RWBY review V4E4-Family

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review: Today we are looking at the fourth episode: “Family”.

I will cut right to the chase, parts of this one made me question the direction of RWBY as a whole and it revolves around the main portion of the story dealing with Yang. The Yang portion starts off with a nightmare that fits this type of characterization: Yang is attempting to fend Adam off but fails and panics as it looks like Adam is about to kill her. It’s generic but serviceable. What happens afterwards is a bit odd. See, Oobleck and Port come to visit Taiyang and talk about the old days when Yang comes down after her nightmare. The conversation consists of random comedic jabs and some more serious talks about Yang’s fears. The comedic bits are actually amusing. They are similar to how RvB handled it’s off hand mentions about past events: generally absurd and stupid things that have happened to it’s cast. Then we get to the serious bits of the conversation with Taiyang talking to Yang; this is when tonal dissonance starts to rear it’s ugly head. Taiyang makes a comment about how Yang isn’t an adult yet which is fine in of itself and Yang comments on how generic the statement is but then comes a particular line from Taiyang.

“If you think you are ready to go out there on your own, hum, i guess you lost some brain cells along with that arm”

That line right there stops all jovial tones and makes Taiyang out to be, to be blunt, an asshat. They try to pass it off as a joke but I could hear the actors strain themselves to try to laugh. In addition, it also marks a focus on how Yang is dealing with her problems: she argues that the loss of the arm and her confidence is a new state of normal but Taiyang and the teachers try to make her realize that she shouldn’t let fear stop her. The frustrating part is that the statement works too well; Yang is seen wearing the robotic limb the next day. In terms of storytelling, it makes Yang’s trauma look minor since they could be solved with just a pep talk and also cheapens any sort of quest towards self growth.

The other side stories aren’t as terrible but they leave the audience in too much of a state of confusion. The farm boy is shown again, this time talking to a mirror and being greeted by Ozpin’s dismembered voice. This implies some sort of state where Ozpin is alive but either in a spirit form or possessing another body.

In addition, Qrow and Raven actually meet and talk. This portion leaves some odd plot details. The first is that Raven is basically a “survival of the fittest” archetype; she believes in the strong surviving and actually led a group of, presumably, bandits  that actually attacked the town Ruby and the team visited. Raven and Qrow came from the same bandit group but Qrow left. The second is that Raven is questioning Qrow about the same relic that Salam is after. This means that Raven might get involved in the final conflict.

Regardless, this episode left a few questions for the audience which would normally not lead to a negative view of the episode but Taiyang’s interactions make this episode uncomfortable to sit through. Combine that with Yang using the arm and I have concerns about how they plan to do character development for the future.

Anime Chop Block: Toradora

Hello and welcome to the Anime Chop Block

With the election ending in a way that I don’t think people will be happy about, I figure we need something relatively fun to lighten the day. Today, I will be reviewing Toradora.

22128Toradora can best be described of as a show with two halves with the latter building off the former. The first half of Toradora is designed to establish characters and be a fairly comedic set of episodes revolving around the main characters, Takasu Ryuji and Aisaka Taiga, trying to help each other with their mutual crushes, Kushieda Minori and Kitamura Yuasku. In addition, another character, Kawashima Ami, enters the mix to complicate things. The first half is full of fairly generic setpieces of the anime romantic comedy: the beach episode, the culture festival, the pool and the test of courage. However, the show manages to make these setpieces feel unique with the main cast and how they are developed.

Right off the bat, we see that each of the main characters are unique in some way compared to their standard archtype. Ryuji may look like the tough faced character with a soft side, but his fatherly nature towards Taiga is enough to make him endearing in the same way that Tatsumi Kanji from Persona 4 is endearing; Both are characters with softer sides to them that get fleshed out. Taiga meanwhile may seem like the stereotypical tsundere but right from the first introduction of what her living space is like and how she feels about her parents in episode 2 makes her emotional enough to connect and stick with. Minori seems like the genki girl but her insight into the hearts of people and her compassion for Taiga balances it out. Ami is a two faced person with the face of a ditz and the nature of a manipulative person but she has a sense of emotional understanding that balances out the more volatile emotions of the cast. Yusaku doesn’t have that much development but he makes up for it by just being the even-handed person in the whole affair.

As such, this makes them compelling when things really go dramatic in the second half. The second half focuses more on the drama of a romance and how the relations built up in the first half interact with each other. Here, Mari Okada’s melodrama comes out but it’s grounded in the emotions established in the first half. The emotions run high in the second half with many feelings of anger, sorrow, passion and conflicts in love; this doesn’t feel as artificial as some other shows due to the fact that we got to see the emotional states of our leads before this and so the increase in emotional tension feels real. Ryuji and Taiga’s arcs in particular really come to a head with how they relate to their families and each other. This leads to a final set of 2 episodes that feel more emotionally real than any number of Jun Maeda death scenes. It should be noted though that this is a show where you have to stick around after the credits in the last episode or a lot of the emotional impact is lost.

Animation is well done but nothing of real note that would make sakuga fans take note. The characters are generally designed with sharp chins and natural proportions of the female characters. What should be noted are the voice performances. While Rie Kugimiya is known for tsundere performances, Taiga is one of her best roles with the right amount of anger, emotional vulnerability, and genuine happiness that makes her a person you would want to succeed in love. Junji Majima as Ryuji provides a very warm voice to the role, allowing the compassion that Ryuji gives Taiga to come through. Eri Kitamura as Ami provdes a flawless transition from serious and emotionally insightful to catty and manipulative to ditzy without hiccups. Yui Hoire as Minori pulls both the eccentric genki girl and the troubled in love girl with a lot of range that makes her believable.

All and all, Toradora is a true gem of romantic anime. It establishes itself with memorable characters delivered by talented actors and a focus on natural drama and emotion supported by solid writing. A must watch for anyone who loves romantic dramas

RWBY Review: V4E3- Of Runaways and Stowaways

Hello and welcome to the RWBY review. Today, we got the third episode “Of Runaways and Stowaways” on the docket today.

Storywise, this is a Blake story with a bit of Yang in it. Blake’s portion seems similar to Ruby’s in the first episode in that she fights a monster but Sun actually shows up and helps. Blake and Sun seem to have an odd relation that would probably sink their ship. Blake seems antagonistic and annoyed with Sun and this transfers over to the fight where there are several shots where Sun seems like a complete idiot. Sun does manage to convince Blake to let him tag along but the interactions and a bit of the body language seem to indicate that Blake is annoyed and more focused on her real goal: going home probably to talk to family. One thing that doesn’t make sense in this portion of the story is when Blake discards the ribbon; the question i ask at this point is “why didn’t she discard it earlier in the timeskip”. This seems to be an issue with communicating the passing of time after the fall of Beacon.

Yang’s portion of the story is shorter but has one moment that seems counter to her development. Yang is shown to have clear PTSD with losing her arm though this isn’t expressed constantly as she doesn’t get visibly angry when a news report talks about Adam. Yang is also shown to be a bit detached and removed from Taiyang most likely due to her trauma. An issue lies with what Taiyang brings home, a robotic arm from Atlas. This poses some major issues with Yang’s development as it comes in too early in Yang’s story to be a symbol of her having overcome trauma to go after Adam. AT this point, it feels like they are making the impact of losing the arm nonexistent. It would feel like the writers just trying to retcon the arm loss early if it weren’t for the fact that Yang is hesitant to try it on now.

We also have a small part involving Cinder trying to control the Fall Maiden’s power. What should be noted is that Salam is looking for something in Beacon and that Ozpin’s “death” is very uncertain. I can’t really comment on this section as it’s short and has no real payoff this episode.

Animation is still a mixed bag. There are some cases of stiff movements, characters being perfectly still and at least one case of the pose shifting between cuts. On the other hand, Sun and Blake’s character animation has improved with Sun having very large dramatic motions that fit his cocky personality and Blake having a lot of emotional expression from both her face and her ears. One issue I have is the texture on Sun’s tail; it feels like they just copied the texture for Sun’s hair without consideration of how it would looks so it seems unnatural.

The fight scene is fairly standard though I do like the use of a Chinese dragon for the basis of the design. It has moments of dramatic slowdown and does do impact multiplication though the use of aftereffects. In addition, there is a level of comedic execution with how Blake interacts with Sun: jumping on him and dropping him after a catch in particular. Finally, the semblances seem to have evolved with sun being able to have the aura clones do complex coordinated actions and Blake’s shadow clones interacting with her to propel her. This means that semblance evolution may be possible and we may get some interesting fights later down the line.

In general, this show is competent but, in my personal view, if you are an anime fan, this is standard. Nothing has stood out that would outright make this a watch and the scene with Yang may be an omen for writing issues down the line.