Sound! Euphonium ep5: they’re awesome!

This show is being enjoyed by me in the most nostalgic and biased way possible.  It’s hard to look on something that romances and plays to (pun intended) the most positive memories of your adolescence.  But glancing past my rose-colored lenses, I am enjoying seeing this simple story of coming of age and independence unfold.  Kumiko has hitched her hopes and dreams to nothing, something unproven totally.  And in the end, that may pay off the most.

Silly annual physical scenes aside, this episode got me excited to see how this previously haphazard band was coming along.  And we’re not left with much of a mystery for long.  The students have changed into dedicated, hard working musicians.  And you see the anticipation and excitement and hope build as each step progresses further.  From receiving the uniforms, to the grueling repetitive practices in the heat, the actual packing of instruments and students onto the bus to the event; it all builds nicely.  And then when they play-!  Yes!  It was nice to see that little triumph.  It was nice to see the crowd acknowledge that they were now taking notice, when they didn’t before!

What I find also satisfying is to see the silly rift between Kumiko and Reina dissolve bit by bit.  Though it’s ridiculously awkward, the walls of misunderstanding are progressively coming down.  Like the band, they’re coming together, bonding through shared time and sweat.

I guess the only flaw is that this episode was pretty devoid of conflict.  If anything, it seems this show has the current band coming to grips with its disastrous past and the people around it.  Right now, the band has already far surpassed the one from last year.  But with what appears to be a similar group in charge, you have to wonder what the deciding factor is.  The relationship between Asuka and Haruki seemed to be an important part of that.  It seems very much like their roles are reversed from what you’d expect them to be, with the shy one being the president and the outgoing one being the vice-president.  It’s even more glaring a dichotomy when you see Asuka is the drum major – the leader of the band on the field!

The past of this band seems to be the more interesting situation, as the present for the current students is smoothing out nicely.  I don’t doubt that at some point these two things will come to a head.

For now, I’m getting out of here and replaying that scene with band playing and marching.  It gets my hyped!

Further Reading:

Plastic Memories ep7: waste not, what little time you have

I can imagine this episode didn’t meet with a ton of favorable reviews. I’ve already heard quite a few complaints about how weak and flawed this show’s narrative has been. And all the fluff in this episode doesn’t help my defense of it any.

Much of this episode somewhat bored me, while I generally appreciate character development, sometimes a simple situation can be stretched out.  The whole situation with Tsukasa attempting to ask out Isla, and then Isla and girls talking over how the date should go felt elongated to me.  Everything was done to keep this a self contained episode, not showing much in the way of a reaction to Tsukasa knowing of Isla’s soon coming demise.

I do find a couple of this to be intriguing, the first being Isla’s surprisingly neutral yet strong emotional response to the amusement park.  On one hand, it was home to a singular traumatic event, which was the dissolving of her partnership with Kazuki by Kazuki’s will.  On the other hand, she seems to genuinely enjoy seeing groups of happy people just being around each other.  It seemed like a decent pay off to see the couple actually spend time together on a date.  I was for sure that some terrible event would come and ruin the whole thing.  And that brings me to the second intriguing event.

Tsukasa is a surprisingly frail dude.  I thought his appendicitis was just a case of extremely unfortunate luck.  Put aside the absurdity of there being no excuses for someone to retake a test, even in the event of hospitalization, and you begin to see a faintly painted picture of sickly and unlucky soul.  Unfortunately, two events do not make for a pattern.  We can’t divulge anything from this aside from his potential exhaustion due to working too hard with too little calories to support him.

Other than that, not really much happened, and there was no progression in the plot – only time.  And while time is of the essence in this story, it still doesn’t count as plot.

I feel that I may be making the same mistake I’ve made with other shows with interesting concepts.  This show may not get anywhere close to the hard sci-fi that I wish to see from it.  The show may be taking advantage of the proven desire of anime fans to fall in love with a soulless red-eyed, blue-haired doll.  And if that were the case, I would find it quite hard to not be bitter.  The mere concept is too good and has too much potential to just be a mere romcom with a penchant for yanking tears out of your eyes.

In the future, I will continue to hope that this show attempts to sure up its world building, its sci-fi and answer some hard questions.  We’re far past the point of understanding between these main characters.  The show has to go deeper.  If not, the little time this show has left will be wasted.

Note:  good lord, the animation seemed really uneven and terrible in parts of this episode.  It’s one thing when it’s Michiru’s crazy faces.  I continue to be entertained by those.  But some characters, especially Isla, just looked grossly off-model.

Further Reading:

Knights of Sidonia S2 ep7: boobs equal lady

For all the constant death and chaos of this show, I find myself appreciating the silly moments more and more.  It’s funny how when you clear up your preconceptions and fresh perspective can make all the difference.  For all its very light elements, there is a harem running through this show.  So when the action dies down, it’s nice to have scenes now with established characters working through their own real life issues.  Though an impromptu sex change is a bit on the obtuse side of life events.

OK, raise your hands if you DIDN’T think that manufacturing a Gauna into a giant planet destroying weapon was a bad idea.  Right.  Hands should all be down.  Granted, Shiranui has been a resounding success.  And I’m still puzzled by why its worked out so well.  I don’t think anyone realizes how important Nagate has been to the equation.  This is reflected in this latest experiment.  Ochiai can conjure up the projects, but he doesn’t totally understand them.  Kobayashi seems to be enamoured and blinded by unfettered power.  And both of these fools are so powerful that no one can stop them.  Even as this experiment literally blows up in their face and does massive damage to the colony, things just continue down the same road.  It’s madness.

On the domestic side of things, there are plenty of smaller threads being tugged on, some for nearly the first time.  Starting off, Samari, the ace veteran pilot finally has some sit down time with Nagate, gets drunk and offers to photosynthesize with him.  I was a little puzzled by this, and I’m afraid I missed the point of the encounter.  I had no idea she liked him in the least.  Though she may have been intrigued by his peerless piloting at first, and his polite compliments second.  Unfortunately, Nagate is as oblivious and brain dead about social interactions as any of the most inept anime protagonists out there.  I’m pretty sure the one thing that could out right defeat him is the sight of a vagina.  He has no training for that.

Then there’s the minor relationship of Ren and En with Nagate that’s slowly being brought up.  There’s been practically no progress on that end until now, and even then the potential for it was snubbed out with Samari’s surprise visit to Nagate’s station at work.  I’m on the fence as to whether this will actually add up to something, or she’ll just get brutally murdered in space without saying much of anything.

And then there’s Izana!  Oh how I have waited for this day when she would BUST out, and BLOSSOM into a young lady!  Yes, I can finally give Izana a gender, because she’s grown boobs – and I can assume a vagina.  Strangely, they don’t go into what was going on down below, even though that’s arguably what’s the more important “set-up” here.  All we get is –

BOOBS = LADY = YOU LIKE BOYS!

I guess they genetically engineered out all those pesky gay genes?

I’m only kidding.  It’s just another slightly strange thing to me in this already strange world.

I imagine some people at this point in the show might be getting bored. While there was action, it was more of a tease.  The offending Gauna just blew itself up in the end, probably from being too greedy and overloading on energy.  We’re just left chewing on more and more potential as the show keeps teasing its eventual massive upcoming battle.  But at some point, the show has to stop making promises and deliver, or at least give us something a little more tasty to chew on until that big pay off.  Right now, I’m just waiting.

Further Reading:

Your Lie in April ep11: I lean on my frail emotions for you

Harsh realities are harsh realities until you deal with them.  Then like many things, they fade with time.  Failure, triumph, love, hate, inspiration and regret are all dust that get swept along the river of time.  They’re absorbed and fade way, leaving only memories.  Kousei is chasing something in that river.  Something that too will fade away, leaving only memories.

The biggest thing about this episode is the appearance of Hiroko Seto, a former classmate and close friend to Kousei’s mother.  With her appearance, we get to connect a few more dots in the history of Kousei’s life before the show started.  As the country’s leading pianist, I’m quite surprised to see how little fanfare follows her around.  She just kinda casually hangs out in the concert hall without a peep from her until the very end of the previous episode.  I’m puzzled to learn that Tsubaki didn’t know about her either.  How could someone be such a mystery in plain sight?

It’s clear that she holds some lingering regret in regards to Kousei’s past and career.  We learn it was her that suggested Kousei’s mother teach him to play piano.  She saw his massive potential, and thought it would be a shame to waste.  And after seeing how her friend suffered and abused Kousei, and then seeing how he completely fell apart and away from the piano, she seems to feel guilt over her role in the situation.  All that said, she doesn’t let much of that show in her interactions with Kousei, being very up front and teasing with him.  When later in the episode, Kousei asks her to teach him to play the piano again, she seems not at all hesitant to take on the task.  Perhaps this is her chance to make amends, or to help heal.  The percentage of that healing that will go to either party will be determined later.

This was the conclusion of the little arc revolving around Kousei’s first solo performance since his crumble from grace and his mother’s death two years ago.  And the reactions to it were as scattered as his performance.  One moment, the head judge is berating him in passing, and the next one one of his rivals is screaming at him for a sh*t performance.  But what Kousei is really looking for is Kaori’s reaction.  He just wanted his music to reach her, and that was all.  He didn’t think to stay for the results.  And that would be fair in this situation, knowing he was already disqualified.  But Hiroko convinced him to stay, and it was great learning experience for him.  When the results came out, he saw the happy faces of those few that made it.  And then he saw the far more numerous faces of those facing disappointment and anger at their failure to meet a goal.

In the past, Kousei never stayed for such things.  Those results were a foregone conclusion.  He was above and separate from those around him.  But in the present, we see through this moment, how the moments of failure from his friends tie into everything.  His failure and their’s connects them.  They are connected and closer thanks to this struggle.  He understands the tears of Tsubaki and Ryota more after being around others who sat through the same pressure he did, and performed only to come up short of their goal.  That quick realization made it one of my favorite moments of the show so far.

The show wasn’t all fun and happy moments though.  Your Lie in April has been telegraphing clearly that there is something very wrong with Kaori physically.  Perhaps I’ve watched too many shows with sickly characters who die (i.e. Clannad) to miss the signs.  She’s not long for this world.  It’s this situation that turns a beautiful moment into a bit of a gut punch.  Kousei at the end of the episode goes out and clearly states that it was personality, will and their performance at Towa Hall that carried him through that tough night.  But Kaori states that she won’t always be there to lean on in the future.

Sheesh!  As if her talk about fireflies wasn’t already enough of a sign.

In the end, a pretty good and wonderfully emotional conclusion to this arc.  I look forward to seeing how the two of them progress in the effort to put on another combined performance at Towa Hall.

Further Reading:

Knights of Sidonia S2 ep6: advancing & digressing at the same time

The weird harem continues and the Ochiai’s influence continues to seed more and more power and Gauna technology into the Sidonia’s veins.

On the long road that is Sidonia’s storytelling, you have to wonder at this point what the ultimate destination will be?  Sure, it could be pointing towards understanding, or merger.  Or if you prefer to have a more pessimistic view, we could be on the road to ultimate annihilation.  At this point, Gauna material is being imbued into all aspects of Sidonia’s military strategy.  But I doubt anyone truly understands what’s being played with here aside from Ochiai.  With this new graviton cannon being tested, we see the Sidonia having another option for defense and attack, as they have another weapon capable of planetary destruction.  In Shiranui, they have a more mobile weapon able to integrate with and augment their human forces and technology.  The battle with the massive Gauna hive cluster seems more imminent by the day.

The lighter side of this is seeing the ever increasing bond between Nagate, Izana and Shiranui.  I don’t care how native it appears to now be in the show, it’s still really weird.  Things have progressed to the point where Nagate took the time to research and move to a new home in order to better accommodate Shiranui’s visits.  He also takes the opportunity to invite Izana along, who pretends to grudgingly accept the offer.  It’s cute, but I have trouble envisioning how this ultimately plays out.  This isn’t just because they could all die at any point, but because the group dynamic is just so unique.

Overall, this episode isn’t without event, but not much significant happens.  It’s mostly another deliberate step towards the oncoming chaos.  The Sidonia is firmly entrenched on this road towards war with the massive Gauna hive cluster.  Everything being done now is meant towards that end.  All the massive upgrades and experiments and changes in leadership are in preparation to strengthen the political and military machines that keep the floating colony alive.  It’s very much like a boxer training for a match.  They know and continue to learn about their opponent, all while fine-tuning what they have to do to survive and beat that opponent.  I’m just curious if there’s more than a handful of people in Sidonia that knows that they have an enemy strengthening right next to them.  Their next opponent?  Perhaps.

Further Reading:

Sound! Euphonium ep4: they did it good!

May 12, 2015 1 comment

The joy of playing as a group. The pain of dealing with people of different interests. You think it would be easy to coral a group of people into a unified goal if they’re already given to being in a group that naturally does that sort of thing. If you enjoyed geology, then I find it hard to fathom there being an argument over going on a field trip to survey some rocks. If a bunch of people enjoyed barbeque, you’d have a hard time finding someone in that group that didn’t want to go outside char grill a piece of meat. But when you’re dealing with youth, and the fact that not everyone there has the shame passion, or even is participating willingly, the circumstances can flux greatly. After all, some student may just need an elective to fill out their schedule as we do here in the States. Or there’s a possibility that some student are just doing what they do out of tradition or pressure from their family.  And it’s those people that are most important to bring into the fold.  As they say, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  So if you can’t get the most base members of your group to join, then you’ve already limited what you can do.  It’s impressive to see that chain strengthen ever so slightly.

Things start off kinda rough, as the first thing taking place is a sectional practice.  I was grateful to see Professor Taki step in unexpectedly and coral this nonsense.  As he appropriately said, they shouldn’t be holding a meeting during practice time, and promptly straightened out the entire ensemble.  Before anyone knew what to do, he was having them doing laps, intensive breathing drills and sectional tuning and practice!  It actually looked like a well-run, cohesive unit!  Of course I sound like an old man, reveling in this order and discipline, but I feel it’s truth.  Even though I’ve done all this stuff before, and mostly hated it, it’s all effective and essential stuff.  This is especially true if they’re going to be playing in a parade or something similar.  They run not just for endurance, but so they can learn to play after being short of breath.  It impresses me greatly how realistic this show is in its portrayal of practices and teenage group dynamics.

One of the key moments for this show was small misunderstanding after practice, as Kumiko and her old middle school friend Shuichi talked about Professor Taki.  Shuichi having a bit of a negative opinion of him and his techniques.  Kumiko seemed to be going along with him just because, which ended up being a problem because the girl she feared happened to be passing by.  Somehow overhearing their conversation from her moving bike, she promptly dismounts and scolds both of them for bad-mouthing a teacher that she’s learned very much to like.  This leads to a pretty nice scene the next day where Reina actually apologizes to Kumiko for b*tching her and her friend out.  In a surprise moment of guts, Kumiko actually opens her mouth and apologizes to Reina, even complimenting her on her inspiring play – before fleeing back towards her sectional practice!

Things come full circle towards the last episode as a week passes by and Professor Taki shows up to a nervous and ready ensemble.  And though they don’t knock it out of the park, they pass in a satisfying fashion.  And that is actually an impressive accomplishment considering all the new – even beginner musicians, accompanying the complete lack of teamwork  that plagued the band a mere week before.  As I said before, a strong leader and teamwork  shaped things up enough for them to punch their ticket to SunFes!

I was surprised at how smoothly things went this episode.  Sure, there was plenty of anger and frustration, but they pulled together quite well in a week.  Maybe I’m just so used to rebellious and disrespectful American kids that I can’t fathom such an outcome in such a short amount of time.

There’s still plenty of adversity to deal with, they only usurped a small hurdle.  They’re still full of beginners and lazy students who don’t take their roles seriously.  They don’t appear to be very talented overall.  There isn’t much time for them to nail their parts before this very public debut.  And on a personal note: Kumiko is only taking baby steps towards understanding Reina and her blazing passion.  Until she grasps that, she may always find talking to her former comrade awkward and scary.  Still, this is a great start.  The music, the impressive and surprising realism , the beautiful animation and music; I could see myself really falling in love with this production.

 

Further Reading:

Your Lie in April ep10: for the one you love (pt2)

That was amazing!  Emotion from start to finish.

I feel like I’m watching something unique, even after declaring this show a sports anime.  The battles taking place here take place under a similar structure to a shounen or sports series, but with their unique twist of music in a competitive setting.  And even more uniquely, we see Kousei struggling all alone for an extended period of time.

I struggle to find something to say about this episode despite how much I enjoyed it.  In the beginning, we get some inspirational words from Watari and then we see Kousei struggling along and slowly falling apart as his ability to hear his playing begins to fade away again.  And it’s telling to see just how confused all of the audience is at his performance.  Most in the crowd just don’t know what’s going on, while the knowledgeable experts are more puzzled by Kousei’s inconsistency.  Two years ago this would be unfathomable, now Kousei is banging on the keys like a nervous amateur.  The only surprise for me though was when Kousei cold stopped his performance for a moment.

As we learned during the last competition, when you stop your performance, it’s over for you.  You won’t be judged no matter what you do.  So for a moment there was a period of almost mourning from his friends.  But then the beauty starts, and he discovers a proper reason for playing.

I love that he found a moment and a reason to finally play from the heart.  It shows that in the end he’s capable of more than what he previously accomplished.  No matter what anyone else took out of it, it’s clear that Kousei is capable of conquering his fears and failings with Kaori’s help.

Further Reading:

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