Author: ajthefourth

You'll have to add your own gravitas and glamour, because really, I'm just a dork.

Stepping back into the Steins;Gate time machine

In 2009, I began watching anime as it currently aired. It wasn’t long before I was writing about it. My first year of blogging was full of horrid, weekly recaps that described what happened, maybe gave grades for music, visuals, story, etc., and moved on to the next show after perhaps doing a separate series review that was much of the same.

Steins;Gate came at the time when I was finally shedding my self-imposed, unimaginative shackles of graded episodic recaps (this is in no way meant to be a reflection of episodic blogging as a whole, only my own inadequacies) and moving towards an editorial style, even when writing weekly. I wrote about Albert Camus’ The Plague while watching vampires slowly take over an entire town in Shiki, and later framed the entirety of Star Driver through the lens of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. For Steins;Gate specifically, I contemplated Mayuri “Mayushii” Shiina’s role in the story as a catalyst for Rintarou “Hououin Kyouma” Okabe.

It wasn’t the best or most original output, but I began to play around with the craft of writing via anime blogging and rediscovered my love for it. This remains the primary reason why I still blog to this day.

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The Golden Bough and Darling in the Franxx

From its first episode, Darling in the Franxx uses flower language and plant genetics to frame the entire series. It’s not subtle about any of these trappings, which continue to appear in each passing episode week after week not only in commonly-used titles (like pistil, stamen, etc.) but also in flowers found in the on-site greenhouses, in various rooms, and the series’ most recent ending sequence.

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Phosphophyllite’s encyclopedia — knowledge and obsession in Land of the Lustrous

“It is that very frankness of yours that is needed for this task. I am counting on you.”

-Master Kongou to Phosphophyllite, Land of the Lustrous, Episode 1

In the first episode of Land of the Lustrous, Phosphophyllite is tasked with creating an encyclopedia for the gems. It becomes the catalyst for their transformation.. The purpose of the encyclopedia from a narrative perspective is to give Phos a push forward, and also to show how what they want to do (fight like the other gems) is at odds with what comes to them naturally due to their brittle 3.5 Mohs hardness. The encyclopedia leads Phos to Cinnabar, which in turn leads them to another self-assigned task of finding Cinnabar a new job. As soon as Phos begins to transform, the encyclopedia is all but forgotten.

However, the gems could really use an encyclopedia.

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I joined the police force and all I got was this inconvenient robot — Patlabor and the mundane

Sometimes you begin excitedly telling a story to friends only to realize halfway through the telling that it’s not a particularly interesting story. Yelling “Trotty too hottie” at Trot Nixon over the right field wall at Fenway Park wasn’t all that hilarious to anyone but teenaged you and your fellow friends at the time. The time your friend managed to eat an entire cheese loaf in English class on a dare also wasn’t all that funny.

Or maybe you just had to be there.

As humans, we have the habit of exaggerating the truly mundane because it means something to us, embellishing and using our imaginations to tell better stories than what actually might have happened. At its core, Mobile Police Patlabor: The Early Days is a collection of the opposite of these stories: things fantastic in nature are made mundane, beginning with the robots themselves.

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“Loved ones will always watch over you” — letters in Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe

“Is this emotionally manipulative?” is a question frequently asked regarding Japanese animation. I first heard it regarding Clannad — particularly in relation to Kotomi Ichinose’s narrative arc, but also about the series as a whole — but this query dogs certain anime, even if the series in question is completely upfront about these goals, like Clannad. The floating teddy bear in the ocean, the empty, overgrown garden, the musical cues, they’re all in service of eliciting tears from the audience. It’s the equivalent of Russell Crowe’s Maximus screaming, “Are you not entertained?” only the unspoken scream is “Cry, damn you!” to the affected viewer.

In the current anime season, two series have fallen into this category according to the community: Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe. Within the past week, both shows told similar but diverging stories regarding mothers, daughters, and letters that play with ideas of time and transience. These stories offer an easy point of comparison between each other while also pushing carefully constructed emotional buttons.

However, the question shouldn’t be whether something is emotionally manipulative, but whether it works, strings and all. Do these feelings still feel genuine despite obvious cues and pre-existing narrative structures? My definitely-not-dry eyes say yes, but whatever personal conclusion you come to, Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe offer parallel case studies — nearly a week apart in airtime — in what make letters and messages such emotional sucker-punches.

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