Spring 2015: Part 2

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Oh, it’s been a month. Quite a month! Lots of things to say and lament, and over much fewer shows than the first installment.

But let’s not wait, let’s just get to it!

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Arslan Senki

Now that the show’s starting to get into the swing of the story it’s picking up a bit from the plot side of things.  Characters remain the strong point along with presentation.  In all the atmosphere of Pars is wonderfully realized, and I love the palatial life they’ve constructed even if we’ve only been exposed to it very briefly.  It has a strange, first-person telling of the history-book presentation we had back in Madan no Ou to Vanadis.

I think that’s the big reason the simplicity of the narrative is easier to swallow now than it was earlier in the series.  As time progresses, this is almost like a direct adaption of a story by Herodotus, very straightforward and embellished, yet methodical and plodding event by event.  And yet it hasn’t needed to fallback on a narrator or other transition device to get this across yet.  In all I think it comes across rather elegantly in this manner.  That’s not to say the narrative has been flawless, it’s still been following a rather predictable formula (Oh, Arslan is going to beat an entire army with his four guys by outwitting them with a simple trick, how unexpected).  The strong parts remain the character interactions as they go about their rather pre-ordained roles, the banter in this series is fantastic and keeps it all rather elevated.

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Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: ViVid

This show’s suffering from a lot of the pacing issues we had in early StrikerS.  The edge here is that I’m fairly certain the series will always be ABOUT Vivio, so we won’t just siderail a cast change mid-stream. I think. I can’t be entirely sure.  But it does tend to drag from time to time. But the action remains top notch.

I do admit I’m intrigued to see how Nanoha handles the Tournament Fighter format going forward. Or at least I assume we’ll get a few more episodes out of the current arc before the bad guy attacks, we’ve all seen this before, right?

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Knights of Sidonia: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki

Ugh…where to begin with this one?  You’ll remember how in my recap of the original series I mentioned that the character stuff is the weakest aspect of this series?  Well they decided to make an entire season out of it.

Knights of Sidonia has become a harem series. And a bad one at that.  The glorious parts of Sidonia still pop up from time to time.  The Graviton Cannon scene was spectacular, suspenseful and full of that human hubris that so marked the morality of this series. The looks on the crew’s faces while Kobayashi stood behind her mask, only admiring how powerful she now was despite the abject horror of the weapon she had unleashed, and how everyone was too afraid to challenge her on the matter? Brilliantly directed, acted and blocked, it was a magnificent example of the kind of work that made this series stand out in the first place.

But NONE of that changes the fact that we are now spending 15 out of 22 minutes each episode exploring the day to day slice of life antics of teenagers supposedly on the brink of extinction.  Anyone who wants to make a defense of this series needs only look to the image of A GAUNA BLUSHING LIKE A TEENAGE GIRL.  REMEMBER THIS IMAGE. Any time you want to defend this series’ science fiction elements, remember this image: Brainless Harem flick.  Even a Gauna, the mighty, flesh devouring, apocalyptic Lovecraftian horror….blushes when the protagonist says something nice to her.

I won’t be dropping it, I have history with this series and still want to see how it ends. But if there’s a third series rest assured I won’t be covering it unless I feel it’s been too long since I ranted about harem bullshit.

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Kekkai Sensen

Still an enjoyable series, all told.  There isn’t a whole lot to say now that didn’t apply last month.  Stories are still solid, comedy is still strong, characters are still adorable.

And because the series is so episodic and doesn’t really try to character build or advance a plot, there isn’t a whole lot to criticize.  It has a narrow focus, and it performs that focus well.  I do wish we had more substance to what we were getting, but frankly they’re doing a good enough job at what they’re doing without needing to complicate it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

DDA Top 10: #4: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

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It’s been a long time coming, but here we are.  The final four. The best of the veritable best.

And, much like Black Rock Shooter, I’m using this to accredit the entire franchise, as opposed to a single specific season. But the praise falls mostly on the span of the final half of Lyrical Nanoha through A’s, for the sticklers. But being such an expansive franchise, it’s hard not to just talk about everything.

Many people credit Madoka Magica as being the quintessential deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre. While it may be the revolutionary deconstruction, its forbearer is this series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha).

Sure, the themes don’t get AS dark (exactly…it’s hard to judge one tragedy against another), and its structure is not nearly as theatric as the Faustian elements that permeate Madoka. On the whole the Lyrical Nanoha series is still an upbeat one.

But I rather liken Nanoha to the works of Alfred Hitchcock.  Hitchcock, if you can’t put a face to the name, is of course the father of suspense and thriller film. The Birds, Psycho, his resume is impressive indeed.  But one thing he did that almost no horror/mystery/suspense directors do, is he played very strictly “by the rules”.  He rarely pushed the boundaries, which is probably part of why he became such a sensation. He rarely went for “shock value”, instead relying on cleverness and storytelling to illicit your reactions to his works.

Nanoha is similar in the regard that it plays by many of the traditional rules of the magical girl genre, but it bends the way the material is presented.  While it doesn’t twist the magical familiar into a Lovecraftian horror like Madoka would, it does present the life of a magical girl as a curse of sorts, and not a blessing.

For example, while there is combat like in, say, Pretty Cure, in Nanoha that combat often ends in hospitalizations for one or both parties. The evil witch in Nanoha, Precia Testarossa, doesn’t JUST want to be evil like Queen Beryl does, she beats her daughter and flogs her for failure, while we have to grimly sit and watch.  And while Madoka often explores the “dark” aspects of love, the selfish preconceptions and such, Nanoha explores the evils good people will commit FOR pure love.  Battling evil isn’t a sacred duty, it is a last resort, and in a sense, Lyrical Nanoha could be considered an anti-war series. I’ll get into that point deeper later.

Which is why, as a fan of both series, I wince whenever anyone proclaims Madoka Magica changed the magical girl genre forever.

Yes, but not as much as you think.

As always with the Top 10s, there will be spoilers. But! If you are new to the series but not sure how to get into it, read the next section, it’s for you, and basically spoiler free. Continue reading