Summer Season 2015: Initial Impressions – Game of Laplace, Ushio to Tora and Sore ga Seiyuu (Episodes 1-2)

[HorribleSubs] Ushio to Tora - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.29_[2015.07.10_02.30.33]

 

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace

[HorribleSubs] Ranpo Kitan - Game of Laplace - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.34_[2015.07.15_19.19.38]

For whatever reason, I came into Laplace under the belief that it was based on novels by the author who inspired Un-Go a few years back. I guess it’s not a huge mistake to make. Both originate from classic early 20th-century murder-mystery stories, adapted into a modern setting and airing in the noitamina timeslot (not like that means much anymore, but whatever). More than that is the clear shared ancestry found in both works, with Laplace (Edogawa Ranpo) and Un-Go (Ango Sakaguchi) packed with sneering socio-political commentary and a scholarly, if quietly morose and mocking view towards humanity as a whole. From dialogue to imagery, the two authors’ ideologies drip into every scene. It’s somewhat telling that two separate series steeped in pre-WW2 sentiments feel uneasily relatable today. Maybe Laplace has been just created to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Ranpo’s death and promote his books to a younger audience, but given how aggressively anti-nationalistic Un-Go was, It wouldn’t surprise me if there was more subtext as the series progresses.

The show itself is presented well, although I’m not massively taken on the generic and cutesy character designs as a whole. That said, it does lead to an interesting juxtaposition between some of the graphic content shown and the various reactions towards it. The investigation segments are a particularly effective example of this, with shocking details depicted using exaggeratedly staged visuals and light, bubbly music. It’s super surreal and highlights the off-kilter black comedy the show embraces. I’d probably have more of an issue with how gleefully indifferent it was if such scenes weren’t indicative of how Kobayashi, the upbeat, yet oddly amoral protagonist views the world. The kid is a psychologist’s wet dream! Most of the side cast are pretty generic so far, but his presence alone sells the show for me. Maybe that’s just because he reminds me a little of Gon Freecs in how open and relaxed he is towards certain morally ambiguous topics.

 

Ushio to Tora

[HorribleSubs] Ushio to Tora - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.27_[2015.07.10_02.29.55]

Hey, remember the 90’s? Remember when anime was ‘real’ and not reliant on objectification, memes and endlessly repeating crappy jokes? Yes? Well, too bad, because Ushio to Tora is here to remind you that the golden age had its own share of stupid tropes to contend with.

That’s not to say it’s bad; quite the opposite. The radically different tone is definitely a refreshing change from the copy/paste mould of the last 10-15 years. From the OP’s soundtrack and beyond, everything has been meticulously designed to appear like this show was unearthed from a twenty year old time-capsule. The animation looks cheap and rushed, but serviceable, while the soundtrack has a whimsical quality to it, possibly using in-studio instruments. Honestly the only thing that breaks the immersion is the inclusion of some very obvious cg during the fight scenes. I know it’s a cost cutting measure Mappa, but learn the lessons of the Star Wars reissues. They look completely out of place next to the other visuals.

With that all said, Ushio is still a super generic show from yesterday and if series like this were still the norm, I’d probably drop it immediately. I mean can you imagine if every modern high school protagonist was some angry hothead constantly yelling and fighting with people in an exaggeratedly cartoonish style? It would be just as annoying as the milquetoast personality-vacuums you get now. Honestly, most of my enjoyment comes from watching the show side-by-side with current anime to see how the tropes compare. For example, the potential love interests in Ushio contain nowhere near the same level of sexualisation most modern shows have, yet if anything are even more obvious window dressing that serve little purpose other than to fawn over the main character. Once I get bored of comparing notes, I’ll probably drop the it. I mean it’s a simple monster of the week shounen series. If that’s all you’re after than Ushio to Tora is the show for you, but for something with a bit more imagination or story, best look elsewhere.

At the very least it’s nice to remember a time when anime represented little boy power fantasies of getting stronger, looking cool and causing mass destructive, rather than fetishized, right-wing propaganda for disgruntled nerds. On that note, look forward to a Gate post in the next day or so.

 

Sore ga Seiyuu

[HorribleSubs] Sore ga Seiyuu! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.52_[2015.07.13_19.24.15]

Hey, you also remember Shirobako? Those girls were suuuuper hot, huh? It’s just a shame that the focus almost entirely on the production side of the animation business, rather than blushing and genki spirit. Well, luckily for you Sore ga Seiyuu has kindly decided to correct the serious business/cute girls ratio. Anime is saved.

To be less cynical for a moment, the scenes depicting the actual process of recording lines are pretty interesting. I had no idea that rookie seiyuu’s have to mechanically move from person to person reciting the same polite introductions in as stiff a manner as possible. Seeing that happen in most places outside of Japan would just be incredibly forced and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Playing a game of musical chairs for the best seats and moving in and out of the microphone space during lines, while trying not to bump into people was also a fascinating touch and rather different to how most anime portray behind the scenes recordings. It’s the opposite to how western dub studios do things, having their actors’ record lines individually. You really get a sense of the tension and energy from group sessions. In that sense the show is really neat.

It’s a shame there’s just not more of it. Seiyuu’s clearly has moe on its mind more than actually educating people about the voice-acting business, so the latter comes across as background padding. The cuteness of the girls and their struggles to succeed is the real focus, and as a result it falls into the same cherry picking of details idol shows tend to have, where the professions are depicted as difficult and relying on talent, hard work and luck, but always worth it. Just like how The Idolmaster or Love Live never address the creepy, exploitative nature of the business, I don’t expect Sore ga Seiyuu to spend that much time on the girls slumming in crappy side-jobs only tangentially related their fields. Shirobako may have ultimately ended on a positive note, but it never shied away from acknowledging how passion alone might not be worth the stress and misery that comes with professions like this. Somehow I doubt we’ll be watching the bubbly-eyed moeblobs in this show drunkenly muttering at successful seiyuu’s complaining about how hard their jobs are in the tv. You might get some nice background details, but for all intents and purposes, this may as well be a high school 4-koma in how the cast react. It’s telling that the most genuine portrait of life as a seiyuu trying to break into the industry are still the ad-lib sections in Gdgd Fairies where the girls break character and talk about how shitty their lives are.

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2 thoughts on “Summer Season 2015: Initial Impressions – Game of Laplace, Ushio to Tora and Sore ga Seiyuu (Episodes 1-2)

  1. Yeah…I’d recommend sticking with Ushio and Tora. Yes, it is so so 90s..but it is anything but simple. Ep 2 shows they toned down some of the horror elements but this series has HUGE depth once it passes its opening arc. And absolutely heart breaking. Also the female characters get kinda awesome.

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    • That’s reassuring to know; I guess I have all the more reason to stay with the show.

      Honestly I think my biggest problem isn’t with the show itself, but that I’ve been suffering Hunter X Hunter withdrawal ever since it ended last year. As a result I have this bad habit of comparing every new action or shounen series unfavourably to it. The same thing happened to me with Evangelion & mecha for a few years. The only way I’ll get past it is by actually other franchises a chance.

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