Confused, distraught, distressed, these are all adjectives that describe my state the second the OP started. I will concede that, going in, I didn’t expect much of the plot, or characters, I would’ve watched the anime just for the sake of its soundtrack, but the OP, sacred in Bebop with its Tank!, had been defiled with vocals and surprising state of not-jazz, despite the whole anime being focused on that genre. Gone were my hopes of a spiritual successor to bebop with its themes and tunes, and in its stead I got this; a bewildering series of scenes, coupled with an even more perplexing song. Needless to say, that within the first minute of the first episode of this anime, my expectations were crushed- badly.
Unfortunately, due to a schedule caught in the stranglehold of Singaporean pre-university education, I’ve missed last week’s Tamako Market episodic review. With education’s grip on my throat only loosened slightly, and a need to catch up, here are two slightly more concise reviews on the last two episodes of this series. Thankfully, the subject matter for those episodes are similar enough to talk about them in the same poorly-worded paragraph: something about how a pacific islander fortune teller girl goes to Japan to retrieve her semi-robotic metrosexual cockatoo. Typing that last bit just made me lose several IQ points, and I’m about to lose more… Well, here we go:
Well, every high school anime needs a swimming episode, and every high school anime needs an episode at the beach, since we’re short on time, why not combine the two? This weeks episode of Tamako Market stays true to the almost-formulaic clichés of the slice-of-life anime genre, something that almost leaves you questioning, if these clichés are so ubiquitous, why bother calling them clichés to begin with? They might as well be compulsory, requiring the Japanese censors to see them before letting you air your show. “Oh, you don’t have a school fair episode? screw you then.” My peeves towards the anime affinity towards school fairs, beaches, swimming pools, clubs, and school roofs aside, this was a pretty good episode for the series.
Kyoani seems adamant to continue it’s “one-character one-episode” approach to this anime with Tamako’s sister getting some screen-time this week. What’s that you say? The little sister character of a Kyoani anime getting an entire episode devoted to her? Expectedly, this episode is going to be cute, and cute it was. Was it much more? The answer some might give you would be that Tamako Market encapsulates the essence of realistic prepubescent romance and awkwardness in this episode whilst maintaining the usual hyperbolic sense of humour. The answer I’m prepared to give you is a much simpler, “no.”.
There are two things that I’ve seen over the past week that can be described as nothing short of, and for want of a better word, badass. One was the opening cinematic for Heart of the Swarm, and the other is the subject of today’s post. By themselves, the Chuunibyou specials took up 6 epic minutes of my life, and 400MB of my hard drive, where it’ll remain, even if it’s on an already space-deprived laptop. Still, in spite of it’s exceptionally short length, there’s something that doesn’t quite escape my annoyance- the fact that the title has Chuunibyou in it.
It’s almost always imperative to take special note of the direction of a plot, but the near-absence of one in this anime harkens the call of an outlier. I’ll be honest, I have no idea where this show is headed, then again, maybe it wasn’t going anywhere to begin with. Today’s episode is especially “bottled-up”- alienated, ostracised, by it’s friends, Ep. 1 & 2, in the most liberal definition of continuity, nor would it seem that the episode will go out and play with future acquaintances. But, well… perhaps this is the exact sort of anime TM is.
Throwing the characters into the meat-grinder of Valentine’s day, Tamako Market’s second episode is as confusing as the first, but for very different reasons. It’s unexpected to say the least; while it retains a lot of the childish charm that it’s predecessor had, some of the subject material is given an infinitely more mature perspective. Usually, this would be nothing short of welcomed, but considering the fact that this is ultimately an anime about a girl and her talking bird, it creates a monolithic disparity between the incredible contrast of the cute and the serious. The end result of which seems to be a sense of ambiguity as to what direction, if any, it’ll end up taking.
The first episode of any anime is important. The necessity of a satisfying introduction, a hook to entice further viewership, and the all-important first impression, becomes a 20 minute long balancing act. Spending too much time trying to introduce the setting and characters will affect how much screen-time’s left for demonstrations of comedy or drama that the viewer might expect later. If the studio fails to deliver, they have to wait another week to get a second chance to redeem themselves, assuming that they get a second chance in the first place. Few anime, if any, ever achieve a perfect first act. Unfortunately, Tamako Market isn’t one of those.
You’d probably have wished yourself into the shoes of a protagonist of some anime before- a recess of your imagination where you suddenly know how to speak fluent Japanese, are swarmed by attractive Japanese girls, and part of a reality so much better than the one that life will so cruelly drag you back into. Some anime have a charm that’s quite unique to it’s medium, something that causes it’s demographic to develop a penchant for fantasy and escapism unlike what any movie, TV show, or book can do. This probably has something to do with the absurd testosterone and adrenaline pumps that comprise the genre of action in anime, and perhaps also the timeless appeal of being chased by girls more attractive than whatever reality can offer. Otherworldly 20 minute rides of fantasy don’t take a psychologist to understand their allure.
I don’t think this is all that it is. If it was, a million other works of literature and cinema would similarly send us on a whirlwind trip of imagination that anime so brazenly offers. They don’t. Here’s why I think some anime, mostly harem, make us imagine so much more than so much.
Chuunibyou has some bizarre themes; over-imaginative 16 year olds, romance, defense mechanisms, and defense mechanisms. For the most part, the key element of the main casts’ case of Chuunibyou, is regarded blamelessly, almost mockingly, with allusions to the “ethereal horizon” being central to the comic relief. But, as the awkward interjection of a misplaced narrator points out, there is certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to this otherwise innocent affliction. With talk about how we all might have delusions, and how we “cherish” them, you’d be forgiven to find the monologue a little more than odd. And questions start to rise on what exactly would’ve been in Rikka’s best interests, and the merits of having a delusion.