The Magic & Mundanity of Romance – Anime Critique: Glasslip

Glasslip_Prmotional_ImageTitle: Glasslip (Gurasurippu)
Format: TV anime
Genre: supernatural, romance, slice of life
Series Creator: Junji Nishimura
Series Director: Junji Nishimura
Studio: P.A. Works
Series length: 13 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 3 – September 25, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Tōko Fukami’s family runs a glass-working business in a small seaside town named Hinodehama (“Sunrise Beach”). She hangs out with her four best friends at a cafe called Kazemichi (“Wind Way”). During the summer break of their senior year in high school, they meet a transfer student named Kakeru Okikura, who claims that a voice from the future talks to him, and that it has led him to Tōko.


Review:

This was a series that I thought may be great. A gentle blending of teen romance with a touch of magical realism but with more of an emphasis on the former than the latter. The supernatural/magical realism aspects are minute, driving part of the characters’ motivations but not having an affect the larger world at all. Unfortunately, towards the end of the series, when they try to explain what the supernatural power is, everything begins to falter & become confused. Leaving no explanation as to the nature of the two central protagonists’ abilities. In fact, the series leaves a lot in the air but at the same time resolves other aspects that similar series would more happily leave hanging in the air.

The cynical part of me thinks that might be to angle for a 2nd season as well as push the side manga & upcoming Light Novel. I may be right but that doesn’t really address how a series that started out with so much promise ended up so poorly dregged by the final episode.

The supernatural conceit of the series is that the two central protagonists, Tōko & Kakeru, possess similar yet different abilities to experience what they believe to the future. Whenever Tōko sees light refracted through an object such as glass, she sees visions; whereas if Kakeru is prodded by various aural stimuli, he hears fragment of what may come to pass. It is these abilities, which seem to compliment each other, that draws our two protagonists to each other but stirs ripples amongst Tōko’s established circle of friends.

The Chibi versions from the end credits.
The Chibi versions from the end credits.

Like more than a few other series this season, Glasslip (the confusing title comes from the fact that Tōko is a glassblower) is a romantic, more shōjo aligned series (although lacking in the grotesque art style of the shōjo genre. Instead on dwelling on the magical realism aspects of the protagonists, it’s more concerned with the changing relationships between & around Tōko & her friends. More so how suppressed emotions are brought to the boil by the arrival in town of Kakeru -whom Tōko accidentally dubbed David because he reminded her of the statue.

I feel that if the series actually made the relationships between the 6 characters the focal point rather than flirted with the two genres it would have been a much stronger series. Unlike so many other recent anime this year, the characters actually get a chance to develop, growing as the story progresses. They do start off as typical anime archetypes though. With Tōko being the kindhearted ditz; Yanagi as the bitchy yet insecure tsundere who is not so secretly in love with her step-brother (not incest like WIXOSS) & secretly jealous of the attention that he gives Tōko; her step-brother Yukinari, who tries to act cool & aloof but is actually feeling hollow since he may have to give up on his dream of professional running after suffering a knee injury & feels threatened by how Tōko is drawn to Kakeru; Hiro, who is the energetic dunce who thinks of things that the group can do & has a poorly hidden longing for the fragile yet beautiful Sachi; while Sachi is the physically wracked glasses-girl who appears to have a lesbian lust for Tōko & an intense hatred for Kakeru on sight because she feels that he may take Tōko away from her.

The central cast.
The central cast.

How these weird love polygons play out becomes the core of the series. With various misunderstandings, manipulations & confessions of emotion driving the drama inherent in the romantic genre. Yet because it’s filtered through the lens of magical realism, with Tōko & Kakeru’s glimpses of the future, the weight of the emotion if more muffled than it otherwise should’ve been if they strengthened one aspect over the other.

What I’m saying that if Glasslip was more content to more be more of a character drama it would be excellent. Instead a lot of the emotions of the characters are muted & ideas get lost. There are some interesting dynamics involved with the relations -such as with the step-siblings or Tōko’s & her little sister Hina (who has her own manga) or even Sachi’s quiet protective love Tōko & how that changes throughout the course of the series.

Unfortunately, the series really loses its way in the last few episodes -where they try to explain the nature of Tōko & Kakeru’s ability. With hints that they aren’t seeing the future & that it might be something passed down through the bloodline. There are no real explanations & no real resolution to that plot arc. In general, things in the series just end with little resolution. It might be because they have a Light Novel coming out in October or that they want to make another series but I found it weak & annoying. More so after such a promising start.

At least on the list pluses that this series has is that it is exceptionally beautiful. That’s honestly one of the best things about so many recent series is that they are so damn pretty. Glasslip uses a lot of nature scenes, with the location being set in a city between the mountains & the sea -so you get to see a lot of both. There’s a lot of interplay with light, either the glare of the sun on the ocean or being filtered through the leaves of the trees. Colours & layers are played with to great effect -especially in Tōko’s glass works.

How's the serenity?
How’s the serenity?

Overall, Glasslip is a good series that could have been utterly fantastic but it leaves too much up in the area & gets muddled as to whether it wants to be a teen romance or magical realism series. There is still a lot to enjoy about it but I personally wanted more resolution & a closed ending. If they make a 2nd series, I will watch it but I won’t forgive it for faffing about. Still, this is an enjoyable series that I would recommend; more so if you are sick of the action oriented harem loli-fest dross that has plagued us this year.

Demonstrating Toko's clutziness.
Demonstrating Toko’s clutziness.

They Refer To It As “Gay Gundam” – Anime Review: Buddy Complex

Buddy_Complex_Promotional_ImageTitle: Buddy Complex
Format: TV anime
Genre: mecha, sci-fi, action, time travel
Series Director: Yasuhiro Tanabe
Studio: Sunrise
Series length: 13 episodes
Original Airing dates: January 5, 2014 – March 30, 2014
Reviewed format: HDTV download with fan subs

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

Buddy Complex revolves around the main character, Aoba Watase, an ordinary high school boy. One day, the girl he has a crush on, Hina Yumihara, saves him from being killed by a guy in a mecha, and then sends him into the future, revealing that she herself was also from the future. When he wakes up, he finds himself over seventy years into the future, where the Free Pact Alliance and the Zogilia Republic are at war with each other, each battling with their own valiancers; and Aoba is on the former’s team, teams up with Dio using coupling valiancers Luxon and Bradyon. He also learns that Hina is on the opposing team, and what’s even stranger, she doesn’t remember him at all.


Review:

Buddy Complex is yet another in a long line of the Mecha Genre anime & also brought to you by those stalwarts of the genre, Sunrise. As noted in the title, some fans have taken to calling this “Gay Gundam” due to the main conceit/gimmick of the series, where male pilots have to ‘couple up’ in order to gain power. As always, I find this insulting: both to homosexuals & to the much superior Gundam franchise.

If I were to call Buddy Complex it would be bland.

No, that’s too sharp a word.

It would just be ‘vanilla’.

Vanilla is safe. Vanilla is acceptable. Vanilla is universal & basically liked by all no matter what your tastes.

& Buddy Complex is so very, very vanilla.

From the characters tropes down to the mecha designs, all so V.A.N.I.L.L.A.

This is exceptionally unfortunately because it started off with so much promise & some fairly interesting ideas.

It basically starts with little above-average modern day Japanese high school student Watase Aoba suddenly being attacked by a mysterious mecha that has fallen through a wormhole from the future. He is rescued by the girl whom he is attracted to & seems to be watching him, Yumihara Hina, in her own mecha unit. Destroying the rival unit, they then go back through the wormhole & Aoba finds himself in the controls of the experimental mecha Luxon in the middle of a fierce battle. Naturally, being the hero, Aoba is able to activate it & the special Coupling System, joining powers with the other Coupler, Dio. Forming a neural bond which enhances their combat & piloting ability beyond superhuman, they fight off the enemies & Aoba is forced to join the crew of the Cygnus. He then has to decide if he wants to fight with the abilities that he acquired from Dio via the Coupling System, protecting his new friends, or give up & try to find Hina, who mysteriously disappeared when they entered the wormhole.

If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s pretty much the plot from EVERY Mecha anime for the past 30 years (especially the aforementioned Gundam franchise). The military & scientists should just cut to the chase & throw random teenagers into the machines to see what happens.

Alas, I digress. . .

As I said before, this serious is playing it exceptionally safe & that’s its major drawback.
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Aoba is the hot head, driven to both protect his new friends & find Hina (who happens to be fighting for the enemy for some reason that’s all Timey-Whimy [SPOILERS!]). Whilst Dio is an angry, taciturn pretty boy with daddy issues & a sister complex. Of course, that is a touch of hyperbole but they are pretty much standard tropes for the genre. As well as the innocent young (teenage) girl with a crush on Aoba, the mature squad leader, the lax but clever captain, the harsh but caring female vice-captain, boy-crazy comm-officer, annoying male flight crew, wise old mechanic, hot science lady plus an appearance from perverted sensei before his plot driven death.

Whilst on the enemy side we have the clever commander who is playing his own game, the psycho who wants to own Hina, the psycho who likes blowing things up, the female leader who risks everything for promotion & attention, the little blond shota who is a a surprisingly good pilot (may or may not have man-crush on his senpai) & cowardly power hungry two episode villains in over powered mecha that get smashed by our heroes.

The mecha designs also suffer a tragic visit from the bland fairy.

The mook mecha (the standard grunt models) are literally rejects from Gundam Wing (they honestly didn’t even bother to change the designs other than make them thinner) & the main mecha units, the Luxon & Braydon are your standard man-shaped hero unit. With the Luxon being white & blue, whilst the Braydon is red & black. Their appearances are very uninspired, with nothing to give them the visual punch of the Valvraves, even when they go into their superpowered Buddy Modes. Just some more glowing parts & a little transformation.

I think once reason why the series is so vanilla because the series is so short -only 13 episdes- & has to cover a lot of information, including why there is two main factions on the World (evil Zogillia & the useless Alliance, to which our heroes belong) & how the technology works.

On those two sides is also where things fall down.

There basically isn’t enough information to allow you to suspend your disbelief for very long. They keep changing how the Coupling System works to fit with plot develops, explaining it as going beyond expectations & it not being tested in the field (plus Aoba’s strange ability to Couple with anyone -the little He-Hussy!).

The lack of time to develop plot & characters, the hand waving of what’s happening & the rushed pseudo-science really do drag the series down but is there anything that brings it up so it at least is an average?

Well, the battle scenes are very well down -especially when they go into super-speed territory. You never once feel confused as to who is fighting who, even with the bland mook-mecha about. There are some nice little jokes, not a great deal of Fan Service, some good moments between characters & the lack of idiotic children running around the ship (take that original Gundam series!).

Still, the lack of internal logic is a let down & makes a lot of things unforgivable.

Same goes with the overall rushed, vanilla nature of the series. They’ve promised a 2nd one, with a To Be Continued in the post-credits coda & I’ll probably watch it but I am a bit of a mecha-diehard. To be honest: the series isn’t in any way or shape bad. It’s just tame & stuff we’ve pretty much all seen before. If you have a right hard-on for light sci-fi & huge robots, there are far worse series to see (coughEureka 7cough).

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