Anime Chop Block: Re:Creators

Hello and welcome, after a long time to Anime Chop Block, today we will be looking at the original anime: Re:Creators

The premise of Re:Creators is that fictional characters from games, manga, anime and light novels are appearing in the real world and their materialization revolves around the existence of a military uniform princess.

At some points, in a critic’s career, one comes across shows that are confusing in terms of how to evaluate them. Does a critic evaluate a show’s quality based on it as a form of entertainment or the quality of the show based on it as a form of artistic expression of themes? Most of the time, the show is very clearly either entertainment or art and the shows that try to do both typically succeed on both fronts.

Re:Creators is a show that tries to be both art and entertainment but sadly falters at the latter. That’s not to say the show can’t be entertaining, just that it’s not as good as entertainment than as art.

I will get to that later but I would like to get the positives out of the way first. In terms of visuals, the show has a good aesthetic going on with no real issues with lines or colors though there was one episode that made me wonder if the faces have been distorted or if the bodies are too thin. Character design is distinct between the characters however with each character having been informed by their respective genre and medium to form easy visual shorthands for their personalities and origins. In terms of audio, the voice work is all right, there are no real outstanding performances or monologues to capture the attention of the audience but there are no voices that feel out of place or tone. However, music, while it does set the mood of the scene well, ultimately feels repetitive due to Hiroyuki Suwano’s habit of reusing specific beats and melodies.

And now we get to the contentious part but before I talk about it, I would have to talk about what the director said about Re:Creators. According to director Ei Aoki, the show is meant to comment on the creative process. Given this comment, it puts a lot of my own personal discontent and confusion of the show into context. The show’s characters are the focal point of this; as symbols of how the creative process work or how they embody parts of a story, they function perfectly well with the military uniform princess in particular being an interesting and in depth commentary on the nature of secondary creations. As characters that evolve and change as the story goes, that’s where issues arise. Despite claims that “the characters are evolving past their story”, they really don’t seem to evolve all that much.

As symbols of the creative process and how a story works, the characters work well. Both the creations and the creators would often talk about both their roles in the story and how the story comes to fruition in terms of creativity and business. This is most illustrated on the creator side which often talks about the reasons for why they create media, how they work to create media and the emotions behind their reasons. In addition, the show talks about how the audience is the determiner of if something exists in media or not and how the audience iterates of given media. This desire to comment on the nature of creation however comes at the cost of the development of characters in the story itself.

The main four: Selesia, Meteora, Kanoya and Yuya all have personalities that don’t change with the events of the series. If anything, the antagonists have the most development due to them initially wanting the creators to change their world but they come around due to circumstances to fight the military uniform princess. The fact that they resolve the reason for being antagonistic in the first place makes them interesting to watch on some level but once they switch sides, they become static like the main four. Most of the creator side is also underdeveloped with them mostly dealing with the revelation of what they have done to their characters in a short time frame. The most development we get in terms of a character evolving is from the viewpoint character, Mizushino Sota. Sota goes through development where he goes from having a massive guilt complex over someone’s death, forsaking creating as a result, to becoming a person confident enough to create what he wants without the feeling of guilt. This arc of Sota’s while interesting, does cause issues as we only get insight to why he stopped creating a quarter through the story and he doesn’t start down the path to resolution until the half way point of the story. This drags out the arc in such a way that he can irritate the audience.

In addition, the need to comment on media makes it hard to get invested in the last few episodes as while they foreshadow some of what happens in the last few episodes well, it feels like they pull some of it out of their collective backsides. One example would be one of the new creations introduced in the second half of the show. She had no foreshadowing or involvement with the other characters in the series and was only introduced to enable commentary on visual novel development and the creation of fan discs. In addition, a plot device used in the final fight, while a valid tactic, is not shown to us beforehand with no mention of this possibly being a thing before it happened; this results in the plot device feeling like a deus ex machina. Another issue is with the military uniform princess; while her powers and existence are excellent commentary on the nature of secondary creation, they also make her seem overpowered to the point that the only way to beat her is through admittedly very good emotional resolution. The main issue is that we really don’t have much insight into the emotional issues of the military uniform princess at all.

In the end, I would say that I don’t mind my time with Re:Creators but I’m not overly ecstatic about it either. The show still has entertaining momments and interesting commentary but the characters and plot pay the price for the need to make commentary.

 

Re:Creators can be watched on Amazon’s Anime Strike

 

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.

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