Et cetera, Summer ’14, Week 6: Shoujo’s that aren’t shoujo’s

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There’s only a few shows that I’m actually caught up on, but that’s all I need to write a blog post. This week, it’s Ao Haru Ride, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Hanayamata, and Himgoto.

Ao Haru Ride

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This show is starting to make me laugh more often than not. These characters remind me a lot of younger teens, including myself when I was that age, and the dumb ways they deal with infatuation and the opposite sex. Like getting overly nervous and flustered by the slightest act of kindness or attention from your totemo kawaii crush, or thinking up bullshit like “if he doesn’t get off [the train], I’ll give up on him. If he does, I won’t.” It’s not a bad thing for the characters to act so juvenile, given that they are in fact juveniles, but it still makes it difficult for me to take this show seriously as a melodrama. But then again, there’s also been shows that have combined juvenile characters and issues with melodrama with better results, such as Inari Konkon Koi Iroha, so maybe Ao Haru Ride just has bad melodrama. Nonetheless, I can clearly see why this would be a relatable series to younger teens.

Early in this week’s episode Futaba thinks to herself in regards to Kou: “When someone who’s usually mean acts just a little nice, you start to think he might really be nice. This is kind of like that! And there are plenty of people in the world who are just as nice as him!” I find this awfully ironic, since it points out the big problem I have with Kou myself: he’s a jerkass who’s only saving grace are these occasional acts of kindness. He’s a jerk with a heart of gold so to speak, but that’s not really the best way to justify a love interest who does almost nothing but insult you. I do think Kou is an interesting character for what he is, as with all the other characters too, but it’s another thing that makes the melodrama and romance hard to swallow.

The new conflict of Chie getting a crush on Kou is better at least. That sort of love triangle is certainly a problem that happens a lot in real life, especially with all those dumb middleschoolers, and at least with this I don’t get the feeling that Ao Haru Ride is making it a more serious and dramatic issue than it really is. It’s only reasonable that Futaba would feel uneasy about a close friend of hers sharing the same crush, and it’s understandable why she would deny her own feelings for Kou in fear of hurting Chie. But of course, as she realizes at the end of the episode, she can’t deny her feelings for Kou just because of something like that. Close friends be damned.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

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Favorite comedy of the year so far. It’s even funnier and more charming than Barakamon, my other favorite of the season, albeit that has a more potent message about art and creativity.

What I really like about Nozaki-kun is that the cast feels like real people, who interact with each other in a variety of ways each episode. That’s not to say the characters are particularly realistic, as for most of the character real life people acting like them. But they feel like dynamic, well-rounded characters, which is what’s important—especially since most characters in all fiction hardly act totally like real life people to begin with. They’re not just rehashes of typical anime archtypes which repeat the same gags and jokes over and over again. Sure, some of them are clearly parodies of certain archetypes, but even then there’s more to Mikoto than just riffing on bishounens. And like I said, the whole cast interacts with each other in a variety of ways, and so each episode is hilarious without getting stale.

Kind of hard to say anything more specific than that for what I like about the show, without just listing all the things I thought was funny, and that doesn’t make for much insightful commentary.

Hanayamata

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Hands down one of the most visually captivating shows of the season. Everything from the detailed backgrounds, Akiko Watanabe’s* character designs, and the vibrant use of warm and cool colors is absolutely stunning with each episode, especially with the all around consistency of it all. Of course, you could argue that there are shows which use their visuals to convey more interesting themes and subject matter than just cute girls having fun—Zankyou no Terror comes to mind first—but still, It’s a very well done effort from Madhouse, I must say. (*not to be confused with that certain other character designer I worship, Akio Watanabe.)

As for the subject matter in question, well, it’s cute girls doing cute things, and I quite enjoy it for that, and it’s another one of my favorites of the season. In a sense it’s a sports show though, for lack of a better word, considering that it revolves around a club for something sort of competitive like yosakoi dancing. But that aspect is a bit underwhelming considering that it takes them a third of the show just to officially form their club, and most of the training occurs off-screen. Not to mention they haven’t entered any competitions at all, albeit they’re training for one and getting there.

Of course, the show seems to be more about overcoming such things as shyness or an overly busy schedule in order to have fun with your friends, and actually like, do something worthwhile with yourself. So perhaps we just haven’t seen much actual yosakoi because being a hot-blooded sports show isn’t it’s top priority. Plus dancing is difficult to animate, especially with the limited animation of anime, so there’s only so much Madhouse can do with these visuals. That’s why nowadays you often see dance sequences done with CGI models rather than traditional animation. Plus this is adapted from a manga, a medium where it’s pretty much impossible to fully convey the motion of dancing. But you know, in an ideal world where anime studios had an unlimited supply of time and money, more yosakoi dancing in a show about yosakoi dancing would be nice.

Plus the manga is still on-going, so the reason this all feels like the beginning of a larger narrative is probably because that’s precisely what it is. And that’s okay with me. Anyways, I do love the show as a cute girls doing cute yosakoi things way. The characters are great, the comedy is hilarious, and the visuals aid the show and its goals quite well.

Himegoto

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The humor of the last four episodes has been an improvement over the first two. Instead of a bunch of jokes along the lines of “haha look at these traps and their penises,” it’s the student council forcing Hime to do stuff for other clubs. Like be a cheerleader, or pose half-nude for an art club. Or in the case of this week’s episode, cosplay at comiket. It’s also amusing how for some reason, every member of the school, boy or girl, finds Hime insanely cute and attractive. Not just as a boy or girl, but as a “trap” in general. The boys of the school’s basketball team don’t even get fully pumped up and win their game until Hime trips and reveals a bulge in his panties.

I’d love to live in a utopia like that where everyone gets turned on by cute boys dressing up as a cute girls, but you know, that’s far from how just about any school in reality would react to seeing a crossdresser. But hey, Himegoto’s a comedy, so that doesn’t matter. Trap’s a terrible term by the way, though it almost feels like its just its own genre within the whole “crossdressing genderbender” spectrum, y’know? Or maybe that’s just my imagination given how common the term is used to describe anime crossdressers. Either way, don’t use the word trap.

I also find it bit uncanny the way Hime’s nipples are drawn. They’re just like, two large pink circles on his chest. Just looks unnatural, man.

***

In unrelated news, I recently found out that you can have a custom logo for Media Player Classic, and so I’ve have been using this (nsfw). Thanks, /a/.

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This entry was posted in Animation, Ao Haru Ride, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Hanayamata, Himegoto and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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