Week in Review, 8/24 – 8/31

 

hikaru no go ep 4

Apparently one of the South Park characters escaped to Japan.

I don’t watch much South Park, but is that kid in orange a ringer for Kyle, or what?

This was the week where I realized I may just in general prefer watching anime in chunks as opposed to from week to week, something I wonder if may be a matter of original habits from back when anime was released on DVD in three to four episode batches with months between releases. Try as I may, this usually meant I sat down and watched the entire volume in one go, even knowing I was going to have to wait two or three months before I got any new episodes.

I remember one time when I was very excited because I was getting TWO volumes of CardCaptor Sakura at once! When Pioneer (which then became Geneon) was releasing CCS in individual volumes, they held back one of the volumes for several months because of an episode involving Sakura meeting and befriending an elderly man (who, unbeknownst to her, was her maternal grandfather) – there were concerns about the message that might send, that it was okay and safe to befriend old men. So the entire volume was pushed back several months, they released a couple of the volumes after it before it, and then they released it at the same time as another volume. What on earth did those few months of difference make, anyway? And, let’s face it – at $30-$34 a pop and with subtitles, do we really think there were any seven year olds doddering around watching this release?

Anyway, I pretended to be sick the day after they came in the mail so I could stay home from school and watch them.

Eccentric Family, ep. 7-8

Well, now we know why Yajirou spends all that time at the bottom of the well. Although, honestly, I don’t think its fair for Yaichirou to put so much blame on him – Souichirou was an adult, and he was the leader of the tanuki, he should be able to look after himself. If anything, Souichirou was irresponsible to get his son drunk enough that he was unable to look after himself – Yajirou does get home, but he passes out in human form, and its clear that he doesn’t recall the night after a certain point.

Kaisei continues to bubble up into the story in important ways without showing her face, and I’m beginning to get irritated that we haven’t seen her at all. I also am beginning to think that she’d make for a much better leader for the tanuki than any of the folks who are vying for it – she’s the one who is around saving tanuki’s asses left, right, and center, it seems, and she’s also demonstrated to have a cool demeanor and isn’t divisive. I do despair of us ever getting to see her at this point, though.

Gatchaman Crowds, ep. 5-8

I’m really glad I picked this one up, as it has turned out to be much, much more engaging than I had any expectation of it being. There’s some interesting stuff here about reliance on technology, and also on the morality of technology – or, more particularly, the fact that technology is in and of itself morally neutral, as it takes an intelligent intent to give it an angle one way or the other. There’s also a bit about the nature of reality and its malleability here, although I think that is a touch less obvious (and I would argue that it primarily is found in Rui’s presentation of self when in public, although it’s probably more obvious in Berg-Katze’s identity-thieving case).

But what drives my enjoyment of the show, ultimately, is Hajime. I’m a bit surprised by this, as Hajime reminds me quite a bit of Daisuke Motomiya from Digimon 02, a character I couldn’t stand when I watched that show – although I suppose that was thirteen years ago now. She seems like an idiot-savant type, but I’m not terribly sure that gets at her properly, because there are brief moments where we get glimpses of a Hajime who seems to be much more on top of things than her general affect would suggest. Then again, maybe what it all really comes back to is that Hajime doesn’t appear to be at all interested in buying into any system; she’s shown to be considered as a bit odd (and also she does come across as a bit odd) even before she gets her Note, and when she’s brought into the Gatchaman fold, she continues to not be much concerned with how she’s perceived. She’s thought well of by the likes of the fire chief and the mayor, and she’s considered the leader of the collage group, and she’s doing a better job of playing the leader for the Gatchaman than Paiman was. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say Hajime is devious, but its clear that she’s got more going on in her head than she let’s people believe.

Hikaru no Go, ep. 1-12

When I was in high school, I knew some folks who were into Hikaru no Go. However, I also was aware that there was a creepily large subset of fans who were big shoutacon shippers when it came to this show, and that honestly kept me away from it. Of course, there was also the access issue, too, as streaming was still several years away, and, quite frankly, the local VCD rental place which loaned out bootleg copies of anime (often dubbed in Cantonese and subbed in questionable English) never seemed to have any copies in-store. And when I did finally find my way to digital fansubs, Bleach was the shounen flavor of the moment that captured my attention, so too bad for Hikaru no Go.

Luckily, Hikaru no Go is one of the titles that Viz has fully available for streaming on their own website, and on Hulu. And when I realized this, well, all bets were off.

If anything, I expected to find myself disappointingly not engaged by Hikaru no Go – I’ve said it again and again, but shounen of the Shounen Jump type variety (and here I include titles that aren’t SJ titles but share a lot of the telltale traits, such as Soul Eater, or Blue Exorcist, which hails from Jump Square) hasn’t caught my attention since I dropped Bleach  about seven or eight years ago. So I was expecting to drop this after a few episodes, particularly as I don’t know the first thing about go.

I think you know where this is going – I really have liked Hikaru no Go so far. Hikaru starts off as one hell of a little shit (and, really, he continues to have some really bad moments even as he improves overall), rummaging through his grandfather’s stuff so he can snatch something and pawn it for money since his allowance has been cut off, and its the sort of beginning that stands out as one of the most negative first impressions of a shounen hero. Even delinquent characters like Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho have better starts than this – sure, Yusuke gets in fights and flips his friend’s skirt on a regular basis, but Hikaru’s act is a much more calculated one, as he notes that he won’t get in trouble since he figures his grandfather doesn’t even remember what he has in storage, anyway, since he’s old. Hikaru’s would-be mentor, Sai, meanwhile, drowned himself in shame after being cheated out of his position at the Heian court by a rival, and the go board that starts it all is stained with blood that Hikaru’s predecessor choked up as he died of tuberculosis. Its a fairly grim beginning, and its too bad its the sort of thing America would balk at serving up as fare for elementary and middle schoolers.

Anyway. I like the characters quite a bit, although its irritating watching childhood friend Akari play the wet blanket role with such predictable frequency. Hikaru’s also pretty crappy to her in general, although I was pleased to have Sai smack Hikaru down immediately when Hikaru says that it is “presumptuous” of a girl to want to play go – Sai points out that women played go in the Heian court, and I think we can all agree that the Heian court was hardly a bastion of progressivism when it came to women. As for the go itself… damn, I really want to try playing go now.

Shion no Ou, ep. 2-11

And here we have another board game anime. Here, though, while I still have no desire to ever play shougi, I find the matches themselves a lot more engrossing than the go matches in Hikaru no Go. I’m fairly impressed with this, as I don’t know a damn thing about shougi.

I realllllly like Shion no Ou, but I don’t have much to say about it. Sometimes the animation quality bums me out a bit, especially since DEEN, for all its bad reputation, has turned out solid-looking shows like Maria-sama ga Miteru and Jigoku Shoujo.

I do wish Shion herself had a slightly less moe-looking character design, as her eyes are massive saucers when not a single other younger character’s are. I don’t mind that she’s a mute, but it’d be nice if she looked a bit more like she’s actually thirteen, as her character design seems nearer nine, although perhaps this is since she looks a bit like a Sakura Kinomoto rip-off.

There may be a feminist thread running here, as one of the matters the show keeps bringing up is that professional shougi is divided by gender. When a tournament rolls around that doesn’t divide by gender, age, or professional status, male shougi players repeatedly dismiss their female opponents, only to be crushed in what can only be described as thoroughly enjoyable matches. One of the female characters expresses annoyance when a gossipy sports newspaper alleges that she’s involved with a champion male shougi player, and when she’s told she should be happy for the attention since it could bring more attention to female shougi in general, she points out that the story is focused on a fake affair and not at all on shougi. I’m not quite ready to award it the ‘feminist’ label, but Shion no Ou is certainly shaping up as intriguing.

Day Break Illusion, ep. 7

The calm before the storm! Bah, sorry, but, who cares? Its a bit nice to see the girls out and about as a group in an episode that involves no battles, but there’s really not much to say about it. Akari reunites with her fortune telling pals, and we’re left to wonder why the hell she hasn’t met up with them sooner considering how important they allegedly are to her – you’d think she’d at least have gone to see them in the hospital. Anyway, surprise, surprise, their fortunes are doom and gloom to the max. Oh, you don’t say? I’m totally shocked.

Blah blah blah. Oh, well, Luna makes some more jealous faces about Seira and Akari’s interactions, and I’m reminded that I think there’s a good chance she’ll hop to the dark side as her jealousy grows, but nothing else of note here.

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One Response to Week in Review, 8/24 – 8/31

  1. kadian1365 says:

    Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou are two peas in a pod; obviously both about tradition East Asian strategy boards games, but also similar in their very serious and realistic approach to the material and healthy respect they have for the game and the players that have devoted their time to develop their skills. Hikaru no Go soon leaves behind the middle school setting for the road to professionalism, and its strength is seeing the perseverance and growth of its characters. Shion no Ou doesn’t have the episode count to develop its cast in the same way, but I found remarkable truth in the personal and familial relationships between certain pairs of players, with the game they played as a medium for these feelings.

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