Kotoura-san Final Review [Great]

Haruka dying at the thought of the club stoppingKotoura’s sad to see the show end…

Welcome to the Final Episode and Series Review of Kotoura-san. Again, I’ll discuss the series finale first, then get to the overall review. If you want to skip directly to that, go here. I’d also like to say that this will be my final post for SushiGoKart, as I’m going to be writing for Metanorn.net, and I’d like to thank Sushi very much for the opportunity to join the site and contribute here, and everyone who’s been reading throughout the last two and a half seasons of anime.

TheGood

As I mentioned last week, it was good that last week’s episode wasn’t the finale. From the standpoint of leaving the series on a good note, this episode was much better, returning a lot of the humor and interesting interplay between characters that was missing as the series had to wrap up the Tsukino attacks. In this episode we had the surprise that Yuriko is closing down the ESP Research Club, mainly to troll Haruka before revealing that the ‘new’ ESP Research Club will continue to harass her.

Haruka realizes Manabe's never said he loves herHe’s never actually said it.

We also get Haruka’s crisis of self as she realizes that Manabe has never actually told her that he loves her. He’s told Moritani, and he’s thought it a few times, but she’s never heard it from his lips. But she also realizes that she’s never told him the same thing. And after a typical anime comedy slipup where Manabe sees Haruka practicing with Moritani and gets the wrong idea, they finally get the time together where it feels right to say it, and we get a very nice confession. And both Haruka and Yoshihisa realize that there are times you want to hear someone say what you already know.

Finally getting some revengeMaybe remembering some motherly traits

The show also deals with Kumiko, Haruka’s mother, for a bit of closure from the beginning. Showing up in a pretty ignominious manner, just letting herself into Haruka’s apartment when noone’s there, and then complaining that there’s no alcohol, she’s pretty boorish. But in between the demands and complaints, Haruka sees that there’s still some caring for her daughter there. And the important memory of walking away from Haruka, we see that she remembers tears and apologies as she walked away, for not being strong enough to protect Haruka. I think there’s not complete forgiveness there, but Haruka certainly softens her feelings toward her mother.

Haruka is happy for a place to be herselfHaruka is happy to have her place.

We also get an apology from Yuriko, who throughout the series has been promising to use Haruka to prove that her mother could have been a psychic. And even though I don’t think she ever really did anything, Haruka accepts what she’s saying, while answering that she’s always known about it, and still wanted to be Yuriko’s friend. She’s grateful to be accepted and grateful to have a place that she can be herself, where people know who she is and what she represents and still care for her.

In the end, the finale was fitting for the show, and even if it didn’t match the emotional depth of the opening of the series, it was still a nice wrapup for all of the characters. Definitely far better than Episode 11 would have been.

And now for the Series Review. Screenshots at the bottom of the post.

Title: Kotoura-san
TV Series; 12 Episodes
Genre: Rom-Com
Produced: AIC

Based on a 4-panel manga, Kotoura-san is the happenings of a girl who was born with the ability to read the minds of the people around her. Far from being a boon, this has been more of a curse in her life as it has repeatedly driven her friends away, and even contributed to the implosion of her family as her parents both have affairs and abandon her with her grandfather. The show starts off in a very different way, however, with all of the pain of the title character’s life up to this point, leading to her present situation where, moving to yet another new school, and expecting to make no friends and be a lonely person everyone calls a monster, she encounters Manabe-kun, a boy whose thoughts are so random and transparent that it literally shatters her gloomy outlook. From this basis, we see the assembly of a group of friends in the ESP Research Club, and the slow recovery of Kotoura as she gains friends who know of her ability and don’t shun her for it.

Since the source is a comic manga, it’s surprising that there’s so much emotion and depth in the series. It does a good job mixing both comedy and drama into most of the episodes, and plays a lot on the comedy potential of Manabe, with his perverted thoughts toward Kotoura, who isn’t interested in seeing those thoughts of his, even as she falls in love with him. When the story tries to have more of a serious arc, it doesn’t play quite as well, and the best episodes are the ones that mostly just have the characters doing random stuff.

The characters are interesting, with everyone having flaws of some sort or another. They play off each other fairly well, and work well in the show. Again, given the source material, they’re not amazingly deep or complicated, and this sometimes works at odds with the show’s emotional depth. The anime trend of easy forgiveness is a frequent topic of argument in this show, because while the forgiveness is longer coming than in other shows, the transgressions are generally much worse: Setting goons on someone because he won’t be your boyfriend, and abandoning your grade school child to say a couple. But even given these transgressions, Haruka is very willing to see others’ side, sometimes too willing.

The production of the series is Great, with some great direction giving us one of the most stunning opening episodes of a comedy series ever. The depth of feeling that it produced was far outsized for the type of show it is. And the background music through the opening sequence was great, with the climax of the scene having no vocals as Haruka screams to the heavens, just an evocative melody, that drew tears from me.

The OP is sung by Megumi Nakajima, and the (usual) ED is sung by Hisako Kanemoto, who also sings both songs in character during the show at karaoke… terribly. It’s interesting to hear her sing her own song so badly, but it works for the joke. The voice work overall is good, featuring veterans Kana Hanazawa, Hisako Kanemoto, and Hiro Shimono, as well as the relatively inexperienced Jun Fukushima (*not* Fukuyama) and Yurika Kubo (who is also a member of mu’s in the series Love Live!)

Overall, the show works well, leading to a fun viewing experience. It really stunned right off the bat with a very different opening episode, and although it didn’t match the magic of that show, it did stay a bit different from the usual high school comedy show, by going for a deeper range of emotions than we usually get from this sort of show. It was enjoyable to watch throughout, and entertaining for the majority of the show.

Category Score
STORY Good
CHARACTERS Good
PRODUCTION Great
ORIGINALITY Great
ENTERTAINMENT Great
OVERALL Great

Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT – Episode 12 and Final Review [Great]

The Rinjin-bu

Welcome to the Final Episode and Series Review of Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai, also known as Haganai. Like I usually do, I’ll discuss the series finale first, then get to the overall review. If you want to skip directly to that, go here.

TheGood

She's putting you to shame, Kodaka

She’s putting you to shame, Kodaka.

Kodaka left us all, not to mention the Rinjin-bu, in the lurch at the end of the last episode, running away from the clubroom after Sena not only confessed, but proposed marriage to him out of the blue. Well, since that time, he hasn’t gone back, and he’s avoided everyone else in the club. To make it worse, he runs into Yusa Aoi struggling with boxes, and ends up helping her with them. This leads to meeting Hidaka Hinata, the friendly seitokaichou, the girl that Yozora absolutely hates, and helping out the student council for a week. Thankfully, Kodaka stops short of joining the student council, but what must everyone else think?

A very Yozora-like look from HinataNot only a very Yozora look, a very Yozora style.

I found Hidaka Hinata to be an interesting character. The first thing that struck me about her: her similarities to Yozora. Now, you’re all going “whuuu?”, but I think they are very similar people, with a key difference: Hinata has confidence in herself, Yozora does not. There are, of course, some other differences, but I think most of them are borne out of this one. Hinata likes to help other people, she likes to be with other people doing their best. Yozora does not like to be with other people. It’s effort for her, and really drains her. But one on one, they really seemed to be similar to me. I might be the only one who thinks this, but I’m saying it anyway.

Kodaka gets Yukimura all hot and botheredSomeone explain to Yukimura that she doesn’t need a yaoi hole…

The focus of the episode was the confrontation between Kodaka and the other members of the club, especially Rika. But first, he can’t figure out why Yukimura admires him. Why does Yukimura want to be like him, want to become a man, continue to serve him? And the best answer he gets is that Yukimura just does. And in questioning her, he just makes Yukimura admire him more (but I think that she also needs more explanation about what to do with boys…).

Making up with each other

Interrupting Yukimura, Rika pages Kodaka to the roof, and there the battle literally ensues. Using physical punishment to get Kodaka to realize the error of his ways, Rika assails him with his wrongs, his obliviousness, and his pretending, even accusing him of being a harem anime main character, raising flags with all the girls. And Kodaka rejects that idea, because if he was a harem lead, he could give everyone a happy ending by being nice. The inversion of the harem style here works well, because we all know that usually harems do end up with everyone being friends, but how can Kodaka make everyone friends if all of the girls want to be with him? But Rika still won’t excuse him for running away from Sena and the club. In the end, she asks him to let her help him. She’s a genius after all. And when he asks her to be his friend, she replies, clearly and not lost on the wind this time, that they are already all friends.

thebad

Kodaka’s flight from the Rinjin-bu is pretty bad. Not only does he run away when Sena confesses, acting like he couldn’t hear her, he doesn’t go back. It’s a really poor way to treat not just Sena, but everyone. Yozora in particular was mortified at Sena’s confession, and I’m kind of surprised that Yukimura didn’t say that there was a big confrontation between Yozora and Sena about driving Kodaka away. On top of that, he goes to ‘fraternize’ with the Student Council, which just before was trying to shut the club down.

This is one of the key points in Rika’s confrontation with Kodaka. She accuses him of hanging out with them, and even falling in love with Hidaka Hinata. And he almost has, in the same way that everyone else in the school loves Hidaka Hinata, because she’s an easy person to love, and she loves other people easily.  And what I said above about Hinata being like Yozora ties in here, because I think if Yozora was just a little more confident in herself around other people, that Kodaka would be hopelessly in love with her. I think the missing qualities that he doesn’t quite love about Hinata are the things that Yozora has. Unfortunately, she’s missing other things that she’d need.

Can she recoverTears on the wind

And in the end, Yozora can’t take it. Sena’s confession, combined with Kodaka’s absence from the club she made to spend time with him, has made her lose her nerve, and she’s going to take a trip, asking everyone to not try to find her.

I really hope that we can get a third series from Haganai, because I think the story moved a long way, and I really enjoyed the tone shift from the first series which was mostly dark comedy and pranks to the friendship and relationship based comedy displayed in the second series. Unfortunately, we’re now at the end of all the published light novels, and they seem to be at a standstill with no more volumes coming soon. Perhaps another two years would get us more material for the story, and I’d gladly wait for that. While most series can’t pull off a third season, I think this one could, because the plot has been consistent and linear, and there’s still a ways to go.

And now, the Series Review. Screenshots for Episode 12 are located at the end of the post.

Title: Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT, “Haganai NEXT”
TV Series; 12 Episodes
Genre: Harem, High School
Produced: AIC Build

Haganai NEXT is a sequel to the anime of the same name from Fall 2011. It continues the story of the Rinjin-bu (Neighbor’s Club), a group of outcasts whose putative goal is to ‘learn how to make friends’. Being a continuation of the same story, based on a series of Light Novels, it’s directly following the first season, so much so that it could be considered just a split series. But unlike the first series, this series is a lot less of what the club is going and doing, and more about what’s happening in the club. While they’re telling themselves that they’re learning to make friends, they really are making friends: the other people in the club.

But it’s not just friends. This is a pretty obvious harem anime, and with one guy in a club with 6 girls, there’s going to be some romantic tension. And definitely, all the girls want Kodaka’s attention. But because the story is following the novels, there is less merry-go-round of will he, won’t he than in other stories. It makes pretty significant progress, and doesn’t have much backwards motion. Overall, the story is very enjoyable, and I’d rate it as Great.

The characters are the strong part of Haganai. Kodaka, the male lead, has some of the wishy washy traits that most harem leads have, but the series works at justifying his reactions throughout. But the real gems of the show are the girls. There are 2 main love rivals, 2 side love rivals, and two younger girls who just want his attention. And while they’re all vying for Kodaka’s attention, they’re also becoming friends with each other, and the development of the friendships in this series is very nice. Starting at the beginning of this season, this club was full of people who were wary friends with each other, and by the end of it they’re mostly strong friends, to the point where even Kodaka has to admit it. In particular, the development of Rika as a character throughout is fun to see. Another Great aspect of the show.

The production of the show is Great, especially for this type of show. The animation is sharp and crisp, with a lot of well done facial expressions. The show also has good animation for the other things throughout, even a battle scene for the finale.

The highlight is the writing. Putting these characters in situations where they’re uncomfortable is what the show does, and also plays the characters off each other very well. It has multiple rivalries that are handled well, and transforms them from enemy rivalries into friend rivalries.

Voice acting is great for the series, featuring Inoue Marina, one of my favorite seiyuu, completely owning Yozora’s character. Itou Kanae also shines as Sena, especially in the sequences where she has to turn serious. Fukuen Misato also shines as Rika, with a fun performance of a sometimes serious, sometimes perverted character.

Music for this second series is ok, I didn’t like the OP and ED songs as much as the ones from the first series, but those are tough to match as some of my favorite songs. I do want to mention the B-side to the OP single, as it’s a rival song between Kobato and Maria, done completely in character, and hilariously features them yelling “bakabaka!” “ahoaho!” at each other.  Very well done by Hanazawa Kana and Iguchi Yuka

Overall, Haganai NEXT is a lot of fun to watch, and is a great continuation of the first series. While we don’t get a resolution at the end of the series, it’s set up for another series at some point in the future if the LN’s ever get published. It’s quite enjoyable from a comedic standpoint, and I have to mention that there’s quite the share of fanservice.

Category Score
STORY Great
CHARACTERS Great
PRODUCTION Great
ORIGINALITY Good
ENTERTAINMENT Great
OVERALL Great

Screenshots!

Girls Und Panzer Series Finale and Final Review [Excellent]

Miho vs MahoYou knew it would come down to this.

Welcome to the Final Episode and Series Review of Girls und Panzer! As usual, I’ll be talking about the finale first, then get to the overall review. If you want to skip directly to that, gohere.

TheGood

I don’t know if “Good” will cut it for Girls und Panzer. The finale was amazing. It truly was everything we’ve come to expect from the show, even if we wonder if it can keep it up. And in that specific dimension, it delivered once again, outdoing even the expectations raised high by a 3 month layoff.

At the end of the 11th episode, Miho and Oarai were facing a huge problem, known as the Maus (the largest tank ever built). Now down to just 5 tanks, and missing one of their biggest hitters in the StuG, they have to figure out how to defeat it, because Miho’s strategy depends on urban warfare, and having that thing ready to pop out and blast someone just isn’t going to work. But she takes inspiration, as usual, from her team, as Saori says “It’s big enough to ride on!”

I thought it was absolutely hilarious that Miho actually said “You will think this is a bit ludicrous, but stick with me.” The whole show has been wonderfully ludicrous. And her plan to take out the Maus just raises that to another level. Using the combined efforts of all the tanks – not to shoot it, but to strand it with the turret rotated – Hana is able to shoot the weak engine venting on the back deck from above, knocking the Maus out of the battle. Truly an inspired plan that left me breathless.

Leopon blocks the wayYou Shall Not Pass!

The remainder of the battle is a setup for the final confrontation, because Black Forest Peak still has 15 tanks, and after their effort to strand the Maus takes its toll on the Kame team’s Hetzer, Oarai is down to just four. But Miho realizes that it only takes one tank to take out the flag, so they set up a one-on-one battle, the one that the whole show has worked for, between the Nishizumi sisters. The Oarai Team manages to pull off the rest of the tanks, with the Leopon team blocking the way, setting up this duel, and boy does it deliver.

Recalling the fast-paced urban action of the first fight against St. Gloriana, the fight is an exciting array of camera work, fast passes, brilliant driving and strategic punching and counter-punching. But in the end it winds up, again like St. Gloriana, in a standoff, with a final attack imminent. Trying the same maneuver they failed with that time, Mako slides the Ankou tank around the Tiger with such force that it knocks the treads off, but leaves them in perfect position to fire at the rear of the Tiger, just as the Tiger fires back. And this time, the slight head inclination from Maho tells the story: Kuromorimine is defeated, and Oarai are the champions.


The entire episode really was edge-of-your-seat excitement. Even writing about it afterwards gives me goose bumps! The battle was everything you expected, and even though you knew that Oarai had to win, they *didn’t* have to win. There was doubt, and there was uncertainty, and that made the whole thing  that much more exciting and satisfying. And in the end, Maho acknowledges her defeat to Miho’s style of Sensha-do. Even Shiho, their mother, smiles and applauds for Miho (albeit when noone’s around), acknowledging the ability and accomplishments of her younger daughter. Finally, in a good move, the battle ended with enough time for some after-battle happenings, including heartfelt thanks from Anzu and Momo to Miho, congratulations from all of Miho’s previous opponents, and even  a parade through the streets of Oarai that gives us a chance to see all the girls of Oarai’s Sensha-do team.

Momo cries tears of happinessWhat a hug and smile from Anzu

Momo’s tears of joh and Anzu’s genuine hug and smile

Special mention goes to the most touching after-battle part, in my opinion. The Student Council, who has been trying so hard to keep the school open, and was knocked out of the battle before the end, meets Miho and team after they return. Momo, who realizes that they have done what they set out to do, what they needed to do, completely breaks down in tears, a huge difference from her usual severe demeanor. And Anzu, ever blithe and glib, gives Miho the most sincere “arigatou” and a huge hug.

As usual, the production team shines. As with episode 11, the time for preparation showed in the quality of the battle, with fluid CG, well directed action, more excellent camera work, and exciting pacing. The overhead views of the final battle evoked the old Atari pack-in game Combat, with just one tank on one side, and one tank on the other. And the creativity in the final battle was unmatched, with blocks, moves and counter-moves, and finally flawless execution.

Riding off into the sunset

A fitting finale for a fabulous show.

And now on to the series review! Screenshots are located at the end of the post.

Title: Girls und Panzer
TV Series; 12 Episodes 
Genre: High School, Battle
Produced: Actas

The story centers around Miho Nishizumi as she tries to forget her past failures in Sensha-do in her new school. The writing is good, not great, but it works so well for this show, because it’s not really about the story. It’s about the setup, and about the execution. When you break the story down to component parts, you really are left with an impression that the anime can’t be that good. But it is, and even a story about saving the school, and winning the national tournament works, because it’s put into such a framework that it just makes it all so good.

The setup is just ludicrous, and was from the very beginning. If you try to watch this show seriously, and point out plot holes, and analyze things from our framework, it doesn’t work at all. The best thing you can do with the show is “Just go with it.” And when you let them tell you the story, and let them draw you into the world, everything falls into place. The settings, the sport, the sheer audacity of it all is stupendous, and makes this mash up of genres that you’ve seen before fresh and exciting.

The opponents in the show deserve a mention as well. Since the show is based on using WWII era tanks, most of the teams in the show have an affiliation with one country or another: American, Russian, English, Italian, German. Only the protagonist team has a mixture of tanks from different countries.

The characters are a polarizing point in the show. While some people felt they were bland, boring, and unimportant, I thought that the show did a very good job with the characterization, especially considering that there are two kinds of characters: The individual girls driving the tanks, and the tank teams themselves. With 28 girls on the Oarai team, they can’t spend that much time on each girl, so what happens is that each tank gets a personality, and the girls fit within that personality. The History girls, the Volleyball team, the First Years, the Auto Club, the Discipline Committee, the Tank Otakus, and the Student Council all have individual personalities that fit within their team.

We do get more in depth with the main team of the show, learning about the family situation for the different girls of the Ankou team, from Miho’s and Hana’s break from their family traditions to Yukari’s lonely life filled with passion for tanks, to Mako’s loving but cross grandmother who’s raised her since a accident took her parents. I enjoyed the development of these characters, and the way it fit into the show. As Hana says, “There are some flowers that can only bloom at Oarai”, and we see the blooming of these girls, all somewhat outcasts, through their efforts at driving tanks.

This anime really has set the standard, in my eyes, for incorporation of CG into drawn anime, especially in a battle setting. Even though the first sequence of the anime was pretty rough, everything after that has been stellar. The direction of the show is excellent, and the varied camera techniques and consistent exciting battle sequences keep you enthralled throughout. And the show mixes the exciting tank battles in with the slice of life and training stuff very well, with almost every episode having *some* battle action.

Audio work was also great, with a catchy OP that played in every episode. interestingly, after the first episode where there was no OP, Girls und Panzer never used a cold open, always starting with the DreamRiser OP sung by Chouchou. The ED, Enter Enter Mission sung by Team Ankou, was a favorite of mine, not only because it’s a fun song, but because the ED sequence featured a bouncy chibi version of the tanks and crews in the series that always brought a smile. The soundtrack through the show was excellent, using mostly public domain martial music, selected based on the different team’s national tendency. Of special note, because of both its excellence and its situation, was the Russian team’s singing of Katyusha in the middle of battle. This is also infamous, because of the decision by the American licensor to cut the song out due to uncertainty about the copyright status of the song. Given the state of laws in the US, the decision is perfectly justifiable, but it points out how stupid the situation of copyright law in the US is.

The only thing you can knock the production of the show on is the delays that cropped up throughout. The show had not one, but two emergency filler clip episodes as the production team fell behind, eventually leading to the three month delay that had the final two episodes airing after the Winter season.  While it was ultimately the right decision, it was definitely shaming for the director and the staff, and the effect on the show is up for debate. While having the shows done perfectly is a good result, you wonder how much audience was lost because of the delay.

Girls und Panzer is a show that is far more than the sum of its parts. Describing it to people just leaves them thinking “How can that be interesting?” But it is, and how. It was, in my estimation, the best show of 2012, although because of the production delays, most anime fan sites didn’t include it in their year end wraps and polls. Does this make it a show for 2013? Or will this sparkling gem of a show get lost in the shuffle, never getting the ‘best’ recognition it richly deserves. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen, and would encourage everyone to watch it, because you’ll find something that you love in it.

Category Score
STORY Great
CHARACTERS Great
PRODUCTION Excellent
ORIGINALITY Excellent
ENTERTAINMENT Excellent
OVERALL Excellent

Screenshots of the finale (and there’s a lot)

Shin Sekai Yori Final Review [Excellent]

Squealer is appointed the jesterSquealer stands ‘trial’

Shin Sekai Yori finally finishes its exciting and interesting story of a future of humanity. First I’ll talk about the final episode, but if you’d like to skip to the Series Review, click here.

TheGood

The distance between human and bakenezumi

I was somewhat surprised that they dealt with the finish and final battle so quickly in this episode, but it was the right choice. After realizing that the girl (it seemed to be confirmed this week) was not a fiend, but just didn’t consider herself human, Saki’s plan involves Kiroumaru essentially sacrificing himself in order to trigger the death feedback. When he revealed that he was a bakenezumi, the girl’s genetic death feedback, believing she had killed one of her own kind, kicked in and killed her. It was a bit disappointing, because one of my hopes had been that they could have saved the girl, but that doesn’t turn out to be possible.

Talking to Squealer

After the death of his ‘Messiah’, Yakomaru is taken into custody and taken back to the village to face justice. Prior to his ‘trial’ (basically a kangaroo court), Saki and Satoru talk to him in custody, to ask why he started this war. After rejecting his given human name and reverting to Squealer, he states his rationale: it was the best chance he was going to get, with his “Messiah”, the child of Maria and Satoru. And once it started, it was win or bust. And in the end, he busted. But his real reason for it? Because the bakenezumi are humans: They’re just as smart, and just as worthy of respect, a respect that never comes from the capricious ‘gods’ with their PK powers. He even uses this as reasoning when facing his ‘trial’, loudly proclaiming “we are humans!”

Squealer's punishment begins

 Unfortunately, what he faces is much more like naked vengeance. The bloodthirstiness is disgusting, both to me and to Saki, who can’t stay in the court and watch. The sentence pronounced reflects this: “Eternal Hell”, a punishment where they won’t allow his body to die, but constantly keep it in pain. Truly a vindictive punishment, and the crowd howls in approval.

Satoru in light, Saki still in darkness

But the work isn’t over for Saki or Satoru. First she has to keep her promise to Kiroumaru, that if nothing else, she would save the Giant Hornet queen. She actually does much better than that, saving multiple colonies from the wrath of humans. But Satoru is also doing some investigation, at times forbidden investigation, and while running a chromosomal investigation on the bakenezumi, he realizes that they have 23 pairs of chromosomes, the same as only humans. And he realizes that after humans put death feedback into the genome of PK users, they would be at the mercy of non-PK humans. So the answer was to make the non-PK’s into non-humans. Satoru realizes at that point that they’ve been indiscriminately killing these ‘people’ all the time, people intentionally put under the arbitrary rule of the ‘humans’.

The choice to not have the final ‘battle’ take long also gives us time to see what happens in Saki’s and Satoru’s farther future. As they become more influential, they also become a couple, finally marrying and having a child. I thought this was an important symbolic part of the show, in that while the commentariat on the show has been split over whether their society is worth continuing, they think it is, and they think they will contribute to its continuation. And not only contribute, but attempt to make it better. They are both in a position to do so, and hopefully they will have an impact.

Putting Squealer out of pain

There is one final act of mercy from Saki as well. There has been a museum set up to commemorate the war with the bakenezumi. Using a ruse to be alone in the museum, Saki approaches the glass vessel that contains what is left of Squealer. And then she ends his life, and his suffering.

Saki's insightfulness

In the end, not much changes in the world for Shin Sekai Yori. And if you had asked me early in the series what could change, I would have said (and did say) “Not much”. Hopefully the biggest change is in how the bakenezumi are treated. But without the wholesale destruction of the PK society, there just isn’t much room for change. Maybe a bit less paranoia about children. Maybe a bit less control over the individual. But that would have to be a gradual process. And it’s always important to remember that they’re just trying to live, as everyone is.

And now on to the final review. (Episode 25 screenshots at the bottom of the post)

Title: Shin Sekai Yori
TV Series; 25 Episodes 
Genre: Drama, Supernatural
Produced: A-1 Pictures

The story is the strongest part of Shin Sekai Yori. Based on a novel, the world that is constructed for us is airtight. There are almost no retconns or walkbacks or exceptions. And in building the world in the story, they do it in the best possible way: showing us. Going through multiple time skips, we follow the story of Group 1 from their early teens to their mid twenties, through school, troubles, and eventually war. In addition, the show uses scenes from hundreds of years before the setting of the story to build the foundation of the world they live in. There are a couple episodes with long expository sequences, but they fill in information in such a way as to not overwhelm.

And throughout, the show is continually setting up the judgment of the society depicted in the show. It is not a friendly place. It is not admirable. You wouldn’t want to live there. Humanity is barely holding on to itself, and seems to be in a slow decline, held down by ruthless culling of children and extreme controls of hypnotic conditioning. Through this almost defeatist world, we are constantly evaluating whether their methods are justifiable or too extreme.

Rating: Excellent

The characters are another strong point of the show. Following someone through such a large portion of their life is always going to bring a connection with the audience, and we have characters who make it to the end of the series, while other important characters play key roles, even after their deaths. The show could be a bit more character driven, as at some points it feels like they’re being dragged along in the tide of the story, but overall, they are well characterized and relatable.

Rating: Excellent

Production is the one area that Shin Sekai Yori falls down on. It’s obvious that this show didn’t have a large budget, and it also didn’t have the most consistent direction.  The lack of budget seems to be justified by the terrible home version pre-orders, but it results in the show having some pretty static animation, fairly low detail characters, some off-model scenes, and low quality action scenes. But a particularly good part of the production is the backgrounds, which are frequently stunningly beautiful. All in all, tho, the animation quality was never poor enough to pull me out of being immersed in the show.

The audio portion of the production is also well done, with the use of Dvorak’s New World Symphony (fitting for the name of the show From the New World) used as a key piece of music throughout the series. The remainder of the background music is unobtrusive, and fits well with the show. There is no OP song throughout the entire series (the one time a song is played early in the show is an insert song that later becomes the ED), and the first ED song, Wareta Ringo sung by Saki’s VA Taneda Risa, is perfect for the tone of the show, stuttering guitars and layered answering vocals. The second ED, Yuki ni Saku Hana sung by Maria’s VA Hanazawa Kana, doesn’t fit the part of the series it’s used for nearly as well. It is good for a few episodes when the story focuses on the relationship between Saki and Maria, but kind of gets out of phase with the show. It might have been better to use the intro from the single version, which has a haunting sequence of chords to open, rather than one that opens with Maria’s singing.

Rating: Great

Overall, Shin Sekai Yori is a show that is well worth the time. It’s enjoyable as a well told story as well as being enjoyable as a vehicle for exploring the morality of the world presented. One of the amazing things about the show is how short every episode felt. There were many times where the show would show the title card, followed by the jarring opening of Wareta Ringo, and I’d realize that the entire episode had gone by, when it felt like it should be the break in the middle. Frequently engrossing, it always entertained, and never had to resort to a filler episode or a side story. The show made inexorable progress from beginning to end, and never felt like it had to rush or fill. Overall, an excellent show.

Category Score
STORY Excellent
CHARACTERS Excellent
PRODUCTION Great
ORIGINALITY Great
ENTERTAINMENT Excellent
OVERALL Excellent

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Kotoura-san Weekly Update – Episode 11

Manabe arrives in the nick of timeThe show is better when these two are a pair.

The story of the School Girl Attacker is resolved, and Kotoura and Manabe are reunited.

Muroto recoversMuroto in the hospital.

Muroto was not seriously injured, but Yuriko realizes that she’s gotten everyone into this mess. Muroto’s assurances that he isn’t just with her because of her mother stand up pretty well, and definitely seem to bring them closer together, although I don’t know how much Yuriko wants them to be more together.

Manabe rejects Moritani after she confessesMoritani gets rejected.

There was also a scene between Manabe and Moritani that was notable for something somewhat rare in anime: The confession and rejection between main characters. While it wasn’t a surprise that Manabe rejected Moritani, it was interesting that the form was held, and that Moritani actually went through with it, even though the outcome was a fait accompli. Manabe was always going to say he loved Haruka, and then go to find her. But I guess it does provide some closure for Moritani. Hopefully there will be some ‘closure’ of the couple of Haruka and Manabe next episode.

Meeting Tsukino in the parkNot the best storyline they could have used.

Kotoura-san has been trading on the slightly different feel it’s had throughout the series. I am not as down on it as others are, since I think it’s held up pretty well with the emotional swings and good and bad mixed together. But this episode, finishing up the story of Tsukino, just felt like it needed all the time it had to handle that. And that crowded out any of the real emotional parts that this show had.

It didn’t help that the story of the attacker was pretty rote, one that was completely predictable throughout, and that the resolution episode finally crossed over into the ‘yeah, we’ve seen this before *yawn*’. The show then compounded this by separating Manabe and Kotoura, thus robbing us of the main source of humor the show has. So with the drama toned down, and no real humorous situations possible, the whole show kind of fell flat. Plus, with the audience knowing who the attacker was, it really caused the audience to just roll their eyes at all the things that happened, like Haruka dropping her cell phone under the TV, running away up the stairs to get away (to be laughed at by Tsukino). And of course, Haruka is saved in the nick of time.

Haruka appeals to the good side of TsukinoCliched resolution doesn’t satisfy.

The Ugly is the whole thing with Tsukino. Using a story ripped off, and not very well at that, from Bakemonogatari, she had Dissociative Personality Disorder. And Haruka ‘wins’ by convincing the ‘good’ Tsukino to take charge again. It was not really a good way to go.

The good thing about this episode, tho, is that it wasn’t the last one. This would have been a tremendously disappointing way for the series to end. Hopefully with the actual finale they’ll do better, even if it means a bit of despair.

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Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai Weekly Update – Episode 11

The protectors of the Rinjin-bu, and maybe best friendsYozora and Sena protecting the Rinjin-bu

The day of the culture fair has arrived, but the Rinjin-bu’s movie hasn’t. Instead, Rika has worked herself into an anime cold, and doesn’t complete the editing. Also, Yusa Aoi returns, and takes her jealousy of Sena to the new height of trying to get her club disbanded. And Sena drops a huge bomb right in the middle of the clubroom.

Rika with a cold is moeRika is so cute with a cold

Rika’s cold provides the opportunity for Kodaka to have another talk with Rika, this time in the infirmary. The concern everyone has when finding out that she only has a slight fever is expressive of how much they’re all coming together, and furthering this point, Yozora cancels all the festival screenings of the almost completed movie, because “there’s no point if we all haven’t watched it together first.” More than anything else, this movie seems to represent the first real gelling of the Rinjin-bu into a group of people who recognize that they’re with friends. And when Kodaka relays that sentiment to Rika, and that everyone agreed, she’s extremely moved.

Rika learns there's no 'yaoi hole'

Rika and Kodaka talking

That doesn’t stop her from teasing Kodaka a little more about ‘taking’ her. Nor does it stop her from setting him up, reading a BL book so that she can record him doing it. The question I have is whether that’s going to be something for blackmail, or is it going to be for Rika’s ‘personal’ use? But her hopes are shattered when she learns a key fact about male anatomy. And even though he’s been embarrassed talking about it, Kodaka finally admits that the only reason he could have such a silly conversation with someone like Rika is because of the Rinjin-bu.

Watching it all togetherWatching the movie together

And when Rika finally gets better, they all sit down to watch their movie together. Maybe sometime the rest of us will get to see it.

Loli on the couchYusa needs to stand on the couch to get her point across

The bad is Yusa Aoi. After finding out about the Rinjin-bu, for some reason she decides she’s going to shut them down. Is this some attempt at revenge on Sena, or even just one-upsmanship? The first time she tries, she meets her match in the battle of the school rulebook in Yozora, who you can imagine has read the book a few times. Trying tactics of them not having goals, not having activities, even Yukimura’s, Maria’s, and Kobato’s outfits, Yusa is rebuffed time and again by Yozora’s thorough knowledge of rules and loopholes. And even though she’s stood up well, it’s draining to Yozora, but she obviously is pleased by the thanks she gets for her effort.

Maria admits itWhat, Maria’s not a Sister?

But that’s not the only thing Yusa will try. She comes back another day, and this time seems to have an airtight case: The club must have a moderator, and even though they thought they had Maria, she’s not actually a sister, as confirmed by Kate (who is a sister). But threatened with her club being disbanded, Sena goes into action, calling her father, the Chairman, and getting him to offer Maria a teacher position. And when pressed, Sena gets tough, pointing out that Yusa and the student council are lucky she decided to go the easy route of getting a moderator, rather than ruining the student council.

Sena goes on the offensiveSena is not shy about using her influence.

While Yozora is not entirely approving of the idea of using influence and power to roll roughshod over one’s enemies, Sena points out that if someone would back down because of that power, she doesn’t want to bother with them anyway. And that’s really a compliment to Yozora, who never backs down from Sena, especially over her possible influence.

 

Saying the words 'I love you'Sena drops the big one.

We’ll put this in Ugly, because it could be a big problem going forward. Sena, in talking about her conversation with her father, and maybe a little distracted by her game, blurts out that she and Kodaka should just get married. Because after all, she does love him. This, of course, brings back Kodaka’s avoidance measure of “What was that?” But before Sena can gather herself back up, and confess face to face, which she’s going to do, Kodaka runs away. And Rika, who pointed out exactly this situation last week, that Sena thought differently about Kodaka than he admitted, is really disappointed in Kodaka. Meanwhile, Yozora is stricken. This must have been her worst nightmare, and I wonder how much of her wishes she could have worked up the nerve to confess first now that the opportunity is gone. Or could Yozora ever confess how she really feels, either to Kodaka or to herself?

The most frightened we've seen YozoraYozora is very scared.

Heading into next week’s finale, will Kodaka stop running away? Will he finally face not only the fact that their all friends, but that all of the girls in the club wish they were more than friends? Or will this irreversably change the way they all interact? It’s possible that Kodaka has been avoiding this just because admitting that he liked one or more of the girls could put a rift in the club. Is he really that perceptive?

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