Month: August 2016

What is the Endless Eight?

What is the Endless Eight? To put it simply, it is an arc that occurs in episodes two through nine of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2009). The same exact thing happens each time in each episode, aside from the first and last. However, the dialogue is slightly different, the camera angles are different, and the clothing is different. Essentially, if you told an animation team to make an episode, erased their memories when they’re done, and repeat this several more times, you have the Endless Eight. Due to the pure ridiculousness of this idea, the Haruhi name has been driven into infamy. I want to look at why the Endless Eight exists in the first place, what it means to the Haruhi series and what it adds.


My main theory for why Kyoto Animation decided to make the Endless Eight is for publicity. As I stated earlier, the Endless Eight has become a thing that a lot of people know about. If someone’s watched or has heard of Haruhi, chances are that they know what the Endless Eight is. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, and I believe that is the driving force behind the existence of it. Does that mean that the Endless Eight doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t add anything to the series as a whole? I wouldn’t say that.

(Everything below contains spoilers for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s assumed that you’ve watch both of them. You’ve been warned.)

The Endless Eight would greater explain why Nagato does what she does in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. She wants to give Kyon the choice between the current world or a paradise that he doesn’t necessarily want. Nagato had to live through the entirety of the Endless Eight while performing her one job as an observer. She could of interfered and stopped the time loop, but chooses preserving the situation as-is rather than doing what she wanted. Before the Endless Eight, the audience sees her as simply a robot that can only do what she’s told. At the end of the Endless Eight, however, she doesn’t show up to school, and instead chooses to stay home and rest, going against her job as an observer. This little decision of Nagato’s shows that she’s developing as a character, and that she’s growing out of her one assigned role. The Endless Eight is meant to put the viewers in Nagato’s shoes. It’s meant to make them experience what Nagato has to put up with. To make matters even more interesting, in the new world that Nagato creates, Haruhi doesn’t attend North High and the new Nagato has a crush on Kyon. This shows that Nagato does want something: Kyon. She realizes that Kyon has a natural attraction to Haruhi and, normally wouldn’t mind. However, Haruhi’s antics pushed her to a point that the Data Overmind didn’t account for, and she acts on her own terms to take Haruhi out of the picture.

Of course this begs the question: Should you watch the entirety of the Endless Eight? I recommend not watching the entire thing if you’re a newcomer to the Haruhi series. Instead, watch the first, second, and last episodes of the Endless Eight. If you’re on a rewatch, however, try to watch the entire thing and see if you pull through. Think of it as a challenge of sorts. I’ve watched all of it every time I watched the series: three times, once with English dubs.

Less Frequent Posts?

There was originally going to be something up today (technically yesterday), an essay, but I realized 800 words in that this was going to be complicated to produce. A similar situation happened later when trying to write a tutorial, but that too was too complicated and wouldn’t even be beneficial to around 99% of the anime community.

That will occasionally happen, I want to do something big but it becomes too ambitious for my own good, and a day goes by without something appearing on the site. Another cause for a lack of posts is procrastination. I get sidetracked very, very easily. One of the purposes of this site is for me to create a consistent posting schedule to help with that weakness of mine. We’ll see how that plays out in the future.

The biggest thing to consider is that school is starting soon, which means way less time to do anything, let alone writing essays for my own enjoyment. I also work, taking away even more time. Of course, those things come first, and my hobbies next in line. If you don’t see me post anything, it’ll be because of the listed reasons: I’m too ambitious, too lazy, or too busy.

Why I Dropped Rewrite

(As of this time, episode 6 of Rewrite has been released and is available to watch)

With every single visual novel-to-anime adaptation that comes out, I expect nothing but bad things, but then I remember that Clannad and Clannad ~After Story~ exist, so I end up giving these adaptations a watch anyways. This is the case with Rewrite, an anime that’s currently airing, based on the visual novel made by Key Studios. After watching the entirety of the 47-minute long first episode, my doubts in visual novel-to-anime adaptations grow ever so deeper.

Cover art for Rewrite

 

Rewrite (リライト) takes place in a city that focuses on caring for the environment, foliage being grown throughout the entire setting. Our main character, Kotarou, lives in this city, along with some other girls that you know have routes in the visual novel. We have a tsundere (bonus: transfer student), a petite girl with an eyepatch, a perverted shy girl (bonus: childhood friend), and a violent class representative introduced within the first episode. Kotarou has recently been visited by a small girl that takes a liking to sucking on his arm then disappearing before he can do anything about it. For how freaked out he is when this happens, he pays it almost no heed during school, and doesn’t tell anyone anything specific other than “an encounter with the supernatural”. After that, we’re introduced to two fairies/sprites/nymphs/whatevers with the most piercing voices since Love Live! Sunshine!!. They serve as the “comic relief” as far as I can tell. After meeting them, they, plus the arm-sucking girl from earlier, fight some weird monster that doesn’t even have a name, after the arm-sucking girl was subdued by the delicious coffee that Kotarou threw at her. The 47-minute first episode ends with Kotarou meeting yet another heroine: the occult club president, completely ignoring the intense supernatural fight sequence he just witnessed.

I don’t know where to begin with this one. Everything about the first episode has all of the warning signs of an anime with nothing good to come: incredibly rushed pacing, lazy introductions, archetypes for characters, abandoning logic for comedy, bland main character surrounded by heroines of his choosing, and annoying comic relief. This has got to be some kind of record. To top it all off, the fact that the series opens with a 47 minute-long first episode proves to us, the audience, that a 13-episode runtime is not even close to cover the essentials of what the source material covers. The first episode is supposed to be the best foot forward. Completely failing to give something even remotely engaging or original within the first episode of something with tons of source material to work with shows only a descending path for what’s left to come. For reference: the Rewrite visual novel takes an average of 62 hours to complete. That’s crushed down into just 5½ hours of anime time (12 episodes * 24 minutes + 47 minutes) ! Clannad, on the other hand, takes an average of 74 hours to complete, and that’s crushed down into 18.8 hours of anime time (47 episodes * 24 minutes).

It appears that Rewrite wants to show us, the audience, everything wrong with it in only a 47-minute segment. It already has pacing problems, combined with the amount of content in the source material vs. the time contraints of the anime. None of the characters have any dosage of originality to them, including the main character. Of course, humor is subjective, but that too is nothing but recycled situations from previous works hasilty molded into the setting of this anime. I don’t know; maybe I’ll be wrong and this series will get better and better with each episode. Maybe the ending will be worth all of the trouble. As far as I can tell, however, that will not be the case.

Anime, Piracy, and You

“Where can I watch that?” That’s a question asked by many people that hear of a pretty cool anime, but don’t know how to watch it. Most of the time, it’s not through legal means. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to watch most anime legally. Everyone I know watches most of their anime through a certain website, which will not be named. This website provides 99.9% of every anime I want to watch. For the downside of a couple of annoying, but easily closable ads, you can watch just about anything you want, in HD quality, for free. There’s something wrong about that.


As Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, once said “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates”. The antipiracy measures put in by these Japanese producers don’t do a whole lot. It only goes as far as automatically removing a direct upload of an episode rip on YouTube. By changing the speed slightly or adding a border around the video, the bot doesn’t catch it. Of course, the video and audio quality is drastically worse, so not a lot of people watch anime via YouTube. You can literally go to Google, search for “watch anime free”, and and you get tons of sites that allow you to watch anime, in HD, for absolutely free. The so-called “alternatives” don’t provide a much better service when compared to the illegal methods.

Okay, let’s look at Crunchyroll, the most popular legal anime streaming site. It has a lot of entries compared to other sites, but is still lacking compared to just how many anime are out there. It’s not that the site doesn’t have some obscure series, it doesn’t have a lot of popular anime, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, etc. There is the option to look on other sites, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Funimation, and Daisuki, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem: there’s no way to watch these series online. I add the “online” part because the option to buy the entire DVD set still exists, but is totally impractical if you’re not willing to spend a lot of money. Here’s an example: the “Neon Genesis Evangelion: Perfect Collection” DVD set (keep in mind that this isn’t a Blu-ray release), costs $189.99 on Amazon. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones Seasons 1-5 Blu-ray release (without Amazon Prime) costs $161.98. Did I mention that the Eva box set price was that of a used item? The new price is $229.99, and it’s actually at an all time low!

So sometimes, you can’t watch something legally without coughing up a lot of dough, so most people resort to pirating for the sake of convenience and sanity. That makes sense. Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias is an American comedian of Mexican ancestry. He made a video on his YouTube channel promoting his new movie a few years ago. Unfortunately, the video is now private (I’m pretty sure this is the URL). In the video, he stated that he knew a lot of people can’t watch the movie legally because his production company didn’t release the movie worldwide, and he actually promotes piracy in this case. This is the only “evidence” I can provide. I do remember watching the video before it was private, and I will vouch that he actually said that. This brings up a valid point, and explains why some people pirate: region lock.

As you may know, anime producers usually don’t promote their stuff anywhere outside of Japan. Combined with the fact that Japan keeps going through economic recessions, and you have anime that barely sell. A YouTuber by the name of The Anime Man, who has lived a good portion of his life in Japan, uploaded a video last year explaining how the anime industry is dying because of piracy. As he points out in the video, anime production companies keep bumping up the prices for anime DVDs because no one is buying them in the first place, which in turn causes more people to steer away from buying those DVDs. Combined with the almost non-existent promotion or distribution outside of Japan, and what you have is an industry that is barely able to keep itself afloat.

Now comes the big question: “What can I do about it?”. As The Anime Man said, if you have the money, try to buy any anime-related merchandise. Try to support the anime creators as much as possible. One of Crunchyroll’s selling points is that part of the money that you put into a premium account goes towards the anime producers in Japan. Funimation buys the rights to upload a lot of anime, and you can even buy DVDs that go on sale constantly. Of course, this poses a problem. A lot people actually cannot buy stuff like this, be it because of student loans, being unemployed, or anything that’s beyond their control, and that poses a bit of a moral issue. In situations like that, is piracy still morally wrong? I’ll let you guys decide on that.

The anime industry is greatly suffering because of piracy, and many fans simply aren’t aware of the damage they’re causing when using illegal streaming sites. Of course, there isn’t that much that can currently be done about it without having a lot of money ready to spend. Simply put: be aware of what you’re doing. If you can, try to help out the industry as much as you can. If you can’t put forth as much as you want, that’s perfectly fine. Being aware and spreading the message will hopefully do something useful. Let’s give something back to the anime industry. Let’s show them that we are truly passionate about what we love.

Should You Watch Sound! Euphonium?

Are you a concert band geek? Do you want animation that make Ghibli films look like knockoffs? Do you like cute girls (and guys)? Well, I have the anime for you. This series focuses on human and emotional conflict through the power of concert band.

Cover art for Sound! Euphonium

Hibike! Euphonium  (響け!ユーフォニアム) a.k.a. Sound! Euphonium has its eyes set on a dysfunctional high school concert band and the attempts made to restore it to its former glory. Our main girl is Kumiko Oumae, an apathetic euphonium player. Her last concert band in middle school failed to get a high enough ranking to be able to compete in the national competition, referred to as the Nationals. Her bandmate, Reina Kousaka, is left gravely disappointed by the band’s performance, and the two leave middle school on sour terms. Both girls attend the same high school. Reina and, while hesitant at first, Kumiko join the school’s concert band, both noticing how poorly they play. The band has a sour history to them as well, and the series is spent having the band training for Nationals while working out the preexisting and arising conflicts between the bandmates.

Of course, what stands out the most in this anime is the quality of it. The animation is absolutely stunning. The colors are vibrant, the movement of the characters, whether they’re talking or playing instruments, feels natural and looks amazingly smooth, and the voice acting pulls you right into the scene. Not to mention how realistic the band’s performances sound. I’m a bit of a band geek myself, and hearing the band’s first performance actually made me cringe. It sounded exactly like a bad high school band. Whenever the band was practicing, I could hear the problems that the conductor was pointing out. These elements are essential for having your anime-watching experience be an immersive one, and Kyoto Animation pulls out all of the stops to make this something you will never forget.

Of course, aesthetic isn’t everything; there’s writing and characters to consider as well. Kyoto Animation decided to be rid of the “unnatural hair color” trend while still having original and recognizable character designs. Each character has their own recognizable personality, and the drama that occurs between them feels real. Some characters are a little too competitive and try too hard to one-up each other. Others simply don’t care about Nationals and this creates friction between them and those who do care. To makes matters even more complicated, not all members of the band can perform in some competitions. None of the conflicts feel overdramatized or unnatural, and they’re still engaging enough to keep me watching. None of the characters are just an archetype, none of them are just added for fluff. Each one has their story to tell and it genuinely feels like they’re trying their hardest. Nothing is done out of plot convenience, the story actually works with the characters rather than making them part of the background, and that right there is this anime’s defining trait.

In conclusion, Sound! Euphonium provides down-to-earth human conflicts while still keeping them engaging and interesting. The characters are developed and given actual personalities, and the production quality alone is enough to keep you watching. Sound! Euphonium is definitely an anime worth watching.

Should You Watch Lucky Star?

Slice-of-life anime all need to face one challenge: having relatable characters and situations while still making them interesting to watch. Because most people’s lives don’t feature fighting demons in the Underworld, battling foes wile sailing the high seas, or being trapped in a fantasy world, the possible premises for slice-of-life plotlines are drastically cut. Usually, the anime focuses primarily on humor or human drama to make a name for itself. Lucky Star takes a slightly different approach to slice-of-life than most other anime, focusing mostly on Japan’s otaku culture.

Cover art for Lucky☆Star

Lucky☆Star (らき☆すた)  is an anime well-known for its execution of the slice-of-life aspect. The main star, Konata, is a proud high school otaku girl, playing MMOs, eroge, and watching anime in her free time. Her friends don’t really understand otaku culture, but accept it nonetheless. The anime mostly consists of pointless discussion about whatever topics enter the girls’ heads, being cut off every once in a while by some zany shenanigans of some third party, whether it be the determined store manager, Aya Hirano’s concert, or Comiket.

At the end of each episode, we’re greeted with the Lucky Channel segment. I have never found myself laughing harder watching the entire series than whatever was featured in this segment of the episodes. Two more characters are introduced, Shiraishi, the intern, and Akira, a popular idol and the de facto star of the segment. Akira always goes on rants of what it’s like being an idol while Shiraishi is left to keep the segment afloat. Throughout the series, the conversations between the two begin to break the forth wall, and you’re left wondering how much of that was real. As in real real.

What I think Lucky Star does beautifully is making the dialogue both relatable and engaging. Every bit of dialogue from the main characters doesn’t feel overly exaggerated or overly dramatized; it fits perfectly into our actual world. The dialogue feels like an actual conversation between actual people. Sure, it makes less sense if you’re not heavily informed on 2000-era otaku culture, but that’s what makes it all the more engaging. Whenever Konata throws out some random reference, most people aren’t going to get it, and she knows that. I think what a lot of slice-of-life anime try to do is make the dialogue too easily digestable, having to resort to vague, nonspecific references. If you’ve seen a lot of slice-of-life anime, you probably know what I’m talking about. Whenever a character says something like “Remember that song that was super popular a long time ago?” with no other context added, the presented world suddenly doesn’t feel very inviting or interesting anymore. Sure, it’s easy to understand, but there isn’t a lot of substance to understand.

Of course, I’m not saying every line of dialogue from this show is worthy of being from the mouth of Shakespeare or Plato. Towards the halfway point of the anime’s runtime, more characters are introduced seemingly for the sake of featuring more characters from the original web koma series. The show puts a large amount of focus on these characters without expanding beyond their basic archetype. Because there’s not much to their character, the dialogue becomes exactly like what I was describing earlier: being very vague and breaking any sort of immersion you had.

In conclusion, Lucky Star doesn’t have any too ambitious goals, just to be a little different from the clutter of slice-of-life anime. Its humor explores an unexplored world of being too specific for most viewers to understand while still providing something for everyone to enjoy. I recommend that everyone watch at least the first episode through and through and see whether they like it or not. It does trail off later down the line, but not enough to warrant me from dropping the series entirely. Hell, I watched it twice and I thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

Should You Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan?

Whenever anything Haruhi-related is brought up online, chances are people start to talk about its spin-off series, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (長門有希ちゃんの消失), a.k.a. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I’ll say this right now: if you’re not a fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya series or a fan of the slice-of-life genre, then this anime’s not gonna be your cup of tea. If you are, however, then please stick around. Maybe you’re in for a treat.

Cover art for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

As previously stated, this is a spin-off series of the more known and renowned Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series. This in particular is based on the manga of the same name. As the name suggests, it focuses mostly on Yuki Nagato, also featured in the Haruhi series. Nagato is a shy, unmotivated girl that wishes to have fun as a high school student with her friends in the Literature Club, which doesn’t do anything specific. She manages to recruit Kyon, a sarcasm-throwing, laid-back guy. It’s revealed (though pretty apparent from the start) that she has a crush on Kyon. Nagato’s best friend is Ryouko Asasuka, who is almost the polar opposite of Nagato; she’s sociable, competitive, and reliable. Asakura acts like a mother of Nagato, making her dinner, waking her up, and teaching her how to get together with Kyon.

That’s the essential premise of the series. However, as it goes on, new obstacles and issues arise.I’ll talk a little more about that later. The main part of the series isn’t all that interesting, to be perfectly honest. If you’re a Haruhi fan, you’ll spot all of the references and nods to the original series. If you like slice-of-life, the laid-back atmosphere is very welcoming. However, that atmosphere changes constantly whenever Haruhi Suzumiya is involved.

Haruhi is exactly like the Haruhi from the original series. She’s overly eccentric, bossy, inconsiderate, and obsessed with the supernatural. Haruhi’s inclusion is the biggest problem with this series. We, the audience, get the impression that this is going to be a relaxing romance series. However, whenever Haruhi is on-screen, she takes up all of the attention, and story derails until she’s out of the scene. If you found Haruhi annoying in the original series, then you’ll find her to be outstandingly annoying in this one. She makes the relationship progression slow to a crawl, actually making it go backwards in some cases. Quite an achievement. The show spends way too much time on her and not enough on Kyon and Nagato.

I won’t give away too much, but the show takes a completely different direction with its story partway through, and it’s by far the most interesting section. I call it the Disappearance arc. The Disappearance arc focuses mostly on the psychological state of Nagato, about the meaning of identity and self. It’s night and day when comparing it to the first bit of the show, making me question why that first bit even exists in the first place. To makes the structure of the show even more confusing, the Disappearance arc is then followed by absolutely pointless episodes of exactly the same kind of uninteresting stuff the first arc had.

The series ends on pretty much nothing. The extra episodes had no purpose. Most of the show seems to have no purpose. The only interesting bit of the show is sandwiched by a mess of slice-of-life romance and Haruhi’s antics interfering with the pacing. Even with all of that, the show isn’t all that bad. Humor is subjective, so everyone’s left to their own devices in that regard, as this show is a comedy most of the time. However, as if a final nail to the coffin, this show actually fails to provide what was originally proposed: a romance between Kyon and Nagato. Kyon and literally everyone else are shown having more chemistry than with Nagato.

In conclusion, I do not greatly recommend watching The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. It fails on a storytelling level, it loses focus on its goal all too often, and doesn’t actually have a story to tell. It’s mostly just generic slice-of-life romance filler with Haruhi characters to provoke the fans. It’s meant only as a thing for fans of the original Haruhi series to watch. I’ll be perfectly honest: I like this show. I found it to be genuinely funny a lot of the time, and Nagato is my absolute favorite character (at least, as of now when I’m writing this), so there is some personal bias in that regard.

 

Oh wait, there’s more? Yep, there’s also an OVA for this show as well. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu: Owarenai Natsuyasumi (長門有希ちゃんの消失 第17話「終われない夏休み), a.k.a. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Incomplete Summer (Episode 17), aired shortly after the main series.

Cover art for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Incomplete Summer

It’s filled with nothing but references to the original Haruhi series. It actually manages to add even less than what the filler did in the main show. If you’re looking for anything more, it isn’t gonna be here. I do not recommend watching the OVA.