First Reactions: Kyoukai no Kanata Episode 4

Last week, I had Kyoukai no Kanata pegged for an episode full of awesome combat choreography. The first half was just that, a chase through a labyrinth of jumbled escalators mixed with argumentative running and some clever action that screwed with my sense of direction to all hell while never losing me entirely. It definitely helped that the banter, both between Mirai and Akihito and between the siblings when they cut away from the main action, felt as natural as could be. I wouldn’t say the show is firing on all cylinders, but there’s definitely a piston pumping that engine full of organic uncertainty. Continue reading

First Reactions: Kyoukai no Kanata Episode 3

I’m cutting off my entries on Outbreak Company. I don’t have enough time to blog 5 shows and process the sequel data I’m working on. That show is still enjoyable on a baseline, and the main character can definitely hold his own weight, but it tended too heavily towards melodrama at the wrong time more than once.

Sticking with Kyoto Animation’s latest work, though. Kyoukai no Kanata’s preorders thus far has been something less than stellar, which matters from a business perspective, and very much from a “will the story be continued?” perspective. I do pity Ishidate Taichi,* but it certainly adds to the humor value of this screenshot:

Kyoukai-2-2

Doesn’t mean it can’t still be great.** Between the dialogue (particularly between Akihito and the Nase siblings) and the scenes with the rest of the cast casually weathering the Moonlight Purple Overdrive storm indoors, I enjoyed this week’s episode quite a bit.

It’s certainly not hitting home runs with the story, though. Taking revenge for a dead friend is fairly standard battle series fare. I’m more looking forward to how they deal with a theoretically difficult foe. The appeal of such a series, and KnK is very much aiming to be one, is twofold; the characters bouncing off each other and the creative ways they come up with to work their way out of increasingly more desperate mismatches. I’m sold enough on the cast, so the bigger risk I see for it coming up is how they handle the fight choreography in episode 4.***

*As the assistant director of Nichijou and the project head here, he has a big hand in two of their 3 major commercial flops. It also should be noted that any bemoaning or celebrating the failure of Kyoto Animation on a macro scale because of KnK’s micro failure is likely overreaction. Their business practices, particularly their brand management, have gotten smarter after Nichijou, which means they’re very well set to deal with a few failures en route to putting another entry in the all-time top 50 selling anime. Flopping was a much bigger deal when Nichijou happened and too many people, even some smart ones inside the industry, fully expected that they would succeed 100% of the time.  Even Jordan’s ’95-96 Bulls lost more than 10% of their games.

**So long as it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger that it won’t be able to resolve.

***I’m fairly confident, chiefly because the chase-combat in episode 2 was nailed down.

Fun With Numbers: Explaining Yozakura Quartet’s Second Season

A little over a week ago, I wrote about how seemingly improbable this season’s Yozakura Quartet sequel was. It was anomaly, lacking any of the traditional indicators (profitable disc sales, TV ratings in excess of 3%, visible boost in the sales totals of the manga). Or at least it was until you look at the unique way in which the most recent series of OADs was marketed. As it turns out, the Yozakura Quartet OADs, though failing to chart, were very probably profitable. The makers made their dues by exploiting a bit of a backdoor in the niche anime industry: piggybacking on the much larger manga market.

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First Reactions: Kyoukai no Kanata Episode 2

I can’t help myself. Coppelion may have had the better high-concept first episode, but Kyoukai no Kanata presented the higher ceiling. That and the 100% odds I have of blogging Tokyo Ravens at this point gives me the chance to blog two good mid-major battle series for the first time since opening the blog. No way I’m passing that opportunity up.

Last week, I did have two semi-serious complaints about this show – the dialogue was a bit canned, and the camerawork was a bit uninspired when the action wasn’t running at 100 klicks per hour. The show’s pluses (aforementioned action and the male lead’s Yokoshima Tadao/Taiga Kuzumi combat style) were still more than enough to make it one of my favorite first episodes of the season. This episode’s combat scenes continued to be a great ranging experience, but I wasn’t really expecting it to get the dialogue into a rhythm as fast as it did.

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Tokyo Ravens Has a Really Spectacular OP

So the first episode of Tokyo Ravens was really solid. I’ll have a better idea of where it actually is as a show in 3 or 4 weeks, but right now, it’s clear to me it’s going to be fighting Kyoukai no Kanata for the seasonal belt of best show of the season with a mid-major battle premise.* And similar to KnK, it also packs the OP that launched a thousand ships; one that teases gobs of potential while looking really freaking cool. I do have some comments on it, but I recommend just watching it first. Make your next 90 seconds a fine bunch:

Among the really interesting things this OP does is that the title comes in 40 seconds in, and isn’t punctuated by the up-tempo swinging of the song. This is something 95% of anime OPs don’t do; usually there’s a matchup between the title card and music for easy symmetry. But here they’re cracking that convention for effect, keeping the music relatively steady while bookending the title card with two strong visual moments (the sliding splitscreen image of the cast and the MC punching the screen), and it definite gives the OP a bold, ambitious feel.

But really, it does so many slick things, including the TVs-within-TVs imagery that leads to the MC punching the screen halfway in, the hovering/sliding credits, and the glasses that turn into a moon on fire. It only sometimes relies on super-framerate animation, also mixing in rapidly shifting camera angles and doing the Utena thing where it drops something ostensibly important and obviously cool-looking for half a second before flashing away. The whole sequence from 36 seconds to 75 seconds is so jam-packed with stuff like this that it’s near-impossible to break away from. The content it’s teasing intrigues me as much as the OP itself, but I’ll have more time to write about that as it actualizes its potential over the rest of October.

*Not in sales or overall popularity, certainly, but when I want to write about numbers I’ll write about numbers. My stance on them is that they correlate with a show’s quality and they’re really important when it comes to understanding trends in the type and number of anime produced, but they only correlate with moderate strength against a show’s true entertainment value. Advertising and the fact that some people easily dismiss shows on superficial things like artstyle play into that, but they’re far from the only reasons.