OP Sequence

OP: 「Clover」 by (Sakamoto Maaya)

「弟子入り志願」 (Deshiiri shigan)
“I Want to be an Apprentice”

The hope of this anime season lies in the spate of seinen manga adaptations on the schedule. They’re all new to me, but given what the rest of the slate looks like, some of them are going to have to come through in order for the season to avoid being a clunker. Given the theme and staff behind it, Arte was certainly prominent among that group – it’s not like we get a lot of series about the pursuit of art, never mind ones set in Renaissance Europe.

If I’m honest, having premiered at the same time as Yesterday o Utatte – and my decision to watch that show first – really didn’t do Arte any favors. This premiere was pretty good, but it paled in comparison in pretty much all respects. That’s not really a fair measure since Yesterday is easily the best non-sequel premiere so far this season, but it is what it is. But then, one week does not a season make – and each of these series is going to have to prove itself over the long haul.

Arte is the story of a girl with the unlikely name of Arte (Komatsu Mikako), growing up in a noble family in Florence in the early 16th century. She loves, well- art. Her recently deceased father brought her a tutor and encouraged her passion for it, though her mother heartily disapproved. After his passing she cracked down on her daughter’s hobby, as at nearly 15 years old she was moving into prime marrying age for the time. And with the patriarch gone, the family would not be in a position to offer suitors a particularly impressive dowry.

Let’s stipulate to a couple of things. Was it incredibly difficult for women to become professional artists in 16th century Florence? Absolutely. Did the few who managed it likely possess massive skill and determination? Certainly. So in that sense Arte’s story is perfectly plausible. As is the fact that every artisan in the neighborhood refuses to even look at her portfolio of drawings. It’s only after she threatens to cut off her own breasts in the street in order to stop being treated like a girl (I’d like to think she’s smart enough not to have gone through with it) and artisan Leo (Konishi Katsuyuki) stops her that Arte more or less lucks into an opportunity.

For all that, though, I must say I didn’t find this first episode especially convincing. The best way I can describe it is to say that rather than as a seinen, it played like an above-average light novel. Everything was executed rather broadly, and rather than Florence in the Renaissance I felt like I was watching 21st century anime characters stuck in a Renaissance setting. And while the look of the series was fine (art director Scott MacDonald is one of the most accomplished gaikokujin in the anime industry), somehow it didn’t pop the way you’d want a show about Renaissance Florence to (the way Paris popped in Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, for example).). The look was generically anime in much the same way that the tone was.

I’ll say this much – it’s a tricky balance, showing a character like Arte trying to accomplish what she is without making her seem like a standard plucky anime girl. But even so the premiere didn’t manage to – at least for me. I just wasn’t getting authenticity from her, or from the overall execution. Leo was fine but he too came off as more of a familiar anime archetype than an original creation authentic to the setting. It’s only one episode, it’s seinen, and it’s Florence – a city I love. Of course, I’m going to give Arte every chance to win me over. But next weekend, I think I’ll watch it before I watch Yesterday o Utatte.

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「Hare Moyou」 (Sunny Design) by (Kiyono Yasuno)

Preview

21 Comments

  1. I was looking forward to this knowing nothing other than the setting is in 16th century Italy (thank god it is not another high school). The premiere still managed to disappoint. None of the setting was used and all the characters behaved like 21st century Japanese. It might as well have been a story about the next cute Japanese girl raised in a strict traditional family and trying to escape by being a mangaka.

    Especially cringey were the scenes when the workshop owners were pushing Arte on the street. It was so absurd as it is highly unlikely that a commoner would have risked being physical with a noblewoman in the time period.

    In conclusion – if this show doesn’t include some interesting characters and mix in some 16th century Italian political intrigue then it is a huge waste of the setting and a missed opportunity for creating something really fresh.

    Stoyan
    1. High school anime dominates schedules because they’re super cheap to produce compared to stories which may require richer more detailed environments. After watching this episode the studio have done fairly well with the background stuff imho.

      Lyfe
    2. I’m really not sure they’re going to care much about realism in this, and that would be very disappointing if so.

      Shows in this era are rare, and like you said, if they don’t change some things soon, the setting will just become window dressing; just pointless.

      hjerry
      1. I don’t care so much about the lack of realism in the sense of art history. Where it bothers me is in terms of simple human behavior, and that’s where this premiere really felt off to me. Again, these struck me as stock manga/anime characters who happened to be plunked down in a 16th century Florentine setting. That, and the overall bland and generic feel of the episode were the biggest problems for me.

        I would love it if Arte were authentic to the experience of an aspiring layperson female artist in Florence in the early 16th century, but there weren’t any of note in the historical record. That’s not going to be a deal-breaker for me, though. That other stuff could be.

    3. I know! Arte doesn’t act like someone who grew up in that time and place, she’s just kind of standard determined anime heroine so far.

      And the craftsmen, seriously? They’re playing up it was sexist, but it was also very classist and there was a lot of work and money in noble commissions. Like you’d manhandle or yell at a noble woman who dropped by, hell, most people wouldn’t do that with anybody, but with a noble it could potentially ruin your business. Most people would let them down gently, says they’re not taking students, it’s no place for a lady, whatever. I loathe stupid antagonism that exists only to trouble the protagonist and makes no sense in world or character.

      Serbii
    1. Artemisia is a rare italian name, way more common in the past, but there should be some girl named like that even today.
      However, I wouldn’t look too much into details and wouldn’t give credit to the creator, they just named her “Arte” because it means “art” in italian and because it’s a fun, exotic name for japs.
      Not as ridicoulus as Fugo Pannacotta, but here we are.

      Elia Notari
      1. Sure, the fact that it means “art” makes it a perfect name for a series like this, But considering the story this series is going to tell it would truly surprise me if it was just a coincidence. Also, her master is named Leo, which seems an obvious nod to Leonardo da Vinci. It doesn’t take a ton of research to come up with these names.

        But intentional or not, I’m glad they used just “Arte” instead of “Artemisia”. Using “European” sounding names, usually somewhat resembling German, that are impossible to pronounce for Japanese voice actors is one thing that annoys the hell out of me.

        WizardOfOss
        1. “Japs”? Oh, that’s a surprise, I thought it was just a diminutive of “japanese” and I use this constantly if I switch from Italian to English.
          Why is it considered offensive?

          Elia Notari
          1. Mainly because it was used as a pejorative term against Japanese foreign nationals in other nations during WW II (especially Japanese-Americans). I don’t know a single Japanese person that doesn’t consider it extremely offensive.

          2. I never had the sense you intended it that way, don’t misunderstand. It’s just that when it comes to descriptive terms for groups of people, I tend to default to one simple rule – if the people who it’s being applied to find it offensive, that’s a good enough reason not to use it.

    2. But Artemisia Gentileschi lived exactly in 16th-17th century when this anime supposedly takes place in and the author was clearly inspired by her story.

      Nacvhtwandler
      1. Nope, Artemisia was born when the Renaissance was already dead, this is set in early 16th century during the late Renaissance. Maybe you’re right and she was named after her, but I don’t have that much faith

        Elia Notari
        1. She was born in 1593. Yes, it is the end of 16th s century, not the beginning, but it also not a “couple of centuries later” as you initially wrote.

          I am not trying to defend the mangaka here. She clearly did not made any decent setting research and the seies has a lot of anachronisms and charcters behaving inappropruiately. Just wanted to correct the statement a bit.

          Nachtwandler
  2. I’m a bit torn on this one. It was a little too “cute” for my tastes. It seemed to kinda want to have its cake and eat it too; both being this serious story about sexism and poverty in the Renaissance, but also being this fun romp about a spunky girl who makes her own path.

    Those two things…don’t really mesh.

    I feel like this could be really good if they toned down on the spunky cute protagonist cliche, and took the series a little more seriously, but we’ll see. Right now, i kinda think what you see is what you get, and if so, I’m not sure I’ll end up very invested in this one.

    hjerry

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