Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Music

Love Live! School Idol Project Ep. 1

Honoka, Kotori and Umi danceInitial impression – low budget, low brow (3/10)

Winter 2013 (13 episodes) (more info)

Inevitably, Love Live is going to get compared to both K-ON and The iDOLM@STER, so I’m going to just get that out of the way.  Combining the concept of a school music club with young ladies pursuing careers as idol singers in theory shouldn’t be too preposterous a setup.  However, in execution it’s a real flop.  At the core of this overlap is music, and the bread and butter of any music anime is that the music needs to be good.  The two series it’s borrowing ideas from have that area covered, but Love Live is definitely not up to par.

There’s also the hard-to-swallow plot point about how our heroines have the harebrained idea that they’re going to attract new students to their school that’s suffering from declining enrollment in just a year or two by competing with established idol clubs at other local schools.  There’s a level of cheesiness to it that makes me want to smack someone for even suggesting the idea.  Combined with some really intrusive CGI-animated scenes when the girls start dancing, there’s nothing to praise about Love Live.  I even think there’s room to speculate that this was the product of some money-grubbing committee who saw the success of the aforementioned titles and decided to frankenstein them together into something guaranteed to appeal to both audiences, but really shouldn’t appeal to anyone.

Tari Tari Ep. 1

Initial impression – I like where this is going

Summer 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)

With a sharp, bright style, a pointedly diverse cast and a worthy goal for the heroine, Tari Tari looks well thought out.  Each character has a unique trait that helps them to stand out.  Wakana is the lady of her family in the absence of her mother.  Sawa is a warm, friendly girl from a wealthy background.  There’s the quirky Wein, who just returned from Austria and embellishes his Japanese gestures and speech like a well-mannered samurai.  The lonely member of the men’s badminton club is Taichi.  And finally, Konatsu is the driving force pushing everyone to make sure they can all spend their final year together without any regrets.

The primary goal of headstrong Konatsu is to prove her worth to her depreciative music teacher.  And this spirited young lady does a fabulous job of allowing you to feel her sense of determination and makes you want to cheer for the underdog overcoming an insurmountable adversary.  This theme is accentuated by the strong influence of Japanese culture that’s on display in Tari Tari—most notably an overall drive by group consensus to keep things harmonious by not stepping out of line, which is opposed by the desire of these young people to be independent and show the world what they can do.

I see a lot of potential already for Tari Tari to become something really cool.  As Konatsu strives to ignore the advice of her degrading instructor to pursue her own path, it’s really powerful and uplifting with just enough natural silliness to keep things interesting.  As an interesting little aside, the song being sung by the choir at about the 5:00 mark is Reflectia, the opening theme for True Tears.

What is there to like about Kids on the Slope?

I’m sick and tired of reading comments on forums and blogs about how good this anime is.  All the time I’m seeing “must watch series” or “best anime this season.”  I don’t do this kind of focused rebuttal very often, (come to think of it this may be the first time I’ve written a review like this) but all things considered I think the current situation warrants a dissenting opinion being heard—with indignant vigor.

I can’t tell what this anime wants to be about.  It’s skipping erratically between themes of music, friendship, youth and romance, which doesn’t sound like it ought to be a problem on the surface.  However, the transitions between these concepts are as flow breaking as having to portage a canoe around a dam.  There’s no reason all the themes couldn’t be woven together into a harmonious composition, but instead the show opts to go with just one mode at a time.

I thought long and hard about exactly why the pacing in this series is so terrible and I came to the realization that transitions from sequence to sequence are so abrupt and jarring that it reminded me of watching a summary episode or a clip show.  When I made that connection it started to make sense because Shinichiro Watanabe is very good at doing episodic anime like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.  For those series, episodic pacing with large breaks makes sense because the journey the characters take lends itself very organically to a lot of down time when nothing interesting is happening.  Each episode gets encapsulated nicely so that it concludes before moving on to the next leg of the story.

But Kids on the Slope doesn’t want that kind organization.  It’s happening in real time with people who see each other every day and don’t have any clear goals in mind to drive themselves fervently forward and keep them focused.  There’s no big overarching conflict to wrap everything up and give a sense of purpose or adventure to connect the points.  They’re just lethargically dealing with their problems as they arise, which is drawn-out disorganization at best and frustratingly incomprehensible chaos at its worst.

It’s like we’ve been dragged along a boring, uneventful saunter through the lives of some very ordinary, uninteresting young people whose bonds are so weak they need the pathetic excuse of playing jazz music to keep the whole mess from falling apart.  We’re expected to fill in too many of the little details and read between the lines to fully grasp what’s going on.  This is not subtlety or a method of focusing only on the big, important events.  This is plainly and simply bad writing that shows a lack of planning to keep everything moving at a cohesive pace.

I’m also completely bummed by Yoko Kanno’s complete lack of presence.  I know she’s capable of much better soundtracks than these barely audible, piddling, intermittent BGMs that go completely unnoticed.  What happened to the epic themes that characterized the grand settings of Escaflowne and RahXephon?  Where are the perfect, mood-setting tones that gave Cowboy Bebop an atmosphere as thick as Jupiter’s?  How can we get immersed in the setting, time and culture without her purposeful influence giving us the proper cues like she did in Ghost in the Shell?  Why isn’t her music filling our ears, warming our hearts and giving us an uncontrollable desire to get up and dance like the powerful songs of Macross Frontier?  It’s a complete waste of her talent, so why is she involved in this project?

What is going on? This is not good writing.

Finally, I don’t want to hear any more complaining from people about unrequited, drawn-out, misunderstood or weak romances in anime like Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima or Boku wa Tomodachi when shows like Kids on the Slope are getting this kind of hype.  The romance in this series is terrible.  Just what the heck is going on?  I thought Yurika was under the impression that Kaoru asked her out but then she’s suddenly getting intimate with Sentarou?  It’s such an unfounded, head-spinning, hasty plot progression that it can be easy summarized in just one word—lazy.  And how can Kaoru think he’s in any position to follow the high ground when (a) he takes forever to clear up the pain and confusion he caused with Ritsuko then (b) goes for a love confession as weak as, “you don’t have to give me an answer right away,” with absolutely no follow up to show he actually cares?  It reeks of every aspect of the worst romance stories you could think of.

What are people seeing in this anime that I don’t?  Someone please enlighten me because Kids on the Slope is the most I’ve been disappointed in an anime since Blood C.  Anyone who finished reading this rant and who likes this show please explain yourself.  Clearly I just don’t get it.

K-ON! Movie (summary)

Back on December 3, I watched the K-ON! Movie.  Below are the notes I took while watching the movie detailing a summary of the major events and plot of the film.  Be warned, the following text contains major spoilers.  Additionally, I’ve composed this article under the assumption that readers will already be familiar with the TV anime’s previous two seasons.  The events of the movie take place close to the end of the story of the second season, but before the anime’s final episode.

WARNING!! SPOILERS!!

Yui wakes up in her bedroom to the sound of her alarm.
The five HHT girls are going to school.
After classes they go to the club room and they can be heard upstairs
playing hard rock.
Azusa arrives in the club room.
Ritsu and Yui argue about the kind of music HTT typically plays as
being too light, fluffy and carefree.
She’s lamenting the end of the light music club because the four
seniors are all graduating.
Azusa pushes the play button on a boom box nearby to discover the hard
rock track that everyone heard downstairs wasn’t actually HTT.
Azusa wants to practice with everyone, but Yui decides to take a tea break.
Mugi takes out a baumkuchen cake to share with everyone, but has
trouble opening the packaging.
Sawako appears at the table out of nowhere and surprises the girls.
Yui says she wants to do one last senior-like thing before she graduates.
Back at Yui’s house she talks it over with Ui.
Maybe the four seniors should give a present to future members of the
light music club.
Ui suggests a bunch of other ideas that Yui doesn’t like.
Ui then suggests they go out on a senior trip and bring Azusa along as
a gift to their only junior.
In class the next day they comment on how Mugi’s hands are warm, but
Mio’s hands are cold.
Other seniors in the class are talking about going on trips around to
different places in the world with their clubs.
The class discusses what kind of gift they should get for Sawako
because she’s their homeroom teacher.
The four seniors ask Azusa where she would want to go if they went on
a senior trip.
She says anywhere is fine.
Ritsu suggests Hawaii.
Yui wants to go to Europe.
Mugi would be fine with a hot springs inn.
Mio really wants to go to London.
They use an amidakuji (a lottery ladder) to decide where they will go.
Yui wins the game but Azusa catches her cheating, so she has to sit
out any future decisions.
Mugi thinks it was really clever of Yui to cheat like that.
As a penalty game, they make her wear a piece of paper over her face
that has a funny expression drawn on it.
They decide to let Ton-chan decide where they should go by putting
teacups in his tank with names of the destinations written on them.
After a really long wait he touches London.
Mio is very happy.
Yui is sad, but when everyone reminds her that London is in Europe,
she admits she didn’t know that.
Mugi invites Azusa, but she hesitates because she’s not a senior.
Yui wants Azusa to come, too.
Azusa finally accepts the invitation after Mio invites her, too.
Azusa leaves the clubroom and calls her parents to check if it’s ok to
go on a trip to London.
Azusa returns to find the other girls calling their families as well.
Back at Yui’s house, Nodoka is helping pack and wishes Yui a fun trip in the UK.
Yui tells her they’re going to London, not the UK.
Nodoka tells Yui that London is in the UK and once again, Yui admits ignorance.
They go to a travel agency to pick out their hotel and sightseeing destinations.
Back at school, Yui talks with the members of the occult club and asks
them if they want a souvenir.
They ask her to take a picture of Nessie.
Yui tells this to the other HTT girls and they explain that the occult
club was just joking.
The four seniors still want to give a better present to Azusa as well as Sawako.
Maybe they should write a song?
Azusa returns to the clubroom and nearly blows their cover.
She becomes suspicious about it later when she recalls their serious faces.
Yui’s parents help her finish packing.
We only see their faces briefly when Yui departs for the airport.
The five girls meet up as they near the airport.
They have their instruments with them aside from Mugi.
Mugi asks everyone to double check to make sure they didn’t forget anything.
Yui jokes that she forgot her passport.
Azusa says they’re going to leave her behind.
At the airport the girls check their instruments and Yui says a long
goodbye to Gii-taa.
Yui talks about how amazing airplanes are, but Azusa points out that
it’s just a vehicle, not a time machine.
The girls are flying JAL (Japan Air Lines).  Product placement much?
For a while, Yui and Azusa practice their English on the flight.
At night during the flight, Yui wakes up to write lyrics for Azusa’s
song, but she falls asleep while writing.
Azusa wakes up and starts to read Yui’s notes, but Yui stops her just
in time to make sure the secret is safe.
The theme for the song is “World Wide.”
The immigration officer in the London airport is a black man.
They are visibly nervous.
The girls answer his questions with decent, if clumsy English.
On the luggage rack they can’t find Mio’s bag.
Ritsu jokes that Mio is going to have to get by without any underwear.
They find Mio’s bag off in a corner for unclaimed luggage.
Yui and Mio are amazed by all the English and begin taking pictures of
everything they see.
They have some difficulty telling their cab driver where their hotel is.
Yui comments that everything is so much bigger than in Japan.
They end up going to the wrong hotel.
Turns out this hotel chain has several places around London.
They consider taking the bus.
Azusa bought new shoes for this trip but her feet hurt.
The shoes are probably too small.
They buy Azusa new shoes.
As they head to their hotel on foot they see a conveyor belt sushi
restaurant and they decide to eat.
The store’s manager thinks the girls are a Japanese band he hired.
Yui can’t understand his English and just keeps answering “Yes” to all
of his questions.
By the time they realize the mistake it’s too late to back out.
Not that they even know enough English to point out the manager’s mistake.
In an attempt to explain the situation, Ritsu says “I love sushi.  We
are okyakusan (customers)”.
But the manager can’t understand them, so they decide the best thing
to do is to just go with the flow.
The manager introduces their band as Love Crisis, which Ritsu
recognizes as the name of her friend’s band.
They play some songs and the customers like the music.
HTT doesn’t get to eat any sushi.
Ritsu’s friend Maki from Love Crisis shows up.
They explain the mistake to the manager.
HTT finds their hotel.
Yui is tired and hungry
It’s a good thing Ui packed food for everyone.
Yui plugs in her hair dryer, but it shorts out because of the voltage
difference.
Azusa has a bad dream about Yui.
The next day in a park, Yui sticks her hand into what she thinks is a mailbox.
It’s actually a waste bin for dog poop.
Everyone wants to ride the ferris wheel in the park but Mio.
After some forceful coaxing, Mio gets on board and enjoys the ride.
Back at the hotel room Yui rushes to give Gii-ta a hug, but Azusa
thinks Yui is trying to hug her, so she elbows Yui painfully.
The four seniors have another meeting to work on Azusa’s song after
she falls asleep.
Azusa awakens in the night to find Yui missing.
Azusa knocks on the door, but the peep hole is too high for Ritsu to
see through.
Azusa is looking for Yui, but she had already left to go check on Azusa.
Azusa returns to her room while Yui returns to the other seniors to
report that Azusa is missing.
The two then start running in circles through their two hotel rooms
looking for each other.
The next day they go to a music store.
They get a surprise call from Japan.
It’s the owner of the live music house HTT played at.
Maki and the manager of the sushi restaurant want them to play at a
Japanese culture festival the next day.
They’re worried they might not be able to do it because there won’t be
enough time to make their flight.
That night they attempt to translate the lyrics of “Rice is not a side
dish,” into English with little success.
Azusa has another strange dream about Yui.
Mugi gets her keyboard airmailed to London.
HTT is playing on an outdoor stage at the Japanese culture event.
They’re going to play wearing their school uniforms.
Yui remembers shorting out her hair dryer the first night and worries
that plugging Gii-ta into the UK-made amp will hurt her guitar.
Then Sawako shows up and reminds Yui that her guitar wasn’t made in
Japan and everything will be ok.
Sawako made samurai outfits for the girls but they refuse to wear them.
They play Fuwa-fuwa time and Gohan.
Yui attempts to sing the last verse of Gohan in English, but fails.
They’re running out of time to make their flight.
Azusa falls asleep in the cab ride to the airport and Ritsu takes a
picture of her sleeping.
It starts snowing.
Back in their club room, they start sorting through all the English
tea they bought in London.
Their classmates are impressed that they went to London and played there.
The class wants HTT to play a final graduation live performance.
The senior girls of HHT go to the teacher’s room to ask Sawako if it’s
ok to do a final live performance.
At first she thinks it’s a good idea, but when the principal walks in
she has to feign prohibition to keep up appearances.
She recalls back when she was in the light music club, the principal
was her homeroom teacher and got really upset with her playing music
in his classroom.
The class makes a stage for HTT with their desks while the senior
girls go to get Azusa to come join them.
Upon hearing the music start, the principal heads off to stop the
performance, and Sawako attempts to restrain him unsuccessfully.
After seeing everyone having a good time, the principal relents and
allows the performance to continue.
Their classmates push the teachers into the classroom to better enjoy the music.
Later, the four seniors continue to discuss Azusa’s song.
Mugi has written a melody everyone likes and suggests they each write
a verse for the song.
Azusa is suspicious and discusses the issue with Junko and Ui during
gym class while they play table tennis.
She laments the other girls are going on to university together without her.
While writing lyrics in her room, Yui must hastily hide her notes from
Ui so her cover doesn’t get blown.
Yui thanks Ui for giving her the idea of going on a trip with everyone.
Yui is lost in thought and absentmindedly asks Ui, “since we’re all
going to the same university, we’ll still be able to have after school
tea, right?”
Next day on the roof, the four seniors are having a group huddle
before their performance for Azusa.
The lyrics aren’t quite finished yet, so they need one last brainstorm.
A bird flies away.
The seniors liken Azusa to the bird because she gave the group a set
of wings and helped keep them all focused.
Without the serious Azusa, they never would have gotten this great.
Azusa is their guardian angel.
It’s a little embarrassing, but they decide that’s the best choice for
that section of the lyrics.
The light music club has their last after school tea together and
Azusa comes in for the performance of her song.
They play.
Azusa claps.
Yui smiles because Azusa liked it.
The four seniors are university students now.
They go home.
Yui asks everyone where they should all go next year for Azusa’s senior trip.

THE END

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