Editorials/Essays

Creating Otherworldly Spaces (Visual Storytelling in Tsurune, Part 1)

Minato Narumiya’s initial introduction is as a wide-eyed child at a kyuudou (the Japanese martial art of archery) event. He asks his mother about the sound that a bowstring makes when an arrow is released. After she answers, the series focuses on his back, turned towards the kyuudou tournament. It then cuts immediately to the broader back of an older Narumiya, rising to take his position in a kyuudou event. He solemnly goes through a series of motions before drawing his bow. Cut to the title screen. The visual transition seems clear. Narumiya, inspired by watching kyuudou with his mother when he was much younger, grew up to become a formidable archer himself.

Yet it was at this very event where Narumiya first failed. After he draws back that bowstring, he misses the target. Since that day, he has continued to suffer from target panic. When we meet him at the start of Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu he hasn’t left kyuudou entirely, but is instead torn between leaving entirely due to his target anxiety, and inevitably being drawn back to the art of kyuudou. This opening visual sequence sets up Narumiya’s plight perfectly, slightly subverting expectations while also making his emotional connection clear and strong.

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Welcome to Akane-ism — SSSS Gridman

“I’ve come to rescue you from ‘boredom.'”

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When past was future: the goddesses of Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight’s play, ‘Starlight’

Starlight. This is the story of a distant planet from long ago, in the faraway future.”

-Hikari Kagura, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 9

Compelling and captivating are two words used frequently in Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight to describe the in-universe play and narrative framing device, Starlight. Following the star-crossed Flora and Claire, Starlight is a tragedy that borrows from known Takarazuka Revue staples like Elisabeth — ai to shi no rondo (Elisabeth — rondo of love and death) and is made to have the same influence and frequency of performance as Elisabeth or Rose of Versailles in order to frame the relationship of Revue Starlight leads Karen Aijou and Hikari Kagura. Starlight is synonymous with being a stage girl.

Karen and Hikari were inspired to become stage girls — effectively entering the spartan and highly-controlled education system of a Takarazuka trainee — by a performance of Starlight. Throughout the series, they frequently open episodes with narration from the play, reiterating how the story of Claire and Flora draws them in and captivates them and also that this tale is ultimately a tragedy. These two leads are torn apart once they reach for their distant star. Starlight not only encapsulates the stage girl experience but within it’s narrative, perpetuates the toxic cycle that Karen aims to break.

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The flower language of Bloom Into You (Touko and Yuu)

The majority of Bloom Into You‘s opening sequence flower language begins with lead couple Touko Nanami and Yuu Koito’s friends: Sayaka Saeki, Akari Hyuuga, and Koyomi Kanou. Koyomi and Akari are each given two specific flowers that relate to their respective relationships — in the case of Koyomi they give us more detail on her love of writing, and in the case of Akari they tell us more about her one-sided romance. Sayaka is a bit more complex, and is shown with a wide arrangement of flowers that discuss the depth of her relationship with Touko in great detail, hinting at what might be to come from later episodes in the series.

Bloom Into You makes it a point to show them first in the opening, which establishes a baseline for how we’re supposed to read the hanging flowers above the desks, petals below, and flower arrangements. In all three cases of the periphery characters (Sayaka, Akari, and Koyomi) the language of the individual flowers represent their respective emotions, but the presence of flowers, and flower petals, above and beneath their desks, represents a more general desire or love. In Touko and Yuu’s cases, flowers showcase their relationship with each other as well as their outlooks on current relationships as a whole.

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