Tag Archives: The Observation Deck

The Observation Deck: Spy x Family

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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“huh, I never thought I’d get this far” -Plankton

Well, it has been less than a month, and I have already covered or started covering most of the stuff I wanted to since coming back. On top of that, being four-plus weeks late on seasonal stuff means now is as good a time as any to go through some of the stuff I wasn’t able to talk about in 2022. With that being said, Spy x Family

Yor Forger

The show’s first cour was a lot of fun, and there really was not a ton to complain about outside of Yor feeling a bit less developed as a character than Loid or Anya. On that front…well, actually, Idk. Yor definitely did get some moments in the season’s second half, but it felt like a lot of those moments were connected to Loid or Anya as opposed to the fact that she is an assassin, a fact that feels continually lost outside of some recurring bits or an occasional laugh.

My expectation, maybe wrongfully placed, was that her assassin job would start to come into conflict with the family dynamic, even if only as a minor plot point in an episode or two. However, that simply is not the case, and it makes Yor feel a bit more like a supporting character than one of the main ones. This is not to her screen time is unenjoyable, only that she feels a bit forgotten about.

The Goodest of Boys

Granted, a lot of the reason for Yor’s lack of focus probably has to do with the introduction of Bondman, Anya’s adopted pet whose introduction takes up three episodes. Again, not complaining, since he feels right at home (literally and metaphorically) with the rest of the family.

His ability to predict the future due to the numerous scientific experiments performed on him by the government gives the series an interesting new dynamic, one that even saves Yor’s life due to Anya’s having read his mind. Bondman is also just goofy and funny in a way that adds a lot to the show’s comedic bits.

Romantic Rivalry

One more important introduction during this season is Fiona, another spy from Loid’s agency who also just happens to be madly in love with him. This is so much the case that she attempts to take Yor’s place in the mission to contact Desmond, which fails miserably and hilariously multiple times.

The two also go on a mission towards the end of the season to recover an important piece of art and the whole time she is just fawning over him, barely paying attention to the mission. It was the biggest example of the “does he know” meme but in an anime, which, again, contributed to the comedic elements of the series.

The Climax

Spy x Family ends the season with Loid’s first interaction with Desmond, brought about by Damian’s desire to see him after being stuck in school for the whole year. Of course, the risk of being found out as a spy by a member of the Ostanian government makes the who situation feel as tense as it probably should.

The series spends a lot of time building up Desmond as this monster who cannot be stopped. Thus, when Loid interacts with him in person, there is a sense of who he really is, a stuffy, rich government official who feels as suffocating as the evil he represents.

Conclusion

Most of my feelings about part one carry over here: The show is well-animated with beautiful action scenes, the music still slaps (including the new opening and ending), and the show has a great balance between comedy and serious moments that don’t feel the need to constantly overtake one another. Thus, my comments here are fairly limited. For those who have yet to watch one of the most hyped-up shows of the last few years, give it a chance, because it does live up.

85/100


How do you all feel about Spy x Family? 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

As always, special thanks to Jenn for the support on Patreon.

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: Bocchi the Rock

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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What? you’re telling me they remade K-ON? oh boy, can’t wait to review i- oh, wait, never mind.

Actually, that intro is kind of insulting to Bocchi the Rock, since K-ON is definitely worse in like every way, but I will save that conversation for a Feeding the Flames post (whenever that comes out).

Bocchi was a show that was not at all on my radar until the beginning of this year, and considering the amount of backlog I have from just 2022, I was skeptical about giving it a chance. However, after watching anitwitter go crazy for it week after week, I caved and ultimately gave in to my own curiosity.

For those unaware, Bocchi the Rock is adapted from a four-panel manga of the same name, detailing the adventures of Hitori Gotoh, a high school first year who spent the last three years of her life learning guitar and making solo covers of popular songs in her closet and uploading them to YouTube under the name Guitarhero. Her dream, however, is to overcome her extreme social ineptitude, make friends, and form a band where she can become famous, and it seems as though she might finally get that chance.

Bocchi is…Cool

Any show that focuses heavily on one character is, of course, going to live or die depending on how that character is perceived. It is unlikely that a show like Naruto would be as well-liked by fans if the character was poorly written and hard to root for.

Though I certainly would not call Bocchi poorly written, by any means, she…well, has a pretty abrasively introverted personality. For her, even thinking about archetypical high school summer romances or bonding with friends is enough to send her into a spiral, mostly because she then has to think about how she can’t enjoy any of that.

Granted, none of this is inherently a bad thing. The socially incompetent loner trope is one that anime is all too familiar with, especially given the audience that anime as a medium tends to attract. That said, Bocchi’s character does ride a pretty fine line when it comes to enacting that personality, and sometimes it can be a bit grating.

I do understand that its source material and the format thereof do kind of limit the possible character development since four-panel manga are made for quick witty punchlines. However, given the fact that the anime does set up her desire to grow as a person, having her overreact in literally every situation can get a tad annoying.

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Band Life, Baby!

Luckily, though, the show also has a great supporting cast to balance out the semi-repetitive bits that pop up around Bocchi. This includes Nijika, the band’s drummer and usually the one with her head on straight, as well as Ryou, the bassist who can be generally dubbed the “weird one,” and then Kita, the band’s vocalist and second guitarist whose outgoing, extroverted attitudes often clashes with the other three in admittedly hilarious ways.

There are a number of others as well, all of whom are also generally likable and fun to see on screen, most notable of which are Nijika’s sister Seika, who is the manager and owner of Starry, the club where they often perform, along with Bocchi’s family. A lot of the humor in the show usually derives from one or more of the supporting cast contrasting their relatively normal personalities against Bocchi’s often insane delusions about where her life will be and her relationship with performing

Though this can be somewhat grating as previously mentioned, enough of the bits are focused on other characters so that it does always feel like Bocchi is the center of attention, even though she is supposed to be.

Still, even when the show is not trying to be funny, it does land quite a bit with its more thoughtful and reflective moments. Music is clearly a passion for the characters it affects, and Bocchi’s story of overcoming social anxiety and making friends, when not being played up to the extreme, is genuinely heartwarming. The passion the bandmates share for their work is something that feels real, and it is much appreciated.

Visual Humor

There are two comedy anime in the last year that have actually made me laugh out loud multiple times: Kaguya-sama: Love is War and Bocchi the Rock and the reason why is actually pretty similar between the two. I talked about visual humor a lot over the course of my reviews of Kaguya-sama, and one of the things that made it work, especially in later seasons, is its ability to execute jokes really well, playing up each character’s defining personality traits or central conflicts with visually stimulating elements.

Though, there is definitely a difference in approach stylistically. Whereas Kaguya-sama often opts to play into ideas surrounding high school romance and uses its visual humor to express how characters are feeling about the social ideas, Bocchi leans way more into an absurdist style of humor, with a healthy dose of anime, internet, and musical references mixed in for good measure.

Part of this simply comes from it being a four-panel manga originally. From what I understand, other adaptations like Azumanga Daioh approach their stories with similar humor. However, Bocchi brings its own unique flare, always coming back to the aforementioned absurdism influenced heavily by what would more accurately be described as “gen z” or “chronically online” humor.

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Looks Good, Feels Good

In that regard, the anime also just looks really solid. Cloverworks as a studio has been on the come-up recently (outside of The Promised Neverland season two but we can just ignore that for now). Even so, more of the credit should probably be going towards director Keiichirou Saitou and animation director/character designer Kiyoki Rikuta, because a lot of this show just would not work if it were not for how amazing it looks, especially during its visual gags.

Oh Right, It’s a Music Anime

Somehow I almost forgot to talk about the music in this BAND anime. Whoopsie. The music is…well, a lot better than I expected, especially the songs directly related to the girls as a band. Sonically it sounds like normal J-rock that I would hear turning on any Japanese Spotify playlist. However, I do appreciate the lyrical segments of the songs and how they feel like a combination of everyone’s more eclectic personalities.

The soundtrack was also pretty solid if maybe a little bit more on the unremarkable side. However, I suppose in a way it kind of works, since the show is focusing more on the girls’ early period as a band. So, yeah, not bad.

Conclusion

I actually ended up watching a fair bit more in 2022 than expected, but even so, Bocchi definitely ranks toward my top end. It certainly is not making any grand artistic statements about society or the universe, but what it does have to say in combination with its well-executed humor and only slightly obnoxious main character hits where it needs to. Definitely something worth checking out.

80/100


How did you feel about Bocchi the Rock? Let me know down 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

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon.

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 (Anime)

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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While I did not get to talk about it at all during its run, anyone with even surface-level knowledge of the medium could have told you that 2022 was expected to be the year of Chainsaw Man. Indeed, even other notable manga adaptations like Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer did not drive nearly as much conversation (mostly because of how bad it was but that is a different post entirely).

To be clear, the hype around the series has been there since early 2021, when the manga was starting to pick up steam. Still, in light of, and maybe also because of, the aforementioned disappointment that was Biscuit Hammer, there were some questions about whether Chainsaw Man‘s anime debut would live up to the expectations of die-hard fans. Then again, MAPPA as a studio has been on the relative upswing in terms of what they chose to adapt recently, and even a lesser adaptation could probably be carried by just how fucking awesome the material is.

So, did Tatsuki Fujimoto’s smash hit get the adaptation it deserved? Well…yeah, it feels fair to say it absolutely did. And no, this is not one of those weird twists where I talk about how actually Chainsaw Man is bad therefore a mediocre adaptation would be fitting. No, MAPPA’s approach not only fit the material well but actively innovated and made the series something worth watching rather than just reading.

(Since this is a relatively high-profile series I did try my best to avoid talking about anything manga related, so there shouldn’t be any spoilers for anyone who is only planning on watching the anime).

Good Use of 3D Animation

For a reason I will never be able to fathom, Chainsaw Man‘s first episode was marred in controversy for its use of 3D CGI during its first major fight. Now, if there is one thing that irks me in anime more than anything, it is poorly produced 3D shows and portions thereof. Hell, forget poorly produced, I just am not partial to it period. Therefore, I can understand if people say they do not like 3D in general.

However, people trying to argue that MAPPA’s use of it in the show is somehow particularly egregious have clearly never watched actual bad CGI like EX-Arm. Sure, there were some portions that did not transition as smoothly between 2D and 3D as they could have, and though I did not notice it myself, the claims about frame rate drops are probably true.

Still, even the technical imperfections, I would argue, actually benefit the show artistically. After all, what would transforming into a devil with a chainsaw on their head and arms even entail? What sense of balance and fighting ability comes with that? Though the 3D scenes do ultimately feel sluggish, they seem to unintentionally convey the immediate experience of having that newfound power.

Now, as the series goes on, this becomes less convincing. Denji does learn how to wield his abilities pretty effectively, so safe to say that does not really fit. However, it is also the case, at least for myself, that the 3D elements blend a lot better with the 2D environments as it goes on. By the time they get the hotel arc, I forget there is even a difference in animation, to begin with. Normally I would stick to more thematically related topics, but in a way, the show’s use of 3D is thematically related, as it often helps to create an initial distinction between Denji and the rest of the world. Speaking of…

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Thematic Translation

At the core of Chainsaw Man is really a story about what it means to be human, and also what sorts of dignity and respect should come with that label, but also how easy it is to blur that line when devils with awesome power come into the mix. I say this in case the last section somehow confused anyone into thinking I was some sort of MAPPA fanboy because now is the time where, surprising no one, we talk about the dirty word-

What? No, not boobs: politics.

Chainsaw Man actually had a number of small controversies throughout its seasonal airing, which makes sense given just how unprecedented the anticipation was. One that was maybe worth the outrage was a scene from episode two, where Denji takes a warm bath for the first time in forever. The same scene in the manga shows Denji singing about being in a union and getting benefits, but the anime notably took this part out in favor of some mild humming.

Now, in most cases, stuff like this is not really worth getting boggled down in because it could have very easily been an oversight, a missed conversation between scriptwriters, etc, etc. However, given the studio’s pretty atrocious record with worker’s rights and overworking employees, along with most of the anime industry for that matter, I cannot imagine there not have been at least some mention of this during production.

It would be one thing if the scene did not make sense in the context of the manga so they took it out in order to make the series flow a bit better in an episode format. Yet, that is not what happened. The fulfillment of basic human needs, including economic ones, is what makes Denji’s character so unique. His existence subverts typical shonen/action protagonist motivations of seeking justice, truth, and friendship by laying out the selfish, though ultimately relatable, human desires and having that be enough.

In case this sounds like a reach, a lot of my research for my last semester of undergrad this past fall involved looking at the decline in union coverage among western newspapers and why tonally it became decidedly more negative. At the risk of dumbing it down too much, a not-insignificant part of the equation is that newspapers are, at the end of the day, also businesses (Mostly, assuming we are not talking about the BBC, NPR, etc, that gets a little more complicated). Thus, reporting on unions would inevitably draw attention to their own legal struggles.

This is not to say MAPPA neutered the series completely. A lot of those ideas still shine through in subtext and through various conversations between characters. Still, it does actively hurt the storytelling when the message being shared is averse to the interests of the entity making it.

The Opening

That’s it, that’s the section.

In all seriousness, though, while I do think the soundtrack was handled fairly well, utilizing a lot of distorted noise and heavy guitars to create a fantastic atmosphere, I do not have much to say about it beyond that. Like, yeah, it is a great soundtrack, go listen to it.

However, the opening for the series, as analyzed to death as it is already, does have some of the craziest art direction of any opening in recent memory. It manages to pack in a stupid amount of references, both in and out of series, while also still being enjoyable to watch.

I have enjoyed plenty of j-rock throughout my anime journey, but the song “Kick Back” by Kenshi Yonezu is a banger among bangers. It perfectly encapsulates a lot of the chaotic energy of the show, and then on top of that interpolates the lyrics of a random pop song from the 90s, which translates as “Striving, future, a beautiful star,” which when sung by Yonezu’s distorted vocals not only sounds awesome but alludes to the darker elements of the story left to come.

Conclusion

While I would not call it one of the best adaptations or even necessarily my favorite, the Chainsaw Man anime is still great, at least for now. There are some other changes that I did not explore the implications that also might affect how a manga reader views the series, but as far as being a viewing experience for newcomers, it brings enough unique flare without compromising too much of the work’s original intent to still be worth it.

82/100


What did you think of Chainsaw Man‘s anime adaptation? Let me know down in the comments. Also, if you are someone who did read the manga, I did a review of part one about a year ago when I finished it, so feel free to check that out as well.

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

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon.

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: Odd Taxi

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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I will be honest, after reading Goodbye, Eri earlier this year, there was little doubt in my mind that it would remain the most compelling thing I consumed in 2022. Little did I know, however, that a certain show about an anthropomorphic walrus taxi driver would come into my life and give it a serious run for its money.

Last year’s critical darling Odd Taxi tells the story of Hiroshi Odokawa, a seemingly normal middle-aged taxi driver who spends his days listening to manzai comedy on the radio. Yet, for as much as he likely wishes to live out the rest of his boring days in peace, all of that is swiftly interrupted by his connection to the case of a missing 18-year girl. He soon becomes caught up in a web of crime that involves friends, foes, and passengers alike.

A Story Like No Other

Odd Taxi is the sort of once-in-a-decade show where everything about it lines up perfectly or near-so. It is a story that starts and ends around its central premise: a dude driving a Taxi, but what it does with that time in between is so mind-blowingly brilliant that dissecting it all in full could easily take up a two-hour YouTube essay. Unfortunately, I am not looking to make said video, so I will try my best in a more condensed context.

For starters, Odokawa. Not only is he the conduit through which all of the characters are introduced, but each and every interaction that he has with them is also relevant in some way to the overall plot. This leaves the story and dialogue oozing with attention to detail. A conversation that happened in episode two likely has some bearing on how a person views episode seven, for example.

One might assume then since the focus is often the people he drives around in his taxi that Odokawa’s character suffers because of it, but this is not true. In fact, despite the passive nature of his job, Odokawa often challenges the ideas of his passengers, both as a way of calling out the dumb things that they say, but also as a way of understanding the world around him.

Then, there is everyone else. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is almost irresponsible of me to talk about any individual side character for too long because nearly all of them contribute to the plot in some equally important way.

Among some of the more important ones though are Goriko and Shirakawa, Odokawa’s doctor and nurse respectively, and Dobu, one of the criminals who force Odokawa to help him over the course of the show. The three of them tend to show up most often, especially in the later episodes, and often dictate events in a way that is most relevant to Odokawa himself.

As far as the actual quality of the characters themselves, there is not much to say other than that they are fantastically written. Apart from their functionality in the story, despite being presented as animals, everyone in the story feels like uniquely real, often morally flawed human beings. Furthermore, it is often these flaws that generate conflict, both internally and externally and make each scene that much more compelling.

Two Words: Good Pacing

It is one thing to have a set of compelling and unique characters whose stories have intertwined in a way that makes sense. It is another thing entirely to be able to tell that story in a window of time which makes it feel not too convoluted but also not too slow and neverending. Odd Taxi again pulls off an incredible feat by finding the perfect slight left-of-center pacing.

One example of how it pulls this off is by using its often dense dialogue. I mentioned before how important a two-minute conversation can be in the grand scheme of things, and I was not joking. However, none of this ever feels like it is being pulled out of nowhere. The speed at which plot points move is certainly above average, but not so much so that some of the bigger reveals towards the later third are nonsensical.

There is also a lot of visual delivery when it comes to major elements of the story. Now, that might sound incredibly stupid since I am talking about an anime, but let me explain. Odd Taxi likes to use a good amount of switching between scenes, even when a conversation is ongoing, as a way of making sure to check if the audience is paying attention. Important details are often delivered in the final moments of an episode, making it necessary to watch the screen at all times. Now, for those who are not as accustomed to reading subtitles quickly (i.e. newer anime fans or people who do not watch with subtitles as much) this can create a small barrier to entry, but it is nothing that would ruin the experience entirely.

Simple is Good Sometimes

Those who have seen any trailers for the series may have noticed something about the show’s animation: it is decidedly less complex than a lot of other series. This is not to say that the animation is bad, far from it. There are a ton of stand-out moments where the animation picks up as needed.

What I mean to say, rather, is that a lot of Odd Taxi‘s worldview is reflected in the way it draws its characters. Sure, they are all anthropomorphic humans, but even in their designs, there is a lot of personality. Without going into spoiler territory, Odokawa is again a useful example. Yes, he is most certainly a Walrus, there is no denying that. The plainness of his eyes, the heaviness around his nose and mouth which almost look like a five-o-clock shadow, and his tendency for simple button-ups portray a lot more about his personality than a crazy sakuga moment ever will.

Now, someone could just respond and say “that’s called character design,” and based on what I have said they would be one-hundred percent correct. Still, this simplicity does not just exist within its characters, as it extends to the show’s backgrounds as well. There is significantly less stylization when it comes to the color schemes and a much more gritty reality. Pretty much all of this has to do with Odokawa himself, but again, that would be spoiler territory, and this show is still relatively new.

Conclusion

It was honestly harder to find negative things to say about this series than positive ones. If I were really nitpicking, I would say that the comedy duo could have been involved in the main plot more, or that Yano’s whole rap shtick got kinda old by the end. Really, though, that would just be delaying the fact that this is the best thing I have watched this year, and finding more competition is going to be hard, to say the least. It goes without saying, though I will say it anyway just to be sure, that those who have not watched Odd Taxi should absolutely watch it.

96/100


How do you feel about Odd Taxi? Let me know down 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

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon

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: Goodbye, Eri

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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At times, it can feel as though there is no logic to the world in which we inhabit. There is innate cruelty that taxes our very existence. Sometimes that tax is physically far enough that we can go on mostly unaffected, other times, it happens right in front of our face, maybe even behind the lens of a camera…

I won’t bother giving much of a plot description here since the story in question is only one volume. Honestly, the short and sweet of it is that it has my thorough recommendation, but the long version is going to be entering big spoiler territory, so I will give a warning now. Basically, the story consists of a middle school-aged boy named Yuta who confronts personal tragedy by making films.

Storytelling

Goodbye, Eri is much about narrative as it is about tragedy. In most cases, the audience experiences the world not directly from Yuta’s perspective but filtered through the camera on his phone. Even the first panel in which he is scene comes from the camera recording him during his birthday party. Additionally, Yuta is encouraged both by his mother and later by Eri, to record them, and thus the world of Goodbye, Eri is always one degree removed.

This becomes a factor pretty much immediately, as having all of this footage of his later deceased mother becomes the motivation for his filmmaking. The reason narrative becomes so important is that later on, it is revealed just how horrible Yuta’s mother actually is, constantly degrading him for not capturing her perfectly. Despite this abuse, Yuta decides to make the film anyway, with a twist: Yuta is unable to record his mother’s death despite asking her to, and so the final moments of his film involve him running away, the hospital exploding behind him. This eventually leads to his classmates making fun of him and his principal reprimanding him for the directorial choice.

Eri, though shown to be significantly nicer than Yuta’s mother, ultimately makes the same request, and thus Yuta experiences her most directly through his camera. What’s more, the fact that Eri meets a similar fate to his mother makes the continued filming of Eri emotionally difficult.

What makes Goodbye, Eri so compelling is the way Fujimoto Juxtaposes the need to remember somebody fondly with the power to control their narrative. It would have been just as easy for Yuta to make a film that was honest about his mother’s behavior, and yet the entirety of the opening act is filled with nothing but positive, save for Yuta’s indecisiveness at the end.

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Fantasy vs Reality

The ability to control the narrative as a thematic concept is explored even during moments when the camera turns off. We find out in the final moments of the manga that, much like in Yuta’s hastily thrown together screenplay, Eri is actually a vampire. Despite witnessing her death firsthand, Eri returns without her memory. Except, she writes a letter to herself as a reminder of her identity. The resident filmmaker experiences this during another time of immense personal tragedy, after waking up in the hospital to find out his entire family is dead.

Again the question of perspective throughout the manga invites the questioning of this dynamic in such a brilliant way. Before this moment near the end, Yuta had primarily experienced Eri through a camera lens, and even during the moments when she is off-camera, the two of them are alone. Now, is it necessary to read Eri as completely imaginary on the part of Yuta as a way of coping with his mother’s death? No, but it is a conversation certainly worth having.

After all, the abandoned building where the two spent hours watching films just explodes in the final panel after Yuta decides suicide is not worth it. Even in the most bitter and hopeless moments of his life, he is still in control, whether or not he wants to be.

Panels

I have already talked about how perspective plays a huge role in determining Goodbye, Eri‘s thematic and narrative elements. However, Fujimoto also uses his art to help support this as well.

For starters, his character designs lend nicely to the grittier realities he tends to portray. A manga with this framework would not work nearly as well with lighter, fluffier character designs that tend to support a more relaxed atmosphere, as this story is anything but relaxed. This is not to pass judgment on said art styles, but I somehow doubt this one-shot would have had nearly the same emotional resonance in another artist’s hands.

On top of that, there are many frames that are drawn more roughly, with less line work in order to simulate the effect of blurriness in a camera. While probably not a complicated endeavor from an art standpoint, it does add a lot to the narrative and thematic elements, as it reminds the audience that Yuta is constantly behind a camera rather than viewing things for himself.

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Conclusion

While a story of this nature likely could have worked in a multi-volume setting, the decision to make this a one-shot was a brilliant one, as the brevity of a single volume lends it a power that not many stories in its lane are able to match. If for some reason there are people at the end of this post who have yet to read Goodbye, Eri, 1. I did warn you for spoilers, and 2. read it anyway. Easily one of the best stories to come out this year, and I would not be surprised to see it win a ton of awards.

95/100


Have some thoughts on Fujimoto’s latest work? Let me know down 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

As always, shoutouts to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon.

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 Dress-Up Darling

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Valentine’s Day may be long past at this point, but there is still plenty of love in the air…or, maybe more like pent-up sexual frustration? or, no love? We’ll go with love.

Nerds come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. Some of them like to watch anime, play video games, collect figures, read comics, and…make Japanese Hina dolls? Sure, why not. The story of My Dress-Up Darling focuses on two such nerds, albeit of very different social standing. Gojo is a loner who has literally zero friends, and Marin is the high school hottie who everyone loves and adores. However, after the two have a chance meeting after school, Gojo finds out that Marin wants nothing more than to cosplay her favorite characters. Attracted to her endearing personality (and general good looks), Gojo agrees to help, and so the two begin their cosplay journey.

Is It Horny In Here, or Is It Just Me?

It is not much of a secret that a lot of high school romances in anime tend to be on the…ecchi side of things. Whether one considers that a good or bad thing, that is the reality. This is not to say that is the case for all of them, but a decent portion.

“Yeah, yeah, get to the point!”

…the point is that, I do not mind that much when a character expresses their sexuality openly. In fact, in a lot of contexts, it is more than justified. However, when it comes to a romance show My Dress-Up Darling, some of that should, at the very least, feel earned. Character development should come from more than just how many weird angles a series can shove into one episode, and plot should mean, ya know, plot.

My expectations of this show were pretty low, to begin with, just based on what I had heard about the manga, and for the first two episodes, I was a bit torn. How the series managed to spend an entire episode on measuring Marin’s proportions I will only ever view through the lens of extreme horniness.

Still, what lies past those first two episodes is actually a genuinely entertaining series about

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Cosplay? Cosplay!

Well, mostly. There is of course the blossoming romance between the main characters, but when they are not obsessing over each other there attention is focused on making cosplay for Marin. Given Gojo’s skills in designing dresses for Hina dolls, Cosplay comes pretty naturally to him, and Marin (being a literal model as we come to find out later) wears his cosplay effortlessly.

This dynamic between the two of them is arguably what feels most enjoyable in the series. Marin tells him about one of her favorite characters, Gojo spends hours on research and coming up with a near perfect design, and then the two of them geek out over it when he finishes it. Of course there is a little more to it then that, but overall it feels incredibly wholesome and fun.

While dynamic female characters are definitely becoming more prominent in the medium, and despite my introduction focusing on the more pronounced sexual elements, it is worth noting that most of the show cast Marin in a light which hones in on her enjoyment of Cosplay. The romance, meanwhile, develops as a result of this, as opposed to be assumed from the beginning.

Pretty Colors!

Being the big, dumb stupid idiot who is easily impressed/entertained, I appreciate the shift towards brighter color palettes. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with drearier color schemes. it of course makes sense that this will changed depending on the tone and subject matter of the series attached to it. I guess what I really mean to say is that it is nice to see a shift in color to match the happier, more popcorn-y direction of slice of life/romance type shows.

With My Dress-Up Darling, in particular, the pinks and oranges stand out in a way that feels really pleasant to look at, especially against the background of Gojo’s house and the various cosplay locations they visit throughout the show. It reminds me a lot of Lovely Complex, in this way, which is certainly not a complaint.

Conclusion

I could speak more about the various problematic elements of the show, but honestly, for a series that is otherwise fairly light-hearted and enjoyable, it feels like wasted breath. It is not a masterpiece by any means, but it is, at the end of the day, fun. I cannot say this is going to be a series that everyone enjoys, but certainly a lot of people will.

68/100


How did you feel about My Dress-Up Darling? 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

As always, thanks to our patron Jenn for being amazing.

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

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: 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

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: 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

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