Review-Roundup: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 01, Dagashi Kashi 01, Kokaku no Pandora 01, Nurse Witch Komugi R 01
I like the sentiment of the father correcting his son’s manga-drawings but… how would he know that if his son hasn’t filled in the dialogue into the speech-bubbles…? The premise claims the main-character of Dagashi Kashi is good at understanding sweets but sucks at writing mangas. Well, if anything I will side with this guy’s frustration because his father is judging his manga before even reading the script!
This time I review:
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 01: Rakugo is the art of telling a great story live before an audience. Yotaro leaves prison with the desire to become such a storyteller and he already knows who to turn to for tutelage. This is how he meets Konatsu who works her ass off in secret to compete with the guy who has something to do with her beloved father’s death. Meanwhile, Yotaro is dealing with his emergent career as rakugo-storyteller.
Dagashi Kashi 01: Some guy wants to do what he wants and not what he’s supposed to do. But since traditions are important the girl of his dreams gets dropped in his lap (despite already having a childhood-friend ready who’s head-over-heels in love with him) whose sole task it is to convince this guy that he needs to take over his family-business. Of course, he’s also better at managing the family-business than writing manga which is his passion. Yep, it’s a nice comedy telling you that your dreams are worthless and what counts is taking over the family-business. Also, there’s a bit of absurd comedy because the dream-girl is a Haruhi-clone.
Kokaku no Pandora 01: Shirow Masamune is the creator of Ghost In The Shell. Later he turned into a shitty writer for ecchi and hentai-stuff. And now we finally we see post-Ghost-In-The-Shell-Shirow-Masamune-work! Of course, you won’t be that surprised if you’ve actually read the original Ghost In The Shell manga because it’s much pulpier than both Oshii’s GitS, the SAC-stuff or even the Arise-stuff. That should tell you something about how relevant Shirow Masamune is as a creator. But I guess, they’ve finally found some idiots who don’t care about that. And the product is one of the worst series of the season!
Nurse Witch Komugi R 01: Look, if you want to make fun of the mahou-shoujo-genre, maybe don’t try to tell a formulaic mahou-shoujo-story at the same time… Especially if your jokes suck.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 01 Review:
… which is of course something you only say to someone who already is obsessed with the past. And Kontasu living together with the guy who was there when her father died certainly doesn’t sound like she has moved on…
The perception of time is a good indicator of how good your first episode is. There are episodes that keep your attention and are over in a flash. There are episodes that make you look at the clock repeatedly just to find out when it will be over. And then there are those episodes that will be an exhausting journey – but in the best way imaginable. This first episode is the last kind and one of the obvious reasons for that is that it’s a double-episode. But it’s episodes like this that remind you how great 45-minutes-episodes can be. A lot of F/SN: UBW’s great moments also happened in such 45-minutes-episodes. In a good series the extra-time offers you a chance to offer a kind of richness to the story you wouldn’t normally have. And this certainly pays off in this case!
I had no idea what rakugo-storytelling is before I started this series and it’s a testament to this episode that at the end of it, you understand why characters care so much about it. The biggest reason for that is the actual rakugo. You put a lot of pressure on yourself as a director, voice-actor and animator to keep what’s essentially a one-man-play alive for an extended scene. But thanks to the double-length the creative team behind the series just nails the fascination of that art-form. And that you can actually feel the difference between Yotaru succeeding and failing is a great feat in direction. The resounding silence when Yotaru’s failing compared to the laughter he basically drags out of the audience when he’s triumphant are powerful moments in this episode.
The high-points, both negative and positive, are what defines the experience of this episode and what makes it so great. What you take away from this episode aren’t the subtleties (which do exist, though) but the moments when characters feel like they’re drowning in their emotions. It’s the moments when characters can’t bottle up their emotions anymore and act on them. And the episode expertly jumps from one emotional high-point to another without any visible effort. What this series achieves is what a soap-opera should be. Characters in this episode always go for big gestures. It’s always the worst or the best that could happen which makes it easy for this episode to become an emotional rollercoaster.
I have to say that at first, I was suspicious. Reading the synopsis I thought “Shouldn’t Konatsu be the main-character?” but after seeing the episode it makes sense why he’s so important. At the same time, I don’t like the angle of this episode. So, Konatsu has this father who was a masterful rakugo-storyteller who died young. His daughter develops daddy-issues and here comes along this enthusiastic young guy from prison that’s VERY similar to Konatsu’s dead dad. There are moments in this episode that try to move away from that idea but why we needed to go into that direction in the first place is questionable. It adds this air of “destiny” to the proceedings that the story simply doesn’t need.
Just like with F/SN:UBW I feel like a great 45-minutes-episode is always better than a great 25-minutes-episode. Well, at least as long as the storytelling is happening in a serialized format. And even 45-minutes-episodes are superceded nowadays by the model of releasing all the episodes at once. The tendency of serializing storytelling is to mimic the experience of movies anyway. So the less you care about episodic storytelling the more content you want the audience consume in a short amount of time. After all, it’s difficult to find compelling endings for 20-minutes-episodes when you treat the whole series as one big narrative experience. Many animes still (rightly) construct their episodes with ebbs and flows in terms of storytelling. It’s hard to do grand gestures like a four-act-play when you have to end after every 20 minutes and send the audience away for another week. But with 45-minutes-episodes like this one, you can clearly see how much a good series can do with more time.
It wouldn’t be a great episode, though, without the unremarkable quieter moments. There isn’t much there on there to grab onto on the surface. But it’s the subtle stuff happening beneath the surface that really gets to shine here. Especially Konatsu is a character who hides a lot of her true self and it’s only in these quiet moments where you occasionally see her true self. And despite her not being a center of attention most of the time, she becomes the best character of the episode. In a lot of ways she’s showing more guts than Yotaro in how determined she is and how passionate she’s about it. Where Yotaro just despairs once he experiences rejection, Konatsu just gets angry and settles for trying even harder. The impression I at least got from this episode was that while Yotaro has a lot of talent and can be great in certain ways, it’s Konatsu who will surpass Yakumo eventually. Despite Yotaro’s dark past, emotionally Konatsu is the far more compelling underdog of the two. I guess, in some ways I still think that she should’ve been the main-character. But I can’t deny that this episode has done a fine job of establishing Yotaro as the main-character.
Of course, I imagine that starting with next week the episodes will go back to the normal length. Someone somewhere would probably kill themselves otherwise because of overworking. Anime-series usually aren’t very good at planning for anything but perfection (and when it doesn’t happen we get shitty-looking episodes or even worse, recap-episodes). This series is off to a good start but if F/SN:UBW is any indication for animes, working well in a 45-minutes-environment is totally different from having to be as effective with 20 minutes. Right now, I hope for the best but let’s see how the second episode pans out.
Dagikashi Kashi 01 Review:
I bet, love-triangles would be a lot more fun if you couldn’t see them from a mile away…
A premise of a show is important. It’s that special something at the core of everything. No matter how good everything else, there needs to be a solid core-idea at the heart of it. The premise is what controls the complexity and depth of your series. Normally you look at a premise and can say “This can be great.”. The potential’s there. If the series manages to be great is whole other topic altogether but you can see why the series started with this idea. Dagashi Kashi is a series, though, setting itself up for mediocrity right from the get-go.
It’s rare to see a series that falls this flat with its core-idea. The first thing you notice is that it’s a comedy. This means its overall tone is happy. As you would expect it tries to keep drama out of its story and there’s optimism at the core of every scene. “Life is good!” is the message you keep hearing in every scene as one absurd comedy-bit after another gets created. Also, you got the pervy best friend whose individuality can be best described as irrelevant. And of course, there’s a love-triangle between the protagonist, a weird manic dream-girl and the childhood-friend-girl.
That’s all basic stuff you could do great with but where the series limits itself is with its core-idea. This is the 21st century and Dagashi Kashi tries to sell you on the idea of a conflict between tradition and individual freedom. And it would be even acceptable if the series hadn’t rigged the whole conflict from the get-go. So, we have this protagonist “Coconuts” who wants to be a manga-author but his father wants him to take over a small sweets-shop in the middle of nowhere (or that’s how it seems). “Coconuts” doesn’t wanna take over the family-business but he still shows a great interest in sweets and business-stuff. His father begs him to reconsider but he has no leverage.
And then the literal girl of his dreams shows up with the sole objective of convincing him that he’s wrong!
You don’t use your premise to already narrow down possible paths of where you can go with your story. Sure, you want to tell the audience what the stakes are and what the motivation is but you shouldn’t limit yourself to the point of having to be predictable. It isn’t that the writing is predictable. It’s that the writing couldn’t be anything BUT predictable under these circumstances! Where the hell is this series supposed to go from here?! I can think of a couple options but that’s way too few. This series is supposed to fill 10+ episodes and the first episode already tires you with its simplicity.
Besides, it’s quite obvious how we go with a Haruhi-Suzumiya-esque dynamic here as “Coconuts” is mostly deadpan and the straight guy in a comedy-bit but also has a heart of gold. Meanwhile, that main-girl has the same kind of insane eccentricity as Haruhi. Her manic energy dominates every scene she’s in and it isn’t always to the benefit of the scene. Her eccentricity seems vapid and too forceful to become likeable. There’s a genuine sense of craziness in her character and since only the father of the protagonist is on the same wavelength her scenes with every other character seem a bit jarring. It’s like the absurdity only exists in certain characters but in the world and so the existence of these characters seems out-of-place.
What this series delivers in this first episode feels more like a proof-of-concept than an actual first episode. Stuff just gets thrown at the audience without any thoughts about structure, pacing or whatnot. It’s hard to see what the series is supposed to be when the first episode just offers you this list of very static ideas. After all, what’s the arc supposed to be? That the main-character cares more about the sweets-shot? That he becomes more successful as a manga-author? That he gets laid? But all these possibilities just exist in your head as an extrapolation of what this first episode is doing. There’s no compelling setup or incentive for the viewer here. I guess, the best you can say about this is that maybe someone found the whole thing funny and will continue watching because of that.
Kokaku no Pandora 01 Review:
AKA the moment you lose your faith in humanity. It’s the medium of anime reduced to grotesque escapism.
I would like to think that usually I know how bad an anime will be judging by its synopsis. Sure, sometimes I will be surprised and it turns out to be better than I imagined. But I’d like to think I can smell bullshit from a mile away. Look, I expected this to be bad and somehow it ended up being worse. How you could manage to do that is beyond me. Heck, Valkyrie Mermaid had a better first episode than this. At least that series was honest.
Where to even begin with this series… Let’s start with the basics: You got one full-on cyborg girl starting on a journey to find herself. She meets a genius-scientist but more importantly she meets another full-on cyborg like herself. She immediately takes a liking to that cyborg. After all, in some way we’re talking about feelings of alienation experienced by a teenage-girl and her finally meeting someone who can understand her and who she can understand. But even more than that, the protagonist discovers that all her feelings of alienation and isolation have led to her discovery of how special she is! There’s a reason why she stood apart from everyone wasn’t because she couldn’t make friends with everyone: It was because she’s truly special! And now she’s a super-hero doing her best to protect her new home and family against bad guys.
That’s what I had been expecting. Of course, the first episode only barely resembles that. It’s like someone took that idea and piled a ton of garbage on it. It’s SO much garbage that it’s hard to find some order in the chaos of this episode. Let’s start with the characterizations which are shrill from start to finish. It’s like someone wrote a script in ALL CAPS. There are no quiet moments in this episode and subtlety gets the sledgehammer-treatment as well. So, the tone is already completely screwed up because the balance between quiet and loud moments is ruined. Scenes happen with the logic of fever-dreams, as if everyone’s a slave to their most basic impulses. The series is looking at lazy writing and accusing it of having too much common sense. Morality gets shot in the face for not being able to keep up with characters who are uninterested in consequences or the basic belief of cause-and-effect. Some people want to watch the world burn. This is a sentiment, I’m sure, everyone in this first episode can sympathize with.
This is the kind of series where I wonder just how it happened. Every single scene has some WTF-moment that makes you wonder where the series is going with this. Like this bit about the main-character playing this Nintendo-DS which of course is a relic in modern times and they use that as an indicator how she’s a great full-on cyborg. It’s explained later how full-on cyborgs are usually total klutzes when it comes to physical stuff and only a chosen few are as dexterous as humans, if not even more so. But if that’s the case how would the main-protagonist not know this? Of course you would expect it to not make sense at that point but what you still marvel at is how much time they waste on this stuff despite it being bad storytelling. People spent days… well, hours, I guess (from the looks of it) to animate these sequences and they amount to nothing! After all, remember the golden rule of “Show, don’t tell”? Well, how is the idea of agile full-on cyborgs being special presented to us…? It’s just by virtue of people telling us. And you just know that even this “Let me tell you what the deal is…”-exposition only got into the narrative as an afterthought. There’s nothing organic about someone being an idiot and another becoming a talking-head for the sake or shitty storytelling. Then again, everything in this episode felt like somebody’s afterthought after having spent no time at all thinking about the narrative.
A series trapped in idiocy and we can watch it each week drowning in its own bullshit. It would make for great entertainment except there’s nothing enjoyable about watching months of hard work going down the toilet like that. As with all absolutely terrible shows it’s kinda amazing how little they manage to do in their first episode. 20 minutes and I’m hardpressed to tell you one single thing about this that I give a shit about. There’s a story in this first episode and at some point I just gave up trying to grasp the insanity of trying to fight rebelling cyborgs who fuck up their rebellion by unleashing an evil machine and therefore end up crawling back to their old master. It’s a series without purpose or structure just delivering one-note performances that amount to nothing more than gibberish.
Nurse Witch Komugi R 01 Review:
Suicide never sounded better than when this character talks. What kind of madman proposed the idea of including a rapping girl in this lackluster parody…?!
It’s nice to make fun of something, isn’t it? It’s nice to be self-indulgent once in a while and make fun of something that deserves to be made fun of, isn’t it? It’s nice to call something stupid, isn’t it? I think, that’s essentially all the thinking that got done for this series. This is comedy delivered with an anvil landing on your head and a person from a window up high yelling at you “We’re just kidding! It’s all a joke, get it?!”. What this series is far more grotesque than what you imagine this series wanted to do. It’s a parody in the same sense would call really bad series funny. Without showing any insight into why the parody is relevant, the series unintentionally becomes the garbage it desperately tries to parody.
The episode is littered with a lot of jokes. They are all there to be a parody of mahou-shoujo-series, specifically those cheap shoujo-series (the Precure-franchise for example) that are manic and screechy enough to make you feel like they turned happiness into a shard of glass to stab you with it. The imposing way with how these mahou-shoujo-series present their views on life is something worth parodying. But what you shouldn’t do is to treat parody like a little gimmick. It shouldn’t be “We are doing this – and it’s a parody.”. That’s why it doesn’t even come close to being a satire. For some reason, this is a series parodying the mahou-shoujo-genre while also wanting to present a rather straight-faced presentation of a mahou-shoujo-series.
Of course, it doesn’t work. A parody is an imitation and you make fun of what you’re imitating. The moment you do that AND ask the audience to get invested in the story at the same time, it all falls apart, of course. What makes the parody so worthless is how irrelevant it is to the series. Sure, we get one bit after another about how embarrassing mahou-shoujo-costumes are or how there are always inane explanations for the magical powers or how the series invents this entire unnecessarily convoluted lingo for the series. That’s all worthy of a parody but it all happens outside the story. The comedy in this first episode never creeps into the story and interacts with it. It’s like two series are happening at once sometimes. Komugi in parody-mode is very different from Komugi in story-mode. Her reactions to Usa-P when he parodies certain tropes are very different from when she’s being her usual innocent self with Kokona. When Komugi runs away from Usa-P after he has talked about her having to wear embarrassing clothes to become a mahou-shoujo is the sort of absurdity you would expect to see in a series like Gintama for example. In contrast, all the talk of Komugi being an underdog in the idol-business but being beloved by locals is played straight and I think the creators underestimate that a typical mahou-shoujo-series or idol-series wouldn’t blink twice including this with the expectation that the audience should take them serious. So, either they’re not daring enough with their comedy or they are as insane as I fear and try to create a typical mahou-shoujo-series with drama and all that is also a parody as a comedy-gimmick.
In the end it’s just a jumbled mess of confusing story-inconsistencies and crazy changes in tone. Like, how did nobody at this movie-studio panic about the monster? Nobody was there when Komugi kicked its ass. So why did nobody even mention the monster after she got back to the film-set? Also, the jokes are all weak from start to finish. It isn’t just conceptually that the comedy doesn’t work here. The writing always goes for these one-note, blunt bits. The thing with the inane exposition gets repeated twice. Usa-P can’t shut up about how embarrassing the clothing is. Or something like when Komugi has this introduction where she cheerily mentions how she sucks at every subject except music is just this thing that never goes anywhere. It’s like the writers of this episode have never heard of setup and payoff. The episode just has these burps of comedy that just blatantly complain about mahou-shoujo-tropes without any insight or subtext.
Also, it has to be said that this first episode’s animation and artstyle was quite bad. The background-art usually looks cheap and I seriously hope that Kokona has a twin-sister because otherwise, holy shit…! That girl from that troupe of friends looks exactly like Kokona except she has a different hairstyle. And let’s just make it clear: That “rapper-girl” is one of the worst character-ideas I’ve ever seen!
If there’s one thing that could save this series then it would be for it to become worse! Forget the parody-thingy and just play it straight! The parody shows too much self-awareness when the series clearly doesn’t have the chops to deliver good jokes. But if you play it straight and just butcher the story by taking it way too serious, you could actually get into satire-territory. Except this series is clearly too eager to let you in on the joke. And if the first episode is any indication, the joke’s usually not very good.
Posted on January 10, 2016, in Anime, Dagashi Kashi, Nurse Witch Komugi R, Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn, Reviews, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and tagged Anime, だがしかし, ナースウィッチ小麦ちゃんＲ, 紅殻のパンドラ, Dagashi Kashi, DAGASHIKASHI, Kōkaku no Pandora, Nurse Witch Komugi R, Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn, review. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.