In the double-feature of IDOLiSH7‘s anime debut, hapless newbie producer Tsumugi Takanashi books an outdoor venue that seats three-thousand for her rookie group, IDOLiSH7. Despite hard work handing out flyers, and trying her best to drum up interest, only nine people show up. Tsumugi tearfully apologizes, only to have all seven group members laugh and say that’s about how many people they expected.
This is where I fell in love with IDOLiSH7.
At times as unrealistic as its idol anime counterparts, IDOLiSH7 excels in nitty-gritty business details like venue sizes and whether your favs are truly best friends behind the pretty smiles. The answer to the latter question is no, but that doesn’t mean they can’t care about each other deeply as business partners working towards similar goals. After all, no one besides your group mates will understand just how hot that one guerrilla live was, or what it was like to perform to a crowd of only nine people (twelve if you include your own staff). IDOLiSH7 also explores what happens when one member or subunit is significantly more popular than the group, and is never afraid to show disagreements between members, even over small, seemingly insignificant things. Some of the conflicts are melodramatic, but most are grounded in a reality that actively chips away at the veneer of being an idol group, especially one under a smaller company.
“Horse girls. They were born to run. They inherit the names of horses from another world, whose histories were sometimes tragic and sometimes wonderful, and with that, they run. That is their fate. No one knows how these horse girls’ future races will end.”
–Uma Musume Pretty Derby, Episode 1
In outlining the basic premise of the series, the opening of Uma Musume Pretty Derby raises more questions than it does answers. There are no horses, only horse girls and women. The souls/spirits of horses from another world (ours) impregnate women (it’s unclear as to whether this only happens to existing horse women or at random) who give birth to horses with predetermined names. Uma Musume mentions that their namesakes’ pasts were tragic and wonderful, but also implies that the horse girls of their world can defy these fates. Their only fate is to run.
It would be best not to think too deeply about this. Yet, because the show follows the lives of some of Japan’s most popular and successful racehorses and has, thus far, been true to most of their histories, Uma Musume offers a somewhat unique study in sports anime.
The opening moments of the Persona 5 video game set the player’s expectation for a stylish, visually-immersive experience. Sayo Yamamoto’s opening animation showcases callbacks to her work on the short Endless Night, and later Yuri!!! On Ice, with fluid figure skating and a limited color palette of black, white, and red that reflects the game’s UI design.
Masashi Ishihama’s opening sequence, which debuted during the fourth episode of Persona 5 The Animation, is the perfect combination of Ishihama’s strong sense of color and the game’s aesthetic. Opening with an MTV-like logo on an old television screen (in tried and true Persona fashion) the animation quickly makes use of Ishihama’s visual transitions. These again call back to the game’s attention to detail when it comes to color and integrating pop-up menus into the everyday life of your Persona 5 protagonist — Ren Amamiya in the anime.
(I don’t usually post spoiler warnings, but there are mild game spoilers in this post.)
There are a few flowers that have gone unmentioned that are far more relevant now — the hibiscus flower and the cactus — in addition to revisiting Kokoro’s Franxx robot: Genista. Hibiscus and various cacti appear multiple times in the Mistilteinn garden alongside the Franxx robots’ various namesakes. These flowers make up the backdrop of Kokoro’s conversations with Mitsuru, which later leads to their partner reassignments and, in the most recent episode, a sexual partnership.
The finale of Violet Evergarden is superfluous to the emotional narrative of the series. Violet’s personal journey towards understanding what love means — and learning empathy in the process — ends in the tenth episode, “A Loved One Will Always Watch Over You.” The moment Violet bursts into tears and admits to fellow auto memoir doll Cattleya Baudelaire the difficulty of remaining emotionally detached from Anne Magnolia is the perfect bookend to her first disastrous letter attempt. Not only is she then one of the best in her field at CH Postal Company, but she is a more introspective, aware person — a person who not only recognizes her own emotions, but wields them to help others overcome their own personal problems.
Yet, the series doesn’t end with Episode 10, and continues for three more episodes that include extraneous action and fight sequences in addition to a somewhat hilarious festival that involves dropping letters from airplanes. Violet Evergarden wants to say something about the value of the written word and it’s rarely subtle in its emotional machinations, regardless of how affecting they are to a viewer (yes, I cried at various points throughout the series too) so perhaps the letter festival is, in its own way, a fitting end as well. The series doesn’t need to be subtle to tell its story, but some of Violet Evergarden‘s background subtleties and details tell their own story at the periphery of Violet’s.