Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ballroom e Youkoso 2

Sengoku assigns 2 instructors to teach Fujita the basic dance moves: Karen Banba and Tomochika Jinbo. Sengoku commissions them because as trainees they don't get paid but Fujita proves to be a bad student. Fujita however takes heart when Shizuku wishes him luck.

Meanwhile, it's revealed that Shizuku is competing at the Semi-Finals Amateur Dance Competition and Sengoku announces that he's going to see it. Naturally, Fujita goes too, along with Karen and Jinbo. There, Sengoku gets fawned over by some girls who recognize him as the Latin Dance Champion. Fujita sees Shizuku's dance partner, Kiyoharu Hyodo for the first time and feels intimidated by the boy's aura. It turns out however that Kiyoharu is the same age as Fujita. Kiyoharo and Shizuku wins the Semi-Finals round, but Sengoku is annoyed at how bored Kiyoharu looks after accepting his award.

The next day, Fujita is still reeling from the previous night's exciting competition and mooning over Shizuku when he encounters Kiyoharu, who looks quite different out of costume. Kiyoharu is tehre at Shizuku's behest to give Fujita Kiyoharu's last year's dance pants. The pants however need some hemming. After a demonstration of what Fujita learned over the past week under Karen and Jinbo's tutelage, Sengoku decides to let Fujita observe and follow Kiyoharu's moves. It turns out that Fujita is better at imitating moves than at taking actual dance instructions. He is even able to follow Kiyoharu's excellent footwork and Sengoku wastes no time rubbing this in Kiyoharu's face. Kiyoharu, however, remains unfazed.

In school, Fujita is thrilled to find that Shizuku is waiting for him at the locker room, but she's only there to tell him that they are finished hemming his pants. The two of them go to Kiyoharu's place and along the way Shizuku explains that she and Kiyoharu have been dance partners since they were 5 years old. Shizuku also says that on the night of the semi-final round, Kiyoharu had a fever and yet he still danced at an excellent level. Shizuku reveals her plans to go abroad to train but that Kiyoharu is not interested in that. While Shizuku goes to get the dance pants, Fujita secretly observes Kiyoharu rehearsing. To his surprise, he sees an image of Shizuku dancing with Kiyoharu. Shizuku explains that some dancers are so attuned to their partners that even when they are dancing by themselves, it still seems like they're dancing with their partner. At the studio the next day, Fujita rehearses the basic waltz and Sengoku is surprised to see that he is dancing with Shizuku in mind as his partner.

In this episode, we see some hilarious faces made by the characters. Fujita especially but Kiyoharu got the most laugh from me when he made the "scary yawn" at Fujita.
I'm still enjoying the show. The style can be quite extreme (distorted faces, contorted bodies to the point that they are almost grotesque) but most of the time the images are tame and when it's tame it can be beautiful. Especially the close ups. Long shots are a bit touchy though because you can see how little they pay attention to the character details. Characters and proportion look weird in long shots.
I think it could use a little more movement in the dance sequences but I guess that would take too much from the budget. The production value is quite high already.
Anyway, in this episode, we see Kiyoharu established as the genius. Like if Fujita is Sakuragi then Kiyoharu is Roukawa. I get that vibe between them. Or, if you wanna refer to more recent anime, then Fujita is Naruto and Kiyoharu is Sasuke. I think it's a common trope in anime and always, always, there's the girl in between. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I hope this show does not fall into a box.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Vatican Kiseki Chousokan 2

The scene opens with a man running while a distended voice asks why they have not repented. The man kneels in front of a fiery creature with three heads and three eyes with the symbol 666 and claims "they" are coming back to him. But the creature declares that they will bathed in blood.

Roberto and Josef are testing "Mary's tears" and find that it's only water. They conclude that the "tears" are simply condensation. But when they present their conclusion to Fr. Joseph Conotri, they insist that it is a miracle. In the course of their investigation, the two are introduced to Leon Russell, the layman Head of the Secretariat of Santo Rosario Church. Leon Russel tells them that the recently deceased Fr. Klaus Beck, Fr. Joseph, Leon Russel and his wife lost their parents in World War II. As orphans, they were taken in by Fr. Michael Brown, the church founder. Out of gratitude for the man, the priests have preserved Fr. Michael's room since he died and Fr. Joseph becomes incensed when Roberto suggests looking at Fr. Michael's collection of rare books.

Meanwhile, two students, Mario Lotte and Sebastian Franklin, discuss a classmate, Carlos Diego, who seems to have reacted badly to the strange occurrences in Santo Rosario, including the gruesome murder of Fr. Klaus. It is revealed that the priests have not told the student body the truth about Fr. Klaus' passing. But the students are clearly involved in the satanic symbols found on the floors and hold seances as well. Later that night, Fr. Franceso secretly meets with Sister Dorothea in her room. Soon after, Roberto and Josef are called to an emergency: Fr. Francesco and Sister Dorothea have become the latest victims of the Santo Rosario murderer. At the sight of both bodies, Roberto and Josef figure out that the victims have all been killed in the same manner as the martyrs depicted on Santo Rosario's stained-glass windows.

This latest event leads the priests to gather the students where Mario Lotte makes a spectacle of himself by displaying stigmata. The priests call the police but heavy rains keep them from crossing the bridge to Santo Rosario, forcing them to wait until morning. Meanwhile, Roberto and Josef interview the guard, which leads the two to investigate the room where the first miracle occurred. They find a cross formed by ruins written in blood as well as bloodied footprints, suggesting that the murderer was in the room when Fr. Klaus died. Josef deduces that Fr. Klaus was killed by the murderer pushing the Virgin Mary statue, crushing Fr. Klaus, which also explains the "crying Mary" miracle: the murderer cleaned the murder weapon with the ice cold water from the fountain and returned it to its pedestal. The freezing statue then reacted to the air, thus, creating condensation or "tears." During dinner, the priests discover that Fr. Joseph is absent. They quickly hurry to his room where they find him tied upside down on an X-shaped cross like St. Andrew.

Well, that was not a boring episode. Seems like the show has no qualms about killing off random characters. In this episode alone, 3 people died. Granted, they had no personalities but still. That was almost Game of Thrones-like. I'm still not bought on the show. The mysteries are okay I guess but so. much. talking. The visuals aren't great either. Needs more panache to keep me sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Katsugeki / Touken Ranbu

Two sword warriors, Kane and Kunihiro, are chasing after a fast-moving carriage, guarded by flying wraiths and a sword-wielding warrior. They succeed in killing all of them and retrieve the cargo -- chests full of gold coins. It is then revealed that they are warriors sent from the future by a sage called Saniwa in order to stop the Retrograde Army from changing history.

At that moment, a cat-like figure announces to them their new mission from Saniwa: they are to stop the Retrograde Army from changing the course of history on March 6 during the reign of the 14th Shogun. The two travel to Tokyo and there they are able to narrow down the area where the Retrograde Army will appear and their possible target.

On their first night in the city, they encounter elements of the Retrograde Army. Kane dispatches of his assailants while Kunihiro holds his own against a lone attacker. However, he lets his guard down, prompting Kane to save him in the nick of time. Later that evening, Kunihiro is awakened by fire consuming the city. Kunihiro wants to save the residents but Kane stops him, saying they cannot interfere and risk changing history. However later Kane saves a child who is trapped in the fire.

More members of the Retrograde Army appear, heavily outnumbering Kane and Kunihiro. But Saniwa arrives just in time, bringing with him some reinforcements in the form of additional sword warriors: Tonbokiri, Mutsunokami and Yagen.

Production values look high and the art style is pretty. Kane, especially, has such a pretty design. So apparently, most of the characters are not actual people but swords -- legendary swords from Japan's history. About the only real person in the show so far is Saniwa and he's a mage or summoner.
Anyway, not sure about the villain's target right now. I'm sure it's one of those three guys that the cat character named and our heroes are going to try to stop them.
Will I stick around and watch the other episodes? Not sure. If nothing better comes along, I'll probably blog about this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fate/Aprocrypha 1

The series opens with a monologue. A man with his arms wrapped around a glowing orb, sleeping, when a woman with blonde hair walks up to him and tells him to "wake." The man opens his eyes and it turns out he's a dragon. The scene shifts to a battle scene between a monster army and disciplined human forces with the ability to use magic. The battle becomes that between two swordsmen with magical powers.

In yet another scene shift, the mage Sisigou is summoned to the office of Rocco Belfeban. Rocco wants to hire Sisigou as a master of Red in the Great Holy Grail War orchestrated by Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia, the leader of the Yggdmillenia group who took the Holy Grail during the recent Holy Grail War. The Great Holy Grail War is apparently a battle between the two factions, Red and Black, and requires each faction to have 7 masters -- or 14 masters all in all, each with their own heroic servant. Rocco bestows Sisigou a relic of the Arthurian Round Table in order to allow him to summon a hero from the Arthurian Legend.

Meanwhile, the ruthless Darnic swiftly dispatches of the mages sent by Rocco. He kills all of them except whom he uses to send a message to Rocco. Darnic is revealed to have fused his soul with a baby's in order to retain eternal youth. He is likewise using live humans to power his homunculi experiments. Later, Darnic assembles his masters in order to summon heroic servants.

Rocco informs Sisigou who the other masters of Red are: Jean Rum, Rottweil Berzinsky, Feend vor Sembren, the Pentel brothers and a priest known only as Shirou. After mulling over Rocco's offer, Sisigou takes the relic as well as a jar of preserved snakes from Rocco and agrees to be a master. Sisigou later summons the servant, Mordred, the one true heir of Arturia Pendragon.

Somewhere nearby, a blonde woman prays to God when she suddenly grows quiet -- and then, she reveals her name as Jeanne d'Arc.

I honestly have no idea what's going on. Wtf was that naked dude with the glowing orb doing? Why is he suddenly a dragon? Wtf is the Holy Grail War and Master and Servant? I've no idea. 
The art looks good. The history is convoluted. I don't think this show is for me.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ballroom e Youkoso 1

Tatara Fujita is a junior high student who does not have any plans for the future. One day, after yet another fruitless talk with his adviser regarding his plans after high school, he accidentally overhears a teacher talk with another student, who likewise does not seem to have any plans for the future. On his way home from school, he is accosted by a group of bullies from school but is saved from the encounter by a tall dude on a motorcycle. The dude introduces himself as Kaname Sengoku, a pro competitive dancer who works as an instructor for a newly opened dance studio. At said dance studio, Fujita meets Shizuku, the same student whom he thought was just like him. But she turns out to be a talented amateur competitive dancer.

Sengoku and his female friend, Tamaki, who helps run the studio for him, invite Fujita to attend their dance classes. That evening, Fujita watches some videos of a dance competition which Sengoku won. The sight of all the dancers inspires something in Fujita so that the next day, he impulsively signs up for dance classes. He blurts out that he wants to be a pro just like Sengoku, which piques the man enough to begin teaching him The Box, telling him to keep on it until he tells him to stop. Fujita takes him literally at his word and practices the movement all through the night.

The next day, Shizuku finds him still practicing and tries to partner with him. Fujita, however, becomes too embarrassed and literally wilts in front of her. The resulting commotion wakes Sengoku up, leading to his discovery that Fujita has been there since yesterday, practicing. After telling him to stop, Fujita excitedly wonders if Sengoku is going to teach him another movement.

Well, first off, I think someone from the art and design team of One Piece is on board. The art style is similar. Second, I like it. The subject matter is not unusual but the setting and the background is definitely something new. I know that the trend in anime these days seem to deal with sports with the most recent one being ice skating. I think there's even a gymnastics one this season. I don't know why this is so or whether it has anything to do with the coming Tokyo Olympics. But it's a nice change of pace. 
Fujita is a typical aimless teenager who has a chance encounter which leads to him making unexpected choices. Pretty straightforward plot. There's even the interesting girl who provides a romantic subplot as well as opens the way for the boy to consider another way of life. Not sure about the other characters. Sengoku seems like an atypical mentor figure with his issues. Tamaki is a blank slate as of now. Curious to know what her relationship to Sengoku is. 
All in all, a good start. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vatican Kiseki Chousakan 1

Roberto Nicholas and Hiraga Josef Kou are Vatican Miracle Examiners who are called to investigate a reported miracle at a small church in South America. The miracle consisted of a nun who claims to be having an immaculate conception. However, Roberto and Hiraga's superior also tells them to watch out for a satanic cult that may be forming in the same church.

Roberto and Hiraga travel to South America. There they find out that the church also has an attached dormitory for a boys' school as well as a state-of-the-art hospital. When they go see the nun at the hospital, they are surprised to find that she is manifesting stigmata. Medical examination shows that she is indeed pregnant but doesn't look to have had intercourse. She also seems to believe that she is having immaculate conception, which the church tried to hide at first but she herself wrote that letter to the Vatican.

Later at dinner, Roberto and Hiraga meet the rest of the church's priests and nuns. Something weird is definitely going on as though the church is hiding something. Hiraga examines the church's financial documents and finds out that the church is making far too much money for its size. They also interview the church's security guard who has seen something strange but he keeps silence in the face of the church's Father Klaus Beck. The next day, Roberto and Hiraga find themselves witness to another miracle: The statue of the Virgin Mary is crying.

Seems like a pretty straightforward mystery. I'm not particularly drawn to it but maybe it will get better in later episodes as more are revealed. The art style, which looked good in pictures, doesn't translate too well in animation. A satanic cult behind a seemingly peaceful small but prosperous church. An evil nun. An innocent pregnant one who thinks she's having the immaculate conception. And secretive priests. It all sounds a bit too cliche. And I'm not sold on any single detail. The opening and the ending themes are nothing to write home about. Even the main characters, Roberto Nicholas (who is probably a little gay) and Hiraga Josef Kou are pieces of cardboard. Nothing leaps out. So I don't know if I can bother to watch 2 more episodes.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Anime Rewatch: Denno Coil 1-2

Welcome to Daikoku City, a half-internet, half-shrine city where Yasako and her family has just moved in to live closer to Yasako's grandmother. Almost as soon as they arrive by train, Yasako and her younger sister, Kyoko, encounter a strange black creature that Yasako's pet, Densuke, then chases into a black hole. The hole disappears, along with Densuke!

And so begins our introduction into the strange world of Denno Coil.

First of all, god I forgot how good the opening and ending songs are in this anime. I love how haunting and almost horror-like the intro to Prism is before it transitions to something lighter but nostalgic. The ending theme is just as exquisite and definitely bittersweet now that I know how the series ends.

About a year ago, Pokemon Go took the world by storm. Although we've not quite yet reached the Augmented Reality (AR) world that Daikoku City features, we're so close. This anime shows us the wonderful possibilities of AR, especially for kids for whom the world is a virtual playground in quite the literal sense. But behind all the fun and games also lurk danger.

This show follows the adventures of a group of kids who use AR glasses as they investigate and explore their AR city and in the process find pieces of themselves and what the future brings. It's fun, heartwarming and quite literally hits you in the feels when it does.

I'm re-watching this and will be blogging about it as I do.