Drifters – 04
I normally don’t take longer than four episodes to make up my mind about a series, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet with Drifters. The things I like about it are so evenly balanced with those I don’t that right now there’s just not much between them.
There’s a definite appeal in effectively taking Tolkien’s mythology (in broad terms) and using it as a canvas for military fantasy, and Drifters does a good job of it – it’s not surprising it’s on-track to be one of the season’s commercial successes. The best thing about the show for me is Oda Nobunaga – in fact, while we’ve seen seemingly countless iterations of this character in recent anime, Drifters‘ might just be my favorite. I’m skeptical that the real Oda would ever do what this one did – cede the face of power to Toyohisa in order to meddle from the shadows – and the explanation of using Toyohisa as a proxy for his dead son doesn’t really hold up. But it makes for an interesting character dynamic anyway.
My issues with Drifters are threefold, the first and simplest being that the humor rarely works and consistently breaks the mood. There’s also the fact that despite being a manga, there is that feeling of a fantasy world, otaku wish-fulfilment light novel here. And lastly, there’s an unsettling nationalist streak to the writing that I see in a lot of LN adaptations. From deifying WW II pilots to the paternalistic scenario of Japanese military lions taking command of very European-looking cowed peasants who can’t think or fight for themselves to the romanticisation of Bushido, Drifters has that telltale smell to it. I get the appeal of Bushido and why it’s so elemental to the Japanese national identity, but there’s a reason it’s a relic of another time in history. Glorifying Bushido as a modern model leads to the rise of men like Tojo and Mishima Yukio – and Abe Shinzo…
12-sai.: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki 2nd Season – 01
A first impressions post and we’re almost in November? 12-sai started on-time, but we just got our first sub this week from the venerable Doremi (which is one of the oldest and best fansub groups in existence, responsible for bringing a ton of otherwise-ignored gems to Western audiences in the days before streaming). As with the first cour I likely won’t blog it regularly, but I thought 12-sai deserved a check-in.
The equation with this show is pretty simple – when it focuses on the B couple of Hiayama and Aoi, it’s almost immeasurably better than when it focuses on the theoretical (and boring) main pair. In fact if Takao and Ayase didn’t exist, I suspect 12-sai would be one of the better pre-teen romcoms out there – that’s how much better Hiyama and Aoi are as characters. So in that light a first episode focused almost entirely on them is an encouraging sign, and it was probably the best episode of either season.
The topics here were many – principally bras, zits and kisses. The latter two were intertwined, as Aoi develops her first pimple and because of reasons, this leads to her involuntarily “kissing” Hiyama. Their interaction is pleasingly realistic – painful in a good way – and their agonizing progress very authentic for a couple of 12 year-olds. The random factor this season seems to be Inaba (played by the perpetually oily-voiced Tachibana Shinnosuke), a cram school classmate of Aoi. he’s a playboy who takes a special interest in her, to the point where he decides he’s going to take her away from Hinata. Don’t stand for that, Kazuma-kun – fight-O!
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 04
As with Drifters I’m still sort of on the fence with Watamodou (I seem to have failed spectacularly in popularizing that abbreviation, but I refuse to call this series Watamote), but I think I’m more likely to stick with it at this point. One can grind on the messages the show might be sending and such, but in the end it’s just fun. And funny. And in terms of otaku comedies, it’s one of the more true-to-life in its satire.
A rite of passage for any otaku-themed series is of course Comiket – so much so that it’s because a cliche in its own right – but again, Watamodou does a nice job of capturing what the experience actually feels like. I’ve never seen it fall on Christmas Eve (I don’t even think it happens – I’ve seen Comiket moved to midweek to avoid New Year’s, and it generally falls after Christmas) but apart from that this is all spot-on. The packed stations, platforms and trains, the ridiculous 7 AM lines at Big Sight, the obsessive maps marking the location of every targeted circle – it’s all there. Since I never had a shopping list I was able to avoid the worst of the crowds and never worried about waiting in line (if you arrive at Noon you can waltz right in) but I can attest that Watamodou got this right too – I always left the experience utterly exhausted.
A new wrinkle in the fabric of the story is Nishina Shima (Sawashiro Miyuki) who turns up at Comiket in Sebastian cosplay (unlike Kae, I immediately knew she was a girl) to rescue Kae from an unscrupulous photographer (they take that shit very seriously at Comiket). Nishina is loaded, physically gifted and good at seemingly everything. She’s a fujoshi like Kae, but also apparently into girls – at least if her not-at-all sisterly kiss is evidence. The scene where she invites Kae and the boys over to use them as models is very funny in a quite creepy way (the poor lambs are clueless, especially Mutsumi) but her main role in the story seems to be as a major love rival for Kae’s affections. That’s certainly an interesting twist in a BL satire, taking us somewhere out where the buses don’t run, and Sawashiro and Kobayashi are clearly having great fun riffing off each other, so I see a lot of comic potential down this track.