Spring Season 2015: Initial Impressions – The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan & Shokugeki no Soma

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The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

[HorribleSubs] The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.34_[2015.04.08_02.13.40]

There was once an anime called The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and it was crap. Not terrible by means; there was certainly potential there, but many poor decisions were made. For a start it focused on the wrong character. Haruhi was fine and all, but Yuki Nagato was obviously the real star of the show. That said, the show did make it difficult to appreciate her, what with that stoic, icy demeanour and constant sense that she was more in control than you. It was clear that deep down she was just an incredibly shy and ditzy girl, who in-between behaving like a mentally-challenged Key character, just wanted to be noticed by Kyon-senpai. I’ll chalk it up to the writers having a poor grasp of her character.

Mistakes were also made on the Kyon front. Some idiot decided to try and give him a personality, constantly mouthing witty and sarcastic comments in response to the bs he put with. It made the rest of us look dumb in comparison. He needed to be toned back a little, maybe to the point where he’d unable to think of anything funny or meaningful to say and never understand the most upfront romantic confessions. I could get behind that kind of guy.

The attempts at having a story and underlying narrative also sucked; after all, plot is the cancer destroying the anime industry. Every moment dedicated to nonsense like aliens, espers or whatever the hell Tsuruya was supposed to be, detracted from more moe moe goodness. The incidental moments were better, but often when the characters were eating together or spending an entire episode talking in the club room, there was this strange sense that the show was trying to be all meta and self-aware rather than just playing the meaningless interactions straight.

The final issue concerned the animation, which was wrongly given too much care and attention to detail. Every time some beautifully rendered close up of a characters’ face, or meticulously choreographed sequence showed up, less time was being given to exaggerated freeze-frames. The art needed to be simplified, so that when Nagato pulled a distorted chibi expression, you’d barely be able to notice the difference.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya needed more, and by more I mean less. Far less. Nothing in fact. That was it: it needed to be a bunch of nobody characters, doing a bunch of nothing activities, for 24 minutes each week. It needed to be a black hole of entertainment.

Fast forward 9 years and here comes The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.

Haruhi is saved.

Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma

[HorribleSubs] Shokugeki no Soma - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.18_[2015.04.06_04.26.21]

The last few months have been fairly busy and I’ve honestly come into this season relatively blind. As such it’s somewhat reassuring to recognise a budget J.C. Staff production before the opening starts. Yes, it’s another by the numbers adaptation that mechanically lifts dialogue and visuals from an existing source material with absolutely no effort made transferring the information to another medium. Sure, there’s actual animation, but for all intents and purposes Shokugeki no Soma may as well a moving comic strip. At least it’s not as terrible as some of their previous efforts like Bakuman or Golden Time, but if you’re a fan of the franchise, seeing it get adapted by people with zero passion towards their craft must suck a little.

So what about the show? Well, it’s basically a shounen action series, just centred on cooking instead of punching. It’s an interesting enough premise, if executed abysmally. You can’t blame all of it on the studio either as the dialogue is exactly as it was in the manga. Let me give you a general rundown of how most interactions in this show generally go down:

  1. Character says perfunctory line of dialogue.
  2. Another character says line of dialogue explaining previous said dialogue. You know, just in case it wasn’t obvious enough.
  3. Some action or event.
  4. Line of dialogue explaining previous action or event.
  5. Character says or does something considered ‘wacky’ or ‘unusual’
  6. Another character calls attention to previous occurrence, openly stating how ‘wacky’ or ‘unusual’ it was.
  7. Line of dialogue explaining the line of dialogue explaining the action explaining the strange occurrence
  8. Incredibly rote piece of exposition over static image. Just to break the monotony.
  9. I bang my head against the desk and pray for the episode to end.

This approach seems is par for the course with many Shounen Jump titles (eg last season’s Assassination Classroom) and it’s a template I rail against whenever I see it. It’s so clunky and artificial that you’d think it was created by someone who understood human language, but had never had a conversation with another person in their lives.

There’s also the whole fanservice angle, where characters mentally strip naked during the meal sequences. If last season’s Koufuku Graffiti, was considered ‘food porn’, then this is clearly ‘food ecchi’, what with depictions of tentacle-rape accompanying particularly unpleasant offerings. It’s obviously supposed to be ridiculous and I wouldn’t mind it so much if it wasn’t for some of the aesthetic choices, like the aforementioned tentacle scene which makes the girl in question look like she’s crapping her pants, or a later segment that had a bunch of bodyguards appear to be enjoying golden showers. I can’t tell as yet whether it’s accidental stylistic sloppiness or actual intent but mixing food porn with scatological imagery is a little too extreme of a fetish for me to get down with.

I should probably just give Yakitate!! Japan another try.

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