Tag Archives: Anime

Some Thoughts On: March Comes In Like A Lion (2016) Season 1

On March 25, 2018 I completed the first season of an anime called March Comes In Like A Lion (3-gatsu no Lion), and it was a slough of an anime to get through. As usual, these entries are simply scattershot thoughts on a anime series I completed. They shouldn’t be treated as a review, even if I do give the anime a rating at the end of these blogs. I should fix that, but future me shall worry about that.

In short, March Comes In Like A Lion is a about a professional shogi player named Rei Kiriyama working out life issues…for the first half that is. Eventually turning into something else in the second half that is just as equally mixed in results, but minus as many jarring tonal shifts. As a drama, when the anime decides to be one, it can be rather good at points. My favorite moments in the anime are easily the more human moments in the series. Simple scenes like Rei crying in front a kindergartner when attending to her wound while simplistic gets along across a lot proficiently. Granted that moment got spoiled when a character explains it, but it’s a moment I consider a good example of its drama.

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This post ended up longer than expected, so some random gifs to liven up the wall of text.

Another one of my favorite moment includes when Rei sister goes over to his apartment for the second time, and have a discussion about love. Followed by a great analogy how the tension in the room makes Rei feels like he’s sinking deeper into the bottom of the ocean together with his sister. Moments like these where the drama is allowed to be absorbed, and not be ruined by the over the top comedy are what I felt March Comes In Like A Lion should have attempted to capture more off. During these moments, I found myself engaged, and invested by what the characters were going through in their life. By the way it depicted, and developed the characters, the anime mostly didn’t feel overbearing into making me feel a certain emotion. Characters acted over the top, but never bordered in making any of them comedic relief. Clearly doing its best in providing all the characters a fair depiction while never overlooking their less favorable aspects. Heck, even the series most dislikable character, Masamune Gotou, isn’t made out to be a typical evil adult that anime typically makes for teenage led anime series.

My favorite character of the anime, as far as season 1 is concerned, is Rei’s teacher Takashi Hayashida. He felt the most balanced character in the anime never hurting the tone, and when the character was used for comedic effect it worked all the time. Takashi is presented as a goofball teacher who cares for Rei’s well being. So whenever he’s on screen he isn’t hurting the narrative in any form. Even when a scene with Takashi is strictly use for comedic purposes it usually involves him helping Rei with school related activities, or giving him life advice. Unlike the rest of the characters, Takashi doesn’t hide any of his issues behind his profession. Being a blunt character in the best possible way.

The other character I liked a lot, even though she could be a bitch, is Kyouko Kouda (Rei’s sister). Whenever it delved into her past, understanding why she acts negatively towards Rei while not excused comes off as reasonable from the way it’s written. It’s a complex past, along with the complex way Rei, and Kyouko feel about each other when they interact. Yet, it didn’t turn into a trainwreck. Too often in anime doing the “water under the bridge” between two character with a troubled history feels unearned in getting a resolution. In March Comes In Like A Lion, I won’t spoil if the messy family bond get fixed, but what it did with it worked exceptionally because it didn’t use any manipulative writing tricks.

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I know, this looks cool.

The series delves into depression without ever going in the realm of silliness. Doing well in depicting how depression is an ongoing cycle that’s difficult to break, even when given support. Now given this, using over the top comedy to contrast Rei’s current mindset against the world he lives in on paper is fine. In the first episode, there was a jarring tonal shift since most of the episode is somber. However, I allowed it a free pass so to say on the jarring shift because it wasn’t preceded by a heavily dramatic scene. Unfortunately, it the rule that when a well written, heavily dramatic scene is finished it should be followed by a over the comedic scene. Yes, it often kills tension, and counteracts the dramatic aspect of the series.

 

For example, my least favorite episode of season 1 is easily episode 6 since it’s simply Rei Kiriyama pitying himself, and monologuing about his troubles for about 14 minutes. Man, was this boring because Rei’s says a lot, and little of what he says during those 14 minutes is meaningful. After a barrage of drama ending the episode with Rei taking Hinata (a middle schooler girl whose Rei’s friend) to eat a burger would have been a fine place to end the episode. Before the closing credits showed up, the somber mood was slowly transitioning from the barrage of snooze inducing self-pitying dialogue into a more balance tone. However, there were still about 3 minutes left ruining a generally downer of an episode with a over the top comedy scene. The final impression left on me is that it was funny, despite the barrage of dialogue of Rei issues.

Another thing the comedy negatively contribute are pointless additions to the anime. I also blame some of these on director Akiyuki Shinbou who kept them in for no good reason. One of these pointless addition is giving cats monologues. What’s the point of spending any sort of screen time hearing (or reading for you sub readers) the cats constantly screaming being hungry. This joke loses its luster after its done the fifth time, but kept in because why not. I’m sure a anime series that is filled with the brim of characters tackling personal, life, and family issues really needs cats to scream about wanting food.

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This anime can have some great visuals when it wants too.

From a directing standpoint, there’s also bolds words that appear on screen for comedic effects. These bold words, and some chibi character usage, work well enough in the comedic scenes. Aside from it being expected, if it wanted too, it could also use those bold word effect for something else other than comedy. Like empathizing how a character sees a shogi move as a devastating action. Cats screaming in English (or whatever language you’re watching it in) about wanting food doesn’t have multiple purposes for an anime that wants to be a good drama.

When it comes to direction of Akiyuki Shinbo it’s usually fine. I just wish it wasn’t as obvious at points in the anime when Shinbo felt uninspired, or disinterested in the material. One thing that isn’t consistent, besides the jarring tonal shift, are the visual analogies. They appear infrequently in the anime making their usage be more desired. The visual analogy work, like when Rei faces off against Shimada at his house, and seeing a visuals of strong currents rushing towards him while playing shogi gets across the intensity Rei feels in a match. If used more consistently it would have had a more consistent visual style for the entire season.

Another issue is a tendency to have dialogue be a deterrent to his visual storytelling. Like Rei seeing a nature program about Cuckoo birds, and learns how the Cuckoo bird surrogate parents keep feeding them even though they already out grew their nest. This is preceded by Rei’s backstory which I can’t get into because spoilers, ah. Now, when Rei saw the Cuckoo bird program, making a connection that how he saw himself by the impression he made was easy to connect. It was subtle, until the point Rei himself spells it out for the viewer. This happens repeatedly through the series. It works as much as it fails so it wavers in quality.

The writing is simply bad because it’s unfocus. While it does characterization well, it’s obvious it has too many characters, and doesn’t know what to do with them. There’s several supporting characters in the first half that are largely absent in the second half. Forgetting about them as easily as Rei has. Making it central theme about family sticking together in the first half ultimately feels hollow when it ends up nowhere. For about the last 6 episodes, it forgets that the central character should be Rei, and focuses on a character named Shimada for the majority of those episodes. Since it actually went somewhere meaningful forgiving the lack of a direction is forgiven. However, it’s not overlooked since even subplots, like one revolving around Hinata having a crush on a boy, and Rei befriending that boy simply just end despite how much time it dedicates to them.

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Don’t worry, you don’t need context.

On the technical side of things it’s competent. There’s nothing impressive generally about the animation until it does a visual analogies for some memorable imagery. Voice acting in the English dub is good, and I needed it to get through episodes 6, and 11 because if I saw these two episodes sub I would have fallen asleep. Music is fine, but the first opening, and first ending song are by Bump of Chicken are pretty good. As opposed to the 2nd opening track of the anime that’s easily the weakest piece of music in the series, but then pulls a 180 with a song by Kenshi Yonezu called Orion which is great. Then again, that’s just simply the Kenshi Yonezu fanboy in me loving to listen to his stuff whenever it appears.

Aside from characters, and characterization everything else in the anime just feels competently made. It’s a messy type of competent where one moment it grips you, and another moment completely loses your attention. When it wants to be it’s a good drama without eliciting any emotion from the viewer with any cheap writing tricks. At it worse, it’s simply an overbearing comedy that deteriorates the impact of the drama with a lack of focus that can’t handle the many subplots it wants. However, it’s those good dramatic moments that got me through to the end. It’s those scenes that kept me coming back regardless of its subject matter because it was compelling. If it means putting up with a overall sloppy package of an anime I’ll more than gladly put up with the some of its parts for the good stuff. It is nonetheless a disappointing watch. Ain’t no changing that.

If I were to rate March Comes In Like A Lion, I would give it a 6 out 10.

 

Some Thoughts On: Hell Girl (2005 – 2006) Season 1

So on March 4, 2018 I finally finished the first season of an anime series called Hell Girl. Needless to say since a review of any kind is currently out of the question sharing some general thoughts on the first season would be fine for an anime post. It’ll also help me collect some quick thoughts of mine for the first season since right now my feelings on Hell Girl is scattershot.

Hell Girl is an episodic anime that for the first half focuses on Hell Girl dealing in a business to seek vengeance for its clients. Hell Girl clients are given a straw doll with a red thread around its neck, and if pulled the person they seek vengeance on will go to Hell. However, the subject also seeking vengeance will also go to Hell after they die. The second half of Hell Girl involves a permanent character in Hajime, a freelance reporter attempting to put a stop to Hell Girl divine punishment on those who seek it.

The premise was instantly alluring to me. Seeing what kind scenarios; both the silly, and serious, would be presented to me was a joy to experience. Offering not so much variety in the kind of characters it depicted. Early on in Hell Girl, it uses simple archetypes to make sure you sympathize for the person seeking vengeance leading to many who die early on being one dimensional. Doesn’t help matter either when some of them are just cartoonishly evil, like in one episode a woman drowns puppies. Yep, it’ll scoop to that level sometime to make viewers sympathize with the person seeking vengeance. This eventually changes as the series goes on, but early on the cartoonish, repetitive nature of these characters is still felt.

Everytime it showed someone death scene it was amusing to say the least. None of these death scenes are scary as 24 minutes is not enough time for this series to be scary. A couple of brief minutes to have Hell Girl, and The Three Straws (Hell Girl’s partners basically) to take a soul won’t set up a fearful atmosphere. It will give you some silly moments, like episode 6 death scene which hysterically boils down to shaming a person to death. There also episode 18 providing the sight of seeing a car driven by Dog people with a giant baby on top driving a woman to Hell will have you saying “what the Hell did I see”. While the “horrific” scenarios in how these people get killed off are silly the backstory behind them can be taken seriously. While it’s odd that mostly women use the website Hell Correspondence to contact Hell Girl for vengeance it does offer a good framing device to tackle to briefly touch on a variety of life’s conflicts.

Some of these life conflicts are decently explored, like in episode 10 a young schoolgirl is contemplating if her best friend whose currently neglecting her should be send to Hell. There’s also episode 19 where a young bride to be is being treated like doll against her wishes. Episode 19 does a good job making the viewer sympathize with its subject of suffering by not going overboard with its usual tricks. These episodes add to the anime ongoing discussion on vengeance to be viewed much more broadly. Unlike the first 9-ish episodes, the later half of the series begin to ponder the question if revenge is worth it regardless of the price.

Hell Girl doesn’t develop it’s recurring characters in charge of taking souls to Hell. Choosing instead to have it spotlight regularly on characters whom only make a single appearance in the series, and making their subject of vengeance easily hateable. Plaguing Hell Girl with an abundance of cartoonishly cruel people that negatively contrast with its mostly understated execution. Leading to both genuinely entertaining, and engaging moment to the equally unintentional hilarity of the tone quickly flipping the switch. It’s not until the final episodes that the title character herself finally receives some characterization. At that point it’s too late for anything substantially meaningful to be done with Ai Enma, but at the same time that’s what the other seasons are for. I’m hoping so at least because I have not seen them yet.

In terms of variety there are the nice break up of characters who get send to Hell by including some characters that attempt to make this sort of judgement seem grayish, but don’t happen frequently enough to even make up 1/4th of the total episodes in a 26 episode anime. The times the subject of vengeance who aren’t cartoonishly evil are refreshing, and allows the characters to talk about revenge, and Hell in a slightly broader sense. Some interesting questions, like in one episode it’s briefly discussed if Hell itself can be a paradise, are only brought up, and aren’t delved into beyond the surface level. If these sort of questions were given more exploration than overlooking some of its faulty character writing would have been easier to do. Also, the few actiony moments, like Hell Girl & the Three Straws battling what’s essentially a Ghost, or  seeing Hell Girl getting tossed around like a doll by Hellboy (not to be confused with the Mike Mignola creation) are a odd edition to the anime. Hell Girl, for the most part, underplays some of its more fantastical elements so when it goes for something without restraint it goes against the general intent of the anime direction.

For my first time watching the anime series I went for the English dub. I typically don’t consider the thought of viewing an anime when seeing it for the first time. Like with everything, it simply depends on my mood at the time. Sometime I’m want to watch an anime with the English dub, and sometime I don’t. With Hell Girl season 1, I saw the entire series with the English dub. Performances wise, there isn’t any actor among the voice cast that I felt stood out in any significant way.

If I had to choose one who stood out it would be John Burgmeier who voices Hajime Shibata in the English dub offers the best acting among his peers. This is wholly contributed to the fact his character receives the most characterization, and displays various emotions during his journey to stop Hell Girl from taking more people to Hell. Allowing Burgmeier to make Hajime ideals come across genuine when delivery speeches about how revenge is wrong on multiple occasions. From the onset, Burgmeier just clicks with his character perfectly. Hajime ideals are challenged, and explored as the anime goes on. Once Hajime comes into the anime, it carries with it a new repetitive nature, but also the dramatic, and thematic core that makes it work. He talks about the futility of vengeance to those who seek it in various conflicting viewpoints, and also witnesses the consequences of both routes.

Simply put, I liked Hell Girl season 1, even if it was formulaic/repetitive for more than half of its run. What kept me coming back to Hell Girl besides the allure of the title character herself were sometimes the story it told. I found it amusing to come back to the series whenever I did just to witness what kind of cheap trick it would pull to elicit an emotion from the viewer. The series biggest drawback is regularly having cartoonish writing, and imagery when attempting to create a serious anime. Hell Girl is an anime that demands you to take it seriously despite the silly visuals at times. Thankfully, the silly imagery isn’t a mainstay. Unfortunately, the cartoonish writing is a mainstay becoming a detriment for its entire run. Giving Hell Girl a B-movie type of horror movie quality to it. I was entertained through the entire run, and sometime engaged whenever it didn’t show Hell Girl take someone to Hell. It was a messy anime to get through, but I came out more positively on it even though it negatives strongly stick out.

Rating wise, I would give Hell Girl season one a 7 out of 10.

Some Thoughts On: Bungo Stray Dogs (2016) Series Season 1

On March 14, 2018 I finished the first season of an anime series called Bungo Stray Dogs by studio Bones, and oh boy did it feel like a waste of time. Trying to explain what Bungo Stray Dogs season one is about is futile. At first, I thought it would about its main character, Atsushi, learning to control his abilities as a were-tiger, getting accustomed to his new job in the Armed Detective Company, getting to get well acquainted with new people within his new job, and grow along the way. It tried to be about those things, but fail because it was so scattershot (much like these type of blogs I write) it prolonged whatever point it was trying to get too.

Unlike the animes I’ve yet to post about, Bungo Stray Dogs clearly wants to tell some kind of overarching story from the getgo, and doesn’t know how to. For starter, it would helped the anime if it actually bothered to focus on a theme, or something that had long lasting continuity. It constantly throwing in jokes, which alongside creating an inconsistent tone consistently. Lends itself to destroying any sense of rising action. One example of this is the very last episode doesn’t feel like a climatic end to the season. Ending up being just another episode Bungo Stray Dogs starting off with whimper, and ending with one as well.

Aside the from the glaring writing issues it had, another problem for me was how it simply meanders a lot. Dialogue in Bungo Stray Dogs has a knack for saying a lot, yet nothing substantial comes out most of the time. Things that should have taken less than half of a episode are stretched out. Padding the episodes with jokes, more jokes, and even more jokes that are of the hit, or miss variety. A hit if you like slapstick, and jokes about suicides, and a miss since it doesn’t vary the type of jokes it tell. Can’t forget about the tangent the dialogue can go into random stuff. What kind of stuff I can’t tell you since I already forgot about it.

My biggest issue with the writing of Bungo Stray Dog is that the structure of the series is messy. It’s disorganized in what to do. Like mention earlier with the absent of rising action, episodes feel out of order in terms of importance. There are episodes where Atsushi go on one off adventures with some of his other teammates with little done to flesh them out after sharing the spotlight for a single episode. In a 12 episodes series it’s difficult to flesh multiple characters, but at the same time if the person/people telling the story choose to take on this task they better do a good job. Obviously, studio Bones did not.

Characters in Bungo Stray Dogs are onenote, and typically just silly. Eventually, the once quirky personalities become mundane to see interact. How many times can I witness a character name Osamu Dazai (yes, named after the author of No Longer Human) attempting to kill himself as a joke, or how many times can I find Doppo Kunikida (yes, also named after another famous Japanese author) stickler for the rules personality amusing before it gets bored. Answer is very quickly. When there’s no effort to expand on characters, or their dynamic with each other it makes whatever journey they take feel pointless.

Naming the characters after famous authors is pointless since the most it does with it is reference their work once. The characters also aren’t the authors themselves so you can call them whatever name you want, and it’ll fit just the same. Either the storyteller(s) intended to do something by naming the characters after famous authors, but didn’t how to, or it’s just pure laziness, and someone just typed in “Famous Japanese Authors” since the task of coming up with names for characters was too hard to do. I think the latter is more likely what happened. I did kinda like Yosano Akiko character who is a crazy doctor, but only superficially. Her design I did like a bit. As a character, there isn’t much to her besides she’s crazy with super healing abilities.

So, with little complement in terms of story, and characters the production side is more of the same. The animation is cheap at times having moments where character won’t have mouths while talking, or stay on a single frame for longer than needed. What action sequences the anime does have as lame. They end as quickly as they start, but like with Vampire Princess Miyu anime series, there’s no choreography in any of it. It just goes through the motion of things, and constantly having contrivances in them to put battles in favor of the heroes diminishes all excitement. The whole “Ha, I’ve pulled one over you” routine gets tiring.

Ever seen Durarara, and wanted a lamer version of that? If so, Bungo Stray Dogs does exactly that going for a similar style in terms of direction, and music choices. However, whereas in Durarara, where despite nothing cool ever happening, was still entertaining to watch. Here, the style of Bungo Stray Dogs is out of place. It wants to be a cool battle shounen like series, but just comes off lame. Same with the soundtrack can be best describe as a bad DJ at a club of sorts simply farting out bad remixes of songs.

Voice acting is good. I saw the first half of Bungo Stray Dogs sub, and then eventually changed to the English dub the second half because of how wasteful I felt it was being with my time. Both cast I feel do a good job bringing the wild personalities to life. The Japanese cast is more eccentric in their deliveries of the characters, but the English cast transition between tones is smoother. Despite the poor material, the voice cast is the one positive I can give it.

Bungo Stray Dogs as a series is watchable, but there’s nothing worthwhile in it. Heck, I thought was going to hate these sibling characters with a comedic incestual relationship (yes, that’s a thing), but they don’t appear often enough for me to hate them. So in even that department it doesn’t do enough to elicit any kind of emotion. Season 1 of Bungo Stray Dogs is simply something I watched, and disliked mostly because I felt like it meander too much on nothing. I’ll likely check out the second season of the anime, but given the first half is this bad, and scattershot in its writing I’m already in doubt it’ll improve.

If I were to rate Bungo Stray Dogs, I would a 3 out of 10. Seems fair to me.

Cinema-Maniac: GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack (2012) Movie Review

Films that have a run time that is below an hour and half are a risky endeavor. Usually the length of a film isn’t a solid indication of a film quality, but tell its audience how much of their time is either going to be rewarded or wasted on it. GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack falls in the category that is left for individual viewers to determine for themselves. As someone who enjoys seeing films with wacky premises both it strengths and weaknesses arrive from the writing.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack is follows Kaori and her friends vacation to celebrate their upcoming graduation, when suddenly an infestation of mysterious walking fish forces them to reevaluate everything they care about in order to stay alive. It’s a premise that demands very little thought and has even less intelligence. For starter it plays against following a single genre rules switching it up as it goes along. Starting as a slasher film, than turning into a siege film, a mad scientist film, and ending with post apocalyptic. As clever as the structuring might be keeping the story interesting with it different paths it corners itself when it comes to telling the story. Characterization is easily the weakest aspect of the film. Characters simply represent a shallow theme hardly building upon it for any meaningful insight. Attempts at genre riffing are made clear without anything clever to say about them simply acknowledging their existence. The lead herself plays against the damsel in distress by being the heroine of the film. This in turn also undermines giving her a compelling journey. The whole got to save my fiancee motivation is easy to get behind, but learning very little about the protagonist just makes her part of the scenery and without knowing much of heroine fiancee it questions if he’s worth fighting against a mutated spider-shark. Explanations on the question presented are intentionally left unanswered. Spending more on getting to the next set piece and less on developing it’s no surprise the explanation given are bizarre. Hinting at possibilities to an answer, but never confirming leaving it a mystery. Some will scratch their head, others will think nothing of it other than it was fun, but the intention to cause fear with the ending fails because of how it told was story.

Animation is passable at best. There’s no complicated sets, movements, or designs that makes it visuals leave much of an impression. Usually empathizing on facial expressions is done well even if the viewer and character feelings are different about the current situation. Leaving a lot to desire it moves smoothly. The 3D animated fish come across with mixed results. They work because they stand out an oddity against the hand drawn backdrop, but at the same time hardly integrated into the film. There are shots where dozens of 3D fish are roaming the streets although the lack of prominent screen time containing very few scene where sea creatures are attacking the city. Voice acting is decent granted the cast had shallow characters to work with. Given the roles the voice talent were given they come across as solid at best putting more emotion in a character that’s one dimensional.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack has a specific audience in mind alienating many by concealing its weakness. Having very little in terms of characters and not even bothering to build on its idea the intention is clear leaving little to experience in between. With no worthwhile investment to come from the characters, story, genre riffs, or it deluded execution towards it goal results from a film that leaves you empty handed.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: Nerawareta Gakuen (2012) Movie Review

Describing the experience of “Nerawareta gakuen” (translated to the irrelevant, but cooler sounding title “Physic School War”) is similar to the same way of a gamer feelings playing Dice video-game Battlefield 4. Allot went into the look, but lacks substance to justify how much went behind a broken product. Bland characters in an overly cliche story, and a sense of awe that something so shallow has so much care put into it.

Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War in English) is about Ryouichi Kyougoku, a mysterious time traveling psychic from the future where the world ended in the future and humanity settled on the moon, and transfers into the 8th grade to awaken as much psychics in the present. Effortlessly combining high school romance with time traveling, physic powers, and impending apocalypse into an overly complicated mess. If the story only desired to be a high school romance it would have been a sensible, easy to follow bland story. Spending the first two act developing the romance (to a disappointing climax that avoids resolving conflicts) and a considerable amount of characterization is somewhat defeated. Somewhat since the central characters are all bland anime personalities; Kenji Seki is a dumb teen who has bad luck and oblivious to the fact his childhood friend Natsuki Ryouura loves him, Natsuki Ryouura is the typical girl next door who picks on Kenji to hide her true feelings from him, Kahori Harukawa is created to advance the plot in the form of a love triangle or having her start a conversation relating to their feelings, and finally Ryouichi Kyougoku who’s the popular mysterious teen with an hidden agenda. Four characters all of which aren’t interesting because what the story does with them is highlight their weaknesses. Sure the characters are given depth, but what the writer do with them gives off the wrong impression. Natsuki Ryouura for example clearly likes Kenji, but upon meeting her characters she in a single minutes teases him, punches him, and calls the police. Like everyone in the story Natsuki matures, though the way she acts towards Kenji is the same. That’s just the characters not working on their own imagine the rest of the film.

Being split into a supernatural drama and slice of life romance never does it become good at being one thing it sets out to be. On one hand the romance doesn’t work because of the bland characters and the cliche route it takes. This being the real meat of the film story it’s disappointing what little is done with it amount to no reward. Then comes the supernatural drama aspect which is completely pointless. It’s so far removed from the central story that it’s unneeded fluff. Keeping things vague physic powers play by rules the writers make up in order to spice things up. Leading to plot holes and a muddle set of rules that makes it needlessly difficult to understand what actually happen no matter how basic it appears. Now something I left out, just like film, has something to do with it odd hatred towards cellphones. At first it appears it was going to tackle what it means to be social in a society that relied technology for interaction, but nope it reappears to amount to nothing. It’s just mention just for the sake of it, but it becomes a plot point. What is done with the cell phones plot point amounts to a character saving his childhood friend from a debate about having cell phones in school in his underwear. I’m not kidding that’s exactly what the whole cell phone angle amounts to. It can’t do a proper ending either leaving you scratching your head in confusion in what resulted from the climax. Abandoning plot elements and subplots like there’s no tomorrow Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War) never feels as ease to watch even when it barely works.

The production values of the film are best thing about this movie. Ryosuke Nakamura eye for details rivals of that of director Shinkai Makoto. A lot of attention is paid in the meticulous details of the visuals from the cherry blossom petals being blown in the breeze to the gleaming rays of light shining through classroom windows. Another outstanding feature is the use of color hues and tones to accentuate and render scenic clouds and evening skies. Character animation is smooth, lighting effects work nicely with the watercolor-styled backgrounds, and the film manages to build a lifelike environment and atmosphere much like in Shinkai’s films. Furthermore, director Nakamura Ryousuke throws some laid back, carefree spirit and lovable appeal into the mix, which ends up covering a whole lot of the movie’s failures in other areas. Voice actors give life to what little personalities their characters have. They have the right of playful and serious nature making its character progression seem natural. Music is downright forgettable. Having checked out the film soundtrack this is perhaps one of the laziest compilation of music for any animated film. Most of the soft piano ballads so sound similar to one another that they all sound like minor variation of one track. Songs mostly are slow, low key wanting to get across a sentimental feelings of youth. However, the more you listen to it the more you began to pick up it’s more fitting for a commercial than a film production.

Nerawareta Gakuen is pretty to look at and that’s about it. Bland characters fall into the category of being annoying taking part of a story that amounts to a whole of nothing in confusion at its ending. Whatever plot and subplots it build up ends with lackluster resolutions that bring no closure to them. Abandoning and retreating ideas will make it difficult for viewers to maintain focus because it’s all over the place. Once you take away the detail visuals all you’re left with is disappointment having seen a shallow film more concern about it looks than having its own unique personality.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: Koto no ha no niwa (Garden of Words) (2013)

Animation have brought to life realms far from our own grasps, but never far enough they are unrelatable from our very own. Director Makoto Shinkai vision mirrors reality from the architecture of the city to the foliage of a park with no shortage of details. Garden of Words mirrors a live action film in production in all area capturing the real world in detailed animation with the support of strong writing makes it visually arresting as narratively engaging.

Garden of Words is about Takao meeting a mysterious woman, Yukino, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. At it most basic level Garden of Words tells nothing more than a simple story of two lost souls; however, what is gain is a clear understanding of both characters lives and what they strive for. It’s hard to imagine the film going into much territory with a forty-six minute runtime, but succeeds in every area that makes any good narrative have a lasting impact. It doesn’t skipped on character development even interweaving a greater meaning giving depth to the rain as a character as well to the changes in the environments. Characters are more complicated than the story being told. Looking beyond the limitations of society sets on them, motivation to fulfill one’s dream, and overcoming boundaries set to them by society. Beyond that is another interpretation showing the beauty of everyday life to the smallest interaction around us. Nothing is ever lost in its story maintaining focus and complicated characters action are always concentrated towards benefiting the narrative. Under an hour Garden of Words story has the key elements that makes up a good story regardless of it length leaves a big impression.

Makoto Shinkai lush imagery connects a delicately rendered urban landscape, one in which the daily grind of everyday life and the regular changing of the seasons appear breathtakingly beautiful. Vivid colors, lush and deep dark shades, crystalline highlights bring the sceneries to life. Combining hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping, and seamless CGI effects. Shinkai consistently sustains a dreamlike, otherworldly mood throughout with a direction more in line of that of a live action film. For example, when it comes to editing he compresses time, flashes back to multiple points, and creates montages in a way that just isn’t done in the medium very often. The soundtrack top-notch mixing is spacious, with clear dialogue in the central channel and carefully crafted atmospheric sound effects around the edges (especially noticeable during the rain shower sequences). Diasuke Kashiwa’s lovely, contemplative musical score is also well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack. Voice acting is equally as strong with the rest of production.

Garden of Words is a visual poem that hits all the right narrative notes and personal chords to be taken by its artistic majesty. Visually stunning and with a equaling involving story work in harmony for an animated film that accomplishes the same than most films do with double the run time. Proving no great film is too short or too long, but the perfect length to leave a lasting impression.

10/10