July 16, 2016

The Perfect Magical Girl Candidate

Over at Steven's place, that worthy is asking "where do magical girls come from."  In recent times, a number of them, he points out, have spun off of... let's call them normal... series to become immensely popular in their own right.  An example of this is the genre-defining Nanoha Takamachi, one-time 12 year old minor character in a dating sim who wound up being spun off into her own series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.  A total of four series, two movies, untold manga and figures later, very few people indeed can claim to have even heard of the game she first came from, Triangle Hearts

Befriending the hell outta people since 2004.
But Steven goes beyond just naming past characters.  Indeed, he goes ahead and lays out a set of rules for finding potential future magical girls.  The rules are:

1. The character is a girl, ideally young but not necessarily so, and she doesn't have a spectacular figure (yet).
2. She isn't the main character of the series she's in. Ideally she's a minor character who doesn't make all that much of a difference.
3. The series she is in isn't about magic and she herself doesn't have any extraordinary powers.


He then names a few himself.  In his comment section, readers suggest a few more.  Ah, but I, Wonderduck, have the perfect candidate, one that ought to have happened already, as the parent show has seven omakes and they had plenty of time of work it in.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present to you...

Magical Girl Kohaku!  Let's take a look at how she fits the rules.  Clearly, she's young.  She's not the main character of the series she's in... in fact, she's the younger sister of a secondary character in her series and has a total screen time of less than two minutes.  Total words spoken: eight (...in English, anyway.  I counted!).  The series she's in, Hibiki! Euphonium, has nothing to do with magic in any way.  She does have one power, however:

The Power of Cute!  Really, she's perfect for the role of magical girl.  We all need Magical Girl Kohaku in our lives, the sooner the better.  She will save us from the darkness that is our daily lives, spreading the joy and happiness that only a magical girl can generate throughout our drab existences.  And we will like it!

The power of the ahoge compels you!

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June 17, 2016

Servant x Service

It's a plot done to death, not only in anime but in just about every media type known to mankind: a young woman wronged seeks revenge, and will stop at nothing to get it.  She lives her life only for that final goal.  We've heard it all before, and we'll undoubtedly hear it all again.

When you get right down to it, that's what *Servant x Service* is about.  What's different this time is that the character seeking revenge has chosen to become, not a ninja or assassin or police officer or soldier or spy, but... um... a civil servant.  Yup.  "James Bond, DMV worker."  It's her first day of work in an unnamed town in Hokkaido as one of the newest members of the Welfare Office.  Go ahead, I dare you to tell me you expected that.

Our main characters.  Hasebe (L) is one of those jerks that's good at everything naturally, so puts no effort into anything... except, perhaps, goofing off and trying to get girls' phone numbers.  He decided to become a civil servant because it's a secure, easy way to get through life.  Miyoshi (C) is a recent college graduate and shy, almost timid.  She's a good listener, though.  And finally, Lucy (R) is the driving force for the show.  She's the one burning for revenge.  But why be a civil servant then?  Because she's trying to find the man who approved the name on her birth certificate... see, her parents were kinda ditzes, they asked for potential names from friends, and liked them all so much that they named her ALL of them.  Thus, Lucy's full name is "Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Chihoko Ayano Fumika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika... (continuing) Yamagami."   For the record, "(continuing)" simply means that's there's quite a bit more to her name, but we never find out what it is.  So Lucy figures the best way to find this man is to become a civil servant like him.  When she finds him, she intends to give him a very stern talking to.

Yes, really.

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May 19, 2016

When Anime Was Magical

No, this isn't going to be a "back in my day" post.  Instead, it's a lamentation.  Just over a year ago, I fell in love with Hibike! Euphonium, a little show about a girl and her band... brass, not rock.

Not just because the girls were cute and the art was pretty, but because the series was just that damn good.  Full package, from animation to story to characters to sound, it just amazed me and made me wonder why it wasn't next week already.  Before that, what show did I fall in love with last?

2011's Rio Rainbow Gate! fits that bill.  The polar opposite of HibEuph, I wound up loving it while doing my series writeups.  The animation isn't good, the characters are paper-thin, the story is dreadfully bad, but I'll be darned if it isn't going to be The Pond's "high water mark" down the line.  After this, though?  Sure there's 2006's Kanon, and 2007's Hidamari Sketch, and 2005's  Aria and on and on... but there's just been nothing else recently.

I miss that.  I miss falling head over heels with a series like Noir, which just completely blindsided me with its quality.  Once every five years just isn't often enough.  Oh, don't get me wrong, there's plenty of shows I've liked... one look at the "anime writeups" category will tell you that... but that's not the same thing.  I need that magic again... and I don't see any chance that it's going to happen anytime soon.  I know it's stupid to hope for a classic series to come down the pike, but there it is.

Otherwise, why are we watching?

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May 09, 2016

KonoSuba: The Review

After reading Ubu's review of the first few episodes of KonoSuba, I decided "Heck, let's give it a shot... it's not like there's anything else going on this season."  I mean, a tongue-in-cheek look at the old "main character stuck in a RPG game" genre sounds like a load of fun: light-hearted, funny, all that sort of thing.  I came to it after the show's run had ended, and people were generally enthusiastic about it, so it seemed perfect for me.

So now that I've watched the series, what do I think of it?

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May 03, 2016

It's Up To You!

Hello Disco Citizens!  I'm David Yarritu Wonderduck, the host and proprietor of this here blog thing.  In the past, I have occasionally asked you, the assembled masses I lovingly refer to as "The Pond Scum," for input into what you would like to see me write about.  This time, however, the question is slightly different.  I have two posts in mind right now, and I'd like you to tell me which you'd like to see first!  Take a look at these:

1) A review of Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Syukufuku Wo!, aka KonoSuba.

After reading a "first impressions" post by The Crimson Splat, I thought KonoSuba would be just what I needed: funny, a little stupid, lighthearted.  Something I could enjoy without having to think too hard about it.  Well, I was wrong.  I've thought a lot about KonoSuba, and it's time to hold my review up to the light and let y'all see it.

2) Fanservice, cheesecake and how one man's trash is another man's person.

A couple of days ago, a brief conversation over at SDB's place about the content of his prolific cheesecake posts got me to thinking about my lack of interest in doing similar here at The Pond.  It has nothing to do with some "high-minded" attitude / prudery, but about how most cheesecake is either boring or outright tasteless to me.  And what's the difference, anyway?     

So there's your choices, dear readers.  Your opinion will make the difference... let me know in the comments!  It's up to you!

UPDATE: Welp, sounds like the masses have spoken!  KonoSuba it is...

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April 08, 2016

The Forever Incomplete Post: ARIA the Avvenire Ep01

Back in January, I finally got to watch the new episode from the ARIA franchise, the first of three being co-released with the new BD sets.  Being the sort of person I am, after watching I immediately headed to The Pond and started writing.

Then deleted the post.  It sucked, full of massive fanboying to degrees not seen since Naruto/Dragonball Z slashfic.  So I waited another day or so and started again... and that post ended up in the bitbucket almost as quickly, and for much the same reason.  A third post died a-bornin', because I tried to do it in a less passionate manner and it turned out to be dull and boring. 

Then there was the fourth attempt.  It caught fire, then fell into the swamp It began to turn into an episodic recap, which was not at all what I wanted to do, because really: I love the franchise too much to abuse it like that.  Still, I didn't delete it, but let it simmer... some would say "fester"... all the while looking for some way to make it click.

Until just this evening, when Steven Den Beste asked if I had seen ARIA the Avvenire Ep01 yet, I had not, in fact, managed to come up with anything of note.  Until now... now, I'm just going to post what I have with this preamble that you're currently reading, and a followup postscript.  So without further ado, here's what I managed to scrape out of the catbox.

------------------------

The ARIA franchise is very close to being my favorite anime of all time, coming in just behind Kanon '06 and Azumanga DaiohARIA ran for three seasons, however, and could have easily continued for longer... but didn't.  It ended appropriately, with multiple "passing of the torch" moments, but it was bittersweet.  The world of Neo-Venezia was so attractive, so comfortable, so... nice, that it was hard to admit that it was over and that we'd never get to visit it again.  I mean, of all the myriad stories we've been given via anime over the decades, the only one I'd ever want to live in was the one involving female gondolieri on Mars.  Hell, I've even created my own backstory, running a a small shop somewhere off the Piazaa San Marco filled with attractive trinkets and gewgaws and books and coffee for the tourists and residents alike.  Occasionally an undine might bring her charges by, spend some time there, then head out to other sights.  Less commonly, one might stop by on her own for tea and conversation.  The shop might even end up in an episode when one of the main characters passes by.  And that'd be all I could ever want, a comfortable living in a wonderful place.  But it was over, and that was that.

Except it wasn't.  "That" changed in February of 2015 when it was reported that as part of a 10-year anniversary of the first season's broadcast we'd be getting new episodes!  Nobody knew exactly what the format was... OVAs?  A movie?  A whole new series?... but that almost didn't matter: we were going back to Neo-Venezia!  As it turned out, there would be three OVAs, first shown theatrically in September, then one would be included in the forthcoming BD releases of the original three series.  The first OVA was released right around Christmas, and after a few weeks for the holidays, a fansub finally made its way to the usual places.  I downloaded it late on a Monday night and spent the whole next day at work in anticipation of the joy that was about to come.

But at the back of my mind, there was... not fear, exactly, but trepidation... that the production staff would screw it up.  It wouldn't be difficult to do; a tiny change in tone and ARIA would be ruined.  The franchise has always had an air of wistful nostalgia to it.  The slightest drift to maudlinity or mawkishness could push the cheese factor to 10... and with the death of both of Athena's voices the trigger was there.  Then there was the obvious fact that this wasn't the same production staff: Hal Filmmaker went away in 2009.  Its successor, TYO Animations, is handling the OVAs, but... well.  Only one way to find out how it was.


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December 28, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, the OVA... or 12.5, whichever.

It's been quite some time since we last visited the Hibike! Euphonium show, but a few days ago the long-awaited OVA came out.  Considering how much I enjoyed the series, it shouldn't come as any surprise that I immediately watched it with one eye peeled for Asuka, the vice-president of the band club.

It should also come as no surprise that the Goofy Cute was being both goofy and cute... for the thirty seconds she was in the episode.  Alas, KyoAni stopped using her as a character around Ep12 in the original run, so Asuka bringing the goofy was to be expected.  Since that was her entire contribution to the story, it was a little bit disappointing.

The rest of the OVA was quite entertaining, and it was really nice to be back with this bunch of characters that we came to love over the course of three months or so.  As usual, it was outstanding visually, but it was really quite nice to focus on the "junior leads", as it were, instead of the main characters.  Which is not to say I wouldn't have liked to see more of Asuka.

Since, y'know, that was kinda the whole point of this little series of mine in the first place.  I guess we'll just have to wait for the second season... or maybe the recap movie will have a little bit more about her in it.  Either way, it'll be good fun.  Unless KyoAni doesn't expound upon her character, in which case I'll be quite grumpy.

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December 27, 2015

Residual Photoshoot Thingy

Back last August, I finally posted the "creative project" I worked on for much of my enforced extended vacation.  In that post I mentioned that I had purchased a new camera for my birthday.  While I was learning how to use it, something I can honestly say I haven't figured out yet because it's a little more advanced than a point'n'click, I decided to see how it did in low-light situations.  The very first picture I took told me that I had gotten a nice camera.

If one wished, one could click on the picture for a bigger version.
I still think its the best picture I've taken with it.  Not bad for something taken on a whim with one hand holding the camera, the other holding the EL Wire.  The most surprising part was the faintly red background... that's from a glowing mushroom in my dining room.  I'm going to have to explain that, aren't I? 

Back when I had the Cardiac Incident in 2005, I had... concerns... that one night I'd have to call 911 and not be able to get out of bed due to whatever was happening in my chest.  I thought it'd be best if the EMTs would be able to see so a light would be needed... but it would have to be relatively unobtrusive, otherwise I'd not be able to sleep.  Some weeks later, I stopped at Walgreens and found a low-wattage red CFL for some decent price.  I put it into a more-or-less translucent mushroom-shaped lamp, put it on a small side table in the dining room, and turned it on.  Save for a few minutes here and there when I vacuum, that light has been on ever since.  Nearly 10 years... well over 80000 hours!  I don't care that it's "just a light bulb", that's pretty amazing.  Particularly since wikipedia suggests the usual lifespan for a CFL is ~15000 hours.  I don't know what I'm going to do when it finally passes from this world to Light Bulb Valhalla.

Clicky-poppy.
Amazing what a good camera can do, eh?  I don't like this picture anywhere near as much as the first, but it's still a swell photo.  Anyway, enjoy, won't you?

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November 24, 2015

Visual Novel Review: Go! Go! Nippon!

I'm not what I'd call a "gamer" by any stretch of the imagination.  Make no mistake, I do play computer games, sure, but I'm not one of those hardcore creatures who eat and sleep videogames all the time.  We have a few of those at work actually, and they're great fun to talk to.  They accept me as one of their own, ever since I recognized Vault-Boy on one of their cellphone's lock screen.  I haven't been able to talk to them recently though, as the three of them are playing Fallout 4 like they'll die if they don't... and talking about spoilers.  As I've managed to avoid all details of the game except those given in the first Official Trailer, their conversations tend to send me screaming from the break room.  I have a feeling that I'll get into the game the same way I did Skyrim or Fallout 3 once I obtain a copy, though.  But I'm not a heavy-duty gamer.  One particular type of game that I've never really gotten into is the Visual Novel, though I've played a few.  If you've never played a Visual Novel, understand that it's not a "game" the way, say, Mass Effect or Portal or Pong are games. Most of the time, you're just reading words on the screen much the way you read a book. Upon occasion, you have the ability to influence the course of the story by making a decision ("Go to sleep" or "Go out and party"; "Invade Russia" or "Invade Britain"... that sort of thing).  For the most part, VNs are distinctly Japanese, and some very good anime series have been made from them.  Kanon, for example, was first a VN... I tried to play it, but I got a nasty virus from the copy I obtained.  I did manage to play some of Clannad, but never came close to finishing.  On the whole, in fact, the few VNs I've played, I've given up on long before I completed the storyline/s.  Ironically, the two that I have finished weren't actually Japanese!  Katawa Shoujo was made by a volunteer group from all over, and Sakura Spirit by an American company; both were written in English.  Which brings us to the subject of this review.

Go! Go! Nippon! (GGN) was released in 2011 by Overdrive, a Japanese company.  Unlike pretty much every VN ever, it was developed exclusively for the overseas audience... English speakers, primarily.  Shortly after I was disassociated with my position at the Duck U Bookstore, I stumbled across a promo video for GGN on Steam.  Amused, I put it in my Steam Wish List for later perusal... and then it went on sale last Thanksgiving.  Five dollars later, it was in my library.  I enjoyed it, but it was short... five hours got me through the entire thing.  Eh, fair enough.  I then put it aside and never touched it again.  Until recently, that is.  Y'see, about a month ago Overdrive released what they called DLC for the game.  In reality, it was an almost complete rework of GGN.  As it, too, was only a few bucks, I bought it.  So what's it all about?

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November 21, 2015

Moses Supposes?


Erroneously?  Magnificently!

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November 12, 2015

Please Consider This A Teaser


Uh... huh

Just a little something I picked up via Steam a few weeks ago... well, actually, it's the new extended version of something I picked up on Steam back when I booted from the bookstore.  Since it was selling for less than the cost of a couple of Chicago Style hot dogs (hold the peppers and cucumber slices, please!) and fries, I figured what the hell. 

In a lot of ways, that's still my reaction, though it's more like "what the hell?!?" now.  We'll see when I'm done and get it written up. 

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November 08, 2015

The Four Faces Of Kei 'n' Yuri

In the comments of the last post, friend Ben asks what anime series I'd like to see get remade due to age or quality.  While I didn't type my answer immediately, the second I saw the question I knew how I'd be replying: The Dirty Pair.  If not the actual first "girls with guns" series, Dirty Pair was certainly the first to be hugely popular.  The adventures of Kei and Yuri have been around for nearly 40 years, and I've been a fan since sometime in the '90s.  Light novels, one 26 episode TV series, three movies, two completely different OVA series, and even US comic books cover most of the source material of these great characters.  Along the way, only two things have stayed more or less constant with the visual designs: Kei has red hair and Yuri dark hair, and the two are female.  Obviously one of the most important aspects of a remake of such a legendary franchise would be the updated character design.  With any luck, the production company involved would pay attention to what had come before.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the evolution of the best known 3WA Trouble Consultants, shall we?

Mughi changed, too!

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August 30, 2015

Photoshoot, Ga-Rei Zero Style!

Some time ago, I was talking about a "creative project" I was working on... y'know, the one that needed 60 sets of chopsticks, a trilobite, something donated from Texas, two different styles of gift tissue, four thumbtacks and a big binder clip?  It's fairly clear to me now that I'll never actually finish the damn thing, simply because the effort involved is somewhat beyond me at the moment... i.e. I can't be arsed.  However!  That doesn't mean that I can't reveal that which has been completed, and J Greely was right... the stuff WAS being used as a photo studio though not a tabletop one.  More of a bookcase, really.  You'll see, later.  But what was I shooting?

Almost 18 months ago, I sugested that there were two more figmae waiting to be photographed... but what I didn't say is that they were a matched set: Kagura and Yomi from Ga-Rei Zero!  Though they're fairly old Figma (Kagura is #066, Yomi #067 in a collection that's announced number #269 recently), I was able to pick the pair of them up for a song... in new condition, to boot.  I just checked online, and nowadays they cost individually what I got both for in 2014.  Anime figures: investment material!

Of course, the best part of Ga-Rei Zero is the relationship between these two.  It's no spoiler anymore to say that they go from best friends to a duel to the death, and if nothing else, that gives a LOT of picture-taking opportunities.  Let's continue, shall we?

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August 26, 2015

Her Eyes

Back in 2008 or so, I was flooping around after finishing up my first AMV, "...Angel", feeling like I needed to make another one but not having any inspiration.  Oh, there were a couple of aborted attempts, but nothing that got any farther than a couple of clips on a timeline and call it a day.  Then there was a Formula 1 video I thought about doing (F1MV?) and never got around to... and then my copy of Adobe Premiere went away in a virus-induced format-and-install, never to be seen again.  Of course, it was then that inspiration sneaked up behind me and whupped me upside de haid but good.  And like with the first AMV, it happened at the Duck U Bookstore.  Since it's been nigh on seven years since then, I don't remember what I was doing at the time... probably folding t-shirts because t-shirts always need to be folded, that's what they're for... when a song came on the instore music system.

As with the first time, it had less to do with how much I liked the song as how the entire AMV sprang to life in my head as the song went on.  That I did (and still do) like the tune is an added bonus, something I can't particularly say about "Lips of an Angel", the song I used for "...Angel".  Certainly by the time I was done, I hated that drippy piece of musical treacle.  There was one huge difference between the two ideas, though: I had Premiere the first time lighting struck, and I didn't the second time.  The constant badgering of my brain trying to get me to make "Her Eyes" into the AMV in my head drove me to make some... unwise... decisions on the downloading front, not that my antivirus programs did anything to help matters.  Antivirus matadors, more like it: "oh look, a virus?  Ole!"  Anyway, after being unsuccessful on many fronts, I decided to make an effort at tabling my brain's nagging for a while.  And then The Dark Years occurred.  2008 and 2009 were particularly horrible experiences, and while 2010 and 2011 were remarkable for blog output (all those writeups!), the AMV faded, stored away in a closet somewhere in my brain.

Jumpcut to a few days ago.  I've put the entirety of my "loose tunes" music collection into one mega-playlist (iTunes suggests that I can now go 47 hours straight without hearing a repeat, and that's without any of the hundreds of albums included), and I've hit the shuffle setting.  I'm sitting at the computer doing... something and the music is playing, playing, playing and... a song comes on.  And the lightning bolt strikes again.

Indeed, by the time he hits the first chorus, there were tears rolling down my face.  Not because it's a sad song, but because of how intense my brain's reaction was.  If you've never had a serious "eureka moment" like that, I literally can't explain it to you.  If you have experienced it, you know exactly what I mean and I don't need to explain it.  It certainly doesn't have to be AMV-related... authors and woodworkers, papershufflers and athletes, bloggers and... uh... people who do real things can all get hit by such inspiration.  I've been truly honored to have it happen a few times (not all AMV-related), and I hope it'll happen again in the future.  "But", I hear you screaming, "what's the damn concept, Wonderduck?"

Some years ago, there was a fairly popular anime, spawned a damn religion, come to think of it... maybe you've heard of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya?  I can hear you groaning to yourself, but remember this: the concept for this AMV came to me in 2008, well before the second series, well before Endless 8, well before the movie and all that jazz.  It was still fresh then.  Of course, people hyped the new series to Pluto and beyond, then were disappointed when it only reached the Moon, but that's beside the point.  One thing that really drove people loony in a good way was the first series' ED, what with the dancing and the choreography and the glavin and...  ...but y'know, I was always struck by an image from the OP.  To whit, this one:

The universe in her eye, as we find out when we zoom in closer and discover stars and galaxies.  It's a great image, and the song fits so perfectly with it I'd almost think that Pat Monahan had seen the series.  And the intervening years, quite honestly, have done nothing but made it easier to make the AMV... after all, it's more than doubled the available source material, and in the process solved the one blank space I had in my mental storyboard (how the hell was I going to do "tells me that she's lived about a hundred lives..."?  Well, now I know!).

The one, nearly trivial, aspect of the creation of the AMV is that I still don't have a video editing program worthy of the name.  Or any idea how to extract video from mkvs.  Or time.  But those are all minor details. 

The lightning has struck again.

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July 10, 2015

Gakkou Gurashi!

One of the few shows I was honestly looking forward to this season was a little something called Gakkou Gurashi!, which more or less translates out to "Living at School!".  It follows the hijinks of four students as they make their way through their highschool years in a slice-of-life manner.  It had cute artwork, reportedly an outstanding story, and... well, heck, you know me: slice-of-life is right up my street.  And so are spoilers, but you probably realized that already.

This is Yuki, our main character, and yes, she's supposed to look like that.  She's specifically designed to take most of the best (worst?) characteristics of the super-cute uber-moe school girl and package them all in one person.  Throw in "genki" and "bonkuras" and you've got Yuki.  You expect her to bonk herself upside the head while winking at any moment, and god help you, you'll enjoy it... you might hate yourself every second, but you'll enjoy it anyway.  Yep, she's like that.

These are her friends at school.  Yuri is the one in the sweater, Kurumi is the twin-tailed girl, and Miki is the blonde, who is Yuki's "protege".  The puppy up there is Taroumaru, and he's basically Yuki's.  Yes, that is spaghetti they're eating, and yes, it is the morning. 

And before you ask, yes, yes they are at school.  They're members of the "School Living Club," a bunch of kids who love school so much they never leave.  Uhhhhh... okay.  Though to be fair, I've seen stranger things in anime before.  Still, the handwritten sign is a little... odd?


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June 30, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep13

"It's a little sad, isn't it?  We had so much fun, and now it's about to end."

-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep13
It's rare that a final episode of a show will make me immediately wish for more, but that's what just happened with Hibike! Euphonium.  Oh, to be sure, the climax was what I mostly expected (the writers left juuuuuust enough room for doubt), but along the way the Goofy Cute showed yet another side of herself, and an unexpected one at that.

Melancholic Asuka.  Sitting on the stage, amongst the classmates she's worked so hard for and with, ready to give what is potentially their final performance together, she gets quiet and introspective, and says the words at the very beginning (and very end) of this post.  When she said them, I got very sad.  Combine them with the picture from Ep07, and it's very hard not to see a prototypical (if not stereotypical) image of a "gifted child".  An loner with just one or two friends that don't really know her, who in public tends to go a little overboard in the ebullience category, yet winds up sitting alone in her room studying a topic that none of her peers understand at a level anywhere near hers.  Being in the concert band has to be something close to the only normal relationship she has... she's given so much to it, and now comes the moment she's both anticipated and feared since the moment everybody decided to try for Nationals.  There's every chance in the world that the group she's helped create over the past three years will be no more after this performance... and she'll end up back in the bedroom, alone, studying a topic that none of her peers understand at a lever anywhere near hers.  Melancholic?  If that's all she is, she's got a stronger will than most.

(thanks to friend Ben for the screenshot... I could not get my player to pause at the right spot to save my life)
When the announcement finally comes down, revealing that all their hard work... all HER hard work... has paid off, we get this look.  Around her, the members of the Kitauji High School Concert Band and its auxiliary team is celebrating... and Asuka is entirely, hopelessly alone.  There may very well be a different story than the one I've told behind her reaction.  In some ways, I suspect I'm reading way too much into this from not enough information.  But in other ways?  I know I'm right, at least to a certain point.  Her reactions are much too familiar to me for them to just be a coincidence.  Longtime readers of The Pond know that I have a background in theatre, specifically lighting design and scenic work.  I've worked on countless shows, almost entirely in a behind the scenes capacity, and while everybody else on cast and crew celebrated their performances, it wasn't uncommon at all for me to react like Asuka... and yes, I was a so-called "gifted child," both musically and book learnin'.  Or, at least, the school district thought so.  Anyway, what I'm saying is that my reaction to Asuka isn't just pulled out of thin air here... there's too many parallels from my own history for me to miss them.  It would explain a great many things, looking back at her through that lens.  Unfortunately, this is all just conjecture.  We've seen the final episode of the series, there's been no announcement of a season two as of yet, and, while there's an OVA coming sometime in the future, I expect something other than an Asuka episode from that.  We may never know exactly what makes Our Goofy Cute tick.  If that's true, it would be perhaps the only major failing of Hibike! Euphonium. As of right now, it's the Series of the Year, and its only competition is likely the forthcoming ARIA sequel.  Bravo, Kyoto Animation.  And thank you for introducing us to Asuka.

"I wish summer would go on forever."

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June 25, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep12

Dammit, we need an Asuka-centric episode.  I say that not because it would make writing Your Weekly Asuka a lot easier, but because KyoAni has stopped using her as an actual character.

-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep12
In this, what will probably end up being the penultimate broadcast episode for this season, the euphoniums are asked to lend their sound to a particular fragment of music that sounded empty being played by just the contrabass.  It's a tough passage, the musical equivalent of making Rio: Rainbow Gate! funny.

Of course, Asuka barely glances at the sheet music and plays it flawlessly.  Worse, she makes it look and sound easy.  So when it comes time for Our Hero to give it a go, she sounds awful.  Worse than awful, she sounds clumsy.  Embarrassed for no good reason, she grabs her music stand, says "I'm going to go practice", and the events of the episode are put into motion.

And that would be fine if that's all Asuka had ever been, just some musical goal to reach for.  But she's been a major character in this show, just one small step behind the "big four" (and arguably ahead of one or two of them as well!), and light-years more important than most.  Worse, she's been a character with character, and a distinctive one at that.  And now KyoAni has turned her into a mere plot point.  I've been saying all along that, in a sense, this has been Asuka's show and in a way Ep12 proves that: her skill at playing the euphonium makes the episode happen.  But that's really not what I meant.   It is, however, how Kyoto Animation has decided to use her.  Damn shame, and quite possibly their biggest waste of a personality since Tomoyo in Clannad... the non-OVA version, that is.  Well, with the release of the first BD in Japan this week, they did give us a little bit of a pat-on-the-head... a two minute omake that included this image:

Obviously she needs a rubber duck.  I'm not surprised she doesn't have one, though... disappointed, but not surprised.  Really, Sapphire seems to be more likely to own a rubber duck.

UPDATE: I just noticed that this is the 400th post in the anime category.  That's gotta earn a "wow".

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June 18, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep11

There's one problem with having a weekly feature that follows a secondary character: sometimes they don't do a whole lot and that makes it hard to write coherently about them.

-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep11
Or, as in the case of the Goofy Cute this week, she stays as guarded and evasive as ever.  Even when Kaori asked her point-blank twice who she thought was better suited to play the solo trumpet part, Asuka deftly danced and deflected the question.

I'll admit that I'm beginning to understand why some people dislike this part of her personality.  I'm fairly certain that she's dodging all the drama intentionally... she knows that she's got influence in the band club.  The last thing she wants to do with that influence is use it in public; she wants the band to sound the best it can.  If that means arranging matters so that there's a second audition for trumpet solo, so be it.  That it'll help her friend, Kaori, is merely a side-note.

We desperately need an Asuka episode, but with two broadcast eps and an OVA remaining in this season, I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen.  Which means we may never find out what makes her tick, and that disturbs me more than anything right now.  I'm sure Ben's forthcoming writeup over at his place will cover the events of this ep in depth; he actually thinks about the show which puts him a step up on me.

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June 10, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep10

She's back!  The Goofy Cute is back!

-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep10
But only for a few moments, after which she is gone is a cloud of seriousness and puppetmastering.  For as mentioned weeks ago, whatever Asuka wants for the band club, Asuka gets.

This week, we had drama in that many of the 2nd and 3rd year students were outraged that a first year student, Reina, could possibly beat a popular 3rd year, Kaori, for the trumpet solo honors... to the point that a sense of discontent and back-biting has arisen.  Sides have been taken, with Team Kaori being both loud and sneaky.  Rumors are floated that the Conductor has known Reina for years, and that favoritism played a major part in his decision during auditions.

Kumiko, the POV character for the series, is perturbed by the way the band is disintegrating... and that her friend Reina is the proximate cause of the problems.  She hears Kaori practicing the trumpet solo part, and winds up wanting to find out what Asuka's opinion on the solo situation is.  "No comment", since she's the Vice-President and all.  Kumiko ain't havin' it, so she presses the matter with Goofy Cute, asking for her personal opinion, off the record. 

"I don't care.  I couldn't give a damn."  And then she traipses away, leaving an angry and depressed Kumiko behind.  She knows Asuka has an opinion, but there's way too much mask and armor to penetrate to find out what it really is.  Later, the rumor-mongering and backbiting becomes so bad that the Conductor allows for a second audition for anybody unsatisfied with the results of the first audition.  Only one person wants a redo: Kaori, the 3rd Year trumpet player.

...and Asuka smiles.  Which leads me to believe that she was the driving force behind the rumors of favoritism.  We already know she's devoted to music.  We've seen that she's extremely knowledgeable about the world of music (for example, when their playlist for the upcoming contest is handed out, she knows quite a lot about the obscure composer that created one of the tunes, just off the top of her head).  We've learned that the Conductor is rather well-known as a music educator, and that Reina's father, a well-known trumpet player himself, has known him for years.  It seems likely to me that this is all information that Asuka would know.  If she was dissatisfied with the results of the solo auditions, she could certainly say something casually where the wrong ears would hear... and the rumors would spread.

And Asuka gets what Asuka wants.

I'm willing to bet, though, that the audition next week will be done blind, with the soloists behind screens.  The winner is going to be chosen by a show of hands, and if they're behind screens, it won't devolve into a popularity contest.  Mark my words.

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June 03, 2015

Your Weekly Asuka, Ep09


-Hibike! Euphonium, Ep09
Stress is neither a good nor a bad thing in life.  It is simply something that is omnipresent in our world.  Some forms of stress can be enjoyable for one person, yet a horrible experience for the next... roller coasters, for example.  Some stressors are almost uniformly negative, like the death of a loved one.  One fact of life, however, is that everybody reacts to stress differently.  Some people can't sleep, or have digestive problems, or the index finger on their right hand twitches uncontrollably in a manner guaranteed to creep people out when they see it.  And some, like Our Goofy Cute Obsession here, become short-tempered.  While she surely has nothing to worry about from this episode's auditions, Asuka clearly is feeling the stress from them. 

The way she bites off Sapphire's head and bathes in her blood might have been a little over the top, but her anger at the way the contrabass player was moping through the rehearsal was completely in  character for Asuka.  We've seen that she's devoted to her music and can be quite the hard-driving taskmaster... throw in the added stress of auditions, and you get the dead eyes of a pissed off euphonium player.

Fortunately she doesn't stay that way the entire episode, and by the end she's back to her bouncy self... and it's no surprise that she didn't have anything to worry about from the audition process.  What I've found interesting is the online reaction to her this episode.  Practically overnight she went from The Most Popular Girl In The Room to despised, just because she got short-tempered about people's attitudes.  Quite astonishing, and entirely unexpected.

I suspect she wouldn't give a tinker's damn if she knew, as long as the band played well.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:24 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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