The All Singing, All Dancing Lesbian Troop – Anime Critique: Hanayamata

8b4d6a16fc4574fefd0438507a3030651402376724_fullTitle: Hanayamata
Format: TV series
Genre: slice of life, comedy, Girl’s Love
Series Creator: Sou Hamayumiba
Series Director: Atsuko Ishizuka
Studio: Madhouse
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 7 – September 22, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Naru Sekiya is an ordinary 14-year old girl who likes fairy tales, but is worried about her lack of other interests. She has a chance encounter with a “fairy”, a foreign girl practicing dance at night. On a spur of the moment, Naru asks to join her and is introduced to the world of yosakoi dancing.


Review:

Hanayamata fits nicely into the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things subgenre, not dissimilar to the aforereviewed Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka from last season. The general gist of it is a group of early teenaged girls getting together in order to have fun, gain confidence & strengthen their bonds of friendship. I mentioned lesbians in the title because this series leans towards to the Girl’s Love (similar to Yuri but lacking the sexual side of things). Outside of paternal figures, there is an absence of males within series. & the girls show blushing cute attraction to each other that leans more towards extreme/deep friendship attraction than Sapphicism.

Also, unlike the aforementioned Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu, Hanayamata is less a situational based series than a driven narrative-based story.

The general thrust of the series is the shy Naru, who hides from everything & would rather lose herself in her fairytales, finding someone & something to give her the passion & confidence to face reality. Naru finds this through her encounter with the pixie-esque foreign girl, Hana N. Fountainstand, whom Naru initially mistakes for a fairy wanting to take her to a magical kingdom.

Hana is a pretty typical Weeaboo, who is obsessed with all things Japanese to the point that she wishes to reshape her entire cultural identity. Her primary focus is on Yosakoi, because she witnessed a dance trope when she was a little girl visiting Japan. Hana’s goal is to start a Yosakoi club at her new school & she has chosen Naru to be the first member.

The kawaii! It burns!
The kawaii! It burns!

Naturally, Naru’s painful shyness & extreme lack of confidence means that she refuses but Hana’s persistence & overall adorability means that Naru eventually offers to help set up the club. In order to do this, they need more members -who are often driven away by Hana’s over-eagerness- a supervising teacher & to get passed the very strict Student Council President, Machi. This driving arc is combined with the other protagonists: Naru’s overprotective & slightly self-centred friend Yaya & the epitome of Japanese feminine grace, Tami -whom Naru views as a big sister & princess-like figure. They both strive to find their own passions & dreams in the face of others trying to control their lives or people unwilling to push themselves to take that final step to break through the barriers before them. Machi finds herself in a similar position, wishing to overcome her sister-complex; a sister how just happens to be Sari (AKA Sally-sensei), the Yosakoi club supervisor -who only took on the role because of the pressure that Hana applied to her through begging.

Super excited Loli set to execute snuggle-attack,
Super excited Loli set to execute snuggle-attack,

Each character has to overcome their personal struggles in order to gain confidence. This is central to the construction of Naru, who thinks of herself as weak & lost yet it does not ring entirely true with her. Her emotional weakness & crippling lack of confidence seems to stem more from perceptions of social pressures & her indulgence in escapism rather than face reality. These unto themselves are hardly original ideas for media to explore but in the case of Naru they seem contradictory. That is because she claims to have no physical strength or coordination yet from the outset we are told that she’s practiced Iaido from a young age, having gained a high proficiency in the art from her father, who runs a dojo from their home. I found it strange that these martial art didn’t confer any ability to Naru’s confidence & dance motions but that may lie more in the schismatic nature of her personality then within her actual flesh.

The Tsundere exposed.
The Tsundere exposed.

With Naru occupying the space of the pitiable stalwart looking to overcome their own feelings of inadequacy, it’s up to the other girls to fill the other roles. Yaya is the typical tsundere who wants to be the centre of attention, especially from Naru, & is a little jealous that her friend has finally found something outside of her admiration for & reliance upon Yaya herself. Tami wants to be the epitome of the perfect woman, in order to gain her father’s approval but she also is shown to be a little ditzy & mischievous, looking to break the role that she’s forced herself into. & Machi wants to escape from the shadow of her once successful sister & conquer the feelings of abandonment that stem from her relations with Sally-sensei as well as the academic pressures that her hospital running parents are putting her through now that Sally-sensei has abandoned the role of heir to their tiny medical empire.

Whilst, so many other shows this season, Hanayamata is exceptionally beautiful look at. With its bloom & shimmering use of colours & well rendered action sequences -especially the dance choreography for both the girls & the passing troops. Yet, as a whole, it’s a series not without its faults.
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My main criticism of the series that its aimed at boosting Japanese consumer & cultural confidence, but once again showing a foreigner entirely obsessed with an aspect of Japanese culture/history that they are willing to move & reshape their entire personal identity in order to conform to their perceptions of what it means to be Japanese. Hana fundamentally exists (at least in the anime) to push a form of Japanese superiorism, reinforcing the belief that Japan is the superordinate in terms of its ongoing cultural practices.

The other negative in my point of view is how they push the emotional drama side of things. Bringing out the tears & ramping up the reacting, coupled with some irritating voice acting at times. It isn’t a deal breaker but it detracts from the sweetness of the comedy & the beauty of the anime. Especially the expressions & the reaction shots. There is some mild sexualisation & fan service but that at least palls when faced with the drama & comedy.

Everyone has a goal. Some girls have goals to get boobies.
Everyone has a goal. Some girls have goals to get boobies.

Overall, this is a worth addition to the “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things”. It’s fun, it’s fluffy & silly but also deep & touching when it has to (but not in the yuri sense). Whilst it does have some negative, all the good that it does completely outweighs my basic (& typical) complaints. There are plenty of kawaii moments as well as other random comedic moments -such as with Yosakoi supply store owner Ofuna Masaru, who looks like a stereotypical Yakuza but is passionate about Yosakoi & helping the girls.

If you can get passed some of the minor irritations, you’re sure to enjoy this series. It’s a good balm to some of the bloody & hypersexualised offering this past season. It’s all about what you can achieve if you have self-belief & friends by your side to support you. More so if you push yourself in order to support them so you can find your own strength to face the harshness of reality.

hanayamata-girls

Idolistic – Anime Critique: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita

Futsū_no_Joshikōsei_ga_Locodol_Yattemita,_Cover_Manga_vol.1Title: Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yatte Mita. (Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mita,  Locodol, Normal High School Girls Tried Being Locodols)
Format: TV anime
Genre: comedy, 4koma adaptation, shojo ai
Series Creator: Kotaro Kosugi
Series Director: Munenori Nawa
Studio: Feel
Series length: 12 episodes + OVA 13th episode
Original Airing dates: July 3 – September 18, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

In the town of Nagarekawa (“Flowing River City”), Nanako Usami, an ordinary high school girl, is approached by her uncle to become a local idol or “Locodol”, partnering with upperclassman Yukari Kohinata to form the idol unit, Nagarekawa Girls (Nagarekawa Garuzu). As the girls use their talent to promote Nagarekawa and their businesses, they are joined by Yui Mikoze, who acts as the local mascot, and Mirai Nazukari, who serves are Yui’s substitute.


Review:

To be honest, half way through the 1st episode when the fan service bikinis appeared, I really wanted to hate this series. I thought it was going to be nothing but hyper sexualisation, fan service & telling young girls that they can’t be anything except pretty little idols if they want to do something to help those around them. Then it did something surprising: it got really funny, really sweet & really cute before toning down the fan service & offering a good heart into what it means to live outside a major metropolitan area in Japan -especially in the ongoing economic downturn in Asia.

I was genuinely prepared to go on my usual anti-sexualisation, anti-misogyny rants, willing to write it all off when I began to see how funny a show it was. & it kept getting better with each episode, as they build on the characters, their tasks & lots of little running gags.

At its core, Locodol is about the things that you do to help out others &, in turn, support your larger community. For this, ordinary yet energetic Nanako is recruited by her uncle, who works in the local government, to become a Local Idol (shortened to Locodol) with the beautiful & mature acting Yukari. This causes Nanako to question her talent & worth, because she feels that she’s not good enough, always screwing up & obsessed over the little things -such as her hourly wage (being a government employee & not a real idol) & the weird tasks that they have to do in order to help promote their local town, Nagarekawa (which is entirely fictional, mashing up the typical feel of a medium Japanese urban-rural city).
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Like many 4koma adaptation, relationships form the pivot of the comedy & narrative. But this time it’s not just the relationship between the characters but also their relationship with their hometown. The girl’s friendship grows as they work together more & Nanako is supported by the seemingly more experienced (in being an idol) Yukari. Although Yukari’s perception of their relationship goes a little deeper, as she seems to harbour a very open crush on Nanako. The backstory as to how this happened is exceptionally sweet & cute, adding a good bit of depth to Yukari’s overall background.

The idol unit also have to build a relationship with their odd mascot, Uogokoro-kun, both in & out of costume. In costume, Uogokoro-kun is a weird blue lump with a large fish strapped to its wide back. Out of costume, Uogokoro-kun is a diminutive yet busty 3rd year called Yui, who works many part time jobs & plays Uogokoro-kun in order to get over her own shyness, as well being one of the few people short enough to fit into the costume. Yet when clad in the bulky gear, Yui is still surprisingly nimble, which adds to the humour & on stage antics of the group.
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The group is overseen by Nishifukai Saori, who seems like the very model of a manager but in fact she is a secret idol otaku & cosplay costumer maker. She also takes photos on the sly to post onto a fan of the idol unit blog that she runs -which are usually of Nanako in embarrassing or slightly compromising positions. Even though the girls were first upset by this (not knowing it was Saori taking & posting the pictures), they soon came to accept that it’s part of trying to be famous (which is a little creepy) but Saori did say that she’s talk to the blog owner (herself) about not posting the pics anymore.

Even with all these swirling relationships, the story is still mainly focussed upon Nanako & her overcoming her insecurities to do better. She’s a natural signer who wanted to be a national idol when she was a little girl but is bothered by the fact that she was only chosen for the role because of her uncle. Yet her tenacity draws people to her, as she struggles to do her best. Not only for herself but for the unit & the town as a whole -even if it means putting herself in embarrassing situations. Such as stripping down to her bathing suit during their 1st performance to get a bit of audience attention. Her panicking & over-thinking situations leads to much of the comedy in the series; as does her general clumsiness & her obliviousness to Yukari constantly making passes at her.

Another poor attempt  to initiate lesbianism.
Another poor attempt to initiate lesbianism.

Being a series about idols, there is a fair bit of singing per episode but not a lot of different songs. The seiyu all have nice voices for the Pop style songs they’re singing & the voice acting over all iver very cute. Especially when Nanako is on stage & always stutters her name to Nanyako (which people keep calling her, to her eternal embarrassment).

In the end, this is a little series with a lot of heart. I genuinely laughed out loud at a lot of the jokes & reactions (especially the expressions). As I said in the opening paragraph, I honestly thought that I was going to hate this series because it would be like other idol based series that girls that their only worth is in entertaining others & wearing skimpy clothing. I was glad that it went beyond that & was a clever, amusing series that was not without its flaws but, in the end, showed the beauty of a small town (in terms of its people & the animation used). Whilst not everyone will like it, you should fine some enjoyment in the humour. & if not that, it still has underage tits at times, so it has that going for it I suppose.

Like these, you fucking sicko!
Like these, you fucking sicko!

Lustful Lascivious Little Lolis – Anime Critique: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!

64175Title: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
Format: TV anime
Genre: fantasy, magical girl, comedy, parody
Series Creator:  Hiroshi Hiroyama
Series Director: Shin Onuma
Studio: Silver Link
Series length: 10 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 9 – September 10, 2014
Reviewed format: High def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Illyasviel von Einzbern is an ordinary elementary school student who becomes a magical girl when the magical Kaleidostick Ruby deems her a more suitable master than the sorceress, Rin Tosaka. Rin, who had been tasked by the wizard Zelretch to collect the seven Class Cards containing the spirits of Heroic Spirits from legend, finds that she is unable to change Ruby’s mind and must supervise Illya in completing the task of collecting the Class Cards. During Illya’s adventures, she receives a friend and rival in a girl named Miyu, the contracted master of the Kaleidostick Sapphire, which similarly abandoned its original master and Rin’s rival, Luvia Edelfelt.

After a series of battles, Illya and Miyu were able to collect all Cards and became good friends, while Rin and Luvia remained in Japan by the order of Zelretch. However, the appearance of Kuroe, a girl with a striking resemblance to Illya, soon complicates their lives as she attempts to eliminate Illya.


Review:

To begin with, it’s hard to criticise a series for (hyper) sexualisation when it’s a spin-off of an ecchi game/Visual Novel. Yet the original (& not terribly great) Fate/Stay Night anime wasn’t as sexualised as the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya franchise is. What kicks F/klPI and its sequel series into low cheer is the hypersexualisation of lolis. I’ve already beat the drum over my extreme distaste for this with the previous season’s reviews but I just have to kick it again.

 PUTTING LITTLE GIRLS INTO SEXUAL POSITIONS, POSES, CLOTHING & VISUALISATIONS IS WRONG, DISGUSTING & PATHETIC! STOP PRODUCING PAEDOS & DEMAND FOR PAEDO RELATED MATERIAL, MEDIA INDUSTRY!

& don’t get on your high horses & say that it’s strictly a Japanese thing & we shouldn’t judge them too harshly for it. Have you seen Toddlers & Tiaras?! That shit makes you want to puke!

Anyway, anyway, the review, the review. . .

My general expression watching this series.
My general expression watching this series.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Is the direct sequel to last year’s loli-fest Magical Girl parody Type-Moon spin-off series, basically picking up right after the events of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. There are still many plot threads to address from the get go, such as Miyu’s true identity, but that is all put aside for the introduction of Kuroe (Clo in the fan-sub, short for clone) -Illya’s doppelganger who is an incarnation of the Archer Heroic Spirit (it all makes sense if you know the main Fate/Stay Night series & characters). At first, Kuroe wants to kill Illya so she can legitimise her own existence but, with props to the writers for this, it actually goes deeper than Kuroe merely being a doppelganger, being back connections to the original Holy Grail Wars from Fate/Stay Night & why that battle never occurred within the Fate/kaleird liner universe.

Type-Moon always interconnect their stories with transdimensional crossovers, with various characters having different connections or incarnations. It comes from their Visual Novel/video game origins to explain their multiple endings & how they can all be canon. F/klPI is deep within this but you don’t need a knowledge of the tie in series to watch it.

The other thing that F/klPI2 has in it is lots of underage lesbianism. Because in someone’s mind the only thing hotter than sexualisation underaged girls is making them perform homoerotic acts as well.

More of the yuri stuff is more connected with Miyu’s growing romantic attachment to Illya, her jealousy over little actions & wanting to connect more to her -not only as a fellow Magical Girl but also as a firned. Where it crosses the line is when Kuroe deep kisses the other female cast members to drain them of their mana so she can power herself (mana = life energy for her). Part of me things that I can ignore it because it’s played off for comic value (Illya’s friends angry at her because they think Kuroe is her) but when they show Kuroe really going for it on Miyu, I really had to fast forward.

If this gets you off, you're one sick twisted piece of shit!
If this gets you off, you’re one sick twisted piece of shit!

To be honest, the comedy stuff is what kept me watching (that & my pathetic addiction to knowing what happens in narratives & solving loose plot threads). They play off a lot of the comedy on altering or playing up certain character traits. Like Illya’s adoptive stepbrother’s ignorance of the women around him, Illya’s near yandere affection for him (especially in the face of Kuroe) & her extreme reactions to what her magical want Ruby makes her do.

The act of a extremely lustful loli.
The act of a extremely lustful loli.

To be honest: the majority of the plot is focussed on Illya trying to protect her everyday life. She likes being a Magical Girl but this series falls more into the Mahou Madoka style of making a Magical Girl’s life as brutal as fuck. The previous series dealt with the life/death struggle that people with power on a mission must endure, so this 2nd series falls more into the trope of protecting one’s everyday mundane life but also protecting those whom you love. This plays out in the last two episodes, where the brutally powerful character Bazett Fraga McRemitz is introduced & Illya realises what her real duty is. Fighting on despite being drastically underpowered.

Unfortunately, that whole plot point won’t be resolved until next year, when Part 2 of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! is released. Which is a bit of a pisser but they are supposedly combining it with plot elements of the ongoing 3rd manga series.

In the end, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! has its moments & its connections to the larger Type-Moon omniniverse is a nice hook but it pretty much is a series for paedos because of the extreme hyersexualisation in some scenes. If you have issue with that, well: Come At Me, Bro!

That being said: I will probably watch the 3rd series just to know how it all ends & the series overall connection to the Fate/Stay Night universe but part of me would rather just wait for the upcoming new Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works anime which is out later this year.

So, paedos & Type-Moon fans feel free to watch but the latter better not mix with the former less bad things happen.

FateIllya2wei1a

Yuri To the Left of Me, Yuri To The Right -Anime Review: Sakura Trick

SakuratrickcoverTitle: Sakura Trick
Format: TV anime
Genre: Yuri, slice of life, comedy, 4koma adaptation
Series Creator: Tachi
Series Director: Ken’ichi Ishikura
Studio: Studio Deen
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: January 9, 2014 – March 27, 2014
Reviewed format: TV download with fan subs

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

“Haruka Takayama and Yuu Sonoda were inseparable during middle school, but upon entering high school, they end up being seated on opposite sides of the classroom. Having to spend time with more friends, the two decide to make their relationship special by kissing each other in secret.”


Review:

This series has already become some people’s favourite anime of the last season but I still have to say: “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! LOOK AT THE KOOOTE WITTLE LESBIANS! AREN’T THEY SO KOOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!

Yes, the two major themes of this 4koma adaptation is Yuri (lesbians) & cute little jokes.

To begin, without sardonicism, I utterly enjoyed this series.

I really do have a soft spot for 4koma adaptations (see my Acchi Kocchi review) & Sakura Trick does fit the fast paced formula very well.

But yes, it is a whole lesbo thing but that is not why I watched it.

I am general a fan of some Yuri stuff because, unlike Yaoi or Bara, Yuri tends to have more equality & romance between the parties involved & it is romance that lies at the heart of Sakura Trick. & unlike so many other romantic series, this one starts with the romance side, so we don’t get all that awkward, annoying tension that you find in so many other series.

The premise is very basic, two friends don’t want to see their friendship turn to nothing as they grow apart, so they decide to do something special to mark their importance to each other. That is: kiss. Though both Haruka & Yuu know that isn’t a very acceptable thing to be seen doing, so they keep it secret from those around them.
Sakura trick cuddle
This is where the comedy is generate, as the girls try to show their affection for each other or get flustered when they feel that the other has gone too far -such as Yuu kissing Huraka’s hands & knees because Haruka was lying face down on her desk. It is genuinely cute & is almost asexual in a way.

To explain: I asked a young lesbian friend of mine to watch it & she said that it was odd that all they did was kiss. She said that it really bothered her because if they were more realistic that’d feel more compelled to be doing other things to each other. It is off that no other bodily needs entered into it, even though they often deep kissed. It is all very innocent, without talk of masturbation or sexual acts. Just the purity of love shown through the simple act of kissing.
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This doesn’t bother me at all because it so avoids all the needless awkwardness & embarrassment that features so strongly in any other anime when they bring up kissing. Haruka & Yuu are very open with each other, even if they are pretty ignorant of their own deeper feelings. It feels natural in a way & not constrained by the usual annoyances of trope or social stigma.

In fact, the characters are so cute & well rendered -which is so often the strength of 4koma adaptations.

Haruka is often clingy & needy for affection, as well as easily jealous if Yuu pays attention to someone else -such as a classmate or her older sister Mitsuki but has some strong maternal traits & cares deeply for others (plus has the largest breasts in the cast, which is a recurring gag as the girls try to guess her size). While Yuu is often shown as being a little spoilt (often by the overly doting Haruka), lazy, ditzy & terrible in her studies but is often aggressive for affection from Haruka & easily jealous if she feels as though she’s been left behind. Their roles often switch in terms of whose dominant & whose demanding as they explore their feelings for each other & their friends -all of whom are rendered, in terms of character, beautifully & deeply.

To add to the drama is the fact that their school is closing & they will be the last year to graduate. This means that they don’t have the budget for big events, like the sports & cultural festivals, which puts stress upon Yuu’s sister Mitsuki, who is both a 3rd year & the president of the student council.
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Mitsuki also plays an important role in the narrative, as she tries to find out the truth behind her sister’s relationship with Haruka, as well as come to terms with her own conflicted feelings for Haruka. That is pretty much the basis for the humour of Mitsuki’s scenes, where she misreads situations & goes off into delusional imaginings of being with Haruka.

Basically: everyone in the cast is a little Yuri.

But the notion of innocent love & affection is what makes the series so enjoyable. There is no “will they/won’t they” of the romance, it’s all about them realising that they truly do love each other & reaching that point.

Of course, there is a bit of Fan Service, such as Haruka’s jiggling & the constantly kissing but it’s not the exploitative type. It’s played with affection & for laughs rather than feeling lingering & very creepy (see Nobunagun review).

In the end, this is a very light hearted, fluffy non-brain uber-kawaii comedy.

There is no real drama in it, just lots of very good & cute jokes. Each episode is split into two halves, each focussing on a different mini-story. The humour is fast paced & colourful, the characters are cleverly made & the romance is sweet without being sickly. The majority of the jokes are based around misunderstanding but they don’t bring out that painful feeling to watch like with other series (see my Strike The Blood review).

I give it two thumbs up -much like Haruka will give Yuu when their relationship gets more serious.

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