October 31, 2020
Random Anime Pictures #149: A Witch On Halloween
-Maho no Tabitabi, Ep05
Every now and again you trip over a show that you had no expectations for... indeed, may not have even planned on watching... and discover you've got a gem on your hands. For me, Maho no Tabitabi, or "The Traveling Witch" in English translations, is one of those shows. As you can guess from the title, it's a story about Elaina, a newly-minted witch, and her travels around a world where magic is a thing, witches are respected, and life is interesting.
At this point you'd be excused if you thought "Oh, it's another one of Wonderduck's pleasant and nice slice-of-life shows, like Yuru Camp or ARIA or Flying Witch," and in a way you'd be right. It is a slice-of-life, and it is a pleasant and nice show. But it's got a little more behind it than just fluffy-happy-warm-and-fuzzy.
Topics this fluffy show has touched upon thus far include man-eating plants (and not the funny ones), suicide, slavery, regicide, and snobbery. Oh, and a dragon gets flat-out curbstomped. Taken as a whole, it's a relaxed series, but it's definitely not without its edgy side. It's that taste of darkness that makes it stand out from your standard laid-back fare.
Which is great, because when you combine all that with frankly beautiful animation, you get a really winning package indeed. All of which can be undone if you have a terrible main character of course. Fortunately Elaina is no perfect girl in whose mouth butter would not melt.. She's immensely talented... "the youngest to pass the magic tests, when she was 14"... and knows it. She's beautiful, and knows it. She's prideful, she's got a temper, and the ability to dispense violence is absolutely present.
She hasn't done it yet... maybe she won't ever do so in the series... but in the screenshot above she holds herself back only by the slimmest of margins. But while she's remarkably talented, she's also shown to be a hard worker, who doesn't just assume her talent is enough. There is effort to improve everywhere in the show thus far, even if it's just in interpersonal relations. But it's those little character flaws that have kept her interesting, and me coming back for more.
There is no traditional fanservice in the series. I mean, none. The author of the light novel series the show is based on made it perfectly clear that he wanted nothing of the sort to appear and the production team took that to heart. The above scene is the closest we've come thus far, and there's an appropriate shadow. I think this decision was a good one, honestly. The show doesn't really need it, any more than Yuru Camp or ARIA did. Is it as good as those series? Not yet, but there's still seven episodes to come. Not every show has to be a 10/10, and this one is better than most. That's good enough for me to recommend it.
And, y'know... happy halloween and all that jazz.
August 05, 2019
Random Anime Picture #148: Get Out Of My Head This past winter season, there was a series called Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War. The basic plot sounded interesting: two brilliant people at an elite high school are too proud to confess their love to each other, so they engage in an unannounced "intellectual" duel to get the other to do it first. These two are surrounded by other characters, of course, and yadda yadda yadda hijinks occur. So, I recently decided to take a stab at it.
See what I did there?
To be frank, the two main characters are exactly the sort of people in anime I detest... self-absorbed, unlikable, and completely out of touch with reality, with a massive side order of arrogance. It wasn't until the final vignette of Ep03 that either showed some signs of humanity. In it, Kaguya, the female protagonist, walks to school for the first time in her life (elite school, remember? Her family is stupidly rich) and ends up escorting a 4th grader who is walking alone and scared. Despite all that, it's visually quite a striking show, and I can't help but admit to getting some self-loathing enjoyment... self-loathing in that I am kinda disgusted that I find such people entertaining in some way. The visuals for the OP are quite good, and the song sounds like something Tom Jones would have had a field day with. The ED, on the other hand, is 100% pedestrian.
Except for the Bleriot XI. And the zeppelin. Pedestrian except for those.
Until the aforementioned Ep03 rolled around. The ending for Ep03 dropped this in our laps:
...and I can't get it out of my head. I wake up in the morning, and there it is... "Chika, Chika, Chika-chi-kaaaa!" I go to bed at night, and there it is... "Suki suki doki doki!" It's amazing just how earwormy it is, how stuck in my brain it's become, and my only hope is that by infecting you with it, the music gods will take pity on me.
Sorry about that.
July 12, 2019
Still With You
So I got an e-mail from The Librarian this morning, pointing out that I haven't posted anything here at The Pond in a while. This is true. Fact of the matter is, I'm having motivational issues. Not just with blogging, but with just about everything. For example, I have a new computer chair. "Yes, finally!" I can hear y'all cheer. Yep, new chair... it's over there, in the dining room, in a box, waiting for me to put it together. It's been like that for about three weeks.
See what I mean? Working on it just seems so... well.
This past Monday? I had lunch with the folks. Literally the first time in 16 days I had left my apartment for any reason. The one good thing is that... look, remember back at the beginning of the year when I had to get a hotel room for four days on no notice? Well, that issue was finally resolved on the 5th. Maybe if you e-mail me, I'll tell you what it was about.
Instead of turning this into a whiny LJ post, here's some music:
Yes, really. It's catchy as hell, and for a while there Toby Keith had a great run of tuneage. Don't judge me.
May 14, 2019
Random Anime Picture #147: Starry Night With Beach
-Manaria Friends, Ep06
Every so often, a series will come down the pike that takes you by surprise, hits you on the back of the head with a sock filled with rocks, rifles through your pocket for spare change, then leaves you for dead on the sidewalk.
Manaria Friends is not that show.
Instead, what MF is is a gently believable series about two girls that have a thing for each other. As they go through their days at Wizarding U., we learn about them, the world they're in, the growth cycle of dragons, and how a piano stays in tune outdoors in the snow.
not appearing in this picture: snow
While there is magic thrown about in the show, which makes sense since it's set in a college for magic users, it's far from being the centerpoint. Upon reflection, there's only two or three episodes of this 10-episode series that require magic to continue the story... and one Lighting Designer that just pissed me right the hell off by using magic to provide the stage lighting, but that's neither here nor there.
Instead, our show is about Anne (right) and Grea (the other one). Anne is a princess of the kingdom of Manaria, where the show is set. She is a prodigy in the use of magic, seemingly more powerful than many (all?) of the teachers. The problem is, of course, that she's not overly trained in the use of that ability, meaning there tends to be a lot of overkill in her spellcasting. Grea, on the other hand, is a princess of the Dragonborn... okay, let's get this out of the way now:
...is a princess of the Dragonborn, which is what the kingdom of the dragons call themselves. She's actually half-dragon, half-human, a magic user of some skill, immense physical strength, and a cute tail, which is not something I ever expected to type.
Together they go through a semester? year? becoming more and more the focus of each other's life. While it's not all sweetness and light, it mostly is. Manaria Friends is the sort of show that puts a smile on your face while you enjoy two people that enjoy each other's company enjoying themselves. I'd put it in the same category as Flying Witch or Yuru Camp... it's just nice. And for what it is, it's remarkably well done.
Give it a shot. You'll thank me for it later.
February 13, 2018
Random Anime Pictures #145: Stadium
-Kizumonogatari III movie
I'm not much of a fan of the Monogatari series. Oh, I watched the first one, sure, but now that there's... what? Two dozen of them? I lost track of what was next in the order and didn't enjoy the first one enough to bother. After that, I didn't much care. Until the Kizumonogatari series of films which I watched recently, and therein lies a tale.
As you may or may not be aware of, I have a job that requires mental distraction lest I go completely insane. I started out listening to music, graduated to a weekly podcast or two, and then matriculated to audio books (which my mind still calls "books on tape"). Recently, I've begun listening to endurance races via Radio LeMans and their archived broadcasts. A 24 hour race lasts me a good three or four days, depending on how hard I hit it... but I digress. Back to books on tape audio books. At one point, I wondered if any of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels were available on Audible, so I went a-searchin'.
While the answer was "nope", I did find something vaguely interesting... there was an audio version of the chronologically first, but released... what, 254th?... book of NisiOisiN's Monogatari series, entitled Kizumonogatari. Now, I would not call myself a fan of this franchise... I watched most of the first season, realized I was spending more time reading the show than watching it, and just sort of... let it peter away. I basically watched it until I didn't anymore. Eh, it happens. However, I was incredibly bored so I picked up the audio book. It's only nine or 10 hours long, so it took me two days to listen to it. Decent enough, read and performed by three voice actors that I'm pretty sure worked on the English dub of one or another of the silver platter releases.
When I remembered that there was a movie release of Kizu, I tracked it down, discovered it was in three parts and nearly four hours in length, and settled in to watch it. And... I dunno how I feel about the thing. It's awful durn purty at times, like most of the SHAFT adaptations of the franchise, but it's also... um... well... it made me feel kinda greasy.
It's bloody, it comes close to hentai, violence is common, and in-between all that are characters that are, essentially, unlikable. Having said all that, or perhaps more because of it, the thing is actually rather brilliant more times than not. But I couldn't shake the feeling that it's one of those things you like because you're supposed to like it because that's what people say you're supposed to do.
So what does all this mean in the end? Well, I won't be recommending it to anybody that isn't already a fan of the Monogatari franchise, that's for darn sure. It's an art film, really, with all that moniker entails and suggests. But as I've written this post, I've actually rewatched the whole thing twice and not just because I was choosing screenshots. It just kept me watching.
Take that for what it's worth.
January 07, 2018
Random Anime Pictures #144: Camping Witch
-Yuru Camp, Ep01
Let me ask you a question: does the idea of spending 10 minutes watching a girl dressed like your grandmother demonstrate the correct way to assemble a camp site, complete with a simply adorable talking pine cone, sound like something you'd go out of your way to see? Then, my friend, have I got a show for you! It's called Yuru Camp, and most of the first half of Ep01 was exactly what I just described. And it was wonderful.
This shot is from the OP. We've only officially met the girls on the ends, Pinky and The Quiet One. The other three are apparently the members of the Outdoor Living Club (or whatever they call it) that appeared only briefly. It's quite easy to see that Pinky will be the linchpin of the entire show. This may not be a good thing.
She's loud, dumb as a box of hair, has probably never been camping before, and it's clear she'll be the viewer insert. If she stays loud and dumb as a box of hair, this is going to suck. This has the opportunity to be this year's version of Flying Witch, all contemplative and comfy as hell, but if Pinky doesn't snap to, the whole thing is doomed.
...and then the axe/saw/shaving tool will come out, and it'll become a whole different sort of show.
December 25, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #143: Merry Christmas 2017
-Amagami SS, Ep16
I hope all my readers, the joyously-named "Pond Scum", had a great Christmas and/or a relaxing day off! I very nearly ruined ours single-handedly, but I managed to pull my chestnuts out of the roasting fire at the last moment.
Y'know, I forgot just how much fun Amagami SS was. And just how weird it could be, come to think of it. But that's another post for different day. For today, it's just Merry Christmas.
And that's plenty good enough.
December 23, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #142: Love Live! Alpaca Watch
-Love Live!, Ep04
So the Alpaca seen in the first episode, which I mistakenly called a llama, is officially part of the school. They, for there are two where we only saw one previously, have their own stable and are cared for by at least one student.
Just why this Japanese high school has two alpacae on campus has yet to be explained. This will bother me until its explained, and probably beyond because the explanation is going to be either stupid or non-informational, I can just tell.
The series is still entertaining as hell, though the budding alpaca rancher up there really got on my nerves... her timidness was painful to witness. She didn't snivel, but that's only because she was too timid to do so. Except around the alpacae... them, she can handle. Watching will continue.
December 09, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #141: Now THAT Was A Surprise!
-Love Live, Ep01
I actually really enjoyed the first episode of Love Live! I can only assume all the "idol sh*t" starts in the next few episodes, but there was practically none in Ep01. Instead we focused on the characters, and as a result I was laughing for most of it. I did very little of that when I watched iDOLM@STER or the not-entirely-sequel, Cinderella Girls. Half-grins, yes. Smirks, sure. Head-shaking "oh, you" moments, okay. But laughing? Nope.
I'm not expecting much in the way of depth here, but hey, one of the main girls is Kaga Jr, gotta love that. And yes, I know that if I'm going into an idol show hoping there won't be much "idol sh*t" I'm gonna have a bad time, but at least the first episode was fun.
And maybe they'll explain why there's a random llama on the school grounds.
November 19, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #140: I Did NOT Expect That As I've gotten more interested in the past months about anime-based figures, I've seen a bunch based on characters from something called "To Love-Ru." They've mostly been very good-looking, and there's a series of figures that are probably the best-looking I've ever seen... ridiculously expensive, waaaaaay out of my price range, but the best-looking. But I knew nothing about the series except that one pink-haired character wears a weird hat. So with so little to look at this season, I decided to give it a shot.
-To Love-Ru Darkness, Ep01
Never mind the zombies being attacked by giant plants. A careful eye will notice that the pink-haired schoolgirl is... um... crouched in an interesting location. This is not by accident. TLRD is perhaps the single-most ecchi anime I've ever seen that isn't flat-out hentai. And it was broadcast! "But Wonderduck," I hear you say and really, are you using whitening strips, your teeth look great, "if that picture is representative, it isn't that over-the-top, right?"
No. It's even more than that. Remember the High School of the Dead OVA? That was nothing in comparison to this show. Now, nothing I've shown you here is out-of-the-ordinary... or even particularly worth commenting on. That's because I don't dare put the NSFW stuff on the front page. I warn you again: if you click "more", you're going into NSFW-land.
Last warning: beyond here is NSFW.
November 17, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #139: Ohfertheluvva...
-Aquarion Logos, Ep05
See, now they're just pandering. A beach episode. The fifth episode of twenty-six, and already it's a beach episode. Then the best shot of the whole thing is also the one where the Tagonist is most fully dressed. I don't understand how this show thinks at all.
Well, okay, maybe I do a bit.
This was the episode where everybody that wasn't a die-hard Aquarion fan jumped ship... and apparently, some of the die-hards did, too. I know I'm not going to go any farther with it. What's the point? I don't like giant robot/mecha as a rule, I don't like shouted special attack names, and I really don't like shows throwing in beach episodes less than a fifth of the way through the run. I mean sure, the fanservice is nice, but if the series is this desperate this early, the trainwreck that's coming is going to be immense. No thanks.
Nope. Ain't gonna work.
October 27, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #138: Took Me Long Enough...
Seriously, what took me so long? I'm not even gonna talk about the show. If you've ever watched a superhero movie, cartoon, or read a comic book, you've gotta watch this.
"It's Plus Ultra!"
Yes, yes it is.
October 10, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #137: Kettenkrad!
-Girls Last Tour, Ep01
I've always thought that halftracks were neat. It's a truck with treads! It's a tank with the front of a truck welded on! It's chocolate in peanut butter! They really were a great idea, but overly complicated to keep running and much more expensive to build. I mean, sure, they had better off-road skillz than a wheeled vehicle... until they threw a track. At least with a truck, you can keep moving with a flat tire. All you could really do when you were missing a track on one side is go in circles. While halftracks are actually still in use by militaries here and there, particularly Israel, for the most part they stopped being common by the '60s, when the surviving WWII-era vehicles finally wore out. The Kettenkrad, above, was the smallest halftrack in common use, the Wehrmacht using it as a tractor for light artillery pieces and as a tow vehicle for the Me-262 jet fighter. It looks like a tankette and a motorcycle had a child. What I didn't realize until recently was that it didn't entirely steer using the front wheel. Turn the handlebars past a certain angle and the inside tread locked, allowing the other tread to push the kettenkrad into the turn. That's kinda good thinkin'!
Oh, the show? It was the only series this season that I was really looking forward to, because I've seen the manga here and there and it looked interesting. Turns out to be the cutest, most relaxing post-apocalyptic journey story ever! I mean, except for the picture above, but even that's adorable... mostly. Other than the gun part. The situation isn't quite as serious as it looks. Mostly.
This is going to sound strange, but Girls Last Tour feels a lot like Flying Witch. Oh, they're really nothing alike, but they both have a sense of calmness to them. Which is quite surprising, considering the two are travelling through a country devastated by war. We don't know where they're travelling to, and it's not clear they do either. At the moment, they just are. There's probably a serious story lurking underneath it all, but I kinda hope not. Sometimes, two moeblobs travelling around in a kettenkrad is all you need.
September 21, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #136: Smile Again
-ARIA the Avvenire, ep01
I've felt better of course, but the march of time slows for no man. As easy as it would be to continue to feel miserable, I have to get back to what passes for life around Pond Central. Thanks for indulging me for a few days.
Of course, this post's title is also one of the EDs from ARIA the Natural. Almost seems like I planned that or something.
September 10, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #135: Moe Shipgirls, Mo' Problems
-Kantai Collection: The Movie
There was a disturbing lack of Mutsu in the Kantai Collection movie. The production staff appears to have added Hideaki Anno, as that's the only way I can explain the second half. Any of the lighthearted elements of the series were removed, actually making it kinda grim in tone.
As you would expect from a film, what with its bigger budget and all, it looks wonderful. Almost all of the awkward CG work from the series is gone (there's one moment that's clunky though), and the action on the whole is really good.
We do finally get to find out the nature of the Abyssals, and there's at least one moment in the film that made me gasp in surprise (more along the lines of a jump scare than anything else). On the whole, if you enjoyed the series or the game, you'll like the movie. I'm trying to decide if I want to do a full writeup or not... it doesn't immediately lend itself to such things. A fully half of the 95 minute run time is combat, kinda mindscrewy, or both.
It's very confused fighting, for that matter. At one point, there's five different fleets doing five different missions and the film tries to follow all of them before it becomes Evangelion Jr. Good looking, but confusing. Oh, and most of it is at night. Historically accurate, sure, but somewhat less than perfect for viewers.
I guess I'm a little disappointed.
August 31, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #134: Ah! An Adventurous Abecedarian Abruptly Approaches.
-ARIA the Avvenire, Ep02
There are people out there who don't like ARIA. I get that. I don't understand it, but I get it. They probably think it's too slow, or that nothing happens. And they're right... and wrong at the same time, as anybody who's watched the franchise can tell you.
But one almost universally held opinion is that Kozue Amano sure does draw 'em purty. And singularly so at that: you won't find any other characters that look like the ones from ARIA. This is a good thing.
August 25, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #133: Best Laid Plans I had a fantastic idea for a post involving one of the last scenes from New Game!, I'd been working it over in my brain all day at work, had it nailed down perfectly. You would have gotten a look inside the brain of Wonderduck while connecting it together with the show. I think it would have been a really good post.
And then I got home, watched the scene again... and realized it had absolutely nothing to do with what I had been thinking. Total fail, and there's no way I could twist it to fit. So here's a picture that fully fits my mood.
It's the weekend, at least.
August 12, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #132: That Was Surprising
-New Game!, Ep02
We've all had one of those series... you expect nothing from it, and you get pleasantly surprised. Well, New Game! is one of those. "New girl starts working at small video game company, hijinks ensue" is not exactly either the most original concept, nor the most promising. Yet for whatever reason, there's actually something good coming out of this.
The animation is nothing overly special, true, we've met all these characters before in dozens of other shows (not literally, but you know what I mean), and the plot is "main character perseveres and gets stronger". It may be "New Game!" but it's really "Old Retread." And yet, I'm amazed to discover that I LIKE this show... a lot.
It's got just the right balance of seriousness to humor (maybe 1:50, but it's there), and as of episode five there's not even a hint of acrimony between any of the characters. These people are likable goofballs that are also professionals, putting in a ton of work and effort into making the newest entry in a video game series. While we're not exactly witnessing people coding and boring stuff like that, we do get to peek behind the curtain, so to speak. I'm sure it's dumbed down and not really like what we're seeing... it's anime, after all... but it's being handled better than anybody could have really expected.
That is not how you sword.
The purple-haired one is the main character, and honestly she's kinda the worst part of the series. She falls into the "earnest try-hard" camp, and is kind of annoying at times, at least to me. Fortunately, she's surrounded by other, more interesting, characters at all times.
Let's see... from left to right we've got: Quiet Geek, Earnest Try-Hard, Clothes Horse, Genki Girl (all four of whom work in the same pod), The Legend (she's the original character creator for the video game series), and The Level-Headed One (the Art Director for the game). The first three are artists for the game, Genki does motion work, and the other two... well, their jobs are obvious enough. The two older women actually have depth to their characters, too. The other four, eh, not so much.
There hasn't been any laugh-out-loud moments as of yet, but a good smile or chuckle is common enough. None of this should be taken as me saying that this is a GOOD series that I wholeheartedly recommend, just an entertaining one. Sometimes, that's enough.
August 05, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #131: Hi! My Name Is... Makoto Shinkai. It wouldn't be overly controversial to say that he's the best known anime movie director not named "Miyazaki" today. His films have all been successful, thought-provoking, and a little sad. To a certain subset of people, though, the wild popularity is a little confusing. His films have all been good, but have left me a little cold. It may be a cultural thing, I don't know. Except for "She and her Cat," that one worked with me on almost every level. One thing nobody will debate is that, going all the way back to his earliest works, Shinkai's films have been beautiful.
His newest film, Your Name (Kimi no na wa), pushes the bar even higher. It's absolutely the best looking piece of animation of any type that I've ever seen. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with progress in the use of CG, but my lord it's beautiful.
Even something as simple as a sliding door and the border of a tatami mat is given the full treatment... a simple, throwaway shot that lasts a second looks better than anything that's come before it.
And the story. The story. Holy crepe on a stick... but no matter how good it is, if you don't like the characters, the story doesn't work. And, unlike the way Shinkai's earlier films sat with me, Your Name hits just all the right notes.
I refuse to say any spoilers, not even about the plot. If you haven't seen it already, go watch it immediately... and go in blind. I intentionally avoided reviews and comment threads about it, and I'm very glad I did. And you will be, too.
July 18, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #130: From The Screen To The Page...
-Hibike! Euphonium the Movie
The good folks over at Yen Press recently released the original light novel for Hibike! Euphonium, translated of course. Since that was probably my favorite anime series in years, of course I eagerly picked it up... I wanted to see how it differed and how it stayed the same from the material I knew. And the result?
It's not as good as the anime. And no, I'm sure there isn't any "first come first served" bias going on here... KyoAni just did a better job with the source material than the source material did. For example, let's use what I think was the best sequence from the anime, the mountain scene with Kumiko and Reina. Much of the dialogue is the same, and a lot of the details as well (Reina's white dress, or her ankles getting rubbed raw). However, in the novel they don't take their instruments and thus the duet on the mountaintop doesn't occur. That simply amazed me. In another big difference, the "secondary leads," Hazuki and Sapphire, get almost no character development. Also, and most painful to yours truly, Asuka's personality is more obviously a facade and her nasty side is more evident. The wacky part of her that made her an instant fan favorite is almost totally missing.
But the obvious difference is the music. For a story about a concert band, there's a total lack of music involved with the book. Which is natural of course... a book is words on paper, and the author isn't talented enough to overcome that handicap in comparison to the anime. Please understand, the book is still quite entertaining and well worth the small amount of time it'll take you to read it.
But you'll be hearing the music from the series in your head when you do.
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