Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekly Review: 10/31/11

Welcome to the first ever Weekly Review! This is the first in a series that will highlight the coverage of three anime series over the course of their simulcast for the Fall 2011 season. They include Chihayafuru, Guilty Crown, and Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing. Please feel free to leave comments. And so it begins!

Chihayafuru Ep. 1-5

First I must apologize that this is the first post I have made for Chihayafuru. It deserves more than this, as it is truly the standout series of the season. I have to admit the concept of teenagers playing a card game sounds like it’s been done before, but not like this. At least not from what I have seen.

Chihayafuru follows the friendship between three friends Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata, who are each connected by the card game Karuta. Chihaya is the centerpiece that holds their friendship together, articulated well within the first three episodes of the series. The first couple of episodes start with our three characters in the 10th grade, but swiftly shifts to them in the 6th grade when they all first meet. It’s like an extended flashback that works so very well.

Arata is introduced as a character who is picked on because he is quiet and different. No one in school pays him any attention except for Chihaya, who suddenly decides to stick up for him. This makes her friend Taichi jealous of the situation, but soon they all become friends. Arata is a skillful player of Karuta, a game that has 100 cards and each card has a poem on it. A person will read out the poem, and whichever person is able to remove that card from the playing field first wins the round. Arata’s passion for Karuta inspires Chihaya to want to get just as good as him, and Taichi seems to follow along to please Chihaya.

In episode four we shift back to the present in high school, learning that Chihaya and Taichi are attending the same school by coincidence. Chihaya tries to contact Arata to talk with him about Karuta, but he tells her to go away and to never bring up the card game again. Chihaya gets worried and travels with Taichi to see Arata in person, discovering in the process why Arata has become so cold to his former passion.

Chihayafuru is an anime that takes teenage spirit and expresses itself with an utmost sigh of expression and detail. It half plays on nostalgia while the other half plays on a well-told narrative. These characters are true to themselves and grow as individuals, adding to the group dynamic sometimes required in playing Karuta. I apologize for the large recap, but I haven’t been able to cover Chihayafuru before on the blog. Needless to say, Chihayafuru is full of heart and takes the “slice of life” genre to another level. It can easily be dismissed as a card game anime, but thankfully its main focus is on the characters and their connected lives. The art direction is simply breathtaking, and the focus on color is fantastic. The story is enduring and is full of passion. So much has already happened in the series and I can’t wait to see more. Bring it on Chihayafuru!

Guilty Crown Ep. 4

Although I did not cover episode three of Guilty Crown, I’m kind of glad. It wasn’t that great and I felt as if it was lacking something. The episode ended on a cliffhanger and now we know exactly what’s up. Shu was tricked by his “friend” and is captured by the enemy. Or are they really his enemy? We are introduced to the fascinating (well, sort of) character Segai and learn that he is quite convincing in his speech. Shu is tested to see if he will continue to work for Gai, and in turn protect Inori.

It’s an interesting dilemma to see our main character caught up in the middle of truths and lies, and one can only wonder if Guilty Crown will try to be more original in the future. I feel like we have seen such a plot point before. Segai will use Shu to track Gai and Funeral Parlor’s movements, mainly by convincing Shu that Gai is not to be trusted. Yet Shu pretty much follows the path of a hero anyways.

Of particular stunning quality is the scene where Shu uses his special ability to craft items and creates the gravity gun. This was a defining scene for me and I believe Guilty Crown will do more great scenes in future episodes. The action was great and everything flowed well. It was a huge improvement over last week’s episode.

Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing Ep. 3

As I have mentioned before, the first two episodes of the new Last Exile series were bookended by a wraparound story that really introduces the series’ elements. The third episode finally delves content that drives the story a bit further and makes you care for the situations presented in this new world of Last Exile. Although Fam’s character has only briefly expanded, once again Millia feels central to the plot. She worries about her sister and shows true emotion, as opposed to Fam’s go-lucky smile that never seems to fade.

At least this episode covered a lot more of the background for the series and it showed us more of the workings of society. It was nice to see how they memorialize the dead, and it was a special scene to see Millia and Fam hovering above the lighted balloons. This shows us that the characters in this world care for one another and have respect for fallen soldiers. Well, maybe this can be argued with the fact that Millia’s old ship had possessions stolen from it and then sold to pirates. But this series covers the best, and worst, of both sides of society and Millia seems to be right in the middle of it all.

Oh, and just for fun the creators point us in Dio’s direction once again, referring to the Exile ships and the like. Dio just listens in the background and plays it like he doesn’t know what they are talking about, but he clearly knows what’s up. Come on Dio, I want to know what you’re up to!

And so that’s it for this week’s Weekly Review. I know it’s a little long-winded and sporadic in length, but over time it will fall into place. By not covering Chihayafuru I needed to give it some breathing room and a proper introduction. Expect to see more analysis and less plot summary in future articles.

*Image credit to Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Niconico.

-Jared C.

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