Amanchu!~Advance~, Episodes 4 and 5

This show did one no-diving-at-all episode, and one episode jam packed full of diving, so it kind of evens out. You’d think I’d be complaining about the ocean-free episode, but this show has pretty much earned my eternal allegiance after Episode 3, so eh, I think I’m going to stop caring so much about how much time they spend underwater.

Oh, and here is your regularly scheduled Pikari Troll Face: You get +10 happiness points added to your happiness total for today! Go out and enjoy the sunshine, or whatever floats your boat!

I try to take screenshots of her filling the screen in all her chibi glory, but sometimes she makes better faces when other characters are in the shot. What do you think; should I open up the Weekly Pikari Troll Face to other characters, or leave it as a solo act? I’m going to have to give this some serious thought.

Episode 4: And Now, For Something Completely Different

This time around, the staff of Amanchu decided they didn’t feel like making Amanchu that week and gave us an episode of Flying Witch instead, out of nowhere. Fortunately, I liked Flying Witch a lot, so I’m on board with this kind of rampant irresponsibility.

What’s interesting to me about this episode is that we’re used to seeing Pikari as the one who lives in the moment, something this episode focuses on a lot, and Teko as the one who gets distracted worrying about the future. This episode sees both girls living in the moment, with Teko indulging in a daydream that seems her flying all over town on a broom. Granted, Teko apparently needs to be unconscious to truly live in the moment, but well, that just shows that there’s still room for her to grow, right?

I’m not sure what to think about the whole lucid dreaming concept; I’ve read about it before, but it always seemed too good to be true to me. Usually at the point in my dream where I realize “this is a dream,” I wake up, so I can’t take advantage of the fact that I know I’m dreaming. In theory, you can train your mind to be able to consciously control your dreams, but I’m not sure that’s something you can learn; I think some people may have a different dreaming process to begin with. Giving Teko this ability seems a little random, but this episode is mostly an excuse to draw pretty girls flying on broomsticks and I’m thinking about it too hard.

Once again, notice that the girls are separated, with the boyish Kokoro taking Teko’s place as Pikari’s sidekick once again. I like the way they’re consistently showing how Teko’s life has changed as a result of Pikari, even when the two of them are physically separated.

Episode 5: I Was Sad I Almost Got Decompression Sickness, Then I Saw A Mermaid So it’s All Good

This was a great episode of anime, the kind of thing this show is uniquely equipped to deliver. Not only was the underwater scenery gorgeous, but the show didn’t let the pretty ocean visuals get in the way of giving the characters interesting things to do. It was also a little scary, since the problem Teko experiences here is exactly the reason why I’d be too afraid to go diving myself.

Still, even though the fact that she almost got decompression sickness is disturbing, the way Teko handles it is interesting. She does get upset with herself (as she should; it was a careless mistake that could have led to horrible consequences), but she doesn’t get so bogged down in self-doubt that it stops her from going in the water again. It seems like she’s really taking Katori’s message from episode 3 to heart; the fact that she panicked once and did something stupid, doesn’t cancel out all the times she could have panicked underwater and didn’t. Her mistake gives her pause, but it doesn’t devastate her the way it would have in the past.

I had trouble finding screenshots from this episode that really captured how beautiful it all is; I think you really need to see it in motion, which is proof that the show is providing good animation, not just good art.

I have mixed feelings on the urban legend of the Jet Black Mermaid. At the beginning, I was really hoping that Katori-sensei was the mermaid herself, and was kind of slyly telling the girls about her own secret identity (maybe because I desperately want the show to give Katori more to do?), but obviously, that’s not how it turned out. The idea of the “mermaid” being Pikari’s portly grandfather is kind of charming, but also a little…err, I don’t know, strange? How is such a morbidly obese man such a good swimmer? How did the people who spread the legend of the ‘mermaid’ fail to realize that the mermaid in question was a 300 lb. man?

Maybe I shouldn’t be questioning the plausibility, since that’s kind of getting bogged down in minutia, but well…this is one show where the laws of physics and biology matter. Like, they really matter, to the point where they almost killed freakin’ Teko in this episode. It’s a little jarring that they’re presenting diving procedure and safety extremely seriously, and then introduce a character like Grandpa who doesn’t look like he should be able to get out from under his kotatsu, let alone be a fantastic diver. This show has always had really cartoony elements (Troll face, the pets, etc.), but this is the first time I felt like the cartoony bits kind of clashed with the impact of the underwater scenes.

I was trying to find an Underwater Pikari Troll Face, and this was the best I could do. Finding a screen of Pikari making her special face while in full diving gear is now my mission in life.

Still, that’s a minor complaint about what was otherwise a pretty excellent 20 minutes of animation. I can’t wait to see Teko get her advanced license so the crew can explore even more interesting underwater locales.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 4 & 5

It’s just as well that I’m doubling up on these episodes, because I don’t have a whole lot to say about these two. The action was quite entertaining, but there’s a limit to the amount of times I can say “LLENN is really fast and agile and it looks cool.” Come to think of it, LLENN is so fast that if this GGO thing ever starts to get old, she could consider racing the horse girls on the track in Uma Musume. I even hear that a spot may be opening up….

Episode 5: Real Guns Are Not A Joke

This episode touched on something that doesn’t get mentioned often, and I’m really glad that it did. I’m not really into shooting, but I did spend some time at the rifle range as a teenager and have some idea how real shooting works. I’ve also played video games where you shoot a gun, and it’s very different from the real thing. I assume, as games have gotten more realistic, some have added targeting mechanics that are more akin to real shooting, but in general, real life shooting and in-game shooting don’t have a whole lot in common.

Since GGO is fully virtual reality, the game could emulate real shooting accurately, but this episode goes into why the game designers deliberately chose not to do that. Still, because the option for manual targeting exists, someone like M– who obviously has quite a bit of real life experience– can smoke the competition, because he can bypass all of the bells and whistles that were put in to make the game more competitive.

I just appreciate this acknowledgement, both that real-life shooting and game shooting are different (and probably will continue to be different in the future), and that developing good marksmanship in real life is time-consuming and difficult. Too many people labor under the illusion that a few hours playing a first-person shooter can turn someone into the equivalent of a deadly mercenary, and that’s just not how it works.

All that is overshadowed by a twist ending though, when M turns on LLENN and nearly kills her in-game. At the time, I thought M had just been told (or perhaps lied to) that the SAO-style “if you die in the game, you die in real life” rules were back in effect, and he had panicked. This led me to wonder if M is an SAO survivor, which– considering his military experience– seems like pretty bad luck. I mean, how cursed do you have to be that you have people shooting at you for a living, then when you go to play video games on your day off, you’re stuck in some deranged programmer’s murder fantasy?

Episode 6: P-chan, A Requiem

You can shoot at LLENN, kick her, try to blow her up with a plasma grenade; but when you hurt her gun, that’s when she has just HAD IT with you and your crap.

Fortunately, the show went a less predictable route. Instead of the Death Game rules being reinstated, M is just afraid that Pito will kill him, because apparently that there bitch be crazy. The way he talks about it though, it sounds like either Pito is an SAO survivor, or simply obsessed with the SAO event. I think it’s important to remember that even though we’re not dealing with the SAO game anymore, the whole SAO Death Game tragedy is a major historical event in this world, and the repercussions from that are still being felt. I know people who have limited tolerance for this franchise want SAO Alternative to distance itself as much from its predecessor as possible, but I think that’s misguided; that history is important.

This episode then features a bizarre sequence where either a stressed-out LLENN hallucinates her gun, P-chan, talking to her, OR P-chan achieves sentience. I’m 99% sure it’s supposed to be the first scenario and meant as comic relief, but part of me is hoping the guns in GGO are becoming sentient AI because that would be batshit insane and I kind of dig it. It would also be a lot like the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell, further proving my theory that SAO and it’s spinoffs are all really GITS: Junior.

I get a weird Pink Elephants on Parade vibe from LLENN talking to her pink gun while the gun bats it’s eyelashes at her. That’s cool though, I love Dumbo. Underrated masterpiece, that film.

In the climax of Squad Jam, LLENN takes on a squad full of Amazon-like soldier women, using Kirito-like skills to edge out a victory while outnumbered. I wonder if the people who claim to like this show because LLENN is not Kirito are now saying “Dammit, LLENN is just like Kirito, screw this show!”, or if LLENN’s badassery makes Kirito less egregious, because he’s less special if other people have the same skills? Whatever.

At the end of Squad Jam, Karen seems to have come to terms with her height, which is…a little forced, but I’ll accept it. I can see how being in that kind of adrenalin-pumping situation would force someone to reevaluate their priorities a little bit. What’s awesome is that the team she was playing against turns out to be the same group of cute girls she’s been walking past every episode, which means that the girls are using GGO to deal with their height the same way Karen is. Apparently, no one smokes the competition in the FPS games of the future like girls with serious body image issues.

Seriously though, it’s pretty cool that the final battle of this big tournament came down to LLENN, who isn’t meant to be sexy at all, versus a bunch of bulky warrior women who also weren’t portrayed as sexy. In terms of representation, this is a pretty rare thing for anime (and in general), but because this is SAO, the franchise that must be slammed for misogyny at every turn, expect the series to get absolutely zero credit for doing this.

Well, that was all fun, but I can’t say I’m super-excited to see next week’s episode. If the big question left looming is “Is Pito actually super-duper insane?”, then that’s a problem, since I still don’t care about Pito. However, this show has been competent enough that I pretty much trust them to keep my interest moving forward, however they end up doing it.

Comic Girls, Episodes 4 & 5

I had to take care of some real-life stuff, so I’m a little behind on anime. To catch up, I’m going to be doubling up on some of these episode posts– or maybe tripling up, if I get even further behind. Who knows what kind of wacky anime coverage you might find at Otakusphere? It’s part of the charm! Err, hopefully.

Me, getting ready to do some blogging. I think I might steal “I Feel Digital Just Sitting On It” as the title for a memoir.

Episode 4: Sex is Not So Bad

I like the ongoing joke that Ruki is inadvertently sexy, even when she’s being a total dork. It’s the rarely seen parallel to the trying-too-hard-to-be sexy character.

Anyway, back to the Manga Artist Dorm of Awesomeness. Ruki is running herself ragged trying to keep up with her manga and school, to the point where she’s staying up multiple nights in a row, and seeing that kind of behavior always makes me wince a bit. Ruki, my girl, I give you permission to skip school if you need more than one all-nighter to finish your manga, okay? Maybe I’m a bad influence, but I think school attendance becomes less important if you already have a job in the adult world. Besides, sleep is very important, people; I thought I was functioning on minimal sleep in college, but when I look at some of the dumbass choices I made back then, I wonder.

This is the first episode that really had a strong theme, that of Ruki getting over her issues with drawing lewd manga. I really liked this angle, since Ruki being dreadfully uncomfortable with the manga she’s drawing has been arguably more disturbing than humorous since the beginning. I like that when she gets out and meets her readers, they’re all totally normal women and girls from different walks of life, and there’s nothing unsavory about the experience; basically, this episode is a little paintbox full of sex positivity. Everyone has sexual fantasies, this is normal, and Ruki shouldn’t feel bad for drawing manga with sexual elements.

“Hello, ladies! I’m 14 and I’ve never even kissed a boy, but please come up to me and ask for advice on your marriage– It’s not like I’m going to make it any worse, right?”

Of course, the idea that a sheltered, 14-year-old girl can pull off the role of an experienced older sister-type at a public event, to an audience of people twice her age, isn’t really plausible. However, criticizing this kind of show for the characters being precocious is a little like watching a giant robot show and then complaining that the animators didn’t account for how the robot would be effected by air resistance; there are certain genre conventions that are at odds with reality, but we all knowingly accept them for the sake of entertainment. This story with Ruki would make more sense if she were 24 instead of 14 (or 34, God forbid!), but that’s true of a lot of anime characters in various genres.

I guess you could criticize storylines like this as part of a larger point about how Japanese pop culture is youth-obsessed, but A)that’s not just Japanese pop culture, that applies to INTERNATIONAL pop culture and B)I’ve always thought the reasons why younger characters tend to dominate entertainment were pretty intuitive. I may lament the lack of characters my age in anime sometimes, but I understand the reasons why they’re rare.

In any event, this episode really felt like Comic Girls finding a purpose beyond tepid cuteness, and I for one felt validated that I had a reason to be watching it in the first place. My taste, validated! Surely this won’t last….

Episode 5: We Are Up To 50% Lesbian, And That’s Fine

…and it’s a beach episode, goddamit.

Actually, it’s really not bad. I appreciate the fact that this episode only devoted half it’s runtime to the beach, and then moved onto other things. The girls all look lovely in their swimsuits if you’re into that sort of thing, and the show managed to remember that this show is about artistic girls, not just generic cute girls. I like the fact that three out of the four girls had to basically be dragged kicking and screaming to go swim in the ocean, since they preferred to sit on the beach and draw. I haven’t been to the beach in a long time, but when I did go, I was the girl who was sitting on the blanket drawing, so I relate to Kaos and co., as usual.

One minor note that perturbed me though; Can you really rent bathing suits at the beach these days? That seems really unsanitary, and given how cheaply you can buy a bathing suit if you want to, really unnecessary. I mean, I’m sure the rental place washes the suits between customers and stuff, but who wants to wear a bathing suit that ten other people have worn? It’s not like going skiing, where most people rent equipment so you don’t have to drop $1000 on your own set. I mean, I realize this is tangential to the episode and I really shouldn’t care, but I’m curious now.

After fun-in-the-sun hijinks, we get Koyume and Tsubasa going on a date with everyone else spying on them, as you do. What’s funny is that Koyume seems genuinely flummoxed that she knows that Tsu is a girl, but she’s attracted to her anyway. It’s called being a lesbian, Ko-chan; Kaos is also struggling with this crazy, obscure concept. Someone needs to sit these girls down and draw them a map, because this is getting embarrassing already.

Let’s be honest, I would go on a date with Tsubasa too. Mostly to grill her for manga-drawing tips, but the point still stands.

I guess the date may be exciting for people who like girl-on-girl romance, but I don’t really care much for that sort of thing one way or the other. The part of this episode that resonated with me was Tsu telling Koyume that the most important part of drawing manga was to enjoy it, and not to obsess over professional achievement. It may be simple and it may be trite, but honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to tell an artistic person that too often. I wish I had a Tsu in my life to tell me that back when I really needed to hear it; my life might be very different today, if I had.

So after a rocky start, Comic Girls seems to be hitting it’s stride, not so much as a show about manga (although the manga element is always there), but more as a show about (unusually sheltered) teen girls trying to wrap their heads around sex and growing up. Even though I would personally prefer a show that went super-in depth into the manga-drawing process, this is probably a smarter direction for the show to go in general.

I hope at least a few people who aren’t watching the show read this post, so they can feast their eyes on this screenshot with no context at all.