Weekly Digest 10/19/16 II – Sangatsu no Lion, Girlish Number, Shuumatsu no Izetta

Sangatsu no Lion – 02

Sometimes it’s best to just cut your losses and walk away, and that’s where I am with Sangatsu no Lion.  I have too much affection for the manga to be able to cope with what Shaft has done to it.  It’s just so wrong on every level – as usual, this is a studio that has only trickery and sound and fury signifying nothing to try and cover up their inability to convey real emotion and deliver quality art and animation.  It’s a shame, but if this is what Umino-sensei wanted (I’m not convinced of that, personally) I hope she at least is happy with it.

 

Girlish Number – 02

Girlish Number asks some very interesting though not necessarily comfortable questions of the audience.  The balancing act it’s trying to pull off here is by no means an easy one, but it’s kind of fascinating to watch it try and do so.

I’m probably not going too far out on a limb by suggesting that I’m someone who’s been fairly critical of some of the directions the anime industry is headed, so it’s fair to say I’m a pretty receptive audience for what Girlish Number is selling.  But I wonder – while a bunch of annoying people making an awful anime marks a reasonably timely satire of the industry, is it something an audience will actually enjoy watching?  For this audience member anyway, the jury is still out.

I can say this much – I haven’t found anyone in the cast I like yet, and some of them (like “Kuzu-P”) are truly awful.  In effect, if Shirobako romanticized anime production Girlish Number is anti-romanticizing it – making it that much more craven and driven by incompetence for effect.  What seems to be happening is a major trainwreck – three newbie seiyuu being dragged along on their star debut without a clue as to what they’re doing, as their star vehicle seems headed towards a fiery conflagration.  The author is unhappy, the schedule is behind before the first episode even starts production, and the source material is hideous to begin with.  What could possibly go wrong?

I do like the interplay between the newbie seiyuu (is Kotou faking that Kansai accent for professional gain?) and the veterans, and the matter-of-fact acknowledgement of the silliness of this exercise – stuff like actors going out to pimp a series they haven’t recorded a line for yet.  And let’s be honest – most of the creative staff for series like the one being depicted here can’t possibly take it seriously – they know it’s crap, but they’re just trying to hang on in an industry that isn’t what they thought it was when they were dreaming of joining it.  That’s a morbidly fascinating thing to watch – but is it entertainment?

 

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 03

That was a pretty amazing episode for about 15 minutes.  Then it turned into an anime…

There’s a lot to be said for Shuumatsu no Izetta.  It’s pretty rare for anime to depict the grit and gore of war as methodically as this show does.  And it’s even more rare for a series to make no attempt whatsoever to blur the divides of World War II – to re-cast it as a general tragedy with victims on all sides or an ideologically neutered chess match between dispassionate chessmasters on both sides.  Shuumatsu no Izetta makes no effort to hide what it’s truly depicting, and who the evil ones are in this scenario.

Frankly, I think the weakest part of this series is all the stuff surrounding Izetta, because every time the focus turns to her the anime conventions start pouring out and obscuring what makes the show distinctive.  Fine’ is about as generic as they come, too, though at least she’s allowed to maintain her dignity most of the time.  Really – would it be so hard for Izetta to just be wearing a conventional military uniform?

On balance I really do like Shuumatsu no Izetta, and I might keep blogging it for a while at least.  But the show is just good enough to strike a raw nerve with me, because the need for series to fall back on tired tropes is incredibly frustrating,  The pure, messianic blonde princess who the filthy men in the trenches and the bland officers (except the one hunky young one) revere as a spiritual waifu?  Check.  The hotpants slightly-underage redhead dojikko magical girl?  Check.  I wish we could have more series like the one Shuumatsu no Izetta was in the A-Part this week, but that’s not the path of least resistance.  Sometimes I think it would be less painful if shows like this one didn’t even get my hopes up…

 

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8 comments

  1. I liked Izetta for what it is, but I have no illusions on WHAT it is – dumb, if competent, anime entertainment fare that’s as typical as they get. This is not Hemingway’s brand of war story, it’s Gundam’s, or Code Geass’. So as far as being a show goes, it was fun. Even so the ass shot pictured above was REALLY out of place – FFS, anime, you’re doing an epic witch-vs-tanks scene, keep it together, don’t ruin the tone like that. I mean, it was ridiculous much more than it was sexy (I don’t even know if it was SUPPOSED to be) but seriously, it just broke the mood XD.

  2. Z

    The “comedy” parts of Sangatsu no Lion really aren’t working for me (and if that was all it was I would be dumping the series as well), but even with the shaftisms, I thought the second half, the contemplative half, was worth watching. So, I’ll stick it out a little longer. As you say though, this certainly isn’t the season I thought it would be when I put it on paper. I would have laughed if someone told me I would be enjoying Bungo Stray Dogs 2 more than Sangatsu no Lion.

  3. I didn’t even expect to watch Yuri!!! On Ice. Right now it’s one of my most anticipated appointments. And Girlish Number, another favourite, was completely off the radar for me. I suppose the only show that really matched my expectations was The Great Passage, which promises to be indeed quite a treat.

  4. s

    Im with you on the A part of izetta (which is why i completely understood passerby’s dismay with the proceedings of the episode even if he did enjoy the overall package like i did) in that i thought it was awesome. For a second, i got taken back to the opening scene of Grave of the fireflies. Towards the last 3rd of the ep however, my feelings changed up a bit and while i was still okay with it (i mean the show is called izetta the last witch staring a moe-eyed red head so i knew what i was getting into) i would be remiss to say that i didnt feel a dip in quality tonally; not to a drastic degree as the tropes werent intrusive enough (or abundant enough) to take away from the emotional core of the story but tonally, something was lost and that slightly dampened my opinion of the overall ep. The action may have built up to a crescendo, which works narratively to raise the stakes and get the viewer’s blood pumping, but my blood was already pumping with the grit of the earlier parts of the episode that by the time that scene rolled around i was like “cool……..but i liked what i was seeing before..i guess it’s alright; it’s not harmful to the show overall”.

    I dont think it was necessarily a mistake by any means for the shift in action presentation to go the route it did, but as passerby said, it cones down to what one may have wanted from this series. The anachronism izetta represents in this period of time; the “anime-isms” contrasting with some of the down to earth directing are to a certain degree intentional in order to set a particular type of tone for this fantastical narrative and it works for a lot of people and to an extent, the narrative itself. It works for me for the most part because the series has continued to prove how functional it is, but it does prevent me from seeing it as any more than that; functional.

  5. The first five minutes of the latest Sangatsu my be some of the worst direction I’ve seen in ages. The backgrounds and sparkles all look cheap as hell, i don’t get what everyone is raving about…

  6. Everyone isn’t…

  7. Is there even any commotion on the Japanese side? Everywhere else I see is raving about it.

  8. R

    Ugh, the first part of Izetta was good enough that I’m honestly looking forwards to seeing where the actual war part of the story goes from here. Fine is a trope as well, but she’s the type that I can appreciate if it’s meant to move the story forwards. I actually quite liked her discussion with the British leader during the first episode and that’s the sort of role her archetype excels in I think. I’m less interested in the saint on the battlefield trope but it can also serve good narrative purposes.

    Izetta’s archetype on the other hand isn’t one I like as much, but it’s also not bad in of itself. It’s the way she doubles as fanservice in a relatively serious battle scene that actually break immersion. Just her personality type on its own isn’t super interesting, but it’s also nothing egregious and totally serviceable and enjoyable if used correctly. It’s mainly just when different tones clash. Like, even if it’s just moe-witch vs tank that’s still potentially a fun romp but I’m here to see a witch blow up tanks alright. At least save the fanservice for a fanservice break episode where it doesn’t break suspension of belief. I’m actually not opposed to fanservice in the right tone and setting.

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