The two biggest unresolved plot threads of Free going into the final episode (Rin’s suspension from the relay team and the effects on his and Haru’s burgeoning rivalry) closely shadowed one of the show’s bigger strengths (its strong cast) but weren’t exactly playing to the show’s big strength; its kinetic visual sense. Given that, the direction the ending went wasn’t a huge shock. Though it was admittedly not one hundred percent something that I had anticipated, it still went down the right pipe.
In general, this was a pretty solid buildup episode, highlighting Haru and Rin’s quietly intensifying rivalry, the comradeship of the four main characters, and a bit of Rin’s external motivation. Oh yeah, and it wasn’t actually a buildup episode. They literally powered through the race, something I was sure would take at least another episode getting to, with ruthless efficiency and great effect.
Aside from perhaps the hair episode of Yami Shibai, the 5-minute preview for Go Nagai’s Robot Girls Z was the most impressive, repeatable five minutes of animation I watched last month. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s over here. Short version: it’s a 5-minute comedy which, but for the more modern cutesy character designs, could totally have been written by Go Nagai. Its style of humor, featuring excessive violence and heroes doing more damage than the monsters they fight, is what he’s always been all about.
Being that I was excited about the project (this was only the 0th episode), I flew over to ann to check the profiles of the freaks involved. As it turns out, the director, Hiroshi Ikehata, has only ever handled one TV series before (Ring ni Kakero), which isn’t a very good sample size to judge a director on. But he has held the position of episode director numerous times, on all manner of series (from A-Channel to Yuyushiki).
There are no less than 8 new directors making their debut in this Summer 2013 season with similar information about their early careers available.* One of them is Hiroko Utsumi, the director of Free! Others run the quality gamut, from C3-Bu’s Masayoshi Kawajiri to Neptunia’s Masahiro Mukai. And, lest I forget, Shishiou Igarashi made a smashing debut with The Unlimited this winter. It’s definitely possible for first-timers to post veteran-esque performances, but far from guaranteed.
This observation led me to a question; what, if anything, can we glean from a first-time director’s experience in the bullpen? If it that experience is important, what part of it is? Is it better to have worked as an understudy to a great creator on a memorable show, or to build up tons of experience grinding out lots of support roles? To attempt to answer these questions, I pulled up resumes for the 11 directors who first got their hands on a serial anime project in 2012 and combed them over to see if anything in particular was a good indicator of their respective performances. This article outlines a number of the potential performance I examined, some better than others.
Redline is the best anime movie I have ever seen. By which I mean it is the best anime I’ve ever seen and the best movie I’ve ever seen. While this summer season is certainly one for the books, it’s not delivering anything quite like that movie (and it wouldn’t be fair to ask it to). But because the movie’s now available free on youtube,* and because this is definitely the most fun season to be a part of since subs of the movie became available roughly 2 years ago, I decided to pay tribute by summarizing how everyone’s doing at (roughly) the halfway hash in the words of Sweet JP and co.
[Warning: Spoilers, if that kind of thing bothers you.]
Not that it matters, since the novel Free was based on was in the Kyoto Animation Award contest, but I think they were the perfect studio for this show. Of course, it’s a given that the high-energy swimming scenes would look good.* But the motion-heavy body language is boosting the comedy along with the action. something really pronounced in the one scene where Gou and Amakata revealed they wouldn’t be sleeping outside. Hiroko Utsumi really milked those one-syllable words for all they were worth.
Based on what I’ve seen of reactions to Free on the internet, it seems like a large quantity of people are ruling it out with one glance at the promo material rather than 20 minutes of episode time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how much of a shame that is, because this show is complete in ways it didn’t even have to be to be an enjoyable ride.
Much has been made of the fact that the buzz-heavy Free represented Kyoto Animation/KyoAni in a departure from their typical character styles. Personally, I couldn’t give two bits about what other people had been hyping this show for. I was honestly just into it for the dynamic photography showcased in the trailer. And what do you know? It didn’t disappoint.