Category Archives: Observation Deck

The Observation Deck: Blue Flag

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Romance in any genre is a really hard thing to get right, as there are so many considerations for what constitutes a good romance story. A romance that is straightforward might be labeled too earnest and simple, but one that is trying to weave together multiple character arcs over a short period could get written off as simply overdoing it. Characters that have one-dimensional motivations can come across as boring, but making them super idealistic and ambitious also comes across as a bit pretentious

Blue Flag somehow manages to circumvent all of this and is, without exaggeration, is one of the best romance stories I have consumed in a while. I said this about Golden Time as well back when I watched in the middle of last year, and I am being equally as sincere about Blue Flag. Idk what it is, but I guess I just managed to find all of the good stuff recently.

The story of this manga focuses on Taichi Ichinose, a high school student who finds himself suddenly reconnecting with his childhood best friend, Touma Mita as well as helping a fellow classmate, Futaba Kuze, get together with him. What both Taichi and Futaba do not know, however, is Touma’s secret romantic feelings for Taichi, along with Futaba’s best friend Masumi Itachi’s feelings for her. This love quadrangle only gets messier as time passes, and each of them is forced to make choices about their future.

LGBTQ+ Romance

As unfortunate as it is to say, there are very few stories period, let alone once in which the primary drive is romance, that handle queer relationships in a way that is not one-dimensional or fetishistic. After all, the mainstream view of these communities has and still is, very often clouded by stereotypes. While I imagine the context in modern Japan is probably at least somewhat different than our own, many of these stereotypes seem to be universal.

Thus, it was a wonderful surprise to read a story in which most of those problems are non-existent, in which the characters dealt with the idea of a same-sex couple in a way that was, maybe a bit outdated by today’s standards, but still a real scenario that many gay people go through. When I talked about Blue Period last week, I mentioned how the character of Yuka has been praised for being a non-binary character whose identity does not become her only focus.

What I appreciate is how Blue Flag has a similar dynamic with its characters. Though the comparison is not as one to one due to the identity of Toma and Taichi being very much the center of the story, it still feels as though they are treated as wholistic, independent characters even outside of their continually evolving and messy relationship.

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Handling Character Relationships

As I mentioned before, striking the right balance of having too many overly developed characters versus overly simplistic ones is a difficult task. I would argue that a story like Beastars, for example, for as rich as its attempts at world-building are, has far too many non-sensical plotlines to ever feel like a satisfying series. Granted, Beastars is not over yet, whereas Blue Flag is, but the point is there regardless.

Mangaka Kaito has a strong grasp of what it means to introduce a character. Not only does every character feel developed into their own person by the end of the series, but each one gets the chance to interact and understand the others across a cast of 10+ notable characters and a mere 54 chapters. This includes everyone, from the aforementioned main Quadrangle to Toma and Taichi’s extended friend circle.

The only exception to this is Taichi’s parents, and while it would have been interesting to weave in another backstory about Taichi through their perspective, doing so in a way that is forced or uninteresting could have also hurt the series, so I certainly do not blame the author for leaving them aside. One could also include Futaba’s relatives on that list, but I would argue that the small snippets Kaito does give us of her home life are sufficient to justify her character’s behavior.

Fantastic Artwork

As infrequently as I talk about manga, I usually avoid talking about the artwork at any great length because my repertoire for comparison is so laughably small. After all, what makes for good art in anime is not always the same as what makes for good art in manga. Still, I cannot help but sing Blue Flag’s praises in this regard as well.

The backgrounds, in particular, are worth pointing out, as no matter what location the characters are at, whether it be downtown Tokyo, high school, etc, there is almost always something to stop and look at. Even in the cases where the art takes a back seat to character interactions, such as the hijinks between Taichi and Futaba, it is done for comedic or dramatic effect. Thus, I would consider its artwork to be about as amazing as a manga can get.

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Playing with Perspective

Perspective is one of those literary tools that is always there for non-written mediums of entertainment but very rarely gets utilized in a way that feels at all innovative. The best example is obviously video games, in which the interactive nature of the medium invites a variety of different storytelling perspectives. Manga, meanwhile, is, by and large, a third-person medium, in which characters are seen only from an outsider’s view.

Blue Flag, however, remains unafraid of experimentation. While admittedly not utilized all that much, the series is still willing to take a look at people’s past through the lenses of those characters. Two great examples are the backstory chapters for both Touma and Taichi, where each one has the past revisited from the first-person perspective, which allows us to view the character’s past from their perspective.

In Taichi’s case, we get a view that is largely in the shadow of Touma, who was more popular and had more friends even in junior high. Even as he comes out of this shadow, and meets a girl not unlike Futaba, it is only so that she can confess to Touma. With Touma, we see, from his perspective, his household before and after the tragic accident involving his parents, and how that affects his relationship with others.

All of this is complemented by the way Kaito plays with a first-person perspective in the final chapter. Someone whose name is listed as Ichinose is invited to Futaba’s wedding some seven years later, but it is revealed later on that Taichi was at Yokki’s wedding which landed on the same day.

This combined with a cheekily placed shot of two people in suits holding hands, combined with the noticeable absence of Touma directly, tells us that it is in fact his perspective that the chapter is seen through. What is heavily implied throughout the entire series is revealed in a way that is both unique and playful, fitting the personality of the two main characters.

A Few Gripes…

The series did a lot right in terms of its story composition, character relationships, and artwork. however, there are a few things that I wish were done differently.

First, for as fantastic as the dialogue in the series can be, there are also times where it becomes a bit overbearing. This is most evident in the scenes with Mami and the other minor characters who talk… a lot. Though this is certainly in character for them, it does get a bit annoying when I have to squint just to read every word on the page while only a foot away from my computer. Luckily, these moments are much fewer and farther between, but still feel a tad too present.

Second, why Kaito decided to go as far as invoking child molestation to defend Kensuke’s terrible behavior towards Touma I will honestly never understand. I get that his beliefs are supposed to be irrational, and also that Kensuke himself is supposed to be stupid, but surely there was another way without legitimizing a terrible perspective like that, no?

Conclusion

While I do not know that I could say Blue Flag is perfect by any means, and some of its thematic elements do run up against cliche more often than not, it is, at least, great. What it lacks in grace and brevity it more than makes up for in solid pacing and amazing payoff. What is more, I can honestly see myself coming back to it in a few years as well. If you have yet to read this series, then I would say it is more than worth the two dollars a month from Viz for this series alone.


How do you feel about Blue Flag? Let me know in the comments below. As part of my new year’s resolution, I said that I would be putting out at least one video a month, and for this month, I’ll be revisiting The Promised Neverland, so stay tuned for that.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special thanks again to our Patreon member Jenn, it is greatly appreciated.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Komi Can’t Communicate

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I think the thing that I enjoy most about slice-of-life comedies is that, well, there is no rush to be anywhere. In her video on Azumanga Daioh, YouTuber hazel discusses how, despite the lack of any overarching plot, the series still makes you care about its characters. Whether it be one of the main girls, or even one of the side characters three tiers removed, each of them comes into their own in some way. Ultimately, hazel describes the series as perfect, at least to her.

While I cannot say have anywhere near the same attachment to a series like Komi Can’t Communicate, it certainly does have its charms. The series stars its namesake character Komi as she begins her high school life. However, given her extreme social anxiety, she cannot talk to anyone, and yet everyone in her school treats her like a god. With the help of fellow classmate Tadano, Komi hopes to make many friends.

I Mean, What’s There to Say, Really?

The problem with talking about a series like Komi Can’t Communicate is that, well, there is not actually that much to dissect. A lot of what makes the series work is whether or not 1) one buys into its core premise, and 2) finds it funny enough to stick with for a whole 12 episodes. Otherwise, the show just kind of fails.

Ok, maybe that is a little harsh. After all, it does work for me. Part of that, I think, is the character of Komi herself. While I have never known anyone to be socially anxious to the point of literally being speechless, as an exaggerated metaphor for how it can be to go through high school without strong social skills, it works. I know I was definitely not one to make friends easily, and it was only after joining my high school newspaper that I made any significant friends and gained my confidence.

However, for people lacking those same experiences, the comedy might not hit in the same way. A large part of comedy is the subjective experiences that inform them, to begin with. In that respect, I think Komi covers just enough bases that even those outside its target audience will find something worth enjoying, assuming they stick around.

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So, Does She Actually Not Communicate?

Tadano, being the one who agrees to help her find friends, ends up being the other main character. The show itself describes him as agreeable, but ultimately dull and average. Now, as much as I can appreciate the self-insult, it does not change the fact that he is actually pretty uninteresting.

A lot of the jokes in the series are made at his expense but rarely do they ever lead to any significant changes in his character. In fact, most of the development he does go through in the series happens as a result of helping Komi make friends. Again, none of this is to say that having no overarching story is bad, far from it, but whereas Azumanga Daioh’s ending makes one feel connected to its cast, Tadano hardly inspires that same satisfaction.

The one exception to this is the burgeoning romance between him and Komi, and of course, by burgeoning I mean not at all and that Tadano is so slow in recognizing Komi is into him that they literally introduced a whole new character in the last three episodes of the first season to tell him how dumb he is. Honestly, now that I write that all out, it is really funny. Gotta hand it to the writers on that one.

The Side Characters

Despite Tadano being relatively uninteresting as the main character, there are others who pick up his slack. Najimi, Tadano’s childhood best friend and one of the first to befriend Komi, acts as a big chaotic neutral, mostly doing whatever seems fun at the moment and rarely thinks about the consequences.

Some of the best moments in the series actually come from a recurring bit with Najimi and Komi. Usually, this involves Najimi jokingly asking Komi to go get her something as a way of boosting her social skills, often giving her a complicated order, and Komi agreeing. Komi never actually comes back with the right thing of course, and the process itself often scares her half to death. However, it highlights both how carefree Najimi is and how hard Komi is working to communicate with other people.

Yamai is another character who is, well, also not funny. Her introductory episode involves her abducting Tadano for over a day, locking him in her room, and inviting Komi over to hang out. While I can certainly appreciate a good Yandere in specific contexts, comedy is not really one of them, as the joke usually just boils down to “tehe, I’m crazy.”

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The Last Five Minutes

While the last episode was, on the whole, nothing to write home about, the final bit was really thoughtful. It starts with the main characters singing Kareoke together to the show’s ending theme. Afterward, it cuts from credits back to a scene of Komi, alone in her room appreciating all of her classmates by writing down their names, with Tadano’s name placed squarely at the top of the list.

We then get a sequence of class 1-1 filming the outro sequence to the show, with Komi finally being able to say “Yoroshiku, Onegaishimasu,” which is a way of saying “I look forward to working with you,” or, less literally, “I hope we can be friends.” It then cuts to a black screen which dedicates the series to those with social anxiety. Though it does not make up for the more lackluster parts of the series, it was a pretty thoughtful ending and one that I appreciate.

Conclusion

To be frank, there are a lot of Slice of Life comedy series that I would go to before Komi Can’t Communicate. Horimiya, Chuunibyou, hell, I would even go as far back as School Rumble. Still, that does not mean there are no good qualities here. Komi is a likable enough walking metaphor, and seeing any potential development in her character is worth waiting for the second season.


How do you all feel about Komi Can’t Communicate? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special shoutout to our Patreon supporter Jenn, it is greatly appreciated.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Blue Period

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Announcer: “In a world-first achievement, which took all the strength and concentration he could possibly muster, Jack has finally finished a seasonal anime that he started watching!”

I know, I know, truly an incredible feat for someone as fickle about anime as myself. However, in all reality, given the overall quality of the series, finishing Blue Period was not difficult in the slightest. At least for me, this anime kind of came out of nowhere, and yet has somehow ended up as one of my favorites from last year. Still feels weird to say last year when I’m writing this three days into 2022…

Blue Period tells the story of Yatora Yaguchi, a straight-laced popular kid with good grades who is also a delinquent, as he spends most of his free time drinking with his friends and staying out late. Though he finds some happiness in setting up tasks and achieving them, a chance encounter with members of his high school art club ends up challenging his entire “practicality over everything” philosophy. All of sudden, the beauty Shibuya in the morning becomes an inspiration, rather than a passing note. Art, rather than making money, becomes Yatora’s focus.

What Does “Practical” Even Mean?

Something that I think informs a lot of the praise of this show is Yatora’s transformation as a character in the early parts of the series. Initially, Yatora’s entire mindset around his career choice is focused on not what will make him personally fulfilled, but rather what will ensure a stable job and money.

This is not to say that being concerned about those things is not important, especially in the context of growing up in a poor household. As someone who was born into a solidly upper-middle-class household with a lot of economic and social privileges that others simply did not or do not have, I can definitely understand how it might come off as a bit patronizing to tell someone without those same privileges to “just follow your dreams.”

Even more so than that, though, it feels like Yatora is not just concerned about getting a good job, but rather that his entire life has been dedicated to making others happy. This is so obvious to the other people that even Ryuuji “Yuka” Ayukawa, who in the beginning Yatora has a passing relationship with at best, is able to point this out.

While the dynamic is not exactly the same, as Japan seems to be far more conservative in this area, there are undoubtedly a lot of people, including myself, who grew up only ever worrying about other people, whether that be parents, friends, teachers, etc. The catharsis of living for yourself is truly a transformative one, and it is this same catharsis that makes Yatora such a compelling character.

Gender Identity in Blue Period

Blue Period‘s manga had its first English release back in October of 2020, and since then many have taken to talking about the character of Yuka, whose presence in anime series is also a welcome addition. The reason for the continuous discussion of their character is their designation as non-binary, something that, in the past, has very rarely come up in anime. Even in the situations where it did, it was usually as the butt of some painfully unfunny jokes about how ridiculous their characters are.

Even more impressive though is how Yuka’s character is treated as…well, normal. At no point in the anime does it ever feel like they are there solely as a way to check off some box for character diversity, and when struggles related to their gender do come up, it is treated with a level of maturity and seriousness that every other character in the series gets as well. What I have not seen as much of, though I will admit I could just be missing some important discussion, is how gender and career choices intersect in Blue Period‘s story.

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Like I discussed above, Yatora’s character early on is informed by a sense of social expectations which pressure him into orienting his career choices around that which is considered to be most financially stable. However, a smaller, though still important element, is the gendered expectations that people have of certain careers. This article from cultural anthropologist Jennifer Robertson talks in a good amount of detail about Japan’s history of gender-bending and reading it has revealed that there is a strong possibility that these gendered expectations are likely different in Japan than they are state-side.

Still, I cannot help but feel that the perceived effeminate nature of art becomes another point of confusion and fear in Yatora’s development as a character. He, having grown up as a seemingly conventionally attractive Japanese male, feels out of place in a space dominated by those who are different from the norm.

What is more, Yatora is not even the only example of gendered career expectations rearing their ugly head. Near the end of the series, one of his “delinquent” friends Koigakubo tells him that he wants to become a baker. Yatora is surprised, but ultimately supports him, having been through his own struggle with art and understanding that Koigakubo needs emotional support. Again, there is a challenge here because baking is often perceived as a more feminine career.

None of this is to say that gender expectations are a primary reason for the hesitancy these characters feel. However, I do think it is a sub-element that unconsciously heightens these fears.

Manga Discourse

I do not generally go into writing these posts trying to make enemies. My main goal has always been to talk anime in a way that highlights its literary significance and starts broader conversations. Still, after reading some reviews from those who are clearly very attached to the original manga, I felt it was worth addressing.

I have talked about it before, but part of what makes a good adaptation is recognizing when it is important to make changes. This also means knowing what details are and are not ok to leave out. As a reference, I went ahead and read the first chapter of the manga, which, and this is true, is not the same as reading the whole thing, I will admit. Here is the thing though: I still do not see what people are complaining about.

Yeah, there are some meaningful character details that get left out, like when Yatora’s friends pick up Sudama, only to tell him that he says “facts” in response to things way too much. However, nothing instrumental to Blue Period‘s identity is gone. If those who have read all of the manga have counterpoints that would prove me wrong, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

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A lot of the criticism, however, just feels like complaining for the sake of complaining. I understand having an attachment to a specific media property and not wanting some greedy corporation to mess it up. I doubt Percy Jackson fans are happy with how their movie adaptations were treated. What I do not understand is people going as far as saying Netflix’s anime adaptation is “soulless” and “lifeless,” like, did we watch the same show?

A World Full of Colors

One strict advantage that I would argue that the anime has even if it is a “bad adaptation” is the ability to see the works of its characters in full color. There is a lot of art that is done in black and white, and I am sure that most of the sketches in the series look just as fantastic in the manga. Composition is also a big part of painting, as the anime itself likes to reinforce time and time again. Seeing a painting in full color, though, gives the series an extra element of resolution, especially at the end of the second exam when Yatora’s piece is finally revealed.

Even outside of its art context, there are other elements that seeing a series in color can help articular. While his punk attitude certainly comes across clear as day in the manga, the addition of his bleached hair gives an extra bit of personality that would not be there otherwise.

Conclusion

While I certainly would not call it a masterpiece, I also cannot find much in the way of negativity to direct at Blue Period either. It is a series with a bright and colorful cast, with engaging, albeit sometimes not wholly plot-relevant, storylines and animation that helps to enhance its more visually intense scenes. Overall, this was an absolute treat and is definitely worth the time for those who have yet to see it.


How do you all feel about Blue Period? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special shoutout to our patron Jenn for supporting us, it is greatly appreciated!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Chainsaw Man Part 1

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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While I did not list it as one of my goals for the year, I would like to read more manga in 2022, if for nothing else than to gain a bit more perspective on upcoming releases and get ahead of the curb in discussing them. Though this series finished in late 2020, it is still making waves both for how popular its manga is and because its anime adaptation is on the horizon.

During a trip to visit my grandmother over the holidays, I decided, “eh why not?” I paid my $2 a month for Viz and binged most of Chainsaw Man in a few days. I returned home shortly afterward, only to finish the series the following evening. So, what does Chainsaw Man‘s manga have to say for itself?

What in the Everloving Fu-

Chainsaw Man, for the uninitiated, focuses on an orphan boy named Denji, who, after losing his family, befriended a chainsaw devil named Pochita. Fast forward a few years, and Denji is working for the yakuza killing other devils for money. Just as he is starting to feel content with the world, he is tricked, and the Yakuza figure he worked for is now himself a demon set out on destroying the young boy. Denji, on the brink of death, is given a new heart in the form of Pochita, and gains strange new powers. He is now Chainsaw Man.

If that was not enough, it gets even crazier, as Denji eventually meets Makima, one of the heads of the Public Safety Bureau, along with some of the other Bureau members, such as Aki, Power, Kobeni, and Himeno. The initial chapters move at a fairly brisk pace as far as advancing the overall story. Fast enough, in fact, that even Denji as a character is having a hard time really absorbing everything that is going on. In a matter of days, he goes from living in poverty to having what seems like a middle-class job in which he makes real money.

Btw, if it was not made clear already, this show is about devils. Hunting devils, becoming devils, and often working alongside as well as making contracts with them. Denji, armed with the abilities of the chainsaw devil, has gained the attention of Makima (and later many others). Thus, she takes good care to keep an eye on him. The way the series just throws the audience into Denji’s world without much explanation feels fairly emblematic of its overall storytelling philosophy.

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Yes, There is a lot of Blood

Though Chainsaw Man certainly has a lot of fast-paced, 1v1 fight scenes that are typical of actions series, its approach to violence and the depiction thereof is decidedly more horror. If the literal devils did not tip people off, the show has no problem giving a ton of unhealthy reminders. In this manga, it could be argued that the gore involved in each fight is as much a storytelling device as it is an aesthetic choice.

Part of this is fairly direct, as it is noted early on that demons need to drink blood to replenish their strength. A good example comes during one of the earlier fights in the series, where Denji, having been betrayed by Power as food for a bat devil, is now forced to rescue them from his stomach. Thus, the only thing he can do is cut open his stomach using his unique powers.

Part of this, at least, is mitigated by the black and white nature coloring of traditional manga, which is to say nothing of mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto’s extreme eye for detail in a lot of panels. In many of Chainsaw Man‘s fight scenes, Fujimoto takes great care to make sure that the people reading can remember individual demons based on their…insides.

Sex! That’s it, That’s the Joke.

In much the same way as violence and gore, sex often becomes a core aesthetic and thematic part of what makes this story work. Denji, a 16-year-old with a healthy libido, is constantly thinking about sex. At first, he merely wanted to touch a pair of boobs, but after feeling up Power and realizing that there was something special missing from his experience, Denji realizes that he also wants a sense of intimacy with Makima.

By the same token, many of the women in Chainsaw Man use sex as a means of controlling Denji. Again, this is primarily the case with Makima, but Power and Rize do engage in this behavior as well. In Power’s case, it happens when she tricks Denji into saving her cat, and in Rize’s, she simply wants his literal, and for a period metaphorical, heart. Denji is thus both the end and a means to an end at the same time, both himself and also Chainsaw Man. He is continually confronted with the idea that these two people are, in fact, different people.

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The Point, Please?

I am getting there, jeez. Ok, so Denji is a half human/devil hybrid who is hired by a secretly very shady organization to help kill rogue devils and whose members occasionally make contracts with devils which the humans then use to help kill more rogue devils and-yeah ok I have lost myself. So, does it mean anything?

As Esoteric as a task it is to try and find meaning in a gore-filled nonsense-fest like Chainsaw Man, I do think it can be done. Regardless of the arc, the primary focus of the series never ceases to be Denji, the one who uses the heart of a devil. He goes from just a homeless kid barely scraping by with pocket change to having not only money and food but friends who genuinely care about his well-being. When we consider this change in ascent, along with Denji’s character, the focus of the manga becomes apparent.

Denji is not only playing himself but is rather a symbol of those affected by cruel and unyielding social, economic and political systems. This central idea is further reinforced in other parts of the manga. In one scene where Denji is talking to Rize, she emphasizes that Denji having never been to public school, along with his current arrangement at the public safety bureau, is both out of the ordinary and also incredibly “messed up.”

While it is true that the primary reason Rize says this is because she wants to lour Denji away from the other devil hunters, her underlying shock is totally justified. After all, while fighting devils may still be a reality for many people in this universe, that does not excuse the moral dilemma of not having a basic K-12 education.

Conclusion

Chainsaw Man, in a lot of ways, is just an excuse to be transgressive around the amount of physical violence people are willing to accept in their storytelling. More than that, though, it is a story about the human experience, one which tells us that, no matter how evil an act, it can be no more evil than the worst immorality of all: taking away someone’s human element. In that way, it is a phenomenally entertaining series that it feels fair to say many will enjoy.


Have you read Chainsaw Man? What are your thoughts on the series? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special shoutout to our Patron Jenn for the continued support!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck – Spider-Man: No Way Home

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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(HUGE SPOILER WARNING AHEAD)

Normally I am not super prone to covering Marvel movies, as it’s not my primary focus nor my primary interest. However, I wanted to at least get out a few thoughts on the film so that I can at least say I posted something today. Anyone whose been on social media over the past week or so has probably seen all of the positive things people have said about it so far. As much as I would love to be a contrarian, in this case, I really cannot.

A Top 5 MCU Film

No Way Home will likely go down as one of the best MCU films of all time, and for good reason. There is, of course, the man himself, Tom Holland, who continues to be the best live-action iteration of Spider-Man to date. This is not to say that Andrew Garfield and Toby Mcquire, who reprise their roles in this film, are bad, just that Holland feels like the perfect mix of Peter Park and the superhero spider.

Speaking of, seeing the Spider-Men together on one screen was indeed a highlight of the film. Part of me wants to complain that they spent a little bit too much time reveling in the fact that all of them were in the same dimension, but given the arc of the film, it kind of makes sense. On top of that, seeing some of the most beloved Villains in Spider-Man also make a return only added to the hype.

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Dr. Strange: A Welcome Addition

Ever since the release of his self-titled film, Dr. Strange as a character has always been one of my favorite parts of live-action marvel. Everything from his backstory to his power and even his aesthetic oozes a certain level of cool which few other characters, outside of Spider-Man himself, have managed to top. Thus, I was happy to find out just a little while into the film, that he would end up playing a significant role.

And well, what a role it was. I am hyping it up a little too much maybe, as he spends a significant portion of the film trapped in his own magical dimension. Still, his presence can almost be boiled down to a level of “I told you so,” having to clean up a lot of the mess Peter Parker creates. In order to change the villains that so desperately want to kill some version of him, he has to give up not only his Aunt May but his very existence in the mind of his friends.

Now, given that Dr. Strange previously mentioned that he used the mind-erasing spell on people other than himself, it is unclear whether any of the other he or any of the other Avengers will actually remember him. Regardless, it will be interesting to see Spider-Man’s progression and whether or not he becomes an active part of it again.

Conclusion

Like I said, I do not have too many concrete thoughts on the film outside of repeating how amazing it is, but yeah it is amazing. Spider-Man: No Way Home is not only a great Spider-Man and MCU film, but arguably one of the best Superhero films, period.


How did you all feel about Spider-Man: No Way Home? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Aggretsuko Season 3

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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This is probably the closest I’m going to get to having a timely holiday-themed-ish post, so that is an accomplishment, I guess.

Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, I did not actually watch the third season of Aggretsuko when it came out in August of last year. Why? idk, I was probably busy with not watching anime or wanting to watch anime but not actually having the mental focus to start one. Either way, it gave me the opportunity to sit down with it this year, and man was it a treat.

For those uninitiated with the series, Aggretsuko tells the story of a set of Sanrio-designed characters who work mediocre office jobs. The main character, retsuko, is a red panda who does accounting and is constantly harassed by her boss, and is slowly losing her sanity. Luckily, she has Fenneko the fox and Haida the hyena to help keep her sane. When the show last left off at season 2, Retsuko had just gone through a pretty big relationship, but ultimately ended it because Tadano said he was not willing to get married.

Sanrio’s Character Designs

I somehow failed to discuss this in my last review of the series, maybe because it felt a little bit obvious, but the character designs of Sanrio contribute so much to this series. I am willing to bet that most people’s only familiarity with the mascot company is Hello Kitty, a character that, at least in the U.S., has only ever been marketed towards young girls.

Thus, it becomes that much more impactful to see similar-looking characters in a modern Japanese work environment, where the colorfulness clashes with just how dull the office feels. It creates a level of confusion and absurdity that you just cannot help but laugh at.

Retsuko is an…Idol?

Initially, the whole idol storyline felt way out of place for a series in which the primary focus is Retsuko going insane every other day. However, as the events unfolded and the season began making its point, it really came together. After two seasons of torturing her character for comedic effect, it did feel nice to see her girl boss her way to the front of an Idol group, taking them from unknown to one of the biggest stars in the country.

On top of that, watching Haida wrestle with his feelings for Retsuko and Inui was entertaining, to say the least, and not for the reason you might think. As compelling as his arc was during this last season, it became pretty obvious that he was only ever going to want to be with Retsuko, which after a certain point, just added the comedy of it all.

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Gori and Washimi are Fighting…

If I was forced to pick my favorite side characters, it would probably be Director Gori and Ms. Washimi. The way they started as these two ominous figures at Retsuko’s company but then end becoming two of her best friends is genuinely charming. Their dynamic together helped to drive a lot of important story and comedy moments, such as when they all took a trip to the bathhouse.

Sad to say, though, that this dynamic is unfortunately absent from a lot of season three. Gori and Washimi are mad at each other for… some reason, Gori is pursuing her goal of creating a dating app and Washimi is…doing something? It is not made particularly clear, which kind of adds the overall disappointment. Still, given the storyline being told, the lack of this dynamic is more a personal dissatisfaction than a failing of the show itself.

Haida’s Love for Retsuko, and Also His Stupidity

The ending for the season honestly just felt appropriate. Well, maybe that is a bad way of phrasing it, cause describing Retsuko getting knife attacked by her crazy stalker as “appropriate” feels wrong. Still, it is a pretty dramatic ending with Haida coming to rescue and Retsuko barely avoiding a terrible injury, at best.

Then, for some reason, Haida decides that this is the best time to confess his feelings to her, and everyone else agrees, I guess? Of course, not surprisingly, Retsuko expresses her feelings in the form of a metal song, where he essentially tells Haida to H*ck off. More specifically though, she confronts him with the reality that, regardless of her feelings, she isn’t really in a place where she can trust people, and it is rude of him to push her on it when she does not want to.

Conclusion

Season three of Aggretsuko was a fantastic watch. Maybe not as much of a holiday viewing as I initially implied, but still filled with the drama, romance, and fun one could ask for out of any Christmas special. Although, the series does have an actual Christmas special which is also available on Netflix, so maybe watch that as well.


How did you all feel about Aggretsuko season three? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Special thanks to Jenn for the continuous support on Patreon, it is much appreciated.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: My Hero Academia Season Five

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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You thought it was someone who posts consistently? It was actually me, DIO!

Anyway, outdated references aside, hope you all have been well while I’m away. At least, as well as anyone can be doing right now. Regardless, I finally got the chance to catch up on some anime over the weekend and it was, first and foremost, at very much needed relaxer for myself. College is hard, especially when the productivity sirens are constantly blaring in your head despite having zero energy to actually accomplish anything. What I have managed to accomplish is finishing season five of “My Hero Academia,” and I want to talk about it.

What is Peace?

One of my favorite video essays on YouTube is actually about “My Hero Academia,” and given how the last season has played out, with its refocus on the League of Villains and Meta Liberation Army, it feels worthwhile to talk about. Pause and Select’s “Boku no Hero Academia and Peace” discusses how All Might, serving as the symbol of peace, not only upholds society on a day to day level, but himself serves as a goal, or what he describes as a metanarrative, around which people build there worldviews. This metanarrative of peace, rather than any particular ideology, serves as the object of Shigaraki’s, as well as many other villain’s, hatred.

It becomes that much more obvious then, as he explains, that peace could be a stand in for a number of things: justice, preservation, etc. The important thing is that their is a metanarrative to stand for or against, rather than what that metanarrative is exactly. What struck me as most interesting while re-watching it is that contrast, that villains are defined not by an ideology per se, but by their opposition to peace. This has become even more true after the last arc, where Shigaraki has not only powered up his quirk, but has undergone a sort of transformation.

This transformation, which occurred during his fight with Re-Destro, had him realize that his vision for society was non-existent, and that he does not need a future because the present is all that matters. What really matters for Shigaraki, symbolized by his evolving quirk, is destruction. This arc not only had some deep ideological implications for the villains, but also characterized them in a way that was both incredibly dramatic and deeply humanizing. Twice’s backstory, in particular, was a testament to the idea that the villains in this series are often a product of environment rather than a representative of some inherent evil.

Meta Liberation

Speaking of not being inherently evil, the meta liberation army was another important part of the season’s narrative. A group that is initially presented as “just another villain group” turns out to be a rather unique allegory for the real world.

The series spends a fair amount of time discussing the era in which having a “quirk,” was not only not normal, but actively despised by the majority. This lead to many people with quirks being attacked by those without. A man named Destro eventually rose up to help those with quirks be allowed to freely use them. The movement ultimately became violent, and was squashed by the government at the time, but many still held onto their beliefs.

It is interesting how this group is cast in the villain role and, again, I think they are treated to some dynamic characterization. Still, despite being fairly sympathetic in their quest to give equality to those with quirks, they are still ultimately thwarted by the League of Villains, who forces them to come together under one umbrella. The final fight between Shigaraki and Re-Destro was somehow fairly slow paced but also incredibly exciting, as the devolution of Shigaraki’s character lent the fight to a build-up of anticipation and stakes.

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Oh Wait, This is About High School Kids

It would not be “My Hero” without the band of dorks that 15-year-old cosplayers love to dress up as (no disrespect though, just really funny that there are so many).

Seeing as how most of the cast was not the major focus of the season, it makes sense they would not get as much screen time. Even so, the initial team matches are a great way to show off the character’s skill development between the previous season and now. Shinsou was a a great highlight in this regard, as his appearance in season two left a lot to be desired. But, his participation in the hero matches and evolution as a hero under Aizawa’s teaching was a great addition to the season.

There is also a lot to be said of Deku, Bakugou, and especially Shouto’s development during the season as well. Finding out that Deku had access to the quirks of all his successors, the first one being “Black Whip” was hype., to say the least. The explosion of that power during the initial team battles felt like a serious awakening in him, with Deku realizing that beating Shigaraki and One for All would mean unlocking all of these powers and controlling them successfully.

The story of Shouto’ s relationship with his father has always been a rather complex one. This has become even more evident over the last season, as Endeavor now feels regret for his actions, but is also unable to connect with Shouto, or the rest of his family, in a serious way. While Shouto seems to be approaching a place of forgiveness, Natsu is not. On top of that, it is hard to imagine that his wife will want anything to do with Endeavor given how he treated her in the past. The initial comparisons of Shouto’s character to Zuko of “Avatar,” while done jokingly, seem fairly apt given his development.

Solid Animation, as Usual

The problem with talking about the animation of “My Hero Academia” is that there is not that much I can say that has not already been said by me or others. While it is not bad, it is also not particularly exciting in any way. The main exception of this is, of course, the beautiful moments of Sakuga that the series is well known for. Though there were not as many in this season as in previous ones, some shout outs do have to have to go out to Iida and Shouto during their match, and to the already discussed Shigaraki and Re-Destro fight.

Conclusion

Though I do not know if it reaches the same heights that season two did for me, season five was certainly a welcome change of pace that introduced a number of new storylines while also developing some previously established ones in a big way. With “My Hero” being the big series that it is, it would be easy for a studio like Bones to cut corners, but luckily they have continued to put their effort into this series and it shows. Those who are at all a fan of the series should continue on to season five.


How do you all feel about “My Hero Academia?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Princess Jellyfish

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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“What…was that?”

“…what?”

“No, but like, what did I just watch?”

“‘Princess Jellyfish,’ dumbass.”

Even after writing this 12 hours removed from finishing the series, I still am not entirely sure how to feel about it. There were so many twists and turns that happened that at first felt like they were only tentatively related, but upon reflection make a lot more sense. There are also a ton of political, economic, and gender elements that further complicate the series. So, with that being said, let us take it one at a time.

What is Gender, Anyway?

I want to start this segment by saying that I am nowhere close to an academic. In fact, I’m not even a sociology major, I am in my third year studying English. So, in no way am I an expert on gender issues. That said, I still think it is worth trying to understand how these concepts affect the story of “Princess Jellyfish,” because they are indeed a major part of the show’s progression.

Tsukimi is an 18-year old biological woman who moves into a sisterhood of sorts to try and make it as an illustrator. Only a few months into having moved there, one night, she sees a Jellyfish in a storefront that is likely to die, and tries to get the attention of the store clerk. After failing to convince him to take care of the Jellyfish, a mysterious woman appears to help, and convinces the clerk to give Tsukimi the sea creature. The two head back to her apartment, with Tsukimi feeling severely uncomfortable with just how stylish this woman is. After the two fall asleep in her room, Tsukimi learns that this woman is Kuranosuke Koibuchi, a biological male and the child of a prominent politician. The latter part of that we will get to later, but, for now, gender.

One of the most prominent ideas in the series is this concept of the more otaku lifestyle of the Amamizukan residents versus the “Stylish.” In other words, there is an opposition between women who fit a more traditional definition of feminine beauty and those who do not. However, it is not just the Tsukimi and the others who are opposed to this idea within the story. Kuranosuke, for as much as his outward appearance reflects this feminine beauty, is still a dude, even if the other women in the apartment are clueless.

Kuranosuke, in this way, is an amazing foil to Tsukimi, because while they may be different in personality, habit, and lifestyle, they are incredibly similar in how gender plays a role in shaping their lives. Both perceive themselves, to one degree or another, as not being adequately feminine for the reasons previously explained. Sure, Kuranosuke does not show it as outwardly, but their feelings for Tsukimi and concept of self still affect their decisions.

Additionally, both of these characters are influenced significantly by the presence and absence of their mothers. For Tsukimi, it was more a general sense of encouragement and home that her mother gave her which made the two close. Whereas, for Kuranosuke, that connection came because of fashion and the absence of their father due to work. After their mothers make an exit, both characters find themselves questioning who they are what it is they want out of the life they have.

Another element of gender which underlies this entire conversation is perception. Even much more so than empirical and objective reality, perception, as well as self-perception, drives how people understand and act in the world. Gender, as social construct, is understood in much the same way. It is a product of perception, behaviors, and associations of those behaviors with a particular biological group. Tsukimi feels inadequately feminine because feminine beauty is associated with wearing lots of makeup and wigs. Kuranosuke feels the same because the other part of this feminine ideal is being a biological women, which he is not. Their relationship serves to validate their experiences by combining each other’s personality in the series’ climax.

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Life’s Hard, But Being Rich Helps

Ha! I bet you thought we were done with the university lecture. Gottem!

Gender is without a doubt an important element in “Princess Jellyfish,” but what is equally as interesting is class and the ways in which these two elements intersect. Even before potentially getting evicted from their homes became a major issue, the story sets up this difference between the women in the apartment and the Koibuchi family. All the women come from pretty modest means, including Chieko, whose mom owns the building they live in. Even the famous mangaka of the group, whose works make a lot of money, is portrayed as always being in her room working on new material.

The second episode sets this up as well. After Kuranosuke leaves, the women go shopping for cheap pot luck ingredients. The episode goes so far as to set up the recurring joke that Banba has the superhuman ability to locate the cheapest food at a grocery store. So, yeah, needless to say the group is not exactly living it up. This serves in direct contrast to Kuranosuke and his family, who are incredibly wealthy due to both their uncle and father being prominent politicians. Because of this, Kuranosuke is able to afford whatever they want whereas Tsukimi is used to dawning normal looking tops and skirts as well as the always comfortable track suit.

In much the same way that gender influences our perceptions and vice-versa, class plays a large part in the human experience. Things that might seem trivial to Kuranosuke, like how much money one spends on food, is much more important to Tsukimi and everyone at the apartment. Thus, they are oblivious to a lot of Tsukimi’s feelings and everyday problems. It also becomes an issue when Kuranosuke suggests buying the apartment building so that Chieko’s mother cannot sell it to the redevelopers. Of course, everyone at Amamizukan laughs at him, but then he continues to bring it up, to the point of being pretty annoying about it.

A great example of this is when Kuranosuke suggests selling Chieko’s doll collection in order to help make money for the effort. They then begin filling bags with the dolls while Chieko panics. It is only after Banba grabs their shoulder that Kuranosuke stops. After that, they have the idea of selling all of Chieko’s parents’ old stuff, which everyone hesitantly goes along with. In both cases, Kuranosuke assumes what is best for the women without really asking how they feel about it, and only sees the situation through the lens of money.

A lot of Tsukimi’s negativity comes from the self-perception that she is not worthy of this ideal of beauty, even despite the fact that she dreams of wearing a white-laced wedding dress which looks like a jellyfish. While it is never said explicitly in the show, it would not feel like a stretch to say that part of this self-perception is also derived from her class status, and that, simultaneously, Kuranosuke’s confidence comes from the fact that they can afford these amazing dresses, wigs, and makeup.

But That Writing, Though?!

Outside of its focus on social issues, “Princess Jellyfish’s” writing is incredibly well done. The series starts out simply enough, and someone who only watched the first episode might find it pretty tame, even for the standard of slice of life. In fact, I had the very same opinion after I finished its first episode. However, where the show shines through in this regard is how, rather than having particular character arcs, it keeps its focus on the relationship between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi, layering their opposition with new problems and focuses.

(For the record, I did read a little bit about the manga, and I am aware the other characters get development, so this comment is solely in regard to what is shown in the anime.)

In this way, the pacing is fantastic. In almost every episode the stakes are raised in some way, whether it be an increased chance that the others find out Kuranosuke is a guy, or the new information that is revealed about each other’s past. Even the relationship between Tsukimi and Shuu, as non-existent as it is, becomes a big plot point. If there were ever a series whose manga I would read in order to find out the rest of what happens, it would be this one.

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Small Things I Enjoyed

I feel like this should be a regular segment in my reviews, because oftentimes there will be things I want to talk about that do not fit into a specific category, which makes me feel like including it would make the review read a bit more like rambling…anyway,

While Clara the Jellyfish does not appear incredibly often, I do love that she was used as part of the commercial break intro and outro. Going from the rising announcement of her name to a group of deep-voiced men saying the word “tequila,” presumably because it was a funny sounding rhyme, in the middle of each episode is legitimately charming. Her narration of the Amamizukan residents’ interactions with the real world not only makes for a good laugh, but it also helps to build her up as the show’s mascot, giving that little extra bit of memorability.

Also, Idk what it is, but between this series and others like “Lovely Complex,” I think I just really vibe with the late 2000’s/early 2010’s shoujo aesthetic. The use of bright pinks, yellows, and oranges is just phenomenal, despite the fact that I am not a particularly big fan of those colors. Actually, now that I am thinking about it, that also explains why I liked the color palate in “Golden Time” a lot as well. I guess what I mean is me small brained and easily impressed. 🙂

Conclusion

Putting the thoughtfulness of this series into words has been hard, and while It is hard to evaluate where exactly this will land among my favorites, it feels likely to end up there. Still, this also ended up being on my longest written reviews. So much of “Princess Jellyfish” speaks to a sense of self-inadequacy that has been with me for a long time. There is a truly validating feeling while watching this show, in the much the same way that “March Comes in Like a Lion” continues to validate me. Honestly, I do not know if I could recommend this enough, but do expect me to return to this series at some point.


How do you all feel about Princess Jellyfish? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Beastars Season 2

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

“Finally…my suffering is over…I can be free again…”

“omg what happened?”

“I watched “Beastars” season 2…”

“Beastars” is a show that continues to exist, and will continue into the future since it has already been confirmed for a third season by Studio Orange. Joy. Now, you as the reader may be asking, “Jack, if you did not like the show that much, why continue to watch it?” Well, unfortunately I like to dabble in a bit of masochism every now and again, and when I saw that the second season would be on Netflix this month, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity.

However, now that the second season is done, so too is the masochism, and now I can get down to brass tacks. Aside from the masochism there is really only one reason I would watch the series again: to talk about how aggressively awful it continues to be.

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The Dub

While I did not talk about it last time, I actually watched both seasons in their English dub. The first season is because at the time I just felt like watching a dubbed anime, and the second season is because I do not like switching languages once I start an anime. Sub versus dub discourse aside, I actually find the English voices to be one of the more tolerable elements of the show.

Almost everyone was cast really well, from the smooth voice of Legoshi, voiced by Jonah Hill, to the rougher, more grizzly voices of both Gouhin and Ritz. Even the nasal tone of Haru works a lot better than it probably should. In all honestly, the only voice that didn’t absolutely blow me away was Lauren Landa playing Juno, and even then she did not do a bad job by any means.

Seriously, What is this Story?

Shameless plug, but for those who have not read my review of season one, I recommend checking that out as well, if you feel like reading the same opinions twice.

I had an argument with someone on that post who basically said that the story makes more sense if I wait for next arc, and so I did. Now, I cannot really be angry, since I was planning on watching the next season when it came out anyway, but I do feel a bit lied to, and by a bit I mean a lot, because this was ABSOLUTELY NOT better than the first season.

Man, where do I begin. I probably should have been taking notes while I was watching cause there are just so many things that do not make sense, and have continued to not make sense. First of all, why does this show insist on introducing things at the beginning of the season only to not touch on them again at all the same season. Like, the anime literally introduces a giant snake security guard that convinces Legoshi to pursue Tem’s killer only to just disappear completely by episode three. Like, ???

Second, if “Beastars” was trying to make some grand social commentary in the first season, it almost completely abandons that idea in the second. Again, the anime is trying to split the difference between “Twilight” and “Zootopia” and thus far as inherited the strengths of neither, basically relying on the viewer to just not think about it to much and buy into all of the carnivorous brooding of its main characters. Speaking of,

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Jesus Christ, These Characters…

Honest question: am I supposed to like any of these people? Do not misunderstand me, of course I want there to be more complex characters, and having defined heroes and villains is not always better for a story, especially one which is relying on the straining relationships of its cast. However, while its important for their to be conflict between characters, at the end of the day, they do need to be at least a little bit likeable, or even just interesting for me to care about them.

Sadly, a pretty large percentage of the cast falls into neither of those categories. I talked about how Legoshi’s entire persona is basically just a fedora wearing nice guy, but like, the others are pretty bad too. Louis comes off as an asshole for most of the series until suddenly he and Legoshi are on good terms? Haru never even really felt like a character to me, probably because the show plays way to hard into Legoshi’s fantasy of protecting thy fair maiden. In fact, the only reason the two have a relationship in the first place is because Haru decided to go down on him as thanks for helping her club.

As much as I wanted to like these characters, (mainly because I have now sunk a collective 10+ hours into this series), I just cannot give them any credit. They feel both underwritten and overwritten at the same time, and because of the anime’s terrible worldbuilding and story, none of them come off as well done characters.

The Music and CG are Still Good, at Least

Apart from the dub, “Beastars” has two other solid qualities: Its soundtrack and its animation. As far as its music goes, the series does a great job supporting its abyssmal writing with some genuinely engaging jazz tracks. From its instrumental pieces produced by Satoru Kosaki, to the talented vocalists who appear scattered throughout, it is a genuinely nice distraction while watching.

Studio Orange also continues their great work in the realm of 3D animation. There is genuinely not a bad looking scene in the entire second season, and the fusion of 2D elements and backgrounds with the largely 3D characters is genuinely impressive. While I still have yet to warm up to the use of 3D in anime as a whole, I certainly have hope for what Studio Orange can do in the future.

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Conclusion

To tell the truth, as a critic, I am relatively easy to please. Just give me an interesting enough premise with a passable execution in the writing, along with some good visuals and ok music, and I will generally be happy. I mean, that is what happened with “Gleipnir” and I will still defend that show as being kind of underrated. “Beastars” cannot even manage that, with its terrible world, sometimes cringe and sometimes boring characters, and ham-fisted attempt at “societal” commentary. There is only so much one person can do pretty up a garbage can.


How do you all feel about “Beastars?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

The Observation Deck: Barakamon

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Ok, I promise I’ll start covering seasonal stuff soon.

A realization that I have had over the last few weeks is that, while I enjoy keeping up with a few seasonal things, trying to cover everything just gets incredibly frustrating, at least in the sense that it is hard to keep up. Every so often, I find myself scrolling through either Crunchyroll or Funimation’s catalog just to see what is there, and I remember there is so much stuff from previous seasons that I never got the chance to watch. Thus, I decided to finally start catching up on some of these older series, starting with “Barakamon.”

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Comedy in Anime Vs Barakamon

A lot of comedy in anime can be boiled down to “comedic misunderstandings,” in which a given character is caught in a situation that, without, or sometimes even with context, looks really bad. While this type of humor is funny on occasion, it feels like it saturates certain shows to the point of being incredibly dull. Luckily, “Barakamon’s” comedy is a bit more original, and more often than not centers itself around the main character’s personality, as well as his lack of understanding of rural Japan.

A good example of this comes in one of the later episodes, as the village leader asks Handa and the older kids to watch the little ones at the beach. The major running gag of the episode is Handa not only having never been to a rockier beach before, but continually running over the rocks and slipping, despite Miwa saying it should only happen once. The episode even ends on Handa running after Naru, who is jumping off the pier, in order to keep her out of danger. However, he himself slips on the rocks and gets knocked out while Naru is fine.

Ultimately, comedy is, to a large extent, subjective. What I find funny is not necessarily going to be the same as what someone else finds funny, and one person’s “boring misunderstanding” could be another’s genius. However, I do think analyzing how a show’s comedy functions within a series is important. Good comedy will make a person laugh, sure, but great comedy will accomplish other things, in addition to making someone laugh.

Handa the Great?

“Barakamon,” while being a comedy series, is also largely about Handa’s development as a person. As the series begins, We come to understand that Handa is a bit entitled. His father was a master calligrapher, and he has been praised for all throughout his life. So, when the director of the calligraphy organization tells him his work is mediocre, Handa feels as though his identity is being attacked. It is actually a very similar arc to the one that Koko goes through in the series “Golden Time,” as she feels like her identity is under attack when Mitsuo, her childhood friend, rejects her romantic advances.

Given the seriousness of assaulting another person, and not understanding the consequences that come with that, Handa’s father forces him to move out of Tokyo and reflect on his actions. Part of me does find it weird that the people of Goto are so quick to welcome him into the community despite knowing what he did, and even let their kids just go freely over to his house. Granted, having a connection to the community through his father probably helps, but initially, at least it feels wrong.

Part of this, at least, comes from another fairly unexplored theme in the anime: Handa’s relationship with his father. Much of this is due to the fact that his “textbook” style of calligraphy is his father’s. However, living among an entirely different group of people helps Handa to re-evaluate not just himself as a person, but also his writing. Handa soon begins creating out of genuine passion rather than a sense of “what is correct calligraphy?”

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A New Family

Instrumental to that previously mentioned development is the new community Handa finds himself around. The calligraphy prodigy also has a bias towards the people of Goto at the beginning, thinking them to be just a bunch of country hicks. However, the kindness they offered him unconditionally quickly changes his attitude. From the whole town helping him move his stuff inside the house, to Hiroshi bringing him home-cooked meals, to the middle school girls always always checking in to make sure he is ok.

Then there is Naru, one of the show’s more recognizable characters. The mischievous first grader is always running around Handa’s house and causing trouble. While it is never directly stated in the anime, it is heavily implied in one of the latter episodes that Naru’s parents are not around. This, combined with Naru taking a liking to Handa while he stays there, turns Handa into something of a father figure for her. It is through Naru, as well as the other small kids, that Handa seems to grow the most, as he comes to realize his own lack of maturity.

Conclusion

There is a lot to appreciate about Barakamon. Its comedy and characters are top notch, and the way it implements both character and thematic development into that comedy creates a wonderfully paced story that is unfortunately without a second season. I have yet to read the manga, but if there were ever a case for picking it up after an anime, it would definitely be for a series like this.


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