Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Knights of Sidonia, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, and Ping Pong

You can do most things with 3DCG as it stands now in anime, if you use it in a manner conscious of its limitations. But Knights of Sidonia didn’t feel like it was bringing any kind of production-side A-game beyond the first-2-minute action scene. The scene in the rice plant where the male lead was running away put way to much focus on motion that was very wooden, and it cut out of that scene with a very sloppy fade-to-black transition.* The show is just nowhere near as good as Arpeggio was at handling the weak points in its CG style, and it was missing opportunities by not, among other things, restricting walking exposition scenes like the one about the third gender to discretion shots. The mech scenes, at least, were smooth as silk. I kept watching, though, and development of what seems like a very Xenogears-y world got intriguing pretty quickly, thanks in part to effectively washed-out pale color palettes and in part to the fast-moving story (even before counting the cliffhanger at the end). I’m willing to give this one two more weeks.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka was, to be technically precise, just a really relaxing show to watch. The characters were adorable and their dialogue flowed freely from scene to scene with very little effort. I’d suspect the series is adapted from a 4-koma manga just because of the way the scenes evolved, but it didn’t have any of the jerkiness that lower-effort adaptations like Kill Me Baby have.** And it was full of sneaky-good animation moments, like when the one girl was showing off her latte art technique. I don’t even drink coffee, but I’ll be drinking in a minimum of 2 more weeks of this show.

What stood out to me about Ping Pong was how natural the dialogue felt. There was a lot of pregnant pausing, mumbling, short exchanges, et cetera that really engaged me with the characters early on. That alone would have made it a neat watch, and the whole alpha-dog-alpha-talent and beta-dog-alpha-talent framework the show seems to be building around is a very solid one.*** Bonus points for Masaki Yuasa being willing to incorporate CG panning shots to add to the experience. This one’s getting a bare minimum of three more weeks.

*Last time I remember seeing a show do that so blatantly was the Iron Man anime circa 2010. Not a good precedent.

**The biggest obstacle adaptations of 4-koma manga face is that the storyboards aren’t pre-done in a form suited to TV/cinema in the same way that most manga storyboards are. The fact that a lot of them manage to overcome it doesn’t make it less of a challenge, it just means that these projects have been handed to a lot of capable staffs.

***That’s a dynamic that works differently depending on whether or not we’re talking about team sports or not, but is lots of fun either way. Ping Pong is solo, but 90% of title-winning basketball teams have gone through some variation of that formula. While Ace of the Diamond has a flawed-alpha-dog positional rivalry story, there aren’t any other sports series off the top of my head that really do positional rivalries for players on the same team. It’s subject matter with a lot of unexplored territory.

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