time Antarctica completely melts over.
March 4, 2019 at 5:45 am
12 comments »
  • March 4, 2019 at 8:31 ammac65

    Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue.
    Okay, I love this show. What’s so funny is that I
    find myself starting to get annoyed at the storyline
    while waiting for the cat to start her epilogue — and
    I didn’t even realize that I was feeling that way!

    So mellow and funny (but obviously some sadness too as
    we witnessed the death of her siblings early on).

    • March 4, 2019 at 1:47 pmGuardian Enzo

      Yep, I sure keep voting for it. I’ve been fine with the mix so far. Subaru’s backstory is just as emotionally engaging as Haru’s.

  • March 4, 2019 at 8:32 amEugene

  • March 4, 2019 at 5:29 pmDude

    I’m glad to see others appreciated Root A”s finale. Also, it seems like I might need to hop on that Mob mentality.

    • March 4, 2019 at 9:01 pmGuardian Enzo

      An absolutely incredible piece of anime, that finale.

  • March 4, 2019 at 6:33 pmafre

    Re: Stars on Cowboy Bebop. I love vignettes and self-contained episodes. Going by memory, I rather enjoyed Mushroom Samba. Recall not being a fan of Gateway Shuffle with the eco-terrorists.

    • March 4, 2019 at 10:20 pmStars

      I don’t mind self-contained episodes myself. One of my favorites was a comedic very one where Spike butted heads with a cowboy. Through seeing them interact we were able to learn more about Spike’s goofier side, which imo helped endear him even more to the audience, so my main reason for listing Mushroom Samba, other than it being strange, is that it really didn’t develop the characters or story in any way. To be honest, I don’t remember Gateway Shuffle so well. It may be time for a Cowboy Bebop refresher

  • March 4, 2019 at 9:35 pmUrahara

    Erased was the most over rated show that I can remember and the finale, as mentioned, was pretty damn anti-climactic

  • March 5, 2019 at 12:02 amArche

    An episode I loved from a show I disliked? Myself;Yourself episode 11. Show Spoiler ▼

    An episode I hated from show I liked? Final episode of Two Car. I’m cheating here as I forgot about the show until tonight, but I still enjoyed the first 3/4 more than most other shows that season. Then the last episode gave us Show Spoiler ▼

    Nowhere else has my opinion changed from “underrated” to “why did I bother?” in the last 10 minutes.

  • March 5, 2019 at 11:14 amZaiden

    I’m sorry Enzo, I just can’t take the Piano no Mori anime seriously. When they go at the source material with a hatchet, hacking off parts non-essential to the story yet so damn critical to character development, Gaina committed the crime of losing the core essence and soul behind the original. From the perspective of a manga reader, Piano no Mori is a travesty of an adaptation in terms of visuals and pacing, with music being the only redeeming factor.

    I didn’t really like the International Chopin Competition Arc anyway. We’re supposed to believe that the Japanese are underdogs because Polish judges are going to discriminate against Asians while favouring Polish contestants. Such a premise feels like an ill-conceived taint on the competition’s integrity. Since 1980, half of the winners have been Asian. Not to mention that the actual contest is conducted blind – so the judges don’t see who is playing (though I imagine they could tell from distinct styles).

    • March 5, 2019 at 4:33 pmGuardian Enzo

      I don’t really feel as if you’re contradicting anything I said in the post. If this is a subject that interests you, it’s pretty much the only game in anime town. Flawed for sure, but if you don’t get bogged down in manga purism I think it’s pretty watchable. At least it’s not Shigatsu levels of horrifying.

      Also – do you have a source for the judging being blind? I’ve seen no indication that’s the case, and it doesn’t say anything in the official rules. How can a judge recuse themselves from judging their own student if they don’t know it’s their student?

      And bias in the judging towards Polish pianists is pretty much an open secret and has been for decades. It’s just handled clumsily by the anime.

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