AniB’s 2020 Oscars Preview for Best Animated Film

Alright, it’s that time of year again! While slightly late with this preview, the Oscars are upon us and in keeping with a tradition on here, there has been an annual overview of the category every year since the blog’s inception- both as a way to gauge historical precedents and trends in animated films, but also to highlight some excellence in the previous year’s offerings, along with a prediction.

Since the first iteration of this piece in early 2017, I’ve repeated the same disclaimer/preamble , and nothing has changed the following words:

Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:

So again, the past 10 years of winners in the category, including the past 3 which were all written about in previous iterations of this column:

2019: ?

2018: Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse (Sony Animation)

2017: Coco (Pixar)

2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2015: Inside Out (Pixar)

2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2012: Brave (Pixar)

2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)

2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)

2009: Up (Pixar)

As I’ve continued to do this list, what constitutes as “recent history” continues to shift. Up is the 10-year old winner on this now, which is stunning when it seems how fresh the memory of seeing it was, but more importantly, the 10-year trend will now reflect the 2010’s completely after this year’s show, which should give a better recent trends snapshot at what the Academy has liked over that timeframe.

Trends that have continued as a theme include the unlikelihood of a foreign film winning the category, and the likelihood a large Western animation studio will carry the day. Even discounting up, the 2010’s still produced 4 winners for Pixar, and there’s a good chance that Toy Story 4 could make it 5, as it’s my odds-on favorite for both historical and predictive reasons.

With all due respect to Klaus, I Lost My Body, and Missing Link, trends don’t favor their chances and it would be considered a shocking upset if they carried the category. Of course I believe they all merit serious consideration and an honest look- but with the rule change a few years back that allowed non-animation people to vote and pick the movies (and the winner), popular films tend to triumph here. It is my opinion that this year’s award is a Back to the Future-esque moment to 2010- where a Toy Story film faced How To Train Your Dragon. It is fitting then that the decade’s offerings would be capped with a rematch between the latest films in the franchise, and if history holds true, the same result might be expected.

Here’s to another good year of films to cap the 2010’s, and a sincere wish to continue excellence in the 2020’s!


Like what you see? Leave a comment!

3 Years of AniB Productions!

Hello dear readers!

It’s a bit belated, but the 3rd anniversary of AniB Productions has come and passed! Maybe I said this before, but it seems like yesterday the blog started, and the time has flown by. I am thankful for the continuous support, and cherish the people I’ve met on here, through the many comments, suggestions and even advice that has been offered through this span of time.

Of course, the anniversary also gives me a chance to both reflect and give the first update for a while on here as we begin February. It’s true that my writing has become far more intermittent, and while I am sincere in saying that I’d like to post more frequently, the current demands of my academic work make it difficult, especially with the content quality I strive to deliver. That said, when I have been able to, it’s my honest hope that those who read are enjoying the material, and despite not always being able to write, I do check daily the comment sections of pieces, as well as quick browses of other terrific work that many of the readers do on their own blogs!

Naturally, the question of what sort of content people want continues to be something I consider as I’m writing. The core “series” of AniB Productions- the reviews and “What’s In a Character?” continue to move along, but I’m open to suggestions in the comments. Plans continue for many pieces in both my drafted content as well as my head, but I have no problem fast-tracking something if the demand is there. There’s also interest in site layout feedback from this corner; while I’m personally content with how it is, if it can be improved in any way the comments there would also be appreciated.

While it’s a small personal post for today, it’s both a mix of gratitude and reflection that mark this occasion. I’m looking forward to the rest of this year and beyond as AniB Productions moves along- and happy more than a few of you have joined me on this ride so far! Here’s to you.

-Christian, aka “AniB”

What’s In a Character: Azusa Nakano

The youngest HTT member takes the stage!

Happy New Year once again! A new year requires new writing, and while a review would have been doable and straightforward to start with, it felt important to bring back AniB Productions’ most popular and liked series again: “What’s In a Character!”

Truth be told, there’s a number of character pieces in development. The term “development hell” is often used in gaming to describe titles that have had delay after delay and perhaps even outright cancellation for various reasons. I’m unsure if that applies also to writing on a blog, but sometimes it happens here with these pieces. To get the quality demanded by both the readers and myself, it takes extra time and effort, but also the juggling act we all know as “time management.”

Of course, nowhere is that skill learned better than in school, and in this “What’s In A Character?” we’re headed back there…again. No, it’s not the super-powered world of My Hero Academia or even a return to the Assassination Classroom, but rather, the charming real-life based domain of K-ON! It seems somewhat difficult to imagine this show’s run ended about 10 years ago at the time of this writing, but its charming characters, animation, and of course- music- have held up beautifully. While any of Hokago Tea Time’s (HTT for short) members are worth looking at in a piece, it’s the junior member of the group- Azusa Nakano- that gets the nod here. Turn that amp up and get ready to rock, as this piece explores this modest, talented member of the crew!

(MAJOR SPOILERS for K-ON! ahead.)


 

“Individually, they aren’t much…but they sound so good together!” -Azusa Nakano, on HTT’s sum being better than its parts

The main cast of K-ON!, in a word, is “adorable.” It was easy to become captivated by the girls’ everyday lives in high school, and while any one of them would be worthy of a piece, Azusa’s unique traits made her the pick. That isn’t to say the others won’t be revisited in the future, but the youngest member of the band gets to take center stage here.

An interesting aspect about Azusa is that she’s K-ON!’s “hidden” main character- one who doesn’t appear until well into the show’s 13-episode first season. A year in-universe elapses, and at this point the nascent HTT had formed within the structure of the Light Music Club, but outside of Yui, had failed to attract any new members in. While the girls’ “marketing campaign” featuring some dubious animal costumes had the opposite intended effect, it was a concert they gave that got Azusa interested in the first place.

As the only non-founding member of the band, Azusa often questioned the practicality of the club’s relaxed habits, and despite vowing to “not get caught up in their pace!”…she did.  Part of this was because of Azusa’s own mild nature, but the other members also had their own ideas. In particular, Yui affectionately took Azusa under her wing, characterizing her as “Azunyan”, or literally, “Azu-cat.” Their relationship was a weirdly inverted one, where Azusa was the more responsible and level-headed one while her “senpai” was good mostly at pushing her agenda of cuteness. (This is K-ON!, after all.) Some of the show’s more amusing moments came from Azusa’s capitulation to Yui’s will, from sweet treats to the cat-eared headband that both the latter and club advisor Sawako Yamanaka pushed fairly hard.

Perhaps the sweetest culmination of this friendship was when Azusa agreed to help Yui for a local talent show and sing a duet. Spending her personal time, she selflessly helped Yui’s dream become a reality- and in turn the two impressed as a duo, both to the neighbor Yui wished to sing to in the first place, and the other club members who came to watch, with Ritsu even commenting “they really prepped for this!”

Sawako is so into this moment. “Azunyan,” not so much.

Of course, Yui was not the only one who Azusa fostered a relationship with. She looked up to Mio Akiyama as a role-model of sorts, given her smarts, more practical nature and devotion to her bass guitar…only to be surprised by how shy and easily flustered she could be. In disputes or arguments in the group, Azusa often turned to Mio, but it could be rather hit-or-miss depending on the situation!

Ritsu, the band’s resident free spirit, nearly was responsible for driving Azusa away from the club initially with the excessive tea breaks she liked to take, but did become friends with her as time went on. Azusa was often quick to point out Ritsu’s slacking on her official club duties, but more importantly, served as a counterbalance so that (nominally) more practice happened.

Mugi, as usual, was an enthusiastic friend, and like the other girls, Azusa was surprised at her antics and enthusiasm for everyday life at times. She was indirectly responsible for the latter’s anguish at how much the club slacked off, given that she supplied the tea and sweets- but they were hardly refused when offered, or with little resistance. Azusa also marveled along with the others at Mugi’s hidden family wealth, be it at her spacious beach house or the unexpected discovery that her folks had a place in Finland!

The club’s affection for Azusa as a full-fledged member was seen in many ways, from her cat-themed tea mug that was obtained, to her taking on the role of watching the club’s baby turtle they obtained- Ton. The turtle’s existence in the club room was a result of Yui’s belief that Azusa had wanted him- a thought that wasn’t true at first, but after the effort of obtaining him (via selling Sawako’s old guitar, no less), what had been an initial curiosity turned into a companion the pigtailed girl was very fond of taking care of.

Azusa was also at the center of a secondary trio in the show within her own year, as she became fast friends with Ui Hirasawa- Yui’s younger sister, and Jun Suzuki, a spunky girl who often asked why Azuza joined the Light Music Club, while harboring her own secret interest in the group. The trio had a few spotlight episodes, most of which showcased some summer escapades- and the fact that the focus of this pieces gets very easily sunburnt.

Setting Guitar - K-ON! Wallpaper (1366x768) (144774)

A passionate, talented musician.

All the silly, cute parts of the series did not change a fundamental fact about Azusa: she was an outstanding guitarist. More serious and dedicated to her craft than her band-mates, she often pushed to practice when no one else would, and sincerely hoped the club would spend more time on music and less on tea and sweets- something that never quite happened.

Azusa provided a major talent infusion upon joining the group, and understood the fundamentals of the guitar extremely well, along with more advanced techniques. She was shocked that Yui did not despite being impressed with her initial performance and energy at the welcoming concert of her freshman year, and in turn would wind up advising Yui more on her craft than the other way around!

It was Azusa’s talent, determination and experience, along with her junior status that made her the only logical choice to carry on the Light Music Club when her friends all were set to graduate. Furthermore, it spoke to her character as a person that she’d be entrusted with the club’s fate by herself, as without her, there was hardly a guarantee for a tomorrow as far as the Light Music Club went.

One of the more emotional moments in any show comes courtesy of K-ON!’s series finale, where the graduating members sing a song of farewell and gratitude to Azusa, knowing that she alone could carry the torch at their school. And indeed she does, ending the series playing a solo instrumental version of “Fuwa Fuwa Time,” one of the band’s signature songs. While not in the anime version, she carries on the club and even forms a new band when the others leave, leading the way.

All of the events that form her character point to an individual who was passionate about music, a great friend to those she knew, and a responsible person. Add in that she’s relatedly adorable, and very cute when she’s taken off-guard, and you have a real winner of a character. Not every individual has to have an epic backstory to be great, but Azusa’s strength lies in the total characterization that she receives, both in her own right and in the context of the people around. It’s true that this is a strength as well of what is an outstanding “slice of life” show in general, but Azusa Nakano manages to still be very unique among this quirky cast, and worthy of the “What’s In a Character” designation.


It wouldn’t be an Azusa piece without this scene:

Some things in life are irresistible.


Like what you see? Big fan of Azusa or K-ON!? Leave a comment!

 

Review: Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family

The Fate series goes “slice of life.”

Hi everyone!

With Christmas coming, it’s finally a chance to write more at last! As many of you know, writing is fun but requires some time for a great product, and finally, more of that precious resource is available as the holiday draws nearer.

 

The Lowdown:

Show: Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family

Studio/years released: Ufotable, 2018-2019

AniB’s thoughts:

What do you get when Fate is combined with a cheery slice of life concept? The answer is this show, which incorporates a variation of the original Fate/stay night characters in day to day life around Fuyuki City, and in turn, has a focus on Shirou Emiya and his cooking skills.

Contrary to Zero or 2016’s Unlimited Blade Works, this show’s a miniseries and just 13 episodes, each in a more episodic format highlighting different members of the cast. While charming and light, supported by colorful animation, the show’s biggest note is that it requires “prerequisite knowledge” of the characters in the franchise to truly understand the allusions and references. This aspect is not uncommon with spin-off series, but it is worth noting because unlike other SOL fare, including previously reviewed shows on here such as K-ON! and Nichijou, it’s not something one unacquainted with the franchise would get the fullest experience out of.

So what makes this series well worth the watch beyond the Fate allusions? For one, each episode has actual recipes prepared as part of the plot, something was reminiscent of Sweetness and Lightning. Another neat aspect is the show’s timeline, which covers a full year and sees the characters in different seasons, along with corresponding activities. The food prepared also changes seasonally, and for a Western audience, it’s interesting to see different Japanese fare. The character mini-stories each episode provides are also well worth the brief investment, and it all leads to an easily bingeable, comfortable watch.


Animation: Modern, 2-D animation- all with a lighter touch than the main series works. The characters are all a bit more “cartoony” than the more serious mainline works, and the colors, shading and lines are softer. All of this contributes nicely to the aesthetic Today’s Menu is trying to evoke, which does very well.

4.75/5 points.

 
Characters: The cast largely reprises their roles from any variant of Fate/stay night, although now in the capacity of friends and neighbors rather than competing Masters and Servants. (If you haven’t at least watched Unlimited Blade Works, I’d advise doing so.)

Shirou Emiya once again is cast as the lead hero, though in a very different role: as a very skilled home cook! The Emiya household never fails to have a delicious meal on his watch, and through the show he demonstrates his creativity, skill and proficiency in the kitchen, along with a selfless nature to do things for other people.

His role does not preclude that other do not cook in this show; notably Sakura Matou, Rin Tohsaka and Archer all take up the apron at various point in the episodes. Much longer though, may be the list of satisfied diners who wind up eating the meals, not the least of which is Saber, always faithfully waiting at the house for Shirou, or Fuji-nee and her ever-spirited demeanor.

The series also does a nice job of framing various characters in a light that the more serious main series may have not, from Lancer as a man with many odd jobs, to Illya showing a side more reminiscent of her younger self in Fate/Zero. These interactions tend to be delightful and are a major draw in this production.

4.5/5 points.

 
Story: Episodic “slice of life” that also has an undercurrent of an arching plot, given that it moves forward in time. Designed to give us a look into every day life for the cast in an ideal post-Grail War Fuyuki City, the story is more the vehicle for the characters here. But…it’s very structurally sound, gets around to focus episodes on most everyone, and lets the viewer see aspects of characters they might not have thought of before. Finally, there’s delicious-looking (and real!) recipes. What’s not to love?

4.25/5 points.

 
Themes: It’s always difficult to pin down exactly what great thematic statements a SOL gives us, but it was rather effective in this case to give us a look into a more human side of a lot of these larger-than-life legendary Servants, as well as the Masters they served. It made the show relatable in a way it wouldn’t normally be- and in turn, did something that’s fairly important in the genre, humor and coziness aside.

3.75/5 points.

 
Don’t Insult the Viewer: This show has great intangibles, from an enjoyable opening and ending that feature some neat details, to being a clean and relatively easy watch to just relax and enjoy, which is ideal. As a show from a major franchise, it manages to differentiate itself from other offerings decisively, and excels in what it sets out to do.

5/5 points.

 
Total: 22.25/25 (89%): This Fate spinoff proves to be a superb short-format SOL series, though most fully appreciated with a solid background in the classic Fate/stay night and to some extent, Zero (or hollow atraxia, a certain VN! Someone mentioned it.) The references are smart and enjoyable, but context is important and I’d rec this provided at least some adaptation of the original VN is seen (i.e. UBW).

Review: KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!

A big isekai series gets the review treatment.

The Lowdown:

Show: KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (usually just referred to as Konosuba)

Studio/years aired: Studio DEEN, 2016-2017

AniB’s thoughts:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It was probably inevitable that this series would eventually wind up on here in the form of a review. One of the most recognizable shows in the overplayed isekai genre, it’s been the subject of much recent popularity, particularly with recent appearances in the topical spin-off Isekai Quartet and a new limited-release movie that was in theaters.

This irreverent, at times raunchy comedy is far from flawless and certainly has plenty to get on its case about, but it also hides great cleverness in its delivery and seems well-aware of exactly the type of show it is. For as up and down season one is, the second season delivers with more precision and playfully takes jabs at all the things the first act would deserve palpable criticism for, largely in the department of Kazuma’s perverted and lecherous tendencies.

Speaking of our lead: Kazuma’s the quintessential glue guy protagonist. He’s the reason the show exists but at the same time the rest of the cast is infinitely more interesting. A loser shut-in NEET in his previous life, his mix of cynicism and bad tendencies makes him often unlikable, but on the flip side, he can be smart, practical and responsible- all aspects that compete constantly in the series with his more unsavory side. He is in a way the perfect partner for Aqua, the bumbling fallen deity- offering his brains to her brawn, but the two often bicker, between the former pointing out the water goddess’s wanton spending habits, and the latter often taking jabs at the protagonist’s previous life.

The most intriguing and likable character in this wacky series may be the archmage of explosions- Megumin. A member of the Crimson Demon clan, she’s devoted to explosion magic- and only explosion magic, going so far as to forgo all other disciplines or auxillary skills that may have aided her (mana supply anyone?) She has a specific reason for this obsession, but unfortunately this review won’t be talking about the film or heavy series spoilers, for that matter. At any rate, she’s got a top-rate design and a good amount of common sense and decency compared to her immediate contemporaries…though admittedly, that’s a low bar.

Despite being up and down in a very traditional critic’s sense, Konosuba is fairly enjoyable for the most part. It will never be mistaken for a top-class story or an incredible plot, but it is comfortable being the weirdly red-headed stepchild of a saturated genre, preferring to not take it that seriously, or just flip convention upside-down on its head. It’s also fortunate both seasons exist, as the show really starts to find its stride at the end of the first season, and the continuation carries forward relevant story threads and consistent characterization. At the time of this review’s writing, the 2nd season has still not received an official dub- a slightly strange conundrum given the series’ relative popularity and the 2017 release date. If you haven’t watched it yet, you may love or hate this series, but I wouldn’t rec this to the below 16 crowd either. Onward to grading!


Animation: Modern 2-D animation in all its glory. The colors pop, the main character models are easily memorable, and action sequences pop, especially with some more nicely integrated 3-D animation in the mix. All that said, a nice little bit comes off the top for some frankly unfortunate fanservice, which also contributes to some of the series’ more questionable bits of humor.

4/5 points.

 
Characterization: Already talked at length about Kazuma Satou, the main protagonist, in the thoughts section. He’s not anything too special for this genre or as a lead, but he’s fine in the role he serves.

Of greater interest are his traveling companions, including the goddess he wishes for as a companion in his new world- Aqua. While she takes her actual role rather seriously, she’s proven to be a total idiot in matters of common sense and strategy, a fact borne out humorously by correspondingly low scores in IQ and luck on her adventurer card. Officially a deity of water, she actually possesses strong powers and abilities related to both her element and just holy properties in general…which is often borne to jokes. (She’s a magnet for the undead, and her most popular water powers are an oft-repeated party trick.) Inexplicably tied to Kazuma as a result of his wish, her motive is to defeat the Devil King and resume her heavenly duties, but it can be questioned if this really is her goal as time rolls on.

“Darkness”, real name Dustiness Lalatina Ford, is a crusader sworn to a different deity, Eris (who Aqua does know and does not think highly of)…but here hides a masochist beneath the surface of valor and bravery. Darkness became a crusader for a few very specific reasons, and at the top of the list may be her unrivaled passion for questionably abusive acts perpetuated against her. Despite this questionable vocation, she holds other secrets that make her less one-dimensional than first impressions would suggest.

I’ve also discussed Megumin in the thoughts section prior to here.

The supporting cast is stereotypical, although this may have been intentional to drive home an absurdist humor point about tropes in general. I’ll note Wiz- a powerful magic user who hides a great secret, and Yunyun- another Crimson Demon who appears at a certain point.

3.25/5 points.

 
Story: Follows an episodic “plot of the episode” theme with character focus and some pseudo-RPG elements included, but the show is stealthily an overarching narrative: namely, Kazuma’s quest in a new world to defeat the Devil King. Stuck in the stereotypical starting town though, it’s rarely a straightforward journey like a game, as our cast finds out. The plots ranges from being fairly intriguing to being…extremely questionable. You’ve been warned!

3.25/5 points.

 
Themes: Based on everything else said to this point, it could be inferred that Konosuba isn’t a paragon of deep thematic aspects, although the specter of deeper ideas are there: life and death, this show’s rather Eastern concept of reincarnation, deep held motivations that are mostly manifested in surface-level impressions…when you put it that way, it almost seems like the score should be higher, but in the series we’ve been given, it really is an “almost there.”

2.5/5 points.

 
Don’t Insult the Viewer: Most of the knock here is questionably fanservicy moments, shots, Kazuma’s most ignominious moments and to some extent, Darkness’s bouts of masochism. Despite these moments, there’s a flow to this series and a hard to explain pull that builds as time goes on. The seasons don’t have a bad set of OPs and EDs either!

3.5/5 points

 
Total: 16.5/25 (66%): Konosuba, in a nutshell, is one wacky ride, riddled with a rollercoaster of high and low comedy, some impressive action scenes, a few genuinely serious moments, and more than one head-scratching decision. Give it a spin if you’re an isekai fan or are just looking for something a bit different, I’d say- if you haven’t already seen it, that is.


Like what you see? Konosuba fan? Leave a comment!

Real Neat Blog Award!

Hey, another nomination for another blogging award! I’m back to write over the Thanksgiving break, and this was definitely something I was looking forward to answering! A big thanks to Lumi, who writes some thought-provoking anime content and has been a steady reader here as well. Make sure to check his work out if you haven’t! A few rules about this award:

  1. Display the logo (should be above).
  2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
  3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
  5. Ask them 7 questions.

So let’s delve into the questions sent my way:

What book has upset you the most?

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Hmm, that’s an interesting question! I haven’t done much pleasure reading in a while as a university student, but rather humorously, I doubt most people have enjoyed physics textbooks, and I’m no exception. Trying to figure material out from it was a chore and a half- so that qualifies as “upsetting” in my eyes.

 

What character in fiction’s story arc left you the saddest?

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-The saddest character arc? Ooooh, there’s a great question. Let’s pick someone who hasn’t appeared in my “What’s in a Character” series then…well, a good candidate might  the tale of Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero. I’m unsure if it’s the saddest arc I’ve ever seen, but the man’s character is a tragedy of the highest order, and largely a big reason Zero is the closest to a “must-watch” in the franchise, from my perspective.

 

What do you feel about escapism in fiction?

-Perfectly normal. Seriously, fiction by definition is a made-up story, something we’ve all known from an extremely young age, so it’s more an inherent property than not. Now, in a more nuanced way, there’s different levels of escapism, from the fantastical fantasy worlds that exist in many works, to sobering pseudo-realities based on or directly set in real events or places. Truthfully, it depends on what you’re looking for- and I think that’s a really neat aspect about stories in general.

What musical theme immediately starts the waterworks for you?

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 8.20.12 PM

-“Memories,” a more contemplative leimotif of Little Witch Academia’s “Chariot’s Theme” might do the trick. Context matters here!

 

Why do some people associate feeling sad as meaning the show is bad?

-Well, this is actually a larger conundrum I’ve been wrestling with for a while in my own review work. So, I’ll do my best to give an answer:

Sadness =/= Bad, but high level execution of a concept, along with being a genuinely watchable product never goes out of style. To make reference to specific instances: Kite’s saga in Hunter x Hunter and how it relates to Gon is “sad” but complex emotionally, and gripping as a major undercurrent of the arc in question. If “sad” = “bad” to some folks, then it probably wasn’t very well executed and is more an indictment of the show itself than the content. One final note: I don’t care for story that emphasize crippling depression, but when it’s not laid on so heavily, it can be an emotionally thought-provoking experience.

Is it necessary to use vulgar language for a mature story?

-Absolutely not! The power of language is such that when the right tone and plot are established, context can make for a very intense story that doesn’t need coarse language necessarily. Besides, I always learned that the less you swear, the more professional you sound- and if it’s very selective, it may also be more impactful.

What makes you happy right now?

-God, family, working hard at school. Seriously! It’s simple, but having an objective and working hard at it is the most fulfilling feeling there is.


So, now for a pick-7 of questions worth asking:

-What’s the most underrated show you think you’ve watched and why?
-Who is your favorite character from animation?
-If you had a choice between attending the Super Bowl or attending a concert of your choice, what would you pick?

-What was the best animated film of the 2010’s in your opinion?
-Grabbing this from Lumi: “What makes you happy right now?”

-It’s the holidays! What is your favorite food from the season?
-If you were given a choice, what’s one thing in animation you’d want to see written about?


Well, that’s it from me! Here’s my 7 nominees:

sgliput

Irina

Mallow

GingerJumble

John Spencer Reviews

negativeprimes

TPAB


Like what you see? Leave a comment!

 

Review: Azumanga Daioh

A classic SOL from the early 2000’s.

Happy November everyone! We’re going back a little bit in time- and for some readers, it may be a burst of nostalgia. Here’s a belated Halloween “treat” for everyone!

The Lowdown:

Series: Azumanga Daioh

Studio/years aired: J.C. Staff, 2002

 

AniB’s thoughts:

Reviews are back! In a twist to begin November, it’s Azumanga Daioh- an early 2000’s show that’s a classic within its genre. Indeed, the focus of this piece hearkens back to a show that can be construed as the progenitor of a “slice of life”/”moe” explosion in the years to come. The genre as a whole has a lot of interesting shows, several of which I’ve discussed before in other reviews.

Recommended to me (like a number of other good shows that have been written about here), there was an excitement of the unexpected. It was true that the show existed in a part of my mind (the title at least) but there wasn’t the slightest clue what it might be about. Azumanga Daioh could be described as a hybrid of Nichijou’s brand of humor, K-On! in the high school progression and adventures of the characters, and Lucky Star in the casual day to day sense, along with a clever reference or three. In saying that, it’s more accurate to pin this show as an inspiration for all those influential SOL’s and the genre at large- because it came first.

Of those shows though, Azumanga Daioh without a doubt, is the spiritual predecessor of Nichijou. Following the lives of the six main girls in their high school careers, it’s an often zany ride between their respective personalities, inconsistently consistent teachers with their own agendas, strange daydreams, and Tomo being Tomo. The surreal humor and superb timing on gags makes it an easy stylistic comparison.

Despite being busy with both many real life tasks and the ubiquity of animation in general, this in particular reminded me again of the value in returning to older titles, be it anime or Western animation. Azumanga Daioh allowed a whole genre to take flight after it- and yet remains a very good show in its own right, and one that has stood the test of time well so far. Indeed, it is an archetype show- and still holds up very well despite nearly two decades passing. It has a good dub (not always a given from the early 2000’s), an easy cast of characters to follow along, humor that works pretty well by and large, and fairly good animation from its era. In a word, it is “fun” and definitely worth a look.

(Also…if you watch, you’ll find out what a “Yukarimobile” is, who Chiyo’s father is, and many other amusing oddities. Have fun!)


Animation: Traditional 2-D animated. The early 2000’s was a transitional time in the methods used, but this series shined due to its visual humor and absurdist gags melding so well into the form. It’s not the shiny gloss of a series in 2019, but it was both representative of its period and genre- and has held up really well. An excellent understanding of the medium here!

4.5/5 points.

 

Characterization: The show revolves around the daily high school lives of six girls and their homeroom teacher- the impulsive and often reckless Yukari- and each of them is easily categorized by some major defining trait.

Chiyo Mihama is a child prodigy- a 10 year old who skipped straight to high school. Bright, polite and absolutely adorable, she’s as close to being the lead character as anyone in this show, and is generally adored by her friends and teachers alike. Her family is surprising wealthy and as a result, the group often meets up at her large house. Chiyo’s also the owner of a large and loyal dog- Mr. Tadekichi.

In contrast, “Osaka”- real name Ayumu Kasuga- is the resident airhead. Despite being the other transfer student along with Chiyo, her generally happy disposition comes with a “pie in the sky” approach to most things. Easygoing as they comes, no one’s quite sure what goes through her mind…except Osaka herself, and it’s always an adventure.

Speaking of mindgames, Sakaki’s a tall, athletic and well-developed girl who is generally percieved to be cool and stoic by many of her peers. In reality, she’s a kind girl with an obsession for cute things, especially animals and cats in particular, which she loves. She gets along especially well with the younger Chiyo, and adores her dog, Mr. Tadekichi.

Her self-proclaimed rival is the sports star Kagura, who starts the series in another class, but by the second year joins the rest of the main cast in Kagari’s homeroom. A swimmer on the school team, she views the former as her main competition, but in an amusing twist, Sakaki is unaware any such rivalry exists.

Alongside these girls are childhood friends Yomi and Tomo. Despite knowing each other a long time, they are almost complete opposite personalities, and in Yomi’s case, she’s often disapproving of the latter. A serious student who secretly harbors concern about her waistline, and a sense of fun beneath a usually sarcastic front, she’s the brighter bulb of the two.

Tomo’s an energetic girl- perhaps too energetic for her own good. Personality wise, she take quite a bit after Yukari, between her self-absorbed pranks and general rudeness towards her friends. Along with Kagura and Osaka, the trio’s academic prowess leaves something to be desired, leading to a certain nickname later in the show…

A concise cast of characters, they cast archetypes for countless SOL’s to come. As the originals, they’ve held up, and perhaps most importantly, remain characters rather than caricatures. The supporting cast compliments the main crew well- and overall, they all help carry the show.
4.25/5 points.

 

Story: The plot of Azumanga Daioh follows the main cast’s journey through high school, though the episode to episode events are much more self-contained in nature. That isn’t to say continuity doesn’t exist, because it does- often culminating in humorous results. Featuring a snappy, humorous episode to episode approach, often with some surreal results, this show is a load of fun to watch.

4/5 points.

 

Themes: Despite its silliness and quirkiness, the show focuses on some realistic theming, from the challenges of high school to the perils of relationships. That said…it’s a very laid back show with a great deal of comedy. What it does, it does fine, and that’s plenty enough for this style.

3.5/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: Generally a clean show, although there’s one fairly creepy teacher whose actions can be offputting, to say the least (although it’s clearly meant as a running gag.) A really unique opening and ending help, as both are rather catchy and visually amusing; the music in the show does a nice job syncing with the comedic timing of gags. Intangibly, the series does well.

4.75/5 points.

 

Overall: 21/25 (84%). Azumanga Daioh is more than a mere archetype show, holding up well years after its release with its quirky, lovable cast and fast-paced sense of humor. It’s a must watch for “slice of life” fans and for anyone in particular who watched and enjoyed Nichijou.


Like what you see? Big fan of Azumanga Daioh? Leave a comment!