Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Super Sonico, D-Frag, and The Pilot’s Love Song

If you just judged Monday’s slate by their pictures and plot summaries, the day was a bit less ambitious in terms of scope than anything out this weekend. But a lot of times it doesn’t take far-reaching ambition to make serviceable entertainment, just a staff that cares about their product.

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First Reactions: Arpeggio of Blue Steel Episode 10

I have to admit, I was expecting a lot more of this episode to focus on the rest of the cast’s effort to rescue the now-submerged Iona and Gunzou. I wasn’t expecting, or even really hoping for, a focus on those two. But that’s the direction the show decided to go in, and it produced an outstanding piece of work as a result. There were a few moments where they went a little overboard with the drama (Takao’s sacrifice laid it on pretty thick), but the majority of this episode was quietly stuffed with character detail for Iona and Gunzou.

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Fun With Numbers: Adaptations of Award-Winning Manga and the Myth of Madhouse

It’s fairly frequent among people who have started to get interested in anime enough to start knowing things about the people who make it find themselves encountering the names of certain directors and studios over and over. Kasai Kenichi excels at college life stories. Hiroshi Nagahama was the bold visionary who directed Mushishi. Perhaps one of the more preeminent studios in that regard are Madhouse and Gonzo, the studios behind Death Note and Gankutsou, respectively. They can flash those series names on “from the studio that brought you” title cards of the trailer for anything else they make, despite the fact that Madhouse made the Marvel anime and Gonzo hasn’t been run by the people who made Gankutsuou since 2008. I’m here to make the case for why Madhouse’s reputation, along with a number of others, may be a bit overblown. It’s not that they’re not making awesome anime, but they are picking source material that gives them a lot of help.

This situation with directors can sometimes be a bit like that of the quarterback in American football; they get too much credit when things go well, and too much blame when things go wrong. In reality, lots of factors beyond the men at the top contribute to an anime’s success. I’m here today to take a look at one in particular; the pre-production choice of high-quality of source material. What follows is a look at anime adaptations of Shogakukan/Kodansha Award-Winning manga, including observations based on both their relative frequency over the years, their strength as a function of which studio makes them, and their performance in the marketplace.

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First Reactions: Free! Episode 8

So the show did end up relying on the rematch, but it did it in a bit of a roundabout way that allowed for more emotional investment in the interim. Since Gou did the signups without telling any of the guys, we got a lot of footage of them trying their best in individual events. They may all have eventually lost, but they did so in the seven-game Conference Semifinals series kind of way, where one lucky bounce (or something as trivial as Rei’s goggles staying put) would have been enough to turn all of that into a win. In other words, losses providing the perfect narrative building blocks of a relay challenge the next day.

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First Reactions: Free! Episode 6

Showing is superior to telling, but not all showings are created equal. One of the ways to tell a high-class pro director from a replacement-tier one is the way they make a situation clear with the first snap of the camera. Case in point: those first 3 seconds of that shot after Haru saved Makoto. The way one set of feet was dragging and the other was limp immediately spelled out what was going down. Mix in effective not-use of music (just rain and heavy breathing), and you get an immediate impression of the state Makoto was in. It was a bit of imagery that felt like something adapted from an award-winning manga, except Free is a novel adaption that had to make its own storyboards.

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One look and it’s pretty obvious someone’s not alright

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First Reactions: WataMote Episode 2

The biggest potential pitfall for WataMote as a show is that it is essentially one joke retold countless numbers of times. However, the series’ greatest strength is that it’s made by people who understand exactly what that means for a comedy.

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First Reactions: Devil Survivor 2 Episode 10

Colossalcon 2013 was beyond awesome. Thanks to everyone who came to one of our panels. We had a blast and learned all about why Kamen Rider and Idolm@ster have the best fanbases. Now back to your regularly scheduled anime blog!

I feel like the entire staff of AIC Plus ate some infected raw cookie dough or something about midway through episode 6’s production and didn’t get better before making the second half of this episode, because it was *such* a return to form for the biggest trio of bros in anime production.

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Adventures in Sound Direction: Your Folk Blues Are Real

So a while ago I wrote about veteran Sound Director Katsuyoshi Kobayashi’s wizardly handling of Space Brothers’ audio. At the time, I had to look up his name on ann, but I didn’t check his specific creator page. The other day, I went back and finally did. It turns out this isn’t the only anime-of-the-decade candidate* he’s worked on with a director named Watanabe. In celebration of this individual who’s handled a number of sublime auditory anime experiences and yet has to date zero comments or favorites on his myanimelist page, I’m going to spend this column by talking about the musically crafted battle sequence to trump (almost) all others, the last 6 minutes of Cowboy Bebop.

(This post contains obvious ending spoilers for a 15-year-old show that you either have watched or will find yourself watching the moment you inform someone who has that you haven’t. So there.) Continue reading

First Reactions: Space Brothers Episode 50

Space Brothers has a fairly impressive, but not top-tier soundtrack. Like, the songs are good, but not on the level of something like Wish or Dance of Curse in terms of show compatibility. The reason why the audio performance in this show *is* top-tier is something that left its prints all over this week’s episode: Katsuyoshi Kobayashi’s sound direction.

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