Weekly Digest 5/4/15 – Owari no Seraph, Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki, Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works

Owari no Seraph - 05 -12 Sidonia 2  - 04 -17-15 Fate UBW - 17 -9

Look out – it’s got a gun!

Owari no Seraph – 05

Owari no Seraph - 05 -1 Owari no Seraph - 05 -2 Owari no Seraph - 05 -3
Owari no Seraph - 05 -4 Owari no Seraph - 05 -5 Owari no Seraph - 05 -6
Owari no Seraph - 05 -7 Owari no Seraph - 05 -8 Owari no Seraph - 05 -9
Owari no Seraph - 05 -10 Owari no Seraph - 05 -11 Owari no Seraph - 05 -13
Owari no Seraph - 05 -14 Owari no Seraph - 05 -15 Owari no Seraph - 05 -16

There are some strikes against this series that would normally be large enough to be insurmountable, but I’m going to give it yet one more episode.  Why?  Two reasons, the first being that it looks as if it’s finally going to make the major shift I’ve been waiting for next week.  And second, there are aspects of it I still really like – mainly the art direction and the general premise.

Still, those strikes…  I mean, everything in the school setting is just so utterly hackneyed and cliched.  I’ve also come to realize that I really don’t like any of the major characters here.  Some of them are outright A-holes like Guren and Shinoa, some of them are just annoying tropes, and some are bland – but there’s really no one I can point to as one that really stands out as a winner.

Given all that things would normally be pretty hopeless, but somehow I’m still interested.  I like the scenes in the vampire stronghold, which fully realize the potential of the set design and backgrounds and lack the mass-produced quality of the rest of the series.  The idea that it’s not so clear whose vision of the world is actually the more abhorrent is also an interesting one – who are the bad guys here, in the end?  So I’m giving Owari no Seraph one more week to convince me.

Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki – 04

Sidonia 2  - 04 -1-1 Sidonia 2  - 04 -2-2 Sidonia 2  - 04 -3-3
Sidonia 2  - 04 -4-4 Sidonia 2  - 04 -5-5 Sidonia 2  - 04 -6-6
Sidonia 2  - 04 -8-7 Sidonia 2  - 04 -9-8 Sidonia 2  - 04 -10-9
Sidonia 2  - 04 -11-10 Sidonia 2  - 04 -12-11 Sidonia 2  - 04 -13-12
Sidonia 2  - 04 -15-13 Sidonia 2  - 04 -16-14 Sidonia 2  - 04 -18-16

Sidonia no Kishi is an absurdly easy series to predict, really.  If you know an episode is going to be focused on tactics and big, splashy battle animation, it’s pretty much a lock that it’s going to be great.  And this was a great episode.

While I do admit there’s a certain repetitiveness to the combat in Sidonia in the broad sense – a new Gauna shows up with some new modification, the Gardes intercept it, lots of people scream, lots of quick-cuts to panicked faces in the control room, Tanikaze does something baka-heroic – the fact is, these scenes work from a dramatic perspective.  And there are enough tweaks in the specifics to make the battle sequences consistently interesting.  And even if there are too many logical holes that never get explained (just how exactly did Tanikaze survive being at the epicentre of that *** megaton explosion?) the dramatic tension in the series is never higher than at these climactic moments.

There were several interesting twists this time around, in a battle with a Gauna (G550, if you’re keeping score) that’s taken on the form of the Lem colony ship (implications?).  First, the chimera goes crazy in battle and refuses to follow orders?  Least surprising development ever, but still fun.  Izana being in trouble is the only thing that snaps Tsumugi back to reality.  Unfortunately getting into trouble and needing rescue is really the only function Izana-kun seems to serve in these set pieces, but it does add a real sense of consequence and emotional heft.

The real winner here, though, was the Gauna having a Higgs cannon hidden inside itself.  That was awesome – a real game-changer and loaded with dramatic potential.  First we get Tsumugi saving Sidnoia by using herself (and the crippled Izana) to deflect the first shot.  Then Nagate launches himself on a suicide run to take out the cannon, which actually doesn’t make much more sense (or get more explanation) than the part about his surviving the subsequent explosion – but it’s great theater anyway.  I do think there’s an awful lot about these Sidonia missions that can be logically picked apart, and generally speaking they’re a chaos of rogue elements ignoring orders that could never work in a real combat scenario.  But they sure are fun to watch.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 17

Fate UBW - 17 -1 Fate UBW - 17 -2 Fate UBW - 17 -3
Fate UBW - 17 -4 Fate UBW - 17 -5 Fate UBW - 17 -6
Fate UBW - 17 -7 Fate UBW - 17 -8 Fate UBW - 17 -10
Fate UBW - 17 -11 Fate UBW - 17 -12 Fate UBW - 17 -13
Fate UBW - 17 -14 Fate UBW - 17 -15 Fate UBW - 17 -16
Fate UBW - 17 -17 Fate UBW - 17 -18 Fate UBW - 17 -19

Of course, if there’s another series out there that’s as easy to predict as Sidonia no Kishi it would have to be UBW.  Eliminate the fluff and you generally have something quite rewarding, and this all-essentials episode was probably the best of the second cour so far.

Funnily enough I found myself rooting for Kuzuki and Caster this week – though I suppose it’s not so funny, as they’ve become two of the more interesting characters of the second cour.  I think Kuzuki is a classic example of why the way ufotable is treating this adaptation is flawed, because so much of his character is left a blank – yet he manages to be really interesting even so.  As he and Caster were taking on Archie and Veronica, Lancer and Archer were progressing in their blood match outside.  Except, of course, this was more of a dance than a true fight – for reasons that would become clear as the episode progressed.

As I said in the Spring Check-in post, I find Unlimited Blade Works to be an incredibly frustrating show.  Not just because it’s capable of episodes like this one and rarely delivers them, but because it refuses to commit to being a series that can be fully appreciated on its own terms. On principle, I refuse to accept the premise that an anime based on a non-anime source material (i.e. a manga/VN/LN /novel adaptation as opposed to a sequel) should require a detailed knowledge of that source material in order to really appreciate it.  I just think a studio should try harder than that – I don’t like the notion of anime as a private club.  Make a series that stands under its own power or don’t bloody well make it at all.  Even as flawed as it was – and in most senses this version is the better series – at least the Deen F/s n entry tried harder to do that.

So in that light, make of this episode what you will.  Take the giant hints it gives you about what’s really going on here, or don’t.  I will say that at least this ep, as the best UBW eps are, was solidly entertaining in its own right.  It’s sort of unsatisfying that Rin’s “plan” only worked because of a deus ex Archer, but apart from that the fights were excellent and the subtext was interesting.  We’ll see now how the series can hold up with one of its best characters out of the picture.



  1. d

    Actually the problem would be more with DEEN adapting in such a sub-par way the introductory route. They had it easier to make it more accessible for that alone too. Ufotable is definitely trying at it though, but it can't be done perfectly due to that.

    Well, this is the farewell to Kuzuki and Caster. I always liked them, in some way they thematically represent pretty well what the Fate series is about. In one side you have a directionless and depersonalized man without a wish that found some kind of objective that stirred the humanity inside him, and in the other you have a woman who was used and betrayed her whole life by other people so she tried to fight in for her own sake using all kind of means, but at the end she already had what she was looking for in her Master. So Caster appreciated Kuzuki and Kuzuki found something in Caster, the pair were broken people healing each other, and the result was a tragedy.

  2. G

    I actually felt sorry for Caster. I know she did many bad things and could be very arrogant but still her character was tragic. I'm sorry to see her go.

  3. S

    I've been thinking: maybe the only way to properly adapt a Visual Novel with multiple routes would be to do ALL the routes, at the same time, interwined, with stylistic cues to make clear what is what (art style, color scheme), á la "Sliding Doors" (or in anime terms, "Baccano" comes to mind for parallel stories). Incredibly difficult to do properly, but perhaps the only compromise between adaptation and stand-alone work necessities. Though it's hard to think such a gimmick could be properly pulled off more than once.

  4. I think, just as an example, Kanon and Little Busters were both adapted well using primarily one route. So was Mashifony. There were elements of the other routes incorporated, but not an attempt to literally combine them all. So I do think it can be done.

  5. d

    The problem is that Fate/stay night is written taking the three routes as a whole one after each other and play a lot on that on things that actually develop through all them until the very final climax. So doing that you will be just butchering it. Ufotable approach would be probably end being for the better at the end when the whole thing is adapted…

    Even if that means that the first route will be always doomed with that Deen adaptation.

  6. D

    The problem with that approach though is always the same one, telling people to watch all three anime adaptions. It's not the medium for that, and no one's gonna see the point except for people who read the VN. Fate/sn should have never been an anime in the first place.

  7. d

    If you have Fate in the title it will sell as it was already shown, so it doesn't really matter at the end.

  8. ¥es, exactl¥. As long as ¥ou don't care about artistic intrgrit¥, there's no reason not to keep churning anime out.

  9. C

    I mean, if they want to give the experience as close at posible to the original that is their choice, and at the end if they adapt everything it doesn't really matter. It doesn't even seem that anime only watchers are being that alineated as most of them are actually liking it so they just have to adapt until the end.

    And at the end, ufotable is doing it this way because they actually care about the original story and don't want to butcher it.

  10. D

    At what cost though when the original message is stripped away as the newbies to Fate only watch one series?

  11. S

    I was literally talking about a "parallel stories" approach though. As in, when you get to a divergence point, you see what would have happened if the MC chose one thing, and THEN also what if he chose a different one, and from then on the story branches out as if telling two parallel plot lines. Very experimental but I think it would have been interesting to see.

  12. d

    Are you really sure they will just watch one series? That was the point, it got popular enough so they will watch everything with Fate on it, so ufotable just have to adapt more. Maybe it's a no-win situation, but probably the best way to handle it at the end of the day.

  13. G

    ¥es, exactl¥. As long as ¥ou don't care about artistic intrgrit¥, there's no reason not to keep churning anime out.

    I still enjoy the Fate/Stay series as does most of the anime world. IMHO I think you can be too critical of the series, but thats just my opinion.

  14. S

    It's not bad per se, I think the problem with it is just that it takes itself too seriously. Without the pretentiousness (of both the writing and some of the fandom) it would be as perfect a shonen anime setup as you can get. It's a pretext to have historical and mythological dream matches, and as such it has the potential to be absolutely glorious. That gloriousness does shine through at times (pretty much every time Gil is on screen for me), it's just that it's often affected by ill conceived attempts to get us to actually care about the characters or take away some supposedly deep philosophical lesson from them. It doesn't work much, personally. It partially did in F/Z because Urobuchi is a better writer than Nasu. Here the only point is that Shirou has a terminal case of pathological selflessness, and that would have been driven home better had he just exploded in a cloud of bloody giblets one of the hundred times he put himself in harm's way for no fuckin' logical reason.

  15. R

    I think the problem here is that this current series is not really trying to make it's story distinct. What's the thing that makes the UBW storyline unique from the Fate and Heaven's Feel routes (aside from Shirou and Rin becoming a couple)? No one but the avid VN readers know, simply because the anime series never attempts to make that distinction clear and simply goes from one plot point to another as they happen in the game.

  16. G

    I get a different take on Sidonia and it's battles . I always thought of Sidonia more as a ship at sea than space . The Railgun rifles reminded me more of earlier warfare like The Revolution or Civil war. Than like WW II aircraft peeling off and attacling the Gauna Main Body!And yes like Indians surrounding a fort or wagon train. You can also say Nagate was a Kamizake Pilot launching his booster pack! Then we are in the Future with Tsugumi and her insane abilties. BTW Izana is still green .She's in trouble because she tries to rescue people not because of incomptence. But that sets her up nicely! So I like the battles how they happen . The Gardes have to work hard to win!

    I think you are used to to cruise missles / drones in aerial warfare nowadays! Sidonia has actual dogfights ( so does other animes) > You ever watch WW II or Vietnam footage reminds me of how Sidonia looks!

  17. C

    I hated this week's UBW for the fact that Caster's and Sensei's deaths had very little impact. It was like they got hit, dead. It needed a lore more emotional oomph, a more dramatic death. Otherwise it seemed like the deaths of two filler villains.

  18. R

    Isn't that pretty much the issue with all the character deaths in UBW so far? the series pretty much forgets character building for anyone not named Shirou, Rin, or Archer and simply kills them off as a matter of adhering to the plot of the VN. Caster was a little better in that she at least get a bit of character exploration earlier, but her death was also pretty much a meh.

  19. E

    I highly doubt Seraph will make the shift next week, it might become slightly darker but those demon possessing fights are stuff we've seen before. Am currently watching mainly for the art direction and such, even during the school fights the series looks different enough its a breath of fresh air, and something about the premise is still pretty old school and interesting.

    Sidonia and FSN have similar problems and fit each other like a T in this digest post, but I do feel that Sidonia has a slight edge in the execution of its fight scenes. Those unpredictable elements playing out one after another are just epic to watch.

  20. e

    Rin's plan failed because Shiro can't keep Kuzuki occupied long enough / she can't defeat Caster fast enough.

    Sidonia's logic fail not only lies on how Tanizake survived that outer space wide scale explosion, but also how his propeller can navigate through the tentacle cavern, lol. Also that propeller should be really miniscule in size compared the Gauna's hyper weapon. How it achieve anything even if it managed to make it way into there?

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