Aesthetics over Anything

It seems like when a lot of people say “animation” they are describing visual presentation in anime. The thing is animation and aesthetics or visuals are completely different things. Whereas one describes how well the pictures flow together with cinematography or high frame rate, the other is basically describing how “cool” it looks. 

And while both are very important to anime, I’m a firm believer in Aesthetics being more important than animation or any other aspect of an anime. More than that, I think aesthetics are the aspect that pushes a 9 out of 10 show to a 10 out of 10 masterpiece.

A show I want to point to is Nisemonogatari. This is a show that a lot feel is the weakest of all the monogataris. And I would definitely agree. Nisemonogatari does feel a lot of times like a fan service season. Most of the characters that the season focuses on are all characters that have been briefly introduced yet never talked about previously. But even with these aspects that should make a show boring in normal circumstances, I think the aesthetics itself covers up all of the problems that the show has. Every second in Nisemonogatari you are on the edge of your chair, not because of a tense battle scene, but because you are speechless at how beautiful each frame is. 

Take the Shinobu bath scene. You can see the full display of Shaft’s unique aesthetics. First, you have the hyper-empty room. Shaft directly put the characters as the focus of an exaggeratedly large room. Then you have the colors that kind of look hollow to support that empty feel of the room. Both of these aspects immediately direct the viewer’s attention to the center with the red flower petals and the bright hair of Shinobu. You also see these transparent glass-like materials on the side of the bathroom that just adds to the holy like atmosphere that Shinobu gives throughout the whole scene. 

Even the infamous toothbrush scene. No one will tell you that that scene has good directing, animation, or even say it’s good (unless you are into that stuff) but the visual presentations in the scene are also really unique. Immediately as the toothbrush enters the whole atmosphere turns into this erotic pink. You see each string (?) of the toothbrush flying around beautifully with the music in every direction. My favorite part of this scene is when the camera fans to the monitor. The chair and the background is simplified and you see a video and Karen on the monitor. This single frame that just screams Shaft made me so invested in Nisemonogatari as a show.

But good aesthetics doesn’t have to be a Shaft show. take two shows for examples: Slime Isekai and No Game No Life. Both isekai shows feature the cliche of an overpowering main character. Both are very fun shows. But I enjoyed No Game No Life a lot better than Slime Isekai. And a primary reason to that is No Game No Life’s aesthetics. The world of Disboard is filled with extremely bright and flashy colors. Immediately, as the show starts off with Sora and Shiro being blasted from their dark rooms to Disboard, we are introduced to the world with an explosion of neon-like pink and blue colors. The brightness may seem a little bit blinding but it screams fantasy immediately. The contrast from their dark room with only monitors to light up the room to the brightly shining world of Disboard immediately caught my attention when I watched the show. 

That’s not to say Slime Isekai wasn’t visually pleasing at all. If you look at the cave scene in episode one, the lightly saturated bluish colors of the cave that prevent everything from going pitch black creates a very mysterious atmosphere. I can tell you that I enjoyed that visual presentation a lot more than Arifureta’s almost blinding dark cave. But No Game No Life aesthetics, more than Slime or Arifureta, is very unique. It’s a whole new setting that presents a whole new visual presentation from anything that I’ve really seen in anime. And I truly think that shows like this that can present a unique visual appeal makes it really stand out from the rest of the anime out there. This is exactly why I think shows like Aria, Mushishi, Hidamari Sketch, or Kara No Kyoukai stand way above any other shows in their genre.

You might be thinking aesthetics isn’t the only reason why No Game No Life is better than Slime and why that’s better than Arifureta. And I agree. These examples that I gave are shows that I think are just fundamentally good in other areas as well. After all shows with good aesthetics are useless if all other aspects of the show fail. But to me, a show with great aesthetics, failing on other areas is a lot more refreshing than an okay show with boring visual presentation. Because personally, I’d rather read a pretty art book than a good novel.

My Ultimate Top 5 Cute Girls show list

I adore cute girls shows. Over the last 10 years or so, they have become the staple and norm of anime and they have been dominating the market. Although there may be this negative mindset against these shows because of their repetitiveness, there are a lot of cute girls shows that are a lot more special than others in one way or another. So here are 5 shows that I believe are the 5 best cute girls shows of all time!

Is the Order a Rabbit

ごちうさSS 「意味深なごちうさSS Case5:シャロ」

If you told me to choose the cutest show of all time, I’d say Gochiusa without any hesitation. This show does everything to be cute. It has a unique setting, round character designs, fantastic voice acting, and fun events that rounds out everything. What makes this show really fun to watch is how easy it is to watch even when the show is not funny. In a lot of comedy, slice of life shows, such as Asobi Asobase, are focused on the comedic side so when I can’t necessarily relate to a joke or don’t find the joke funny, it becomes really hard for me to continue. But in Gochiusa, even when the jokes aren’t as funny you still find yourself having fun watching the characters. But more than the anime itself, because of the various events that the show holds and the deluxe cast of voice actors whom I avidly follow, the outside influence of the show makes it almost impossible for you to miss out on the show if you follow voice actors. 

Nichijou 

Nichijou!! I love that anime; it's so funny! | 鳥獣戯画, 日常 ...

Nichijou is my favorite comedy of all time. It’s explosive animations, perfect comedic timing, and most importantly Mai trolling are all fantastic. I think what makes Nichijou really different from a lot of these comedies that gets talked about a lot is the exaggeration in animation. But what gets talked about a little less is the characters. The characters in Nichijou are very unique yet they play multiple roles. Usually comedy characters are limited in their roles in shows. For example, there is the boke character and the straight man character. But in nichijou, everyone kind of plays all of these roles. Like how comedy is with friends in real life, Nichijou’s character’s role changes depending on the situations that they have been set up with. For example, you can see Yuuko playing boke yet being the straight man with Mai most of the time. Other than that, the characters are just really fun. Nano and Hakase are both so cute and watching the process of Nano going to school in the middle section is absolutely a blast.

Aria 

アニメ映画『ARIA The AVVENIRE』(アリア ジ アッヴェニーレ) 特報 ...

Aria is so immersive. Every season of Aria fills you in with the wonders of Neo Venezia. And it’s really apparent how much thought was put into mixing the setting and the characters into this relaxing pot. The show is about Mizunashi Akari, who is training to be an Undine at Neo Venezia. The characters are really fun to be around. Personality wise, they are mostly fairly laid back and relaxed in the very low stakes environment. Akari, especially, has this really bubbly personality where she finds joy in very much mundane aspects of life. And all the characters seem as though they are having a lot of fun in their life. But another huge aspect of the show is the music. I can easily say that the music in Aria is the most relaxing in anime. The instrumental of the show is usually light orchestra or piano music that is really easy to listen to. With the very detailed background along with the cool, clue color palette, the show, both visually and auditorily, gets the viewers to feel like they are sitting in Akari’s gondola. 

K-on

けいおん | 注意!サムネイル画像なので1 ... | 京都アニメーション ...

K-on is probably one of the highest regarded cute girls ever, and it is rightfully so. I mean show can you even have a cute girls list without Hokago Tea Time. K-on takes the viewers on a wonderful journey of 3 hours with Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa. Although the show does take an omnibus style, the characters grow and develop so much through the 3 years of highschool. The thing is, you can’t really feel this when you watch the show. The show does such a good job making the viewers naturally change with the girls that everything from their jokes to conversations feels like they didn’t change much. But once you go back to season 1 episode 1 after watching the movie, you will immediately be surprised at how much they change just in the way they talk and interact. And by the end you will look back at the emotional rollercoaster and be blown away by the time you spent with these characters.

Hidamari Sketch

Hidamari Sketch is arguably my favorite anime series of all time. Everything about this show is perfect. To list a few: Yuno, Yuno, Yuno, Yunocchi.

On a more serious note, Hidamari Sketch is the most special out of any show in this list because of the visuals. I’d go so far to say that Hidamari Sketch is the most visually pleasing show I have seen in my life. The first two seasons capture the very essence of late 2000 shaft, while the last two seasons have the polish you would expect from recent shaft shows. It might be a little bit jarring at the start because of the art style, but once you get used to it other visual elements like the still life or the background or the patterns become more of the visual focus. Of course, as you’d expect from a cute girls show, Hidamari Sketch also does an excellent job making fun characters for you to watch and hang out with. Other than the main four, who are all very playful and unique in their own ways, the two new characters that join in the 3rd season or the teachers at school are all hilarious characters that make up a lot of the show. 

Should you Play: Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a game that came out quite a while back, but in case you were still wondering where to buy it or not, here’s my opinion:

So I sat down to play… Sayonara Wild Hearts (2019) - George ...

In short, yes.

Sayonara Wild Hearts is extremely entertaining, with graphics that look really good, and uses the blockiness of it to its advantage by making it a part of its aesthetic.

Sayonara Wild Hearts - Original Soundtrack 상품을 Steam에서 구매 ...

But although the visuals are great in the game, I think the key appeals of it are the music and the gameplay. Wild Hearts itself is an extremely short game, even for its 13 dollar price, and it’ll take you 1-2 hours to clear the entire game.

Review: Sayonara Wild Hearts - A Marvellous, Music-Driven ...

It’ll take longer than that, maybe another hour or two(or even more) to get Gold Ranks on all of the stages, but in 2 hours you’ll have seen everything the game has to offer.

The gameplay consists of dodging and shooting, while collecting points through hearts. Yet its constantly changing, sometimes being a 3D racer, while other times its a shooting game or resembles a 2D platformer(this review is intentionally showing similar photos that are mostly from the beginning of the game, to avoid spoilers).

sayonara wild hearts review (7).jpeg | GameCrate

But the key point to the gameplay is that it’s extremely easy. The levels themselves don’t require much skill, and there are countless amounts of ‘silent checkpoints’ in the game, allowing for quick respawns close to where you died, which keeps your excitement high while you’re playing.

Many people have referred to this game as a rhythm game, but I don’t think you should go into this game with that expectation. The music is definitely great, and there’s no doubt that this game would be much worse without it. That said, the gameplay itself is very loosely connected with the music, and rarely relies on your sense of rhythm.

I think the best way to understand how cool this game actually is, is to watch the trailer for it. When I first watched it, I thought that there was no way the game is actually going to look like this, but literally all of the gameplay looks like whats shown in the trailers. It transitions so smoothly between the short cutscenes and the gameplay, and it’s really unique in how you’re put in all sorts of new situations, introducing new gameplay mechanics that are really cool to play with, but simple enough to not warrant a tutorial.

Sayonara Wild Hearts Wallpaper 68826 1920x1080px

I only have two major complaints with this game, both of which are related to the ‘coins’ that are in every level, which affect the ‘rank’ that you achieve after each level. The first complaint I have is how disconnected the gameplay is to the visuals. There’s these guiding ‘coins’ in this game, and so when you’re being chased by an enemy, instead of looking at it to see where it would go and where you can dodge, you can simply look at the coins to look at where you’d go. This makes the visuals feel much less important and dragged my attention away from it, which is a true shame considering how cool and well done they are.

Sayonara Wild Hearts Review - Full of Heart (PS4)

The other complaint that I have is how the coins actually appear. During the parts in the game where there is no enemy, and all you’re really doing is chasing the coins to get a better rank(and lack of anything else to do), often times there is no visual cue or consistent pattern to how the coins appear. Instead, it’s much easier(and I think the only way to actually get all the coins) to kill yourself after seeing where to coins appear, so that you go back to the previous checkpoint to be able to collect the coins.

Sayonara Wild Hearts Review | Flashy stylish arcade bliss

But enough of my complaining, if you’re even considering this game, then I would strongly, strongly recommend it, especially since it’s only 13 bucks. The problems I mentioned were some things I found a little annoying during my first playthrough, and I’m sure some people won’t even notice or be bothered by it at all.

Why I won’t watch Kaguya Season 2

I drop a lot of shows. Recently, this is to a point where I drop almost everything that I watch seasonally. So I can’t do a weekly review of the show, not just because I don’t like watching shows weekly but also because most shows feel like a drag to watch. So instead of doing reviews episodically, I want to just go over most shows this season and reason out why I ended up dropping it. Of course, there are a couple of shows that I want to put on hold for it to finish airing, but those will have separate reviews afterwards.

Anyways, the first of my dropped shows was Kaguya season 2. In fact, I didn’t even complete the first season of Kaguya.

But don’t get me wrong. I like Kaguya. Jun talked about what makes Kaguya a lot better than other rom-coms and I would have to agree with everything he said. I mean, the voice acting is amazing throughout, the ridiculous set up makes for great comedy, and the directing and camera movements are interesting and somewhat creative enough (with its line effect and sudden focus on characters) to keep most entertained. I’d say it really does a good job making it feel as though the whole story doesn’t take place in one place because of the various effects, angles and camera movements they use. Other aspects like the OST or animation have no problems either. 

Even with all these great aspects, however, what keeps me away from the anime comes from the fact that I read the manga. I absolutely adore the manga. The characters are really expressive and the jokes are hilarious. And although the anime mostly matches up with the manga, the fact that I read it influenced my watching experience quite heavily So in order to explain why I’m not watching Kaguya, I’m going to have to draw a lot of comparisons to the manga.

My main problem that really sums up the reason why I won’t watch the show is that can’t help but feel like the jokes drag a little. This wasn’t a problem when I read the manga. This is mostly because in manga, the only way of engaging is visually. This means that I can scan through the manga at any speed I want. And the weekly chapters are fairly short. However, an anime or any show’s job is to control the pace you view the episode at. Because of the voice acting or the music, it becomes impossible for one to enjoy the medium as it was supposed to be by skipping through. This means that if I am bored at what is happening on the screen, there really isn’t a way to escape it.

This is largely problematic in the anime. The jokes in Kaguya are great and all. I mean I was consistently laughing while reading the manga, but they are centered around one idea and are very repetitive (at least where the anime is at right now.) Although this may have not been a problem if I hadn’t initially read the manga, but because I did, I know every single joke that is going to appear in that episode and I can’t help but feel a little bored. 

The next reason is the auditory part of it. I understand that a huge reason why people who read the manga watch the anime is because they want to see the characters move with their voice, along with BGMs that make up the mood very well. First, I do like the voice acting in Kaguya. Koga Aoi’s voice is very flexible in range and emotion and fitting with Kaguya’s role, the tone shifts of characters are good punch likes, and you couldn’t have had the famous Chika song without Kohara Konomi. I love the show’s radio as well, and the voice actors are hilarious to listen to. 

But despite that, there is a specific part of the anime that really bothers me: the narration. The narration in the manga is fine and all. It doesn’t bother me too much when I’m just scrolling through the manga. But in the anime something about the narrator’s voice really gets me. I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that he is interrupting the flow of the anime, stating the obvious most of the time, just has an over exaggerated voice that is hard to bear, or all of the above.

Take the “that was a lie!” episode with the tests for example. In the manga, it was absolutely hilarious. This is mainly because the text was in all caps with a bigger font that appeared in the next frame over. This made the exaggeration hilarious along with the unexpected element of it. The individual faces of the character, filled up half the page with their expressions which is absolutely hilarious just to look at even without context. Because of this the manga was able to continue on the joke through the short burst, using the past frames event almost as a reference to create comedic effect, which made the chapter really fun. But in the anime I felt both exaggeration of the “it was a lie” and the surprise element both disappear. The anime switched up the line in the subtitle, so it was slightly more of a mouthful, making it lose that impact. The narrator, as well, lost the enthusiasm that I kind of expected. His tone was relatively similar to what it was in previous episodes, whereas in the manga, a dramatic shift to the voice was done. Of course, this probably also has to do with the fact that I read the manga. I was expecting the joke to come and I’ve seen so much memes of it on youtube and reddit that I honestly got a little bit tired of it.

I may get back to the show in the future when I forget about the manga and just need a good laugh. But in the meantime, as good as Kaguya is, I’d rather be watching shows that are less boring until I forget about the manga.

What makes Kaguya-Sama Stand Above the Other Rom-Coms

With the second season of Kaguya-sama being back on air, the popularity of the show has once again shown itself, with various anime communities having consistent conversations about the show. Kaguya has gotten an immense amount of popularity, even in the western fandom, with over 250,000 users listing the first season on MAL, and the second season currently holding an incredibly high score of 8.75. It’s not common for a Rom-Com Slice of Life anime to be ranked so high, so what makes Kaguya-sama stand so far above other Rom-Coms?

Well for the most part, it’s basically two things. Comedy and Cute Girls. But it’s the great execution that the show carries out with these two elements that allow for such simple things to help the show achieve such great acclaim.

The premise of the show is pretty simple, two very noble, prestigious students are in love with each other, but they want the other to confess first. Sounds somewhat like a commonplace relationship, but here, these two are characters of high intellect, so we are often treated with “high-level conversations” where the others try to evaluate any small hint that they come across through small talk, and they try and make the other slip up into a confession.

This of course is simply ridiculous, but it’s this absurdness of the show that makes it so funny. Many of the best parts of this show(and the source material manga) is the frankly stupid situations that the main two find themselves in.

Combine this comedy with the somewhat large cast of genuinely interesting and mostly likeable side cast, and you have an excellent recipe for a success.

P.S. Kaguya is best girl, fight me.

5 Best Winter 2020 Anime

I finally took the time and caught up with most of the anime from last season. And there were quite a lot that I had fun with. So here are my top five favorite shows of last season. If a show isn’t on this list, I probably 1) didn’t watch the show yet (the jewel show, Dorohedoro) ,2) did not like it as much (Plunder, Somali, or Magia Record) or 3) dropped it after one episode (literally everything else.) 

Number 5: Hanako-kun

Aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics. Hanako-Kun was easily the most aesthetically pleasing show this season. This is for everything in the show from character designs to background art. There is something about the use of thick outlines along with the color palette that they used that uniquely makes the show feel comfy yet eerie to look at. I don’t think many would disagree when I say Hanako-kun is a delight for the eye. That being said, that was all that the show had really going for it. The whole show seemed to drag a lot in certain spots with dialogue that weren’t too interesting enough to captivate me. They also handled a lot of the exposition in a manga panel style. Although this wasn’t bad, it did feel a little sudden and slowed down the aesthetic experience of the show. Regardless, the fact that the show was pretty enough to watch to completion makes it, to me, a similar experience to violet evergarden – another show that I thought didn’t do well writing wise. 

Final score: 67/100

Number 4: ID: Invaded

I still have a couple of episodes left of ID: Invaded, but I decided to include it because I am enjoying what I watched until now. Immediately from the first episode, I was intrigued with the system of IDO. The concept is extremely interesting, and the visuals that accompanied the different worlds were all different, unique, and fascinating. I would’ve even liked an omnibus style crime show where the main character just goes on researching different types of IDO worlds of criminals (which is similar to the earlier bit of the show.) The beginning of each entrance to the IDO is really exciting. Because the main character does not remember anything when going into the IDO, he always starts off with “I don’t remember anything. All I know is that I’m a master detective.” which for some reason gets me hyped everytime. However, I thought that everything outside of the IDO world was less enjoyable. First of all, the Koharu girl is extremely annoying. I hated the “justice-first” mind that she carried everywhere. The officers commentating on what’s happening in a sci-fi room also felt like it was interrupting the exciting. Regardless, the show’s concept makes the show interesting enough to complete. 

Final score: 72/100

Number 3: Kyokou Suiri

Like Hanako-kun, this is another show where one aspect of the show just carried the rest of the show. Or more specifically in this case, one character. Kotoko is an amazing character. She is extremely cute, her design with the curly hair and elegant outfit is great, her backstory and concept is interesting, and the way she speaks is witty and fun to listen to. Kyokou Suiri really seems to understand this fact (probably accidently) as most of the show is exposition and dialogue from the viewpoint of Kotoko. The two characters, Kuro and Kotoko, were perfect personalities that Kotoko bounces off of. And the interaction between them were the highlights of this show. The exposition did eventually get a little boring later in the show when it became more case focused and less character focused, yet Kotoko always made me come for more.

Final score: 75/100

Number 2: Bofuri 

I initially thought that this show was another unoriginal game show without much substance. Well, that’s not wrong. But strangely, I ended up enjoying this show. A lot of the things about the show are not very good. And for a while a lot of things in this show bothered me. Maple is way too broken, the game mechanics don’t make sense, the characters yelling the same skills becomes really annoying, and every other character except maple all seems extremely useless and replaceable. The only reason why I continued this show was because I wanted to see how long they could contain the overpowered concept for. But at a certain point, I stopped thinking of this show as a serious game show different to the likes of Darwin’s Game or SAO, and started taking it similar to cute girls shows and Arifureta. The ridiculousness of it along with the cute characters really allowed me to just take in the show as a cute girls show. In the end, I ended up enjoying this show as a good pastime. 

Final score: 75/100

Number 1: Eizouken

Yuasa Masaaki saved anime. I watched the first episode when it came out, and immediately stopped watching. I knew that I had to watch this show from start to finish without stop because this show felt like it was something else. And it definitely was. Everything about this show is great. The characters, who represent different parts of anime staff roles, are extremely fun and they all have really good dynamics together. The visuals, especially during the imagination sketch-like aesthetics, are really great to look at. The story and setting is one that any anime fan would love. Throughout the show, Masaaki’s passion for the industry is so visible. This show is a must watch, and it alone probably will make this season the best this year.

Final score: 98/100

The Struggle with Additional Characters(ft. Hidamari Sketch)

So many times, in long running TV shows and occasionally Anime, come a time in the show where either some character(s) join the main cast. There’s many reasons that can apply to this situation, such as some of the main cast leaving because their actors are too expensive, or even the writers running out of ideas with the current character dynamics. But whatever the reason, you often find that characters are coming in and out of shows. And the ones that come in are almost never just as good as the original cast.

Obviously there’s the sentimental value that you’ve come to bear for the original cast. But there’s indefinitely something beyond that. Good writers can obviously come up with characters that would have interesting chemistry with the pre-existing cast, and with the main cast already having been deeply explored, it may end up being easier to write a character with a personality and background that compliments the others than it would have been in the beginning. But more often than not, show writers are not that well skilled.

Hidamari Sketch is an example of a show where there was a more than solid cast, but the team(or rather, mangaka) decided to add an additional two characters who simply did not live up to the main cast. Nori and Nazuna are not dislikable, but they’re simply nowhere near the level of Miyako, Hiro, etc. Even the side characters like Natsume or Sae’s little sister are much, much more cuter, interesting and likable.

Still, there are some fun occasions with the two new main characters where they have some really enjoyable chemistry with the original main cast that stems from the upperclassmen and lower classmen. 

Also, Nazuna’s voice is just a little too high pitched for me, which just makes it worse- but that’s probably just me…