Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Atom: The Blockheads

Most folks would start a blog post on the recently concluded anime Atom: The Beginning by saying what previous experience they have with Osamu Tezuka's best known work Mighty Atom (Astro Boy). I will be brief: I have no experience with it at all (except for Naoki Urasawa's manga adaptation Pluto). Atom: The Beginning is not one of Tezuka's own works, instead it is a currently running manga written and illustrated by Tetsuro Kasahara, although yes it does have some contributions/guidance from both Masami Yuki and Osamu Tezuka's son, Makoto Tezuka. 

Given that this is a different kind of Astro Boy story, much like Pluto in that way, I think it's fine that I came to it with more or less no experience. These days it's rather common for every currently airing anime with a manga source material to have their source material snapped up and licensed but strangely enough Atom hasn't been licensed here, ie, I have no idea how faithful or not this adaptation is to its source. Atom also seemed to be a bit of an unpopular anime; I'm not sure how much of this is due to its own merits and how much of this relates to the fact that it was streaming behind a double-paywall on Amazon's Anime Strike service, but typically for franchises I'm not familiar with I'll rely on the knowledge of other fans to fill me in on historical context, funny cameos etc etc. (I mean, I REALLY don't have the time to google every character, every event, and then try several different spellings and trying to search in Japanese too since that's what it often takes!).

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Eccentric Family 2

I really enjoyed the first season of The Eccentric Family. It was whimsical and magical in a very low-key way, even when the stakes became very high for Yasaburo and the rest of his tanuki buddies/family. Of course it always helps when the art is pretty as well, I liked the semi-flat, far less moe than most PA Works shows, style and there are still so many scenes that I can crisply remember thanks to both this artwork and their tone.

I was excited for the second season of the show, I wasn’t quite sure what else needed telling in the story but I was up for it! And now that the second season has ended I’m left asking myself, What was the point of that season?

The second season was not bad but it did not have the clear character developement and drive of the first season. I’ve seen folks mention that the source material for The Eccentric Family is a book series and while it’s set to be a trilogy the final book isn’t out yet (all I’ve heard about it is that it contains The Great Tengu War WHICH I AM SO DOWN FOR). That would explain some things, in my opinion the middle installment in a trilogy is the trickiest story to tell satisfactorily since it lacks the natural draw and tidiness that comes with either a beginning or an ending. 

And it certainly feels like we’re in the middle of Benten’s story. I was a bit frustrated that this season didn’t do even more with her since she is the most fascinating character in the series. It’s not that I don’t love our tanuki main cast but we already know them well; from their histories, hopes, to why their conflicts play out as they do. But Benten, born human Satomi Suzuki and spirited away and then trained by Akadama into becoming a tengu, is a real mystery all around (fun tidbit, it looks like Professor Yodogawa’s assistant is her brother!). Equally mysterious is another character with a name that’s not a name, Nidame (literally, The Second) who appears to be Benten’s inverse; a tengu (whom at this point I’m presuming born to Akadama) but who vocally eschews his tengu status, despite constantly doing things no human could. This is a thematic conflict ripe for development, even though I fear it might make the story messier as a whole (if, as Yasaburo says, there are tanuki, humans, and tengu, is it possible for someone to switch classes? And what about those oni in the demon world? Etc etc) 

The Eccentric Family 2 advanced some of the plots surrounding the Shinogami Family but it did not change anything about the larger tanuki society, or the even larger Kyoto society, really at all. And that’s where this season fell flat for me. The Eccentric Family is clearly a story with ideas of mixing in themes and conflicts between both personal and larger levels and yet it didn’t deliver this time. I can only hope that this second season was one of house-keeping, merely tidying up, for a grander, more foolish, finale.