Tag Archives: Melancholy

Particularly sad or subdued for most of the time.

Diamond Daydreams – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kita e.: Diamond Dust Drops

 

Similar: Hatsukoi Limited

Shirobako

Only Yesterday

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Drama Romance Slice of Life

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Well-paced short stories.
  • Doesn’t always end as the characters would wish.

Negatives:

  • Plays it safe.
  • Pre-opening sequence gives away the upcoming episode.

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Diamond Daydreams is a series of short stories about women dealing with love, careers, competition, marriage, or affairs. The pitch includes something about a couple that sees the diamond dust together will be happy forever, which is largely irrelevant to the anime. I think the writer was trying to be more poetic and mystical than necessary. No, these stories are down-to-earth, grounded in very human problems.

We have six stories here, the first of which focuses on Atsuko, a women set for an arranged marriage. She feels stifled by her mother and the responsibilities with their fish shop in severe debt. This marriage to a rich man could solve everything. But he doesn’t do anything for her emotionally, not like one of her regulars to the market. Will it be love or security in the end?

The second story moves to a girl in hospital with a fatal lung condition, which surgery could fix, if it weren’t for her fear of surgery after her father died on the table. Perhaps her crush on the handsome new doctor may give her courage.

The third goes to a vastly different field as it follows a talented indie filmmaker, whose drive for success makes her unbearable to colleagues and her boyfriend. Number four is about a junior figure skating champion and the rivalry with her childhood friend (the OVA fits here). Five veers off at a ninety-degree angle to explore an extramarital affair by a radio woman who claims to be an authority on relationships. And the last covers the pursuit of your dreams.

So, as you can see, this is an assortment of premises, each focused on a different challenge in life, which brings good variety. However, the core remains the same – emotion.

I found my enjoyment varying from story to story. The fish market woman and the radio host have interesting stories, while the filmmaker’s ordeal is personally relatable to me (a friend of mine in high school made fun of me for being too grown up when we were supposed to be having fun). The ice skating rivalry and dream chasing arcs bored me, if I’m honest.

The best quality of Diamond Daydreams is how not everything in these women’s journeys wrap up perfectly, which is true to life. Despite what the magazines claim about successful people, one cannot have it all. Wishing upon a star doesn’t do diddly.

That in mind, Diamond Daydreams does feel too safe. I don’t mean to say it’s predictable. Rather, it feels written by a good writer that didn’t push further on the project, extract that little something extra from these women and their stories. As such, Diamond Daydreams is easy to watch, yet not surprising.

Art – Medium

The faces don’t look quite right at an angle – the artists weren’t consistent. Art is decent otherwise.

Sound – Medium

Good acting in both languages. Pleasant music – I like the string tracks.

Story – Medium

Six short stories on the struggles of six women in ordinary life. Varying in engagement, these well-paced stories are enjoyable overall.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For romance fans. Diamond Daydreams’ bite sized stories lend themselves to an easy viewing experience. Make sure to skip anything before the opening credits, as it gives away what’s to come in the episode.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

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Koi Kaze – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Koi Kaze

 

Similar: Wandering Son

OreImo

Rumbling Hearts

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Psychological Drama Romance

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The ending.
  • Common sense not forgotten.
  • Cliché-free.

Negatives:

  • Thin on content.
  • Lacks relationship scaffolding.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is the real scientific theory of sexual attraction between two relatives who meet after separation since birth or infancy. GSA forms the basis of Koi Kaze. 27-year-old Koshiro works as a marriage matchmaker, despite incompetence in his own relationships, and an encounter with a teenage girl rekindles hope of love within him. However, Nanoka reveals herself as his sister, not seen since their parents divorced long ago, each taking custody of one child. She will be staying with him and their father for school from now on. Sexual tension bubbles under one roof.

Where incest most often plays a comedic role in anime (Ouran High School Host Club), or as drama so laughable it may as well be comedy (Vampire Knight, Please Twins), Koi Kaze is one of the few that takes a serious angle and knows what that requires. Most notably, people actually bloody question the morality of the relationship. Thank the anime gods – some sense! When the mother insinuates she would kill Koshiro if he does anything to her daughter, I sat up, impressed the writer included an authentic reaction to the thought of one’s children getting amorous. This is especially important with the 12-year age gap between the two.

The relationship spawns in a time of heartbreak for both. Their vulnerability and desperation for comfort coupled with GSA, and our general attraction to people who look similar to ourselves, sells us on the inception of the taboo path they tread. Many writers don’t realise how biologically difficult it is for an incestuous union to form, so the setup is crucial. Furthermore, they don’t dive right into each other’s pants. Koshiro hates his feelings and himself, lashing out at Nanoka, while she, the younger of the two, doesn’t know what to make of any of this. I’m glad this wasn’t a case of “This is wrong, but take me anyway!” The story has conflict and inner turmoil.

Where Koi Kaze falls flat is beyond the setup. Alright, an unfortunate concoction of circumstances and lust triggers this relationship, but what keeps it going? For a moment, think of this as a normal relationship – no taboo, no age gap, just two people yearning. What interests them beyond the initial burst of endorphins? Act 2, the middle development of their relationship is lacking and thin of content. He’s a dick and a loser while she’s emotionless. This doesn’t make them bad characters, of course, – we’ve all met such people – but if this were a normal relationship, would they remain or even become a couple? I don’t think so.

That said, if the story had gone longer, maybe we would have seen them realise they have no interest in each other beyond lust. It would be intriguing to see the slow destruction in their relationship, which the sober ending hints at. If the writer had included this stage – delete act 2, move the current solid act 3 up to 2, followed by new act 3 – Koi Kaze could have been great.

This anime is decent, regardless. I am surprised to see genuine thought and effort go into such a complex subject. It’s worth a look for being something different.

Art – Medium

Average art and animation – many static shots with mouth movements only. The white mouths look odd, or have I become too used to black mouths? Every shot seems a beat too long. Each line has a beat too much before the next.

Sound – Medium

Nanoka is rather flat in Japanese. Give some emotion! The dub is fine, though the script hasn’t much opportunity for range. The music is appropriately melancholic.

Story – Medium

Two siblings estranged by their parents’ divorce reunite and develop feelings for each other against better judgement. Despite lacking act two content, Koi Kaze’s serious take on a taboo relationship is solid.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. If the subject matter and melancholic romance interests you, then give Koi Kaze’s taboo story a chance.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Steins;Gate: Burdened Domain of Déjà vu – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu

 

Related: Steins;Gate (prequel)

Similar: The Place Promised in Our Early Days

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

 

Watched in: Japanese (English TBR)

Genre: Science Fiction Romance

Length: 1 hr. 30 min. movie

 

Positives:

  • Great to see Christina and MAD SCIENTIST again.
  • Several great scenes touch on the series’ consequences.

Negatives:

  • First act is a re-tread.
  • Second act lacks intensity.
  • Noticeably detached from the series’ planning.
  • Side characters forced into the plot.

Note: This review has minor implied spoilers of Steins;Gate. Unavoidable.

At Steins;Gate’s conclusion, I wondered how they could possibly warrant further material. The series had wrapped everything adequately (as well as can be expected from a time travel plot), so what did they have left to explore? However, this was the team that crafted one of anime’s greatest, so I went in optimistic.

That optimism faded before long. This idea was good, but the execution tanked.

After the events of Steins;Gate, Okabe has difficulty coping with time travel side effects. The experiences he went through have taken their toll and triggered PTSD episodes. A great setup. Unfortunately, the PTSD device is shunted aside for a ‘lost in time’ plot, as Okabe disappears from existence, leaving it to Christina to find him again.

The ‘lost in time’ plot, for one, doesn’t quite make sense and, for two, seeing how a hero recovers after a great ordeal would have been far more interesting. How often do we see a hero kill hundreds of enemies or survive a war, yet come out the other end without a single psychological scar? Déjà vu had opportunity to go where few series dare. Instead, it re-treads familiar territory for a third, meanders in the middle, and ends with telling us what we already know.

Even if we accept the direction they chose, it lacks intensity and the layered conflict from the series. Where is the planning that made Steins;Gate’s intricacies work? Here, the time travel elements are rather nonsensical. Steins;Gate: Burdened Domain of Déjà vu’s greatest problem is that it is unnecessary. It was nice to see the characters again.

Art – High

Similar to the series. Doesn’t have the same atmospheric imagery, however.

Sound – High

I enjoyed the new music tracks. The script lacks the strength found in the series, though the acting is still great.

Story – Medium

A year after the events of Steins;Gate, Okabe starts to feel the effects of his time travel, tearing him from time. Christina must find him. Low intensity and plodding pace let down what could have been a great film.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Steins;Gate fans. If you are a fan of the series, it won’t take much to have you watch more Steins;Gate. You won’t be missing much by skipping Steins;Gate: Burdened Domain of Déjà vu.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative

Dissapointing

Clannad: After Story – Anime Review

Japanese Title: CLANNAD ~AFTER STORY~

 

Related: Clannad (prequel)

Similar: AnoHana

Rumbling Hearts

Angel Beats

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Romance Supernatural Drama

Length: 24 episodes & 3 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Grounding to the protagonist’s drama.
  • Improved over the prequel.

Negatives:

  • Emotionally manipulative.
  • Tonal incoherence.
  • Deus ex machina ending.
  • Irrelevant side stories.
  • Wish fulfilment treats adults like infants.

It’s amazing how easily the death of a character can manipulate an audience into thinking they have just witnessed greatness. Death is tragic, therefore, this story must be deep; a shallow story cannot possibly have death, can it? Steven Segal films must be emotional overdose to Clannad fans.

After Clannad’s immature take on life, I had hoped for something better in the sequel, but Clannad: After Story barely shifted the needle of quality. At first, After Story seems to cover the same ground, still following Tomoya’s penchant for helping every girl in town. The characters demand drama, yet no one acts as though they are idiots for manufacturing drama – all taken seriously, again. Moral lessons, while nowhere near as idiotic as before, are still immature. Really? Talking about the power of friendship will resolve an eternal hatred between two gangs? All I can say is good luck to Clannad’s writers when they encounter a real gang and try that solution.

However, ten episodes in, the story finally decides to get off its arse, drops the unrelated side characters (which highlights the uselessness of season one), and progress forward, graduating the main couple into adult life. Even then, it takes another third of the series for the first good piece of writing to enter Clannad’s folio, after the turning point. Tomoya has new responsibilities thrust upon him after graduation, and here, at last, we have a reality to the characters. Suddenly, the writers don’t need to force the characters to fit the drama and narrative (still not great, by any stretch, but better); the characters feel real. Shame the ending arrives a few episodes later to defecate rainbows all over the drama built up previously, all for the sake of wish fulfilment.

Experiencing tragedy in real life doesn’t grant you magical wishes unexpectedly. Or is that how Clannad’s writers think life works for those who have had it tough? If Clannad’s writers were in charge of competitions, they would stop the game in the final seconds and give the win to the ‘good guys’ because it feels good for the ‘good guys’ to win, it feels good to have everything go easy in the end. Doesn’t it feel just great when you can write away all worries?

They try to foreshadow the end, as though it covers their ineptitude, but all it does is cement how bad the writing is. Cutting to man dressed in red and blue every twenty minutes throughout The Lord of the Rings would not make Superman showing up to laser the ring at the last second a good ending. A foreshadowed deus ex machina is still a deus ex machina. The foreshadowing makes it worse because now you know the explanation is terrible; without the foreshadowing, you could have at least said “some unknown magic mumbo jumbo caused it.”

Suffice it to say, After Story does an atrocious job merging its “realism” and magical elements. The two are kept apart for the entire story, only for the magic to resolve the end. I get the feeling the writers only included the ‘magical’ part of the ‘magical realism’ genre to execute their wish fulfilment.

Clannad: After Story should have started after the turning point, two-thirds of the way through the series, and done a How I Met Your Mother style story. Tomoya, a grown up, would tell his story to someone younger, interspersing present tragedy with past humour. Drop the rubbish drama from season one, axe the majority of the side characters, dunk the harem into a wood chipper, and focus on the progression, on Tomoya and Nagisa’s story – while at it, give her a personality and dimension. She’s still as bland as water crackers. And for the love of fiction, get rid of the ending; in fact, this studio should stay away from magical elements – third story from them that has failed in this regard.

In the end, we have a series with ten largely irrelevant episodes, then some relevance, followed by a jarring tonal shift, which should have been the start, a wish fulfilment ending, and emotional manipulation throughout. I worry for those who say After Story was life changing – kill a character, and seemingly all anime fans label it a masterpiece. Any who take life lessons from Clannad are in for a rude awakening once reality punches them in the face – reality won’t grant you a wish afterwards either.

Art – Low

Slightly less Space for Rent. I almost gave Art a medium, as the quality has improved, (eyes aren’t so lifeless and less drugged girls), but when the characters look like high school juniors (in the same awful character design) despite years of growth, I find little to praise. Backgrounds are nice.

Sound – Medium

For the one-third of grounded drama, the script is of a better quality (not great), but the rest of the series drags it back down. Music overpowers the actors at times (reminds of Mrs Weasley and Celestina Warbeck versus Fleur Delacour).

Story – Low

After Story starts with the same immaturity as before, but once the characters progress, the story shows glimpses of quality. Shame the ending doesn’t like quality – truly one of fiction’s worst.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Not worth your time unless looking to see whether you are easily manipulated by emotion. Clannad: After Story is a definite improvement over Clannad; however, anime has so many better romantic dramas to get through before you have to scrape this.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Deus Ex MachinaInduces Stupidity

Clannad – Anime Review

Japanese Title: CLANNAD

 

Related: Clannad: After Story (sequel)

Clannad: Another World (alternative endings)

Similar: Kanon

AnoHana

Toradora!

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Romance Supernatural Drama

Length: 23 episodes & 2 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Consistently good humour.
  • Nowhere near as bad as Air.

Negatives:

  • Childish characters.
  • Immature view on reality.
  • Pretentious attempts at depth.
  • ‘Space for rent’ art.
  • Often awkward dialogue.

Over my years as an anime consumer, a great many people have told me of Clannad, of its emotional depth, of its brilliance as a romantic drama that plucks one’s heartstrings like a sombre harp. “Clannad builds you up with cute characters before it tears your heart down piece by piece,” one recommender said, tears swimming in his eyes. But, alas, my heart remains untouched.

Clannad’s pretentious opening scene should have been indicator enough of things to come. The tale starts with Tomoya on his way to school as he sees the strange girl Nagisa talking to herself, conveniently about what he needs to hear. And when she turns those football-sized eyes, with enough space to park a Hummer between them, they become friends, for some reason.

Despite this setup, romance isn’t Clannad’s focus – the Tomoya-Nagisa plot prevails for but a handful of episodes. No, Clannad’s core is Tomoya and his penchant for helping those in need. The narrative introduces several classmates and town citizens, both groups overwhelmingly female, with life problems for Tomoya to fix, occasionally taking a supernatural slant. Nagisa, for example, seeks to revive the drama club. A woman suffers from the dissolution of her engagement – those sorts of dilemmas. Though half-a-dozen girls surround Tomoya, Clannad isn’t a harem anime, at least. The cast instead gives off a softcore visual novel vibe.

My first issue with Clannad stems from the art, for it leaps off the screen with its hideous nature. I cannot take these girls’ issues seriously when they have doped eyes bigger than Tifa’s bosom with the Pacific Ocean between. All these women look so brainless. I actually enjoyed Clannad more when not watching the screen, merely listening in periphery.

You tell me you can stomach the art? Alright, doing my best to ignore the space so big no billionaire can afford its rent in Tokyo, let’s look at them as characters. Childish, like the art, is how I describe them. Remember, these girls are supposed to be high school seniors, yet they have a mentality I wouldn’t find acceptable in an infant. They flutter their eyelashes, squeak their words like the most sickly of moe characters, giggling throughout, and we are supposed to find these girls intelligent? No, these girls aren’t deep; they are empty characters built with no emotional connections. They are quirky, yes, but not flawed. Not real. And the dialogue is so awkward. When these characters speak in the serious moments, I never hear a person. All I hear is the script recited by actors. I can hear the scriptwriter’s comments on the page noting, ‘This line is emotional,’ ‘This line is to convey depth,’ ‘The audience needs to know Tomoya is insightful from this monologue.’

This immaturity extends beyond the personalities into the logic this anime believes of reality. One kid’s parents are getting a divorce, so the kid jumps off a bridge and this magically fixes the marriage. No, no, this isn’t some fake “let’s pretend to care about each other before she blows her brains out in the girls’ locker room” arrangement; we are genuinely meant to believe all is well. There aren’t enough Picard facepalms on the internet to accommodate such idiocy.

Where Clannad does succeed is in the humour, particularly with Tomoya’s sidekick Youhei involved. His rivalry with the ‘strong girl’ of the group had me every time. After she lays the smackdown on him, he keeps challenging her, unable to let the defeat go. His strategies are most peculiar. “You have to lend me your breasts!” he shouts at her. “Why?” she asks. “Did you see? Did you see that? Her asking ‘why’ means she can lend me her breasts to me, right. Then that means her breasts aren’t real; they’re removable!” What a genius. Clannad is genuinely funny. In fact, it feels as though a different writer handled the comedy.

I don’t regret my time with Clannad. The comedy was enjoyable when not interrupted by the shallow drama and false emotions. I only wish they had a better scriptwriter. Here’s to hoping the sequel hired someone new… At least this doesn’t sink as low as Air.

Art – Low

Hideous character design, especially for females – the adults even look like pre-teen girls. Animation is alright, at least.

Sound – Medium

Acting is fine, in either language – the script brings them down. The music is on the cheerful side – cute ED.

Story – Low

A high school guy helps many girls with their problems. Immature in characters, plot, and emotion.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Watch the best comedy bits on YouTube. The soulless drama in Clannad isn’t worth your time.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Hilarious

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueInduces StupidityUgly Artistic Design