Snow White with the Red Hair – Beyond Shoujo Bounds

Akagami no Shirayuki Hime - Snow White With The Red Hair animeThe original title for this piece discussing Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime in Japanese, and “Akagami” in this piece from now on) read as “Transgressively non-Transgressive Shounen Romance?”, but as “transgressive” is not a wide-spread word, I opted for readability. But this piece needs some unpacking of terms, which will be brief. “Shounen” and “Shoujo” are demographics, with “shounen” referring to young boys and “shoujo” referring to young girls. How do you know a series’s demographics? You look at the publication where it’s released. This also means that over time “shoujo” and “shounen” have grown, at least in the west, to mean certain genre conventions. Though this is “wrong”, this colloquialism is what this piece will use (I wrote about anime/manga demographics before). As for “transgressive”, we’ll get to that soon enough.

Akagami’s anime adaptation ended its second season recently, and after watching it, I thought it is as shoujo (remember: aimed at younger girls) as they come. It’s serialized in a shoujo publication (LaLa DX), it centers around a super-capable commoner heroine, it has a love at first sight encounter in its very first episode, with the super-capable and handsome prince, and the show has all the necessary associated sparkles for the lovey-dovey sequences, balls, gowns, declarations of eternal love and loyalty and not a lot of romantic conflict or plot-progress and external conflict (we’ll get back to this). And yet, watching the second season something suddenly became apparent to me: This quintessential specimen of the shoujo genre conventions might actually not be one?

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the two seasons of the anime series. I think due to the nature of the story, these spoilers should not impact enjoyment of the show.)

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Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 11 (Anime Power Ranking)

Still not caught up on Ajin, and I can’t help but eagerly look forward for next season’s crop of exciting new shows (and exciting disappointments!), but we’ve still got Spring season’s last few hanging-on shows to take a look at, so let’s do that.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst).

1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 11:

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 11 - Sukeroku (Shin) Yakumo tells (Kikuhiko/Bon) you can't do rakugo on your own

The human drama train keeps going on. This means that things are sort of “inevitable”, to a degree. Such as Miyokichi and Shin’s marriage, which was designed to run away from their problems, and run away from Bon, and the Rakugo Association, and being turned down, didn’t turn out well for them. Because no matter where they went, they still took themselves along, and neither of them is a person who can actually handle life on their own, let alone while also taking care for another damaged individual such as themselves. And it probably doesn’t help that both of them might very well suffer from depression, and Shin almost definitely, having lost his reason to live and care – his rakugo, with a partner who maligns it even more.

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Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Weeks 9-10 (Anime Power Ranking)

Have been busy lately, and had been preoccupied by a bunch of stuff (including the massive Spring 2016 Season Preview, check it out!), so this is a tad late, and I haven’t watched the last 3 Ajin episodes, so we’ll cover what I did watch. Can’t wait for the new season to arrive – gotta find some new shows to disappoint me until I’m left with but a handful!

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst). Though it might be a bit more “tier”-sorted this time, as I’ve got some ties I don’t want to pick between.

1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episodes 9-10:

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 9 - Miyokichi tells Yakumo (Kikuhiko/Bon) she'll haunt him

This show is good. Watch it. It’s a tragedy, where people pay for their past sins, and they pay for the past sins of their forebears. They pay for their hubris, for the goals they set out to achieve, and for being unable to put themselves in others positions. This is a story about hopes and dreams and people falling out even as they wish they could still cling to one another. It has beautiful set-pieces, and the visual design remains exquisite even as the models drop off-model with increasing frequency (but thankfully it’s not so common as to be actively detrimental to my enjoyment of the show and its visuals). There’s a lot to unpack here, from symbolism in word and deed, to symbolism in the visuals the show employs, to just how theatre-like the characters are in their off-stage interactions, where they act as if they’re symbolic manifestations to one another. Then again, in some ways they are.

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Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 8 (Anime Power Ranking)

I’ve barely got any shows to bring up this time around, as I’ve dropped most, and Ajin didn’t get the subs I’m waiting for yet this week. I guess I’ll cheat a bit, and even though the main focus would be week 7’s episodes, I’ll throw a few words about last week’s episodes as well, where relevant.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst). Though it might be a bit more “tier”-sorted this time, as I’ve got some ties I don’t want to pick between.

Tied 1) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episode 8:

Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED anime Episode 8 - Hinazuki Kayo hands Funjinoma Satoru his birthday gloves

This episode was so cute, and comfortable, and sweet. Since the best word to describe this show is “fraught”, seeing how there’s a sense of fighting against the inevitability of Kayo and Satoru’s mothers’ fates, this sweet respite from cliffhangers and tension only promises what is to come will hit us even harder. It feels as if the show had allowed us to catch our breath, a risky business in a fast-paced thriller, but it’s only done so so we could scream from now on until the series concludes.

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Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Weeks 6-7 (Anime Power Ranking)

I’ve barely got any shows to bring up this time around, as I’ve dropped most, and Ajin didn’t get the subs I’m waiting for yet this week. I guess I’ll cheat a bit, and even though the main focus would be week 7’s episodes, I’ll throw a few words about last week’s episodes as well, where relevant.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst). Though it might be a bit more “tier”-sorted this time, as I’ve got some ties I don’t want to pick between.

Tied 1) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episodes 6-7:

Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED anime Episode 7 - Hinazuki Kayo on Funjinoma Satoru's fatal flaw in the hideout

After episode 5 hadn’t been as good at maintaining the tension that this show lives off of, in part because its direction felt relatively flat, certainly compared to the heights of the first 4 episodes, episode 6 was much better, though not as good as episodes 2-4, and episode 7 was a true return to strength. It coincided, though perhaps not by coincidence, with the return to the past – as Kayo, and her fate, feel much more tense than anything that happens in the present.

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Winter 2016 Anime Midseason Overview

Mid-season of the anime season of Winter 2016 is upon us, so time to round up how I feel about the shows I’m current on, or decided to put on hold. A round-up telling you what I think is worthy of your time, or not, and where it’s at. This season I managed to not only pick up less shows than usual, but quickly drop what is “averagish”, so let’s see how it panned out.

Tiers are in-order of enjoyment/evaluation. Within each tier the order is alphabetical.

Great:

ERASED / Boku dake ga Inai Machi:

Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED anime Episode 3 - Fujinuma Satorou and Hinazuki Kayo under the Christmas Tree

BokuMachi is a rare thriller that fires on all cylinders and keeps you engaged non-stop. Even when you’re not worried about the impending doom that you know is coming in a way only a time travel thriller can create, you are drawn into the intimate mindset as we follow protagonist Fujinoma Satoru, both as a failed manga author who cannot proceed with his life, and as he returns to his life as a 10 year old boy. The directorial work in this show is really good, and the show is peppered with artistic shots, shots that heighten tension for the most part, but also ones that just look great as Satoru spends time in his old haunts, and the feeling of watching an old movie is invoked, an old movie that one then stars in.

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Winter 2016 Anime Overview – Week 5 (Anime Power Ranking)

Another week, and since proper subtitles for a show I was awaiting began appearing, and as my docket keeps dwindling, I actually checked out another show! This season’s “average” shows are falling behind, but the new show might be a keeper.

As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst).

1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 5:

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 5 overview - Sukeroku and Yakumo after their performance, cross-dressing Kikuhiko

If it weren’t for the premiere, with the knowledge (or is it?) that Konatsu is Miyokichi’s child with Sukeroku (Shin) rather than with Yakumo (Bon), and that Bon and Shin had a falling out, of one sort or another, this episode would’ve been just another building block in a solid and endearing drama, a coming of age story of a couple of young performers trying to find their place in the world, and what they mean to one another, and how to handle frustration, jealousy, and attempting to help one another in spite of all of it. But as it is, there is a very clear sense of impending doom. A tragedy will come upon our cast, and if not a tragedy, then revelations that will lead to much drama.

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