2014
03.31

In  a rather interesting development, Sunrise decided to get a leg up on the season by airing their new series “Keroro” two weeks early.

Keroro

Do what now?!?

Once upon a time, there was a little show called Sgt. Frog. Everybody said it was going to be the next big thing, that it was going to take America by storm, that you wouldn’t be able to escape seeing that little green bastard no matter how hard you tried…yeah that didn’t happen. ADV tried to license the damn thing only to get hosed by the SINISTER SOJITZ CATALOG!!!!(TM) and trigger (along with their aborted Gurren Lagann release) the Great Crash of 2007. By the time Funi finally started putting DVDs out five years after the show debuted, all that broohaha turned out to be mostly internet noise. The show’s popularity quickly petered out and about 80% of it remains undubbed in this country. Furthermore, the manga (which actually did rather well IIRC) is now oop because Tokyopop.

Meanwhile in Japan, they still love the guy three years after series one ended, so here we have the more simply titled Keroro (originally I was going to call this review “Frog” since that’s a literal translation, but that sounds stupid) and it isn’t just a demotion in rank the Sarge has suffered. It appears Sunrise has decided to make this the test case for their initial experiments with Flash and the results are barely any better than… say… Wooser. Everything looks incredibly flat and undetailed, as if we’re watching a motion comic instead of the more fluid show they gave us ten years ago. They seem to have gone overboard with visual gimmicks in the form of fake grain that made my MKV frequently look like it was artifacting. Not cool.

As for the plot, well there isn’t one. Keroro is simply a four minute gag anime cutdown of the old show and as such doesn’t have room for anything resembling story. Basically dorky kid has a dream that alien frogs are invading Earth, his tsundere girlfriend is like “Fuck dat shit”, then Keroro is revealed to be hiding behind some wallpaper. Finis.

For fans only, and I’m not sure if even they’d care. — Lord Dalek

Second Opinion!

Hey!  You miss watching the Sgt. Frog anime?  You know…  the one that had a healthy run of 358 episodes for seven years in Japan?  Well, aren’t YOU in luck?  Because your friends on the Keroro platoon are back and they’re SO ready to re-introduce themselves to Japanese audiences, that they’re starting RIGHT BACK AT THE BEGINNING, and to make sure they don’t overwhelm you, decreased their episode time from 12 to 20 minutes to merely three!

What do you get with a three minute starting episode!?  NOTHING!  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!  You just meet Hinata and Fuyuki and they find Keroro and all that amusing shit that took place in the first television anime is absolutely nowhere to be found!   It’s like enjoying a nice flatiron steak at some dingy dive  in the Ozarks.  You don’t get much but it’s tasty for what it is until they stopped serving the darn thing for whatever reason.  Then for again, whatever reason, they decide to rerelease the dish, only this time, it’s just a warmed possum tail and it’s just called… ‘steak’.

That’s exactly what this is all about, and I’ve never been to the Ozarks. — The Juude

2014
03.31

Hey guys, I’m back with my Cartoon Cartoon retrospectives! It’s been a while, but I’m glad to try my hand at these again, and I’ll attempt to at least make it through the first season of each of these shows. To save my sanity, I won’t try to post each article up around Friday, although I would like to make these a weekly series after all.

Next time, I’d like to add some more comments before I go into these look throughs, but for now, I just want to start talking about my plate today.

Dexter’s Laboratory:

Babysitter Blues

Dexter and Dee Dee’s parents are going out for the night, which means the kids are having a babysitter take over them.

What’s the catch? Dexter’s got a girlfriend! Dexter’s got a girlfriend! Dexter’s got a gi-

Yes, like Alvy Singer before him, the boy genius skipped over his latency period, and has the hots for his teenaged babysitter. See, even braniacs can fall in love. The episode starts off with Dexter reorganizing the house into a presentable fashion for his babysitter, even going as far as to shoo off the family’s on-again,/off-again pet dog.

Except, it seems as if Lisa the baby sitter has a boyfriend of her own, and apparently it’s Fuzzy Lumpkins, to boot! (okay not really, but isn’t it funny to hear a reference to the character before Powerpuff was bought as a show? Don’t forget, he was in the original What-A-Cartoon pilot).

Dexter can’t bear to see his true love taken away from him, so he uses a voice modulator to confuse both Lisa and her boyfriend, by breaking the couple up for them. A sick twist, but one that works for Dexter. He comes to Lisa’s comfort while she’s still on pain, which is when she says one simple line that turns the short over into gold from there. I won’t spoil it, but to give you an idea, there’s payback, a great usage for Dee Dee, and a typical, albeit necessary, quick gag ending.

The short started out as moderately funny, with a decent gag shared here or there alongside a one-note character and a so-so running joke with Dee Dee, but really turned into a laugh riot at the end.  Peaking too late on is a bit of a problem, yes, but depending on how great the pay off is, the wait is typically worth it, especially if you view the episode as build-up towards a particularly strong gag. The episode is cute, although it’s not up there with the best.

Valhallen’s Room

We’re only two segments into the Justice Friends, bur already, it’s proven to be a much stronger companion series than Monkey. Personally, I liken this phenomenon to the fact that Major Glory, Valhallen, and Kronk have stronger, more fleshed-out personalities than Monkey and his agents do, which tended to fall into tiresome clichés. The fact that there are usually solid jokes in the Justice Friends’ cartoons is another advantage.

Take this one, for example. The short starts off with Major Glory making an all-American breakfast for his roommates/compadres (and keep an eye on how the close-up on Glory’s buffet compares to what we see throughout the rest of the scene- Major Over-Exaggeration isn’t as appealing of a super hero name, but it sure seems appropriate here), but the entire breakfast is ruined because Valhallen hasn’t awaken yet. So until the Norse god of rock n’ roll gets his golden locks out of bed, Kronk can’t get a pancake for himself. That’s one thing, but after hearing ominous sounds coming from Valhallen’s room, the two heroes become worrisome.

Hungry for some justice, as well as breakfast, Glory and Kronk make their way into Valhallen’s room, giant as it is (he pays extra, while Kronk’s teddy doesn’t pay at all). After finding a weakened Valhallen on his bed, it is discovered that he lost his magic axe. This Flying V-shaped weapon is Valhallen’s equivalent to Mjonir, meaning that when enough time is removed, his power will decrease drastically. Being the good (hungry) friends that they are, Glory and Kronk attempt to find the rocking revolver of righteousness.

The rest of the episode delves into quick sight gags, as Glory and Kronk attempt to find Valhallen’s weapon. In other words, what you’d basically expect from the show, but not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, as long as it works. For “Valhallen’s Room”, while this doesn’t turn out to be a masterpiece of the animated form like some later Dexter stories will become, it’s a fine follow-up for this series of shorts.

Already the voice cast has their characters down. Rob Paulson’s bravado for Major Glory is near perfection, as he pulls off an intense delivery for each line with relish, while Tom Kenny was continuing to prove his chops in the field as he tackles two different angles for Valhallen this episode. And let us not forget Frank Welker’s wonderful Hulk impression for Kronk, as he continues to make most every line gold, while keeping a nice, sentimental side in tone for the character. It’s a fantastic balance with tight chemistry that makes the characters pop here. Without the talent behind the recording studio, the Justice Friends wouldn’t have been as entertaining as they are, and while I await getting into some of the best stories for Dexter and Dee Dee, I do wish that we had more time with Major Glory and co in their own shorts as well.

Dream Machine

What makes Dexter tick? What are his weaknesses? Is there more to the character than just his resentment over his sister’s dominating personality and his love of science?

We do find out some of these over the course of the show, like in this story. If there’s one thing to take away from fiction, it’s that dreams are windows into the psyche of a character. Usually, they come as weird as you can imagine, if not significantly weirder, but in some instances, all you really need to show is a reminder of how reality functions to crack into the mind of the dreamer.

Although it is questionable that Dee Dee is able to ace her way through a big test given by Albert Einstein himself like it’s nothing, but somehow Dexter thinks 2 + 2 equals Mount Rushmore. But in this opening sequence, it becomes apparent that Dexter’s intellect, usually a high point in his life, isn’t always something he’s secure of. He may be smart enough to build a laboratory all by himself, but what does it mean?

I dunno, but Dexter has been having 3 straight weeks of nightmares like this, and he won’t take that lying down anymore. He grabs a barely-conscious Dee Dee to help him break this streak, and give Dexter a nice dream or two instead.

Using the concept that we control our own dreams to his advantage, Dexter sucks up all of the intellect available in the world to make him a walking super computer of sorts, but in traditional fashion, things aren’t so easy for our boy genius. To completely access his goal, Dexter must find the grandfather of all knowledge, whose being surprises him.

The story takes a twist for the weirder, as it uses the idea that Dexter’s sneaking into all-knowing knowledge is cheating, which shouldn’t be tolerated. This is a successful ending to an otherwise decent enough short. For better and for worse, this episode curved past the traditional beliefs of television that a character’s dream should walk us with and into their mindset, as Dexter becomes in control of how his sleeping patterns occur, only to lose them as he delves into his selfishness. For a show that isn’t afraid to play with its logic like Dexter’s Lab is, it’s a fascinating take, although I’d argue that it isn’t the funniest story that the series is capable of. Still, a good final short for a solid episode to signal my return to this show I so greatly admire.

Johnny Bravo:

Beach Blanket Bravo

It seems like another beach day for Johnny, as he sets up his area, appropriates his image for the place, and looks for the right girl to make his move on. He catches a mighty fine senorita, and he tries to get her to do the Monkey with him. Either taking this as an invitation for friendship or kindly passing him off, the lady gets the rest of the beach goers to (poorly) do the Monkey with them.

It does sound like a basic Johnny story, but the short’s intent becomes clear when we delve into the relationship turmoil between young surfer Andy (voiced, inexplicably, by Rick Springfield) and his steady, Franny. Andy is very much a product of the 50’s/early 60’s and believes that a woman should be stuck behind a kitchen, which in today’s society is obvious bs. In her hopes to cheese him off, Franny finds the first decently attractive guy she can find as a date to tonight’s weeny roast. Three guesses as to whom she decides on.

“Beach Blanket Bravo” is a throwback of sorts of American International’s surf movies of the mid sixties, usually starring Frankie Avalon and the recently deceased Annette Funicello. These movies were hokey products of their time, which of course makes them ripe for parody. Funicello’s very own beloved Disney had a smart spoof of the surfer lifestyle in 1965’s That Darn Cat!, made shortly after the apex of the subgenre’s presence, while artists keen on the nostalgic have occasionally brought these back to life since, and if there’s one thing the early Johnny Bravo episodes are good at, it’s bring back to life the remnants of slightly forgotten sects of the pop culture landscape.

This is a clever cartoon, as someone familiar with these movies despite not being a connoisseur, exactly, but it does bring up a problem with such stories like this- Johnny doesn’t really work as a straight man. At least, not always, and here’s an episode where he is meant to be very much modern as opposed to the retro chauvinist hipster that Andy is.

The problem with Johnny as a straight man is that he’s not exactly a likable guy. Johnny’s a dumbass and a bit of a chauvinist himself, so the series works great when the joke is on him, but when he’s opposed to funky side characters like the Avalon-meets-Archie Andy or the talking shark with a mask on (a highlight I wasn’t sure how to introduce here, as he does have some of the best gags in the short), there isn’t much to the character or, as a result, the cartoon.

Thankfully this is saved with some references to dated lingo that I doubt even your parents would use accordingly, as Johnny’s blank replies to Andy and Franny’s suggestions make him sound genuinely confused. It’s also great when Johnny threatens Andy to a serious butt kicking, only to get a gasp from the crowd.

Also entertaining is the surf contest Johnny and Andy go on, combining solid animation for the two characters over footage of actual waves. There’s even a bit of green screen to keep an eye out for. The only way the short could get more authentic to this style of film is to end with a cheesy song number, and…

My criticism rings true in that while the concept is cute and does make for some great jokes. The idea of making Johnny a relatable straight man is questionable. This morphs into a good cartoon at the end o the day, but I think that the use of Johnny’s lack of intellect would make it an even better one, as it would be the case if this was done later in the show’s run.

The Day the Earth Didn’t Move Around Very Much

Here we come to a MacFarlane written/Hartman directed tale, in which Johnny is require to recount his restricted day in which the episode title comes to life.

This is a wacky little ditty in which a jet crashes through a telephone wire, cutting out the power in the Bravo household and making a noise. After seeing that the clock on Johnny’s VCR isn’t working (hello, 1997!), Johnny comes to the rational conclusion that time is working for everyone but him. I guess that Twilight Zone marathon got to him, but I’m sure we won’t see any other results from that in later episodes.

In typical Johnny fashion, he sticks around for only a couple of seconds at each instant before he comes to the conclusion that time has stopped, like when the water won’t start in his shower, or if traffic is frozen.

But where the jerk side of Johnny comes from is why he is in court- he takes this newfound concept of frozen time to go and become a common thief in plain view. As each of incidents where time seems frozen for the rest of Aaron City becomes sillier and sillier, Johnny continues going on with his belief and becomes a nuisance. Johnny’s slow day even ends with him passing out to an infamous freeze-frame commercial shot from the Dukes of Hazzard.

There’s a bit of a surprise ending for Johnny, which ends this mostly one-note cartoon in a bit of a twist We’ve previously learned that Johnny is a jackass, so it isn’t too much of a surprise to see him steal his way through the day like it’s nothing. Sadly, when you get the core concept down, there isn’t too much to it, and while the gags do work if you keep your suspension of disbelief, the show has already proven that it can be smarter, so it is disappointing to see it result in a mostly obvious route. Still, I can’t fault this one too much, as it makes me laugh a good deal. Although who the hell plays charades in a restaurant kitchen?

The Aisle of Mixed-Up Toys

The previous short had Johnny briefly catch an old Dukes of Hazzard episode, wile this one starts off a little more timely and has him catch a little parody of Speed on the TV, right down to a half-decent Keanu impression. What does this have to do with the rest of the episode? Well, there is a hit at an explosion for Johnny to deal with later on.

Here Johnny is just chilling on the TV, as he often does between hitting on women (for someone as built as he is, does he ever work out?), when a cute little girl that isn’t Little Suzy rings the door and asks for him to donate toys for charity. In this week’s installment, Johnny is too old to play with toys, so he promptly turns her down, until her older sister chastises Johnny for being so cruel. Not being one to turn down a pretty lady, he offers to go to the toy store for the girls’ charity, in ten minutes or less.

With only a buck in his pocket, Johnny needs to scamper and pick a couple of nice choices in the discount center at the local toy store. A year before Small Soldiers though, Johnny finds himself talking to his newfound endeavors. He finds an out-of-fashion Ken doll with a Phil Hartman-esq vocal crack, a (mostly) limbless howling commando, and a sarcastic automatic bomb-meets-Rubik’s cube thingy.

Three nice little toys would make for a nice addition to the charity drive, but if Johnny just walked out with these figures with no conflict, there wouldn’t be much to this story. The army figure won’t leave the store without his arms and leg, which means that Johnny has to face Raggedy Angelo, the freakish Quasimodo-like figure who removed the poor body features.

This results in a toy aisle fight that is a strange mix between the march of the wooden soldiers from Babes in Toyland (well, there goes my Annette Funicello reference allowance for the week) and the opening action sequence from Toy Story 3. Okay, maybe it’s not that epic, but like the rest of the episode, it’s cute.

Cute, yet unremarkable. Not to say that it’s bad, although the toys don’t make much of an impression, nor is the writing at the show’s best. It’s just mostly there, and fits with the show’s tiresome “wacky sidekick adventure” formula, one that will mostly be dropped soon.

Fun fact: in later prints for repeats, Raggedy Angelo’s “what a spazz” line replaces t he “s” word with “turkey” instead. Since when was spazz considered a bad word is beyond me, but the DVD restores the original line as spoken.

The Powerpuff Girls:

Paste Makes Waste

This episode starts off with a basic Pokey Oaks roll call, with the lovely Ms. Keane calling out for her kindergarten students one at a time. Standard practice, yes, and be sure to keep an ear out for some of the students’ names. Like Elmer S. Glue, the unfortunately-christened kid whose passion is eating yucky paste.

Of course, Mitch Mitchelson, the class bully, mocks Elmer’s admittedly unsanitary habit, which causes a group taunting of the kid from others who probably shouldn’t be mocking anyone else. Blossom and Bubbles wisely stay out of the commotion, but Buttercup, who has never been afraid to step up, goes as far as to throw paste at poor little Elmer. To make things worse, Buttercup won’t even apologize for being so mean.

Ms. Keane gives Elmer a little speech on even though the kids were unfairly cruel to him, he shouldn’t eat paste to begin with. But like most kids a nice little talk with an authority figure isn’t usually going to stop you from doing bad.

Which of course has its negative effects in Townsville. After a series of freak accidents around the city causes a nuclear waste to make its way into Elmer’s paste, and a quick taste gives the kid the powers of a Stay Puft-esq paste monster, giving Elmer the perfect chance to exact his vengeance on the students. This results in the girls having to take on Elmer before he destroys Townsville.

Imagine how differently this would have turned out if Buttercup apologized to Elmer before he became a paste monster. Obviously he’d still be a monstrosity of sorts, but Elmer’s rampage wouldn’t have been so intense if Buttercup owned up sooner. This is a creative enough idea for a short, but light on jokes, like some of the earlier episodes of the show. That isn’t too much of a bad thing though, since even despite not having a plethora of clever jokes, the show’s appeal for audiences came early thanks to an early strong grasp on the characters and their peculiar adventures fighting crime. The pacing that made the show fresh for kids and adults even early on is present here to make it a good episode to watch.

Ice Sore

Now this is a little more like it. Townsville is suffering from a dangerously hot day, and the girls are feeling the burn in their house, eating hot soup for an inexplicable reason.

All is resolved when Blossom decides to breath into her hot soup though, and we discover something new- ice breath! And yes, this is new to the girls, too. And something only she is capable of.

After a suggestion from Bubbles that Blossom tries out her new power so they skate on the kitchen floor a la Tom & Jerry (bonus points if you can name which short this happens in), the girls are having a cool little time on this scorching day, Eventually, the professor steps in and almost slips on the ice when he discovers Blossom’s new power, and tells her to save it for the time being, emergencies aside.

A hot, miserable day at school gives Blossom just the need for emergencies to try out her new ice breath. Even the usually loving Ms. Keane becomes a boiling mess under this massive heat wave, which eventually causes Blossom to make it nice and cool over in the schoolhouse. This makes it nice for the class, but Blossom’s sisters get rightfully jealous when her new power gives her special attention today.

But even barring that, Blossom decides to permanently retie her ice breath after it gets in the way of the girls from saving the day. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Blossom rectifies her decision by the end of the episode for a very particular reason, resulting in an ending that’s both cooler than cool and smoking hot at the same time.

I think the reason that the last episode wasn’t too funny is due to a lack of supporting characters beyond Ms. Keane and some of the students. While the girls and their teacher are fine, earlier episodes relied on some of the other residents of Townsville for their strongest laughs, particularly the Mayor and his doting miss Bellum. He’s here and has a couple of good lines during the climax, but even without him, the episode isn’t lacking from any during the rest of the episode. “Ice Sore” is the stronger of the two segments, but it’s a solid half hour regardless. I’m just glad to be back with the girls.

Ed, Edd n’ Eddy:

Fool on the Ed

Oh hey, what an appropriate choice to bring this series back on, the April Fools Day episode! I haven’t seen this one in a while, so let me try to get through it again.

Eddy’s running around with his tongue in the air, as per usual, heading over to Ed’s house. This seemingly normal day become subsided when Ed’s just about to get his prank out to Eddy… except Eddy is five steps ahead of Ed, pulling off a couple on the poor sap.

The buddies then head over to Double D’s house, and the same happens. So you can probably guess that Eddy is the king of pranks, and his goal this day is to skip any scams and instead give everyone hell.

All goes well until a trip to Rolf’s, however, when before Eddy can even lift a finger, the son of a shepherd gets hit by a crazy plot. It turns out that someone has beaten Eddy to the punch, a certain “Prank Master”, and now it’s a battle of wits for the rest of the episode.  Yes, eddy has some form of wit in him.

No amount of wit can do much good for Eddy, though, as the Prank Master scores his vengeance over the rest of the Cul-De-Sac before the Eds can do anything. This makes for a fun montage of seeing the other kids get trapped before we get to the conclusion of who the Prank Master is. And let’s just say that the Eds, Eddy in particular, are not happy.

Cue Eddy’s infamous stink bomb. If this beauty (invented by Eddy’s brother) is brought to life, imagine how many noses would become paralyzed. And it works, with a price. Be careful with what you wish for, though.

Part of me thinks that this would have worked better as a double-length episode, where the Prank Master is built up as a big mystery before the inevitable reveal, but that might have been TOO much. This episode works just fine the way it’s set, though. It’s hard to imagine an episode of the show without some great lines, and it does succeed there. This also excels at expanding on Eddy’s showmanship without relying on a basic scam. Here he’s being outshined at his game, and he’s out for vengeance. Eddy’s a tough cookie to crack, but he’s very much about his pride. While all of this rings true, though, there are better episodes this season, and far more highlights to look forward to.

A Boy and His Ed

But if you want to see one of the boy’s scams again, check out this beauty. The Eds dug a hole in the middle of an alley side, and fill it up with water from Ed’s house to make a moat that kids have to pay for to access. Talk about a douche move, but damn if it isn’t legit.

The first kid to make it to the moat is Kevin, who’s willing to give the guys something. Problem is, Eddy won’t hear anything about it, while Kevin won’t pay up and walks off. As a result, Eddy and his buds miss out on free jawbreakers, since Kevin’s dad works for a jawbreaker factory now and gave his son a bunch of freebies, on account of there being a garage FULL of the things. Now it’s clear what the guys have to do.

Taking a cue from Ted Mosby’s lessons to a young Barney Stinson about all there is to Robin*. But as we’ll learn later, Ed and Eddy just aren’t good students, and they don’t end up taking Double D’s lessons on Kevin to heart, whatever they were. Instead, they just screw around for a good minute or two, resulting in some great gags.

Although can we just take a moment to appreciate the creative mind of this show, like when Ed decides to make a spitball out of a chewed-up book, and destroys his straw as a resort. Genius!

From here on in, the Eds try to suck up to Kevin in whatever way they can. Now, if Kevin was a celebrity, some of this material might be considered something called “stalking”, like having the Eds dress up just like Kev, or throwing a cheer outside of his house, but I digress. Hell, they even end up in Kevin’s bathtub by the end!

Still, this does result in a very funny little episode. Kevin’s rightfully annoyed with the Ed boys here, who try too hard to obtain their goal. This makes for one of the first times that the Eds deserve what inevitably comes to them, and that’s one thing that helps to define the show. The Eds are likable people, but they’re also rough characters that often deserve some sort of comeuppance (yes, Ed and Double D too). I really do love these three characters, but part of the fun of the show is seeing what direction the characters go through this week, a point which becomes further explored as the series continues to go along.

*yes, I know that this How I Met Your Mother episode was made about a decade after this Ed, Edd n’ Eddy one, but hey, I’m still grieving, y’no.

Overall:

What a nice week to come back to! Tons of good episodes all around, but if you really want me to choose a favorite, I think I’ll side with “Valhallen’s Room”. Good stuff. As you can tell, I’m done with picking out episode highlights, as I want to just stick to my own pace. But I promise that I’ll try to work on the next one soon, and will hopefully get through these first seasons before the summer starts. Until then, I hope you enjoy!

2014
03.28

Ragyo reads the plot for Trigger's next anime.

Above all that must be said, I have to admire the confidence this show exuded throughout the run. It was wacky and in your face, but it could be sincere about it. The show knew how to make a scene where characters have a mass naked hug together, and make it not look stupid. Not once in this series were there any pussyfooting or restraint, hitting plot points and jokes home alike with the subtlety of a missile. This was a very loud series, crying to the heavens that they are going to revolutionize the market in the face of an anime scene swamped with Madoka or Attack on Titan wannabes. It was Trigger’s way of saying that it’s okay to be silly, you don’t have to craft a story that breaks the characters’ souls or builds a labyrinthine plot on a weekly basis. Instead, you just have to be entertaining.

But the finale had to do more than that, which was seal all of this awe and wonder for the past six months into a complete package. One bad ending will spoil the lot, and Imaishi’s not been known for creating wholly satisfying endings in his shows (still reeling over what the deal was with Simon’s end). Even comedies like Panty & Stocking have to have that one plot twist out of nowhere to keep the ending from actually being an ending. But here, the staff at least shows restraint in that one regard. The fight scenes have more breath to them unlike the past two weeks, advancing more than looped animation of Ryuko and Satsuki becoming Beyblades to duel with their mom.

So instead, you have Ryuko summoning up all of her friends’ Life Fibers to pull a Spirit Bomb in order to fight Ragyo. While I’m not impressed with that, I do find it difficult to see what else they could’ve done for that fight. I mean, Kill la Kill has always been about acceleration, so of course it’ll end with two almighty beings duking it out in space. I’m just saying that it could have rocked the boat a bit more. I’m not trying to say that Gamagoori should have died for real, but I expected more of a challenge for the rest of the characters. Instead, it’s just Ryuko’s fight and her fight alone as she battles her mother. Yes, it has been her story from the beginning, but I grew a bit too attached to the side characters to want them to do more than just stand around on Earth while Ryuko does the heavy lifting.

Though that attachment somewhat results in how the show strayed from the previous “girl fights a high school on her own” format. Halfway through, it just shifts into “saving the world from evil clothes aliens” without a second’s warning. But by being so quick with changing plots, it all leaves some questions hanging around like how much of Satsuki’s social Darwinist dogma was just a ruse and how much was coming from her own mouth. I know it was to put up an appearance for her mother, but it just seems so dissonant from the first episodes. It’s difficult to line up the Gamagoori who beat up a kid for stealing a One-Star Uniform with the Gamagoori who saves Mako’s life several times over. You could say character development, but how do you apply that with characters like Nonon who have been rampant bitches in and out of their REVOCS-pleasing persona immediately until the reveal happens?

Then again, Trigger always made it clear that Kill la Kill’s main grace would be the style and animation rather than the storytelling, so I should grant that leeway. What should be heralded is what Trigger had to overcome, like the low budget and having to appeal to overseas audiences in order to garner profit. It accomplished that hindrance through both bravado and hype. Everyone raved and parodied how this was going to save anime, like how a really good album can singlehandedly save music. But beyond that memetic phrase, there lies a simple appeal to Kill la Kill: Nostalgia.

While being different from the rest of the market right now, the series adhere to themes from shows of yore like Ren & Stimpy and Yatterman. This show borrows a lot from past animation to create its own flavor just like how Tarantino movies are basically a hodgepodge of grindhouse flicks. It harkened to cartoons that could be stupid without shame, and brought that to an audience hungry for that aspect of animation. Shows last year tried to do that like Gatchaman Crowds, but they often became bloated by their own ideas, fixating on making a thousand random thoughts at once rather than excelling with the dozen they had. Here, Kill la Kill had a few interesting ideas and rolled with them, zigzagging from point to point with animation guiding the plots rather than the other way around.

And that works amazingly for some scenes like that one where Gamagoori’s face appears on his chest. It’s so stupid, that it becomes endearing in its stupidity. These tiny quirks create a whole on their own, bringing up what was initially cited as a by-the-numbers story by Imaishi himself. He vied to be different by going for different sources of influence to create the series, from manga like Otokojuku and OVAs like Project A-Ko. That series also had a hot-blooded girl and her quirky sidekick fight with a haughty heiress. It’s impossible to see Kill la Kill and A-Ko without recognizing some hint of an influence between the two, while distinguishing themselves enough to avoid any accusations of plagiarism. And maybe I’m rambling about nothing, but that’s what Imaishi and his lineage at Gainax did: Take old works and try to squeeze new ideas from them. And even if that approach meant facing potential bankruptcy, they still held to that belief by using a lack of budget as an incentive to further innovate. Without that, we wouldn’t have Evangelion or FLCL. And we definitely wouldn’t have had Kill la Kill.

So will this series leave a legacy like those shows? That’s been the question rolling around in my head once I finished Kill la Kill. Like, are people going to remember this show for future seasons or forget that it even existed like Haruhi? You could always chalk it up to the serendipity of the anime market, never knowing when one season’s success will become another’s mockery. But the thing is, Haruhi became less popular because too many shows of its kind kept popping out. And they offered nothing new; making it seem like the progenitor was just as bland as the descendants. So for Kill la Kill’s case, I guess its chance for longevity lies in how many dopplegangers will appear in the near future, and how many of them will be good shows in their own right or not. Granted, there’s the chance Kill la Kill will stand out as that one weird idea an anime studio attempted that never caught on (BD sales say otherwise, but still), and maybe that’s for the best to keep it as a standalone project. But barring the cynicism of copycats not being quite as good, it would be fun to see this kind of show happen again.

2014
03.21

It's so epic until you realize the Honnouji logo looks a bit like Goatse.

This week, we get spectacle and joy raining down for the penultimate episode. In all honesty, I’m finding it hard to talk about the series when the episodes are like this. I wish I knew how to discuss anime fights better. Like I can describe the final fight in Fate/Zero as a battle of attrition where both opponents are at their peak. That’s something. But here, I’m perplexed. It’s a fight where both sides pull out everything they have previously used for a showdown, with guys like the Tennis Club President coming back for a brawl. It’s a clash where little is held back, up until Shinra-Kotetsu is unveiled.

I like how Shinra-Kotetsu is a giant wedding gown. Where the Kamuis are outfits that reveal skin and stylize their fabric as spiky and jagged, this outfit looks so elegant. It’s the ultimatum of what Ragyo’s been planning for the entire world, by presenting an outfit that reveals less than a nun outfit. And by looking so heavenly in its design, it gains a few inevitable comparisons to Final Fantasy, especially with Shinra in the name. The dress is akin to how the final bosses in those games like Kefka take angelic forms before striking down the heroes, to make the final fight seem like the main characters are up against the Gods themselves. Like after all these fights, Ryuko’s up against a holy mother who wants to throw her back into the spiritual womb.

And the religious allegory gets laid on thick with “In Heaven’s Stead, I Smite Clothing” and the 999-Mount Emergency Rescue Motion Device (turn the number upside down). This all plays off like a Twilight of the Gods scenario, where a victory from either side will change the fate of the world. But that gets intertwined with the silly scenes, where Mako eats her mom’s croquettes in order to gain energy. While it undermines the bravado from action, it also puts the show in perspective. Even putting the characters in world-threatening circumstances, Trigger wants to remind that it’s still a goofy series. It’s all for fun, in contrast to the fans who keep expecting the entire cast to come to grips with Mako’s death or something tragic like that.

Speaking of people who think the show is something it’s not, Foggle gave me an idea for how Ragyo symbolizes the critics of the series who complain about perceived vulgarity from all the costumes. After all, Ragyo’s plan to cover the world with life fibers sounds a tad similar to viewers wishing for Ryuko to wear a less-revealing outfit. While that’s understandable, it means forcing the characters to wear something against their ideal. I know there could be a balance in making sure Senketsu fully covers Ryuko’s chest, but that’s too subtle to hit home Trigger’s message. Subtlety is the last thing this show comprehends, preferring to slam its ideas through your skull with the force of an H-bomb. Ryuko’s outfit is unsubtle because the show’s direction is unsubtle. Otherwise, you would have a regular action show that goes for mediocrity instead of absurdity.

Off track but still related to the episode, I also appreciated how this episode closed off Sanageyama’s arc in a sense. He’s finally let all inhibitions go, being able to see while also serving as a prime warrior. He even drinks tea with Satsuki like he promised all those months ago, and that was neat how they had time to give him some decent closure before the finale. After a while of being treated like the chew toy of the show, seldom getting a decent hit before being mocked by someone like Harime, Sanageyama finally gets a chance to shine.

2014
03.20

I still think so. But in a somewhat different way than I initially believed.

Space Dandy hasn’t really given me what I was looking for or expecting from it since episode 3. But that’s okay – I’ve, personally, loved every minute of the last four episodes. Probably more than most, as only one of them seems to have received any sort of favorable response from the general public. And it’s easy to see why; this isn’t at all the same show built up by the first few installments or sold to us pre-release. Attempts at humor have grown scarce, the fanservice is gone, and the tone of both the writing and art/animation has deviated drastically from the norm. Even more than at its outset, Space Dandy has turned into a wholly inconsistent anthology… yet, in terms of overall quality, I feel like it’s become more consistent than ever.

I must admit, I felt like I had egg on my face when that dire “undies vs. vests” episode aired not two weeks after I posted my previous blog entry about this series. To date, it’s the only installment I’ve actively disliked, even if it did have its moments. It was just too damn stupid, even for my Kill la Kill– and Fumoffu-loving ass. And while I greatly enjoyed the following space race episode, it didn’t do much to alleviate my fears that I had written my dumbest article of all time (an impressive feat, to be sure). I continued to enjoy watching the show every week, but I always felt an underlying sense of apathy… until tonight, when everything finally clicked for me, and I realized that I do, indeed, love what the staff is doing with this series.

I do have one qualifier for what I’m about to write, though: this all hinges on the idea that Space Dandy will be getting a second season sometime later this year. At this point, I certainly believe it will, even if the only source is word of mouth based on a vague tweet and supposed confirmation during a Japanese radio show. The staff simply cannot adequately take this show in the direction I think they’re trying to go if only two episodes remain, which means a full two cour run is necessary for this anime to truly succeed in my eyes. An anthology consisting of only 13 episodes with vague plot points that ultimately go nowhere would be wholly unsatisfying, so it’s going to need at least one more season before I can say for certain whether I consider it to be excellent or merely decent.

At this point, Space Dandy seems to be about messing with audience expectations and presenting viewers with the bizarre. We’ve had two experimental episodes in three weeks’ time with a dramatic character piece sandwiched in between, all preceded by an installment that switched gears from emotional tearjerker to screwball comedy after the commercial break. I think this might be too much for some people to take in, as TV shows are typically supposed to feature things such as tonal consistency and adherence to a general concept. But, for me, it’s Space Dandy‘s ability to lack these things while still being executed at an impressive level of all-around competence that makes it such a strong series. Of course, the whole “weird episodic nonsense” schtick has been done before in shows like Panty & Stocking and Excel Saga, but those are comedies at heart, and while this series started out as one, I don’t really think I’d consider it a gag anime anymore. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in televised animation before.

Indeed, there have been next to no laughs in the past three episodes, but that’s not a criticism of the writing… I’m almost positive that the earlier material was intended as a red herring. Now, sure, it’s still ridiculous and over the top, and it’s not devoid of humor or anything, but the jokes are no longer the show’s focus, and that’s a very good thing. Space Dandy has always been fun to watch, but the comedy was often very hit or miss, and now that there are less jokes per episode, almost all of them actually end up being funny. It’s nice seeing the writers attempt things like drama and surrealism instead of just repeating the same jokes about breasts over and over. This anime now often encompasses a smart mix of different genres and art/animation styles per episode, all to its benefit as a cohesive(?) whole. Nearly every installment makes perfect sense while also making no sense at all. I love that.

I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the tonal inconsistency present in regards to the former and latter halves of episode 8. This installment, which also happens to be Keiko Nobumoto’s first anime writing credit since Wolf’s Rain, presents a depressing story about a dying dog, then shifts to a silly comedy about fleas bouncing around Dandy’s ship. I took no issue with this, as I actually found the jarring disconnect between sadness and humor to be realistic, if in a weird way. Real life is unpredictable, and I’ve more than once found myself crying heavily one minute and laughing heartily the next. Everyone’s lives tread the line between tragedy and comedy at every step, and while it may not be a characteristic of traditional storytelling to also do this, I’d say it is a respectable writing decision. In fact, some of my favorite films feature similar instances of tone whiplash, including Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges and Sion Sono’s Love Exposure, both of which I’d consider damn near flawless. This is not to say that The Lonely Pooch Planet, Baby is as masterful as either of those movies, but I do think it’s a fantastic and very underrated episode all the same.

Moreover, the whole dramatic dying/dead dog thing has been done millions of times before in older comedies, including the conceptually similar Futurama. What makes this installment memorable, and not just another canine tearjerker, is its second half. I actually find it brilliant that the sad bits seem to only exist as a lead-in to some classic-style cartoon comedy near the end of the episode. I love the way it played with my expectations, and was dismayed to see that very few people agreed with me in this regard, instead lambasting it as “poorly written”. Later installments have gone on to alienate viewers even further with how weird they are, and while I appreciate their uniqueness, I can certainly see why some would not. The plant people episode in particular seems to be a very “love it or hate it” affair, with me firmly falling into the former category due to its unflinching strangeness. That’s my bread and butter, right there.

The most recent episode, number 11, features a screenplay credited to one Toh Enjoe. Wikipedia reveals that he is an author of speculative fiction whose works have often been criticized as being “impenetrable” and “indigestible”. This single installment of Space Dandy appears to be the only thing he’s ever written for TV. Why and how he was asked to write for this series is beyond me, but I’m glad he was. This was quite possibly my favorite episode to date, what with its interesting narrative, unique color scheme, and bizarre art style decisions. It also contained a major hint that my previously-mentioned series chronology theory (based on the “space chain” scene and the Japanese airing’s ending animation) might be accurate. Knowing the staff, I feel like there could be some subtle storytelling going on in nearly every episode released to date; storytelling that’s mostly gone unnoticed and may come together further down the line.

While I was a bit unsure for awhile there, I still stand by my opinion that Space Dandy is a far more intelligent show than it’s currently letting on. The way it’s begun near-constantly screwing with viewers’ expectations keeps it interesting while also letting on that there may be more to the universe, story, and characters than meets the eye, while the growing maturity and uniqueness of each episode’s writing is doing a lot to impress me. It’s becoming more and more memorable with each passing week, and I can’t wait to see what will happen to the Aloha Oe crew next.

(As an aside, I’ve been especially enjoying Kimiko Ueno’s work on this show so far. I’d never heard of her before Space Dandy, and I look forward to watching whatever anime she writes for after it ends.)

2014
03.14

A wolf's head can still bite.

Well, this had a bit more elbow grease than usual. I must give a hand to Trigger for the fight between Ryuko and Harime. Actions were nail-bitingly intense, with the oncoming Cocoon Planet threat only being at an arm’s length. As always, good fights in this show are as common as a flick of the wrist. I don’t need to point fingers, because everyone in Trigger should be given a hand of applause. They handled it quite well, with the amount of talent in most studios combined not matching the power in Imaishi’s mere pinky. Yes, thumbing through a lot of the show leaves a lengthy amount of cheap animation, with a bit of stiffness in the joints, but they always nail it when the opportunity is ready to grasp.

And just like the above paragraph, this episode also had incomprehensibility as a theme, particularly in how humanity’s virtue lies in how confusing they are. Again, it’s another element to how the plot is a battle between order versus chaos. In the scene where Ryuko can’t punch Satsuki, we get a defense on how chaos can be a good thing. The unexpected and the serendipitous have helped Ryuko and her friends time and time again, like the first encounter with Senketsu. While unpredictability also proves to be a vice like anything Harime pulls, it only shows how Ragyo’s idea for order is wrong even amongst her subordinates. Besides, if your foes are going to be crazy, just act even crazier to outwit them.

Satsuki realizes that, dropping the chessmaster act and realizing what kind of show she’s been in for the last five months. If you find yourself in Wonderland, you may as well become madder than all of the other madmen in order to thrive. Play by their rules, and twist them to make them your own. But this isn’t giving in to insanity, not at all. Rather, it’s just a shift in worldviews. The plan with Honnouji only worked in one aspect: Maturing Ryuko into Satsuki’s trump card. But that was only maneuvered through an unlikely chain of events rather than a concise plan, whereas all of Satsuki’s premeditated actions often fall apart. Because of that, she can’t abide by this flawed order anymore if she wants to excel in her motivations. And when the supposedly sane faction consists of alien suits that eat people, is it really difficult to see incomprehensibility as the preferable route?

Jumping from that point, this episode has many shifts from the perceived norm, the prime example being how Ryuko’s being the catty sister to Satsuki. Even when Satsuki offers a helping hand with rarely a hint of betrayal in mind, Ryuko’s on the aggressive. I guess you could pass it off as Ryuko playing the role of the bratty younger sister, though thankfully nowhere near the Kirino side of the spectrum. It shows Ryuko still has some growing up to do for this show’s remaining episodes, with that hot-blooded spirit either breaking from the pressure or rising like an ever-reincarnating phoenix.

And that maturity applies to the show itself too, as Nudist Beach prepares to face off against the spitting image of Chouginga Gurren Lagann. It represents the final challenge for the series, to deliver a complete product that can outdo its predecessors. While this might be a bit silly, since Kill la Kill’s already done far more than Gurren Lagann at this rate, but it’s still a necessary mark. Gurren Lagann is the show that put Imaishi on the map, establishing his fame across shores and being the first root to Trigger’s foundation. By using that show’s mascot as the looming threat, Kill la Kill creates its final step to climb in terms of Trigger’s ascension.

2014
03.13

"...I didn't know Levi could bend that way."

There’s no doubt that Attack on Titan is the most popular anime among Western fans in years. Cosplayers storm the cons like there’s no tomorrow. Merchandise ranging from dolls to Mikasa hangers get sold. People who otherwise aren’t anime fans have put this series on a leagues-high pedestal. It’s a reception that’s boggled the original creators to no end, causing them to drastically alter the planned ending in order to satisfy this new horde of followers. It’s the anime that’s made quite a few people watch anime again, with the wait for the eventual second season being one of the most hyped installments coming out of Japan in a while.

So that’s why I’m here to talk about why the show’s kind of dumb. I like the show and can understand perfectly why fans love it. It’s a non-stop ride of action and suspense where you’re not sure who will survive the onslaught, full of characters that sacrifice everything they have in order to protect what they hold most dear. The cast all have their distinct goals, often wondering if their cause can truly be called the correct ideal. However, plenty of the series’ elements strike me as a bit silly. I could take the easy route and talk about how dumb the Titans look, but I can get past that. Rather, it’s what goes on between the lines that bother me the most.

I know as a show where humans are struggling to survive, it’s going to be bleak. It’s going to have plenty of drama over how a single Titan can ruin the lives of regular people. But sometimes, it just hits you over the head so much about how dark the world is. From Eren having to cut himself in order to become a Titan to that scene where the Female Titan stomps on the religious crowd, it’s all so unrelentingly edgy. Those scenes reek of “You don’t know the pain that goes in fighting for my friends!” or “Only weaklings need a phony god to survive.” The show really wants to prove its maturity with all of these scenes. But in the process, this starts to feel like a teenager’s Warhammer 40K fanfic.

These “the World is a cruel place” or “humans are the real monsters” messages get so overblown. Scenes like where a young Mikasa gets kidnapped for sex slavery are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard. So much angst gets poured on this series like the author’s trying to complete a checklist of ways to torture his characters at a breakneck speed. Yes, horrible things happen to people, but not all at once. Give the characters time to breathe, and remind us why these characters deserve to live instead of hammer home how the Survey Corps are all born to die. Merely reading a chapter of the manga makes me think Isayama is this over-the-top pessimist who believes he’s deeper than he actually is.

And yes, I know criticizing a show for being edgy comes off as hypocritical from the guy who writes Kill la Kill articles. But Kill la Kill knows not to take itself seriously. The show knows its premise is silly and runs with it, while Attack on Titan seldom acknowledges the absurdity of giant naked men fighting each other. It’s the kind of blind grimness that plagues Naruto music videos set to the tune of Disturbed. While this helps the series stand out from other anime, it just overdoes the whole situation. Just because life isn’t always sunshine and lollipops doesn’t mean it’s automatically blood and desecration. That’s why Hange’s my favorite character out of the bunch, since she’s the only one who doesn’t see the world as neverending doom. And of course she’s treated as the crazy one because of that. Maybe future chapters will try to not be so full of itself with darkness, like that scene where Mikasa smiled for once, so I just try to hope for the best. After all, you can’t have true despair without hope.

2014
03.07

Chinilingus.

I know the moment the episode began, all of you were focusing on the familial threesome. Don’t lie. You did. There was nowhere else to focus on. Even if you were a fundamentalist who whipped themselves every time the mere thought of sex occurs, you were focusing on this scene. But this scene offers more than Ragyo’s chin in Ryuko’s ass. Throughout the show, you have seen how any sort of affection Ragyo gives to her children has to be sexual or humiliating no matter what. Even her butlers sacrifice their essence in order to make their master happy. We have been through enough of the show to know that Ragyo has no idea of consensual, platonic love. And that’s interesting for being the head of a legion meant to cover all of humanity with clothing.

Aside from Aikuro’s posing, when has Nudist Beach shown anything as depraved as Ragyo’s actions? It’s interesting how clothing literally equates to carnal sin while nudity means being free from any malicious perversion. It’s a neat theme, falling back on how Orwellian societies would give their citizens dress codes that would penalize someone for even showing their collarbones. The theme goes into why nudist beaches in real life exist, to let people spread their wings in ways society would never let them do. That’s why you saw people dancing around naked back in Woodstock. Nudity meant not having to fear what other people thought of what you were wearing, because you had nothing to show them other than your own skin. It’s the element of humanity that both titillates and alienates, and will always be the first topic in the subconscious when order versus chaos is brought up. I’d say more, but then this will become an essay on 1960s counterculture than anything about Kill la Kill.

Still, society has defined clothing to such an extent that what we wear equates to what we are in a few psychological contexts. You can see that with Satsuki wearing Senketsu. Sure, she wears him the same as Ryuko does, but she’s more prone to falling back on the alternate modes like Senketsu Gale. And what’s more eye-opening is that they are modes created from Ryuko’s synchronization instead of Satsuki’s. Satsuki may be a master planner, but she doesn’t know how to improvise when being quite literally in another person’s shoes. She’s spent so long playing the villain that using the hero’s arsenal is like wearing a jacket made out of sandpaper.

Meanwhile, Ryuko’s no longer in perpetual rage like she was in the last few episodes. Instead, she’s more prone to talking down to her enemies in order to get in their heads. There’s no rousing speech about how she’s going to take down Satsuki and her army, because she’s already taken them down in her mind. In a sense, you could say that shift from being the challenger to becoming the dreaded weaves a more integral way to reverse the previous Ryuko vs Satsuki conflict we’ve seen so far. Satsuki hasn’t changed her ideals by a single bit, so you can’t say that any good or evil side has been flipped. Instead, it’s more on how chaos has been shifted from liberating into threatening, which gives us a hint as to what the show was like for Satsuki’s point of view instead of Ryuko’s. That’s the reason for all those insane field trips and challenges akin to Takeshi’s Castle, because she wanted to see if the oncoming storm would be crazy enough to overcome those tasks. And of course, she did.

…on a sidenote, I almost wish Mako died so I could do an entire article on that instead of ramble on vague moral concepts.

2014
03.01

Twitch Plays Engineering

Miyazaki’s latest movie proves to be a bittersweet affair in many ways. It’s both the most down-to-earth and one of the most otherworldly, with the desire to create being examined throughout the movie. Jiro really wants to make planes, even risking his life from the Nazis to pursue that dream. Despite that unstoppable awe he carries, he knows very well that his planes will be turned into bombers for the Second World War. While the war only looms in the side, that stigma always rests in Jiro’s mind. A childhood fantasy of his is turning into a tool to kill. But the war’s why Jiro’s allowed to pursue his dream, bringing up the question as to whether people should reach for greater things if it means others are crushed for that action.

Such ambiguity drives the movie from start to finish, not just in Jiro’s desire to invent but also in his personality. He’s selfless and naïve at once, believing he can build the best planes he can while knowing they’ll be used as fighters. He questions the ideals of Japanese society, but often follows them when he focuses on his work. There’s a reason why his idol keeps calling him “Japanese boy” in his dreams, because he can’t escape from those boyhood adventures. His head is up in the clouds, in all senses of the term. I would suppose he keeps that boyish charm in order to hide from what his inventions will do.

That’s not to say he’s foolish. All of the characters, while stern, often cheer him on to succeed. Despite a few rough patches, the movie portrays him as an overall good man. The problem lays in how he’s a good man in a contradictory country. The Japan portrayed in this movie is rundown, with a single earthquake turning sprawling towns into wastelands. The country can get back on its feet without the help of others, but these other countries want Japan to be subservient. There runs the implication that Japan must ally with Germany and be involved in warfare because that’s the only way it can advance as a nation. And in almost every scene, Miyazaki casts scorn on that idea. To him, he sees this as a backwards nation making a deal with the devil, twisting what could have been a purely noble ambition.

And yet, the film still wants Jiro to progress with his inventions instead of hide from them. Jiro doesn’t allow himself to let that fear of creating warplanes stop him from his goal. Instead, he looks farther and imagines what his planes will be like when the war will end. He creates with that future in mind instead of the one his employers imagine. That’s the kind of philosophy he invites, that his seeds will sprout into vibrant trees no matter what hell comes to burn them. It’s the kind of ideal only an innocent boy could have, which intersects into other parts of his life.

His relationship and eventual romance with Naoko add further conflict into Jiro’s life. He wants the happily ever after everyone craves for, but forces are at play to make that bliss short-lived. It all ties back to the basic idea of how it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Jiro could avoid these troubles, but that would also mean missing the apex of his life. These prospects of doom only make the fruit of the forest sweeter and well deserved. In turn, this quite possibly creates the most idealistic message Miyazaki had put in his movies. That even if our dreams end, we should still keep dreaming.

In interviews with Miyazaki, the presenters make note on how the movie’s more mature than his previous works, specifically saying that it’s more of a romance than his usual fare. Technically, they’re correct. It’s certainly one of the more personal Ghibli films, as Miyazaki has made it no secret how much he strives with his own dreams just as much as Jiro does. He even cast his undergraduate Anno for the role, making their relationship akin to Jiro and his idol Caproni. Dreamers branch out to create further dreamers, just like how Socrates begat Plato.

Overall, The Wind Rises offers another worthy entry in the Ghibli catalog. Despite the more personal tone, the whimsy still exists between the corners. Even if the magic takes a more human form, they still cast surreal spells on Jiro as he grows in the film. Like Nausicaa and Porco Rosso before it, The Wind Rises wants viewers to break away from their limited ground and reach toward the unlimited sky. That may be an old message Miyazaki brings out every now and then, but it’s definitely a good one.