Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rewind: Area no Kishi

Ya'll know how I feel about sports anime. So when Area no Kishi (Knight in the Area), an anime involving soccer, started airing in Winter 2012, I quickly picked it up. It finished airing Fall 2012. I finally finished drudging through it this September.

This anime taught me something valuable: I am a stubborn fool who takes pride in the most inane things. Why did I finish all 37 episodes of this lackluster show? Pride, folks. Pride in my identity as a sports anime fan, pride in finishing what I started, pride in enduring... It was not worth it, but I still, to this day, feel some pride in the fact I finished it.

I'm ridiculous.

Area no Kishi started with drama and ended... oh. I already forgot how it ended. I think there was a game in the last episode. Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of drama. Usually, when I watch that genre, I watch with my Literature Student hat on, or I dust off my Film Class hat from the spring semester. I feel more appreciation than entertainment (with some notable exceptions). The soap-opera-type drama in Area no Kishi? Yeah. Didn't appreciate it.

The characters as little kids. From left to right: Nana, aka "Seven," the
love interests/childhoofriend; Kakeru; Kakeru's heart big brother Suguru;
and random teammates. This photo shows up in multiple episodes. As
you can see by the almost-translucent bar, I watched on Crunchyroll, so
no commercials to prolong the tribulation. Sorry, I'm being overdramatic.

So, what about the humor? Uh... no. Mostly annoying.

The sports aspect? I was excited during a couple of episodes, especially in the first half, before I got too cynical about the whole thing. But a lot of episodes were wasted on drama, hot springs, festivals, beaches, and musings about medical-ish phenomena. Of course, when I say "wasted," I say it from a sports anime fan's point of view.

Okay, you say, at least there were some cute boys, right? Nope. The animation was so-so at best, so even if I were still young enough to comfortably crush on these characters... heavens no. Not even their personalities got my attention. My care for Kakeru, the main character, mostly come from that loyalty that naturally forms between me and any half-decent protagonist.

The theme music for Area no Kishi is going through my head. Again. It's the same OP (and maybe ED? I forget) for all 37 episodes, and key parts of it play throughout each episode, so that adds up to... hearing the same several measures of music over and over and over again. I finally got it out of my head after I finished the show, but now, after writing this, it's come back. What have I done to myself?

So, do I recommend Area no Kishi? If you're not a picky, cynical, somewhat experienced fan who sometimes pretends to be a connoisseur... then sure! I'm really glad people like you are still around to enjoy these anime the way they were made to be enjoyed. I hope reading this post doesn't hold you back from that. I probably would have enjoyed Area no Kishi more in the earlier days of my fandom. And Anime-Planet users rate it, on average, just over 3.5/5 stars, which isn't entirely bad.

If you are picky, but you take pride in finishing mediocre shows, then no. Don't commit yourself to this. It's like committing yourself to SAO, but with less people to snobbily complain to, and without that nice, clear stopping point after two cour. And no pretty animation.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

When the Swamp Clouds my Mind

I forgot to post last night. Now, I could do a normal Swamped post. I could try to spit out a Rewind post really quickly and then get to homework. Instead, I think I'll share some of what I've been pondering and writing lately. I started writing this earlier this week, and sharing it will help me feel accountable to follow up with action.

You've seen me say "I'm swamped" before. But that's becoming more than a figure of speech, and turning into a perfect analogy for my muddied state of mind (more muddied than usual, I mean). Thus, I need some self-examination.

I nearly marathoned Meganebu!, Daily Lives of High School Boys, and a dark reverse harem over the space of a few days. I reminded myself of my last two years of high school, when I watched well over two month's worth of anime. Those were dark years for multiple reasons, and I felt an echo of them when I cuddled in bed, ignoring homework and my messy room as I binge-watched anime that made me laugh… and anime that made me feel horror.

From the end of Daily Lives of High School Boys, episode 12. This
is their take on the running-late-to-school-with-toast-in-your-mouth
trope. Personally, I prefer microwavable breakfast sandwiches or, if
I'm really even later than usual, a spoonful of peanut butter.

It’s one thing to take a break from responsibilities for a bit, to refresh. But, just like in high school, I was seeking joy and freedom in the wrong place. The "joy" I find watching Daily Lives didn't help me in my own daily life. So when I looked up from homework and realized the beautiful weather stirred nothing but cynicism, I stopped what I was doing and grabbed my journal.

I’m feeling echoes of how I was four years ago. Thankfully, I’m more aware of myself now. I have a little Squad of Depression Monitors in me. They often team up with the Anxiety Patrol. My lethargy, binge-watching, and melancholy feelings set off some quiet alarms, and the Anti-Depression Squad set out to investigate.

Am I depressed? No. But I’m not so proud as to believe I’m immune from depression just because we beat it in the past. And my habits are becoming less healthy. I can’t brush it off as “typical college student” behavior and expect to be okay. So when my Anti-Depression Squad recognized gateway signs, it also advised a change of action.

First, I examined my emotional balance. Was there an unusual amount of melancholy? There was, so I examined it before dismissing it. Dismissing an emotion without finding its source is like plucking the head off a weed and leaving the root: the weed will still live, its roots taking over the soil while the head grows back, stronger than ever. This time, the root of my melancholy didn't go too deep. But it was worth looking into.

Second, I read Psalm 136, my favorite psalm. My perspective on life was getting dark and twisted. The sun, which usually makes me smile and thank the Lord, didn't help this time. When I examined my mood and what was going on in my life, I realized that what I felt did not sync with reality. The best remedy? Read truth. So I turned to the Psalms. When I finished reading and praying, I felt a little more in sync with the world.

Honestly, I have not been journalling and reading my Bible as much as I should. I'm not saying this just because daily devotions are the "good Christian thing" to do. I'm saying this because the swamp in my schedule is flooding my mind and heart. Journalling helps me organize and clean my mind. It forces me to look at the root of my anxious or melancholy feelings and keep them from becoming destructive. If my thoughts are getting twisted or out of sync with reality, journalling exposes that. And reading the Bible helps me replace twisted thinking with true thinking. Praying is an important element, too, because I can't keep myself healthy or grow spiritually without God's help (plus, I can tell him anything without worrying what he thinks, so it's always good to spend time with him).

So, once I've posted this, I'm going to get out my journal and make sure my head's on straight. I don't have time or mental energy for much, but any time writing and praying is better than none. Then, it's off to homework, and hopefully some cleaning and exercise. When I step away from the anime and TV, I realize that my life is out of balance. My journal is not the only thing I've neglected between homework and computer time, and it's starting to affect me in more ways than one.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What I Watch When I'm Swamped

When I'm swamped with homework, anime doesn't always sound relaxing. I procrastinate even more than usual on the silliest of things... including my favorite anime. Instead, I watch something I don't need to have an opinion on, with characters and plot I don't care as much about. My brain is overtaxed as it is; I'd rather not think too hard about my leisure activities. That means I watch more live action shows, since I'm not in the habit of thinking deeply about them. I also watch comedy anime... of varying quality.

Thus, I'm caught up on Shirobako, but not on Daiya no Ace. I'm also enjoying Meganebu!, a fact I might be embarrassed to admit, if my inability to catch up on homework hadn't already taken my pride down a couple notches.

Meganebu! is full of inside jokes for glasses-wearers. But I think
most of us can sympathize with Yukiya's dilemna here. No service
on a deserted island (ep. 9).
What, you ask, is Meganebu!? It's a show about cute boys (as cute as they can be with lower quality animation), all of whom wear glasses. They're in a high school club revolving around... glasses. Their goal? To build X-ray glasses that can see through girls' clothes. As of the tenth episode, all their attempts have exploded, so the ladies are safe.

Really, their goal with the X-ray glasses comes second to their love for glasses. It's ridiculous. Somewhat amusing, but ridiculous. I'll probably rate it 2 stars on Anime-Planet, just because 1 star seems a bit harsh. But I'll still watch it all the way through, because it's fun and brainless, like American Saturday morning cartoons. And I kind of need that right now.

What do you watch when you need to unwind?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm Completely, Utterly Swamped

I am swamped. I'm not going to search for a creative way to say it. I'm not going to rearrange what I wrote about Gungrave for class and post it here as a replacement for Rewind. I've just got to give it to you straight: I'm completely, utterly swamped.

The idea of being caught up on reading for class is a distant dream, a fantasy so ridiculous, I laugh hollowly at the idea of it being true. I don't know how some of my classmates balance school and work, when I can hardly keep my head above water even after quitting my job. But enough with the comparing game. That's useless.

Here's a picture of Baby Dango with my books.
Carrying that big blue Norton and the big brown
critical theory anthology in my backpack at the
same time is probably bad for my back. Oh well.
I've withdrawn from Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr—not just from lack of time, but because even such a distant form of human connection is draining, and I have to prioritize people I see face-to-face. Even that hasn't gone as I'd like; I cancelled my party and post-party movie night plans tonight, because I knew that if I went, I'd spend a great deal of tomorrow curled up in bed, having a breakdown. I'm at the end of my rope.

Actually, this feeling of desperation might be good... maybe it will help me write another poem. I have to turn in five on Monday, and I only have three, or maybe four that I'm ready to submit to my classmates for editing. Prose comes a lot more easily for me (between school, blogging, and other creative writing, I've had a lot of practice). But stress helped me finish my last packet of five poems (I played with the "elephant on my chest" cliche). So maybe it will help this time, too.

Anyway, if I don't reply to you on Twitter or in a discussion we began in blog comments somewhere, I'm sorry. If it's important, you can always direct message me on Twitter, email me, or comment here (I try to check for comments daily, and usually reply to them right away, if I can think of anything to say).

That is all. I think I'll go watch the latest Shirobako before bed... I think. I have almost no sense of days and weeks anymore, but I'm pretty sure I haven't watched it this week.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rewind: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

I like to have at least one light-hearted, fun anime on my watching list every season. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, aka Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, filled that slot nicely in the Summer 2014 season.

I admit, I wasn't sure about it when I first read the descriptions on Anime-Planet and Crunchyroll. It's about a girl who gets so flustered in front of her crush, she can't confess her love, and he misunderstands, thinking that she's just a fan of his manga. See, I'm pretty empathetic. I tend to feel embarrassment on the behalf of characters, and in fiction, misunderstandings tend to lead to embarrassment at best and broken hearts at worst.

Still, Nozaki-kun seemed pretty popular, so I decided to give it a shot. I'm glad I did. I needed the comic relief, and embarrassment was kept to a minimum.

Sakura thanks Mikoshiba for help she doesn't need, because he clearly
wants to act the part of the senpai. He's too earnest to notice the sarcasm
dripping from her voice and expression (ep 2).
Some parts of Nozaki-kun are just plain ridiculous. But I could identify with some scenarios, like the one pictured above. Sakura has just started helping Nozaki-kun with his manga. Mikoshiba has been his assistant for a while now, so he's her senpai. He makes vague comments and puppy dog eyes until she finally asks him for help.

When I watched this episode, I'd been working at my summer cashiering job for about a month. The other employees were always happy to help if I had any questions. One was particularly eager to give advice. Sometimes, I needed it. Sometimes, I didn't, but I still pretended her advice was novel and valuable. She, like Mikoshiba, needed to be affirmed as a helpful senpai, although she wouldn't think of it in such Japanese terms.

Lets see... what else should I make sure you know? There are some fun romantic elements to this show, although it's kept comedic and light. For a shoujo mangaka, Nozaki-kun is surprisingly thick when it comes to love. He has no clue that Sakura is crushing on him. By the end of the series, I felt a bit bad for her. But hey! At least this way, they can develop a good friendship before messing with all that romance stuff. And we get a good show out of it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall Semester has me Swamped (but I've started the Fall anime season anyway)

I thought about doing a Rewind post today. I recently watched 5 Centimeters Per Second, and that would certainly be post-worthy. But it would require a second viewing to understand better, and I'd want to properly process it... which would require me to use the English-major-Literature-class part of my brain. Unfortunately, that part of me is a little overtaxed right now.

And you know what? I haven't done a real Swamped post in a few months. So, here you go: I'm swamped with homework. I'm terribly behind. I expect to be fully caught up in December... after finals week.

But I have to take breaks, so anime obviously occupies a few hours of every week. I've almost finished Terror in Resonance. I love it, but it's a bit heavy, and when I'm this swamped, I prefer to go easy on the dark plotlines. I'm sure I'll finish it soon. Part of the problem is that, with anime, I feel like I have to have an opinion about what I watch. Sometimes, it's more relaxing to watch live action, because I'm not as critical. I guess this is just a side effect of aniblogging (and anitweeting) that I still need to sort through.

Still, I have started some of the Fall Season anime. I've been wanting to talk about them:

Yowapeda 2, or Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road, isn't any better than the first round. I know this is a popular anime, but it definitely isn't in my top ten sports anime. When I found out that Yowapeda would return this fall, I was disappointed. I'm still watching it, of course. But the race is barely holding onto my attention. I mainly watch for Onoda (who's barely been in this season's first two episodes)... and to find further proof that Midousuji is an experiment that escaped from Orochimaru's lab.
Midousuji, supposedly a human in his 1st year of high school, mocks
friendship as he races ahead of the other constants—including the aces
of our two favorite teams, even though, in the world of Yowapeda, aces
are supposed to have superpowers (basically). Don't worry, I still take
this show more seriously than Free! and even Area no Kishi.
(Screenshot from ep. 2 of Yowapeda 2)

Log Horizon 2: This show continues to intrigue me, although for whatever reason, it's hard to get very excited about it unless I talk about it with someone else.

Sword Art Online II: A recap episode aired last week, didn't it? Maybe I'll watch it while I clean my room this weekend... no, wait, that is listed as a "TV Special," and not as a regular episode. I can skip it without messing up my episode count on Anime-Planet. Phew. It was hard enough watching this show self-destruct the first time. I don't want to watch a recap of it, unless it's to fuel a rant. I am so irritated with the creators' refusal to deal with relational realities.

Actually, I had fun ranting about that to friends at dinner the other night... so I guess SAO's recent episodes have had some good effects after all.

Daiya no Ace: Still watching and enjoying this, of course. It's the only decent sports anime on my watching list this season... kind of a let down after the past several seasons.

Shirobako: This is my happy anime this season. I need one every season, especially during the school year. In the summer, it was Nozaki-kun. Before that, Tonari no Seki-kun. Haikyuu!! make me happy, too...

... okay, I'm tired now. I didn't intent to write this much, but at least it didn't require as much thought and decision-making as a Rewind post would. Time to go night-night so I can get some homework done this weekend.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rewind: Baby Steps

The sports anime genre is dominated by team sports. And, lately, it's been dominated by teams of cute boys, mostly bishounen. Only a couple exceptions have reached my watching list in the past few years. One of them is Baby Steps.

Baby Steps started airing in the spring, during one of the most exciting sports anime seasons I've seen. Baby Steps was never my favorite, but it was a refreshing addition to my Sports Anime Weekends. Unlike Daiya no Ace and Haikyuu!!, Baby Steps focused on a single, intelligent boy learning an individual sport for the first time.

Behold, my only screenshot from Baby Steps. I can't remember exactly
what the metaphor was here, but it was probably about his training
coming together. Of course, this is just form episode 14. At this point in
the 25-ep series, he's got quite the training regiment ahead of him.

I'll go into the story some more in a moment. First, I must mention the other big difference between Baby Steps and the other weekend sports anime: the animation. The visuals in Haikyuu!! and the recent Kuroko's Basketball are mesmerizing at times, particularly during games. Even the visuals in Daiya no Ace make me happy. Then there's Yowapeda, which isn't as pretty, but has fun colors, and Ping Pong, which is strange and thus fascinating in all aspects. In comparison, Baby Steps's animation is little more than serviceable.

Still, I enjoyed it and followed it closely through the Spring and Summer anime seasons. I can relate to Ei-chan (Maruo Eiichiro) and his obsessive note taking. I actually started learning Gregg Shorthand so I could keep up with one of my professors, and my journal goes everywhere with me. Granted, I'm not quite as thorough as Ei-chan, and if I take notes for non-educational purposes, it's because I like to have a record, or because I'm a writer... not because I'm a tennis player (though I really should be taking notes about my running distances and times). That aside, I appreciate his strategic and hardworking approach to whatever he pursues. Plus, he reminds me of the analytical Inui-senpai from Prince of Tennis, and you might remember how much that anime means to me.

I was going to say some deep stuff about Ei-chan's training and the Christian walk... but I was also really close to saying, "No. I'm too swamped for this." Homework is scrambling my brain. So deep posts can wait.

Anyway, I look forward to the sequel series coming next year. In the meantime, I have Daiya no Ace and the second season of Yowapeda... Anime-Planet users gave Yowapeda a higher average rating than Baby Steps, a fact I don't completely understand. But, oh well. It's fun enough.