Anime Chop Block: The Eccentric Family

Hello and Welcome to another Anime Chop Block. Today, we will be looking at novel turned anime, Uchoten Kazoku known by its english title, The Eccentric Family.

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Originally a novel written by Tomihiko Morimi, the writer of another book that got adapted into an anime, Tatami Galaxy, the anime ran from July 7, 2013 to September 29, 2013 and was developed by PA works.

The anime is set in Kyoto where humans live in the city, tanuki roam the earth and tengu rule the sky. We follow a tanuki, Yasaburo Shimogamo, as he and his family interact with both tengu through Yasaburo’s master, Akadama, and humans through the enigmatic Benten, a member of a social group known as the Friday Fellows that eat tanuki and who ate Yasaburo’s father, Souichiro, in the past

The story structure, similar to the previously reviewed Toradora, is split into two effective halves. The first half of the show is a comedic romp telling Yasaburo’s adventures revolving around his family, Akadama, and Benten. These are designed to setup the character relations, personalities and stories of the Shimogamo family, Benten and the Friday Fellows and Akadama. The second half converges all of the character stories into an elaborate tale of betrayals and twists.

On a character front, this show truly shines. Most of the characters are well rounded and nuanced with enough personality, character flaws and secrets that make them human. Yasaburo, for example, is an excellent protagonist; while he along with his family have heavy hearts over Souichiro’s death, he still carries himself with a free spirit and love of life as his father did. In addition to strong and rounded characters, the interactions between characters are varied and speak to them. Yasaburo carries himself with confidence in front of others but his immaturity and insecurity are made apparent to his family. In addition, when the situation calls for it, he carries himself with the air of an heir. The main human of the story, Benten, while enigmatic at first also reveals a lot of personality through interactions. She flaunts freedom but desires family. However, Yasaburo isn’t able to understand her. Really, most of the characters reveal loads of personality through their interactions and they are built on a very nuanced foundation.

The writing of the show also is worth praise and the show has a large cast of diverse and rich characters and yet the show is paced in such a way that you get the feeling of comprehending all of the characters without being bogged down in minutiae. In addition, the writting is able to relate all of the character’s life experiences into a solid narrative about family and living life fully that resonates personally with the audience

From an artistic perspective, the show is different from most anime. The show’s characters don’t have very heavy lining around them and the coloring is more muted and less sharp. This contributes to a picturesque quality to the show that makes the show unique. The animation also lends to this quality with smooth flowing animation that is nuanced enough to be able to communicate subtle personality traits from the characters.

All and all, I would recommend the show as a powerful character driven show that touches on the idea of what family is and looks gorgeous at the same time.

RWBY review v4e7: Punished

Hello and Welcome to a review of what many consider a midpoint for the series: Punished

The show has three distinct portions to it: A section with Oscar, a Weiss section and a section continuing the fight with Tyrian. This itself is a bit of a problem as it kills the momentum built up by the fight in the last episode but the sections with Oscar and Weiss do build the story.

First, the section with Oscar. Oscar is currently revolting against Ozpin’s intrusion into his mind but Ozpin says that their aura and soul are one including memories. In addition, Ozpin says that Oscar has a role to play. This segment’s impact is dampened a bit by not having a visible representation of Ozpin to work against. In most narratives with alternative personalties or souls, they either make the other soul an ethereal body to communicate and react to or they have the same body but different voices come out of it. Not doing either option dampens the interactions as there is no real presence to bounce off of. In addition, when Ozpin is questioning Oscar about the Headmaster Room of Haven, they missed a chance to do a sweep transition with Oscar’s room slowly transitions into the headmaster room until Oscar gets snapped out.  In terms of visual impact, it would have more clearly shown the impact of Ozpin’s intrusion into the mind and made for a visually interesting scene instead of the rotational pan they did.

The second section with Weiss has a lot of narrative meat to it. Weiss actively is stating that she wants to leave Atlas and that she is the real Schnee, not the father who married into the family. Jacque counters by not only forcing her to stay on the manor grounds but also transferring the ownership interest of the company from Weiss to Whitley. From a script perspective, this is interesting narrative as Weiss is dissociated from her family and the source of her name’s prestige and toward battle and the frontline. From a presentation standpoint, it’s lacking. The discussion scene with Jacque and Weiss is simple cut to cut side view of the faces. Compare this to the opening scene of “The Social Network” where even when the camera is focusing on one of the speakers, it is still facing the person with the other person framing the speaker in the shot. Here, it’s a bland presentation of side shots of faces though when both Jacque and Weiss are both in frame, there is use of posing and motion to convey power in the scene. A similar issue occurs between the scene with Whitley and Weiss where the camera is uninteresting and doesn’t enhance the power struggle between the individuals as it is mostly flat forward facing shots without the other person framing the shot. Another issue is the lack of nuance or real character beside evil that Whitley and Jacque have. There is no real character behind them, only the idea of hinderance against Weiss and not for any real explained reason that is rooted in character.

The final section and the one that disappoints me the most is the fight between Qrow and Tyrian. First off, compared to reference films like “Hero” or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, the flow of the battle is completely off, the music doesn’t enhance the pattern of trading of blows and the movements seem far too staggered for there to be connecting rhythm to it. In addition, there is a shot when Qrow and Tyrian are charging each other that cuts to a axis reversal that disorients. However, there are other shots with both fighters in frame that have clear geography and smooth transition of position. What the main issue is when they cut too often and too early out of those shots. Instead of having a continuous shot of Tyrian firing his tail and disarming Qrow, we have three cuts and no repeat shot to increase the power of the disarm like in professional films. There is also a cut too early when Qrow is punching Tyrian in the face which dulls the impact.

After the fight, we get some foreshadowing with Qrow asking Ruby “what’s your favorite fairy tale”. This implies some sort of connection to mythos in a narrative sense but a personal concern is if the writers can pull it off.

In the end, the narrative in terms of the script is stronger than the previous seasons but the action and camera is weaker to the point of being amateurish.

RWBY review v4e6: Tipping Point

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review. Today is a review of “Tipping Point”

First the story since we have a bit of it to go through. the first segment is RNJR finding an abandoned village in construction called Oniyuri. Oniyuri was a city made by the discontent wealthy of Mistral that was destroyed by Grimm before completion. Based on one of Ren’s statements, his parents may have been involved and killed. Ren’s delivery of the Oniyuri situation is mixed in my opinion. On the one hand, we do have a scene focused on the hands tightening that expresses pain and anger. On the other hand, the voice delivery is flat. While I understand Ren is the stoic one, his voice remaining the same dulls the impact of the delivery.

Next, and a lot more substantial in content, is the charity event in Atlas with Weiss singing. The song’s lyrics do express Weiss’s hate of the family dynamics with her wanting to break free of her father’s grip. The concept of the song is solid and develops Weiss in a way that fits her character. Sadly, on an audio level, the song does fail a bit more. the high notes feels shaky like the vocalist is having issues hitting them.

After the song, we get a reception. Some revealing moments happen. First is Weiss trying to get away from her father when talking and him trying to keep her in place. It’s symbolic of control but it is heavy handed. However, since the family dynamics have only really been implied up until episode 1 of volume 4, this sort of works. Next is Weiss talking to a guy named Henry about the event. Henry is written to be an ignorant elite with him thinking the event is nothing but “another Mantle fundraiser” when it’s actually for Vale. Weiss shows clear anger at his ignorance and forcefully asks him to leave. This scene bleeds over into another scene where Weiss snaps out at the crowd for being ignorant of the world after hearing someone say that it was inevitable for Vale to fall. On one hand, I feel that the scene’s impact is dulled since we don’t hear the conversations that Weiss is talking about clearly, instead, it’s delivered as background noice. It would have been better for Weiss to shift attention between conversations to better make the point hit home. On the other hand, the scene is still powerful and does show some growth from Weiss as someone who now protects people. this is further supplemented by Ironwood and Jacques’s reactions with Jacque seeing Weiss as embarrassing the family, demonstrating his focus on status, and Ironwood seeing Weiss as the only sane person in the room, demonstrating his distaste of normal Atlas society.

The last section of the show is a fight between RNJR and Tyrian with Qrow showing up at the last second. Tyrian’s style of combat is interesting to watch. He’s a loose fighter with no real adherence to stance but instead flowing between positions. He also is shown to be a scorpion faunus with him using the tail for unorthodox strikes and angles; though one question i have is how is he hiding the tail as the coat is flat on the back and not sticking out a bit if the tail is coiled up. It fits Tyrian’s supposed design principle of insanity. The presentation of the fight is a bit lacking however. Impact sounds are too soft to fully convey the power of the hit. In addition, there are some axis shifts during the fight which do cause some sense of lost geometry within the scene. At points, there are also a lack of transitions sense to convey movement that further contribute to lost geometry. On a more positive side, there is better use of slow motion to convey hits and Ruby using the electric bullet was a nice touch.

In the end, the episode does have substantial character development but there are a few nagging issues with the fight that make it a bit subpar

RWBY review V4E5: Menagerie

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review. Today we are taking a short look at “Menagerie”

The episode can be best described as “functional but highly flawed”. The first portion of the episode is based off Sun and Blake getting off the boat and heading into the island Menagerie. Here is the first big stumbling block of the episode: exposition. The episode has a point where the pace grinds to a halt and Blake explains the point of Menagerie’s existence: that it was an island with most of it’s land being uninhabitable given to the Faunus to appease them. This is stuff that comes from the World of Remnant and should be so clunky in its delivery since it’s not prompted by any real emotional event or character moment. This is compounded by conflicting dialogue and visuals. Sun makes a comment about Menagerie being crowded at least 2 or 3 times but the visuals of the show make it seem fairly uncrowded and more like Beacon’s Campus than a crowded city.

The second portion comes from Blake visiting her parents, Kali and Ghira, Ghira being the chieftain of Menagerie. There is a scene with Sun having to defend himself to Ghira that he is not screwing Blake but fails. It’s amusing though a bit cringy due to his poor dialogue choices but it’s fun for fans of cringe humor. What is less amusing is when two White Fang representatives appear and talk with Ghira who was also a former leader of the organization. Blake hammers the two to the wall over the actions of Adam’s forces but the two remain adamant that the organization does intend to be peaceful. At least that’s what was intended until the two leave and talk about telling Adam about Blake’s position. This is a severe misstep as it feels too blunt with no nuance. If the show wanted to communicate that only Adam’s forces are the issue then having the two talk behind Blake’s back like that sort of undermines it by implication that the organization as a whole is evil. However, this can be resolved through later episodes by having scenes with other parts of the White Fang talking against Adam or even having parts of the White Fang fight Adam in a future fight.

This is a functional episode with many flaws that serves people well but I’m not sure it’s at a level of acceptable. To me, this feels like a generic shonen and not something groundbreaking despite the cultural context it exists in.