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Albert Y (teruyo)
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I finally got a chance to see the Madoka movie at a theater recently. I dropped the TV show right after the infamous Mami episode and Madoka's popularity began to explode. I dropped it mostly for vain and egotistical reasons, but that was all in the past. The novelty of watching anime on the big screen was too much to resist. So I bought tickets and went to the screening.

Afterwards, as I started talking about the films with my friends they naturally asked me what I thought of it.

I think I can safely call myself an anime veteran. According to MyAnimeList I've watched 134.18 consecutive days' worth of anime, which is likely a conservative estimate. A lot of my friends who are big Madoka fans have seen maybe 5-10% of that. I haven't seen every Sailor Moon season, but I've seen enough to understand the basic tropes of the magic girl genre. I've seen a few seasons of Pretty Cure, and I've watched previous subversions of the genre like Princess Tutu, Utena and Nanoha.

I think for someone like me, it's easy to gain an inherent distrust of anything popular. If it's popular, it must appeal to the least common denominator, and therefore it must be inferior to other works which have greater artistic value but are more difficult to understand and comprehend.

I know intellectually that this sort of thinking is dumb. I'm fairly good about being completely objective when it comes to music. I can appreciate Beyonce for being the gifted chanteuse she is, and call out Ludacris for being a talentless hack who has succeeded primarily by affiliating himself with better rappers. Popularity and quality are completely independent. Something can be popular and bad, something can be popular and good, something can be unpopular and bad, and something can be unpopular and good.

Where does Madoka fit? I can point to several flaws in the film. The animation quality, for one, is disappointing for a theatrical release. Almost every KyoAni TV show looks better than the Madoka film, to say nothing of Disappearance or the K-On movie. Script-wise, there are several weak parts. Kyouko's back story is tacked on with no foreshadowing. And her character just didn't get enough development to make her personality reversal believable. The pseudo-science was eye-rollingly bad and relied on the viewer having a fundamental misunderstanding of how the universe works. There are parts where a character drones on and on about something that doesn't move the plot forward but only serves to flesh out some small detail of the world. And the ending was bad. It may have been a satisfactory reset end in something like Sailor Moon, but for a show that tries so hard to be better than average I was expecting something that tied the themes of the show together better and didn't come out of left field.

So I consider Madoka to be a flawed anime. But, at the end of the film, I was smiling. I'd enjoyed myself. There are plenty of good scenes. It was fun laughing at the truly awful moments (like Kyousuke being emo, or the ridiculous Kyouko back story). I fell in love with Homura and her unrequited affection for Madoka. And the central narrative is a compelling story.

So that was my verdict to my friends: entertaining. Not transcendent. Just a fun movie to watch with friends. In my opinion there were too many faults to put this in the same league as other god-tier magic girl shows like Nanoha A's.

Although Madoka has much better ero doujinshi, I admit.

Jotting down some facts about Chu2koi 6:

Touka believes divorce is realistic from her play with Yumeha. This implies that her own parents are divorced.

Rikka acts out her chuunibyou delusions a lot in front of her class mates. They all act confused but they pointedly don't mock, tease, or bully her. Nibutani and Yuuta are the only ones who do this, and they're both recovering chuunibyous. Kyoani don't seem interested in playing up the bullying aspect.

If they're not going to play up the bullying aspect, then it's also unlikely they would explore even darker themes like suicide.

Rikka probably couldn't deal with the divorce and decided to start acting like a chuunibyou to escape reality. When she's forced to deal with reality she often breaks character and relies on Yuuta (see math exams).

This episode Touka says, "kita ka". At the very end we see a plane flying against the moon. I'm taking this to mean that one (or both) of Rikka's parents are coming to visit them.

Touka invites Yuuta to their summer vacation.

The synopsis for ep 7 is:

Episode 7: Reminiscing of....Paradise Lost
Together with their partners in the "Far East Black Magic Napping Society of Summer," Yuuta and Rikka arrive at the "Source of Life" (the ocean). They are supposed to find a healing place there, but black haze floats around inside Rikka's soul. Worried about her, Yuuta accompanies her as she tries to find the Ethereal Horizon.

Touka is a Priestess of the Ethereal Horizon. What does the Horizon represent? Their parents? The past? Happiness?

When Kyoani first announced they were animating Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai, I think everyone did a collective WTF. The plot was quintessential light novel trash: chuunibyous, harem setups, high school romance could an animation studio with so much talent waste their abilities on something so cheap and base?

And yet by now Kyoani have earned a sterling reputation. With the possible exception of Munto, they have never made a misstep. Hyouka, Nichijou, K-On. While not always commercial successes, critically their works have been adored. Was it really possible for such a successful studio to make such a giant misstep? As a fan, it felt a bit like watching a train wreck. Out of morbid curiosity I felt compelled to watch Chuu2koi.

As details leaked out I felt a bit more optimistic about the anime. They would be diverging from the light novels. They would emphasize the parts that would make it a better anime. Kyoani have a history of adding their own flourishes to improve their adaptations. But I was still skeptical that they could salvage something good.

Having watched the first episode my impression is: so far so good.

Rikka is adorable. It's hard to overstate just how cute she is. I know she's just a checklist of moe charm points but the anime does such a good job of bringing all her attributes together in one character. Her voice acting is solid. She receives all the love and attention from the animators. Her design is striking. She's the kind of girl that people are going to talk about obsessively for the next three months.

The script is tight and focused. I was worried that Rikka's chuunibyou antics would get tedious. If she were like Kobato from Haganai, I don't think I could handle it. But whenever she begins to overstay her welcome on screen, the anime shifts attention to one of the other characters.

Yuuta serves as a solid straight man. In addition to knocking Rikka out of her fantasies, he has his own dark sordid past which sets him apart from other generic protagonists. I can already see the primary conflict of the anime as Yuuta struggles to accept his own identity as a chuunibyou. Now this is a premise you don't see often in anime and I hope Ishihara emphasizes this angle instead of the standard romance comedy aspect.

The rest of the supporting cast is predictable, but they're well designed.

At this point it's impossible to say whether Chuu2koi will end up being another classic, or the first dud Kyoani has produced in years. But this first episode was executed about as well as I could have hoped, and the buzz among fans seems to be generally positive.

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I had high hopes for Oda Nobuna no Yabou. Yoshiharu was a competent lead, Nobuna was cute and charming, there was a wide variety of girls, animation was excellent, and there was a clear direction to the story: Nobuna conquering all of Japan. There's lots of fan service for Sengoku history nerds, too.

But I think episode 11 really squandered whatever potential this show had. For the nth time we see Nobuna overreacting and acting like a crybaby when Yoshiharu disappears. Far from the strong willed princess I was expecting we get another dependent girl-child who can't do anything on her own. It'd be one thing if she displayed a moment of weakness once or twice, but throughout the entire anime she repeatedly falls to pieces whenever any of her retainers are endangered. How the hell can this girl become a daimyo? Maybe, just maybe, Nobuna doesn't deserve to rule all of Japan. I think I would've preferred a gender swap version of Nobunaga from Hyouge Mono.

If you watch Nobuna for cute girls being cute then I guess these persistent displays of weakness are tolerable. For me it's not. I wanted a Lafiel. Instead I got a Nagisa.

Here is some additional Hyouka spam I posted on 4chan.

There's never any mention of any sort of prearranged marriage for Eru, or Fuyumi, or Kaho, or any other rich family scion. Eru herself admits her family is of a very small village so it's not a given that she has a betrothed. Stop watching Nakaimo and other bad animes. I mean it's certainly possible, but with what we know it's equally possible that she hasn't been promised to anyone, and the reason she's making all these gestures to Houtarou is because she's grooming him to be her husband. If she had a prearranged marriage wouldn't she just push Houtarou away?

With regards to the dissatisfaction at episode 22: it's easy to think that nothing happens this episode, but in actuality a shitload happens. This is the first episode where Eru really reveals her home identity to Houtarou. Oh sure we visited her house previously (even if none of her servants or family appear (she even cooks for them for christ's sake), and Mayaka and Satoshi tag along) and we hear from other characters that she's this rich ojou-sama. But up until now she hasn't really exposed her domestic identity to Houtarou. But in episode 22 she reveals it all to Houtarou. She is metaphorically stripping naked for him, showing him what she is, what she will be, and asking him if he's prepared to accept her for who she is. You don't do this for some random bozo who helps you out a bit. You do this for someone you are prepared to spend the rest of your life with.

And what about Houtarou? During the parade he flat out tells you: "oh god my life is turning upside down because of this girl everything i held to be true is now false black is now white." This is the first episode where Houtarou admits to himself that he's infatuated with Eru. And the there's the pseudo confession. he didn't tell her, "I love you." He told her, "I will take responsibility for parts of your family life by becoming your husband." THE TWO ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The latter is such a profound disavowal of his energy-conservation life style that it would have been completely absurd if he said it out loud.

BUT BY IMAGINING IT, WE LEARN THAT HOUTAROU IS ACTUALLY PREPARED TO DO EXACTLY THAT. He doesn't know WTF is going on with him. But we know. He's falling in love. This was better than some corny out-of-character confession.

Hyouka 22 was not the end of the story. It was the end of the chapter. And this is why it also differs from the 5cm ending: Houtarou and Eru are both still in their first year of high school, spring has begun, and they both know they love each other even if they're not ready to admit it. Maybe they drift apart...but maybe they fall madly in love with each other and have sex every single day in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation. You can't prove me wrong. It's up in the air. Make the ending you want. I know what I'm going to imagine.

As I write this Hyouka 22 has 49 votes for 10/10 on AnimeSuki, with another 20 saying it was 9/10. That's out of 80 votes so far. So it seems fair to say that you've watched it this far, you will probably enjoy the episode. It's tempting to lay a bunch of superlatives on the show: best anime of the season, best anime of the year, best Kyoani anime, and maybe more. Claims like that will always draw ridicule. Hell, I do it myself whenever someone suggests the same for Kokoro Connect or Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita.

I love Hyouka, but I think it's unreasonable to expect that everyone will adore it. Typically, the universally loved shows are action packed or filled with comedy, two areas where Hyouka is deficient. There's romance, but it's built out of glances and body language and implied meanings, and there's no gratuitous payoff like a kiss or a confession. So by that metric it fails as well. The mysteries -- while I thought they were legitimate -- are so mundane and inconsequential that if you were expecting some sort of Ryukishi07ian conspiracy you would be disappointed. Is Hyouka slice-of-life then? Well, maybe. Some episodes definitely have that feel. But I would argue that the show has far too much conflict and angst to make it comparable to other iyashikei shows like Hidamari Sketch, Aria, or even K-On. If you were expecting just cute girls being cute, how are you going to react to the darker moments with Oreki, Fukube, and Ibara?

As for the animation, well there's no questioning that Hyouka was competently made. The background art approached Shinkai levels on some episodes, and Kyoani displayed their mastery of hair animation and small details. But since Hyouka is not an action anime, there's no orgy of sakuga. Even Nichijou was more impressive in this regard.

If you were expecting Hyouka to be any of these things (action, comedy, romance, mystery, slice of life, sakuga), the show as a whole may very well leave you unsatisfied.

I thought the Hyouka ep 22 ending was really good.

A lot of people are complaining that Oreki's confession wasn't real, but it was pretty much an indirect marriage proposal and given the premature state of their relationship it would've been outlandish if he actually said it.

But the rest of the episode hints at something more. During the entire walk Oreki is lost in a reverie centered around Chitanda. He plainly admits that he's smitten with her. I believe this is the first episode that Oreki admits he would abandon his energy conservation life style if it was for Chitanda's sake, and the entire episode shows him helping Chitanda with nary a complaint.

There's also the fact that the entire episode takes place during the beginning of spring, symbolic of young love in bloom. And the coloring of the scenes between Oreki and Chitanda is rose-tinted, surely a reference to the first lines uttered by Oreki in the anime.

This is the last episode of Hyouka, but in many ways it feels like the first episode of Oreki's love story with Chitanda. Of course all of it is implied. The original novel's author barely makes any reference to any sort of Chitanda-Oreki romance; that was entirely Kyoani's doing. And with only one novel left unanimated, the likelihood of getting a sequel or even a movie are slim, and would likely betray the themes of this final episode unless the script was drastically altered.

It was a fine episode, made even better by a can of Dale's Pale Ale I was drinking.

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