Week in Review, 2/22 – 2/28

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Sometimes, I even dabble in live-action.

To-morrow is Super Tuesday in the US. By this time to-morrow, we may know how much closer we are edging toward a future in which anime is illegal in America.

Haikyuu S2, ep. 21

Not quite as good as the previous episode, this was nevertheless very good, delivering a continuing nailbiter of a match. I enjoyed the tactics a lot this week; they’ve been able to get a lot more creative in this regard since both teams are of a genuine threat to one another.

The way Sugawara was inserted and utilized in this episode bears comparing with how Ennoshita was used when Daichi was knocked out a few episodes ago. Ideally, Ennoshita would’ve been positioned the way that Sugawara has been, so that instead of it feeling like a cheap play for audience sympathy, his role had carried some weight. That Sugawara was used in a similar fashion in this episode just makes the way Ennoshita was handled look even worse in retrospect than it felt at the time. Sugawara, despite having been fairly important in the first season, has been largely in the background this time; he’s probably had just about the same amount of screentime as Ennoshita’s managed. Yet Sugawara’s been genuinely integrated into the show for a long time now, such that I didn’t feel irritated at his appearance to throw off Seijoh. Ennoshita simply never got the necessary footing in the first place for it to feel like anything other than a last-minute stab (which, in turn, I might add, detracted from the significance that Daichi becoming injured should’ve had).

Speaking of little-used characters and their effectiveness when used – Yamaguchi’s going to get another shot at glory! What do you bet he does better than the last two times? Yamaguchi, admittedly, tends toward being a nonentity since he’s got such a passive personality, but I did really like the little that they did with him during the Tsukishima-centric episodes this season. I honestly would’ve liked it if they’d leaned harder into his own frustration with Tsukishima’s apathy at the time, as it is a potentially compelling item, and it also contrasted pretty sharply with his usual tendency to just quietly go along with everything Tsukishima (it’d be entirely fair to accuse him of simply being Tsukishima’s shadow at points). We’re certainly not going to get that here, but that weak glimmer of light at least keeps me from being completely uninterested in the boy.

I want to touch on Kyotani’s unusual character design. Admittedly, we’ve been getting quite a few odd character designs this season, particularly as regards hair. A lot of these young men have had hair that brings to mind birds (to include Spearow), but in Kyotani’s case, I think that he may be tanuki-inspired. This is due to the stripes on the hair and the heavy black lining along the bottom edge of his eyes (it almost looks like eyeliner). (Did anyone else keep misreading his name as “Kyoani”, by the way?)

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, ep. 1-2

So, I hemmed and hawed a lot about what to call this. In case you’re confused, it’s the live-action Sailor Moon series that aired from 2003-2004. At the time, it was called as the above as this was the official English title given, and also as it was a way to differentiate it from the first season of the anime, as well as from the manga, both of which had the same Japanese title but which had been officially translated into English title-wise as Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon in Japan. (That last bit matters, as in English-language overseas markets it was simply shortened to “Sailor Moon”.) So, given all that, I went with Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.

I’ve been somewhat meaning to watch this just about since it aired, and, well, I finally got to it. It is absolutely just as cheesy as its reputation has it, but there are some things I genuinely like about what it does, and which I even prefer to the other iterations of the story. Chief among these is the dynamic between Usagi and her mother, Ikkuko, which is pretty acrimonious in the manga and both versions of the anime. Here, though, the two seem to be much more alike personality-wise, as in the first episode both become absorbed in a TV report and forget that Usagi was running late for school. Ikkuko also comes across less like a dated perfect housewife stereotype and more like, well, a human being. Altogether, there’s still not much time given to her, but I really like what we get.

Another thing I liked was that the senshi (Sailor Moon and Mercury so far) actually do look a bit different from their “civilian” forms. The change is minor, as it’s really just that their hair changes, but it’s SOMETHING. I’m re-watching Sailor Moon S at the moment, and while you’d think I’d be completely over the silliness at this point of there being no difference in physical appearance between civilian and senshi forms, I do grind my teeth over the stupidity of everyone being so baffled about who the hell Sailor Uranus and Neptune are.

The acting manages to, for the most part, slightly exceed J-drama standards. This should not, of course, be mistaken for my claiming that the acting is *good*, but it is better than I’d expected, and at points it’s even decent. For at least some of the cast, this was their acting debut, so it may even improve as the show goes on.

The one point on which I will complain is that of Luna. I knew that the way they went about depicting her was bad, but it was actually even worse than I’d expected. She’s done as both a CG cat and also as a stuffed animal, and in both cases, well, it’s *bad*. I think they were trying to do it as it being that she looks like a toy to the regular people in the show, but appears to be a living creature to the various folks with power in the show, but it doesn’t work. I think they should’ve gone with the approach used in the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch TV series, where a live cat was alternated with an animatron. This, too, looked a bit rough at points, but it sure beats the hell out of the CG monstrosity and the stupid-looking toy we get stuck with here.

Sailor Moon S, ep. 1-10

I’d intended to re-watch S after finishing up SuperS, but then I decided that it didn’t matter if I watched them at the same time, as I wasn’t ever planning to blog S episodically like I have been with SuperS. With SuperS, I started with blogging it as I wanted to examine whether the series is as bad as it is often said to be. S is widely held up as the best season of the original anime, so there’s no need for me to play the would-be defender of the faith here.

I remember liking S a lot when I watched it. However, the last time I saw it was roughly twelve years ago, and I’ve never seen the entire series uncut. The portions I have seen uncut were courtesy of a combination of the Pionee VHS tapes and DVDs I could track down in Blockbuster and the local library, and VHS fansubs (this, specifically, the episodes involving the discovery of the Talismans, which I watched as a twelve year old in some spellbound awe over Haruka and Michiru’s relationship; I also, around this time, was similarly spellbound by the kiss scene in Battle Athletes Victory, which does make me boggle at my failure to cotton on to my sexuality much sooner than I did). So, this is a somewhat new experience even as it is also a very old experience.

Although I’d expected to enjoy it, I’ve been surprised at just how much I’m enjoying this re-watch. I’m also, truly, surprised at how much darker as a whole this season is compared to previous and subsequent. Everyone says its “darker”, but I’ve been a fair bit suspicious of this characterization for a while, especially as I’ve seen more and more people trying to argue that the franchise is “dark” in the wake of the mega-success of Magi Puella Madoka Magica. While the manga gets much more… well, I think that “gothic” may be the best way to put it, than the anime series, as we get rotting corpses, heroines locked away by evil men, and some fairly nightmarish imagery, I think to call it “dark” writ large is a mischaracterization.

Having said that, though, S *is* darker than the rest of this version of the anime. And it starts pretty early, as the first episode centers around Rei having horrifying visions of destruction, to include her friends being turned into statues that are smashed as she watches on. Although first episodes introduce villains in each season, the other seasons largely feature happy memories as dreams and visions (S1, R, SuperS). Even Stars, the outlier, is just structured as a “getting the band back together” type of episode, and while it’s capped with an explicit of trouble to come, it lacks the apocalyptic framing S starts with.

Many of you already know this, but for those who do not, this is the first full season which Kunihiko Ikuhara helmed, having previously taken over from Junichi Sato partway through R. While what we get is much lighter fare than is Ikuhara’s signature in his later works (over which he had much more control!), I am struck by how Ikuharaesque S feels so far. S has his classic mingling of the serious with the silly, and there are some genuinely quite funny moments to be had in these episodes, particularly centered around the monsters-of-the-week Daimons (for example, there’s a funny gag centered around a water-based on Daimon who is festooned with inner-tubes and is revealed to be bad at swimming when the inner-tubes are popped).

Oh, and, my goodness, we’ve GOT to talk about Haruka and Michiru. In fact, I want to talk about them SO MUCH that I am going to have to do a separate post just talking about them. But, re-confronted with these girls, I realize just how damn groundbreaking they were. They are also still pretty groundbreaking! Because when was the last time you ran across a gay magical girl in a magical girl series meant for children? (Hell, even magical girl series for adults rarely go so far as to include girls who are explicitly gay, let alone let them be in a relationship. Sure, Homura seems to be quite clearly in love with Madoka, but the girl doesn’t get the girl.) Watching them now as an adult, I still feel a sense of excitement just by the simple fact of their existence within the show and of how little fanfare there is to it. Haruka and Michiru are characters who happen to be gay, rather than characters whose primary trait is ~gay~, if that makes sense.

This Boy is a Professional Wizard, ep. 4

And thus this short comes to an end. And, yes, of course – it ends on a happy note! Even better, though, we end with a fully consensual kiss! Woohoo! Consensual yaoi! YES!!! Why don’t we get more of this?! Dear lord, I hope this sells well so that maybe consensuality will become more of a thing in the BL that makes it to the small-screen… (And, of course, as I’ve said before, also so that Soubi Yamamoto can get another whack at longer-format stuff.)

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One Response to Week in Review, 2/22 – 2/28

  1. jstorming says:

    Back in the day when the ratio of tokusatsu and anime was heavily skewed toward the toku–I had the chance to try Pretty Guardian as well…and it was actually not too bad. It’s quite darker than the anime in some respects and highlights some of the Senshi that got overlooked (i.e. Mercury gets a lot of spotlight). Always interesting to see anime translated over to live action, and though the results aren’t always good, they manage to at least be interesting…

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