It's almost hard to imagine that every week 22 brand new, never-before-seen episodes roll out here on Crunchyroll! I know I've found my favorite (few) series for this season...what are yours?
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As a fan of well done slice-of-life anime, I've been anticipating My Ordinary Life ever since I saw its description and art style for the first time. Initial reactions around the internet were all incredulous as to why Kyoto Animation (KyoAni, for short), the animation studio behind legends such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, Kanon, Lucky Star and K-On!, decided to take up an adaptation of a seemingly mundane comedy manga by Keiichi Arawi. I didn't let that deter me: I knew whatever KyoAni touches turns to gold.
That's not to say nothing down to Earth happens in the series, in fact, the way all the characters live their lives normally even with these surreal elements is part of what makes My Ordinary Life's world come to life. They still encounter normal dilemnas, such as when you arm wrestle for hours to save your honor, run for your life being chased by someone wearing a giant bear head, figure out what the giant key in your back does when you turn it or guess whether you should publicly offer broccoli or cauliflower to appease you friend's anger. Ah, wait...
While there is no plot to My Ordinary Life, much like similar great series before it, such as Lucky Star, Pani Poni Dash!, Yotsuba&! and Azumanga Daioh, it shows that it really doesn't need one. Mixing segments that tell stories in a few minutes with others that take mere seconds to end, it never stays in one place too long. Also worthy of mention are the recurring minis, such as the jump rope and rock paper scissors running gags that always manage to surprise.Let's not forget the insertion of spontaneous shaky and blurry shots of scenery throughout the episodes that serve as a sort of break between skits (or can pop right in the middle of one, as well!) while also showing random events that often serve absolutely no purpose other than provide an awkward silence that I've frankly grown fond of. It's these unpredictable cuts and potpourri of scenes that give the anime its distinctive pace.
One could easily label the anime as being “random”, and while it does have its share of randomness, it surpasses... No! It pole vaults over the idea that simply adding something unexpected is funny and transforms it into a precise science that captivates and compels its viewers to wonder where it will go next. Of course, they're also laughing from start to finish.
Music wise? From the snappy and catchy opening theme to the melodic ending that you can't help but bob side to side to, from the epic chants straight out of a JRPG game trailer to the exaggerated dark and powerful orchestrated piece that would be at home in a blockbuster thriller, then making a ninety degree turn to the psychedelic synthetized singing voices of the Helvetica Standard segments, My Ordinary Life's soundtrack isn't just some background elevator music: It's an integral part of the package that heightens its every minute.
Animation you ask? Surely you jest. With KyoAni at the helm, you can rest assured everything in this aspect is masterfully done. The characters' expressions, the dramatic color changes and living backgrounds are all handled with perfect care. And just when you were about to forget how amazing this studio can be, they suddenly bust out into an incredibly detailed and fluid chase scene or epic, hair-raising slow-motion power-up phase that will make you regret you ever doubted them.
Characters and voice actors? Enter the cast of My Ordinary Life: a teacher that can't discipline if her life depended on it and is bad in front of a crowd, a farmer's son who acts as if he's royalty, the seemingly level-headed girl who fantasizes about him in her yaoi doodles, the robot terrified at discovering what secrets her own body still hide, a school principal so old-fashioned and boring he breaks the scale and becomes hilarious when being toyed with and many more memorable characters that didn't even make their appearances yet. Even if some characters appear cliché at first, they are given life through the masterful work of the voice actors who have been perfectly selected and frankly make all the gags that much funnier by nailing the right intonations and timing every single time.
It sounded like a dream come true – an escape from the steel and concrete cage of Tokyo to roam freely in the countryside where the sky is clear and visible, and, on top of that, to be able to stay at a rustic, hot springs inn. However, things didn’t turn out quite so idyllically for Ohana Matsumae. Before she ever even set foot into the inn, she is chastised, told to ‘die’, and informed that she is expected to work for her room and board. So much for paradise.
Hanasaku Iroha is more than just a slice-of life-story about Ohana’s experiences at the Kissuisou, the hot springs inn run by her grandmother. It is also apparently a coming of age story for Ohana and the other girls that she interacts with. As the title itself suggests, this looks to be a story that follows these girls as they blossom into young women, and, at least from the early episodes, a part of growing up means breaking out of the shells they’re encased in.
All the characters in the show have their flaws. However, rather than using these flaws as a weakness that serve as a foil, the creators use these flaws to make the characters more human, and to use the flaw as an obstacle for the characters to overcome as they grow. As such, Hanasaku Iroha is written primarily as a character study, so we will also do our part in delving a bit into the characters below.
Ohana’s shell seems especially tough to crack. Her life in Tokyo is not portrayed as a particularly happy one. She lived only with her mother, Satsuki, with whom she shares a distant relationship at best. Her mother’s lack of parental guidance forced Ohana to grow up independently from as early as preschool – she started cooking meals by herself at that time – and one of the life lessons that she clearly remembers from her mother is that she is never to rely on anyone but herself.
Ohana's many comments in her early dialogue show that she is dissatisfied with her life in Tokyo, and who can blame her? She is a dreamer and a romanticist who often imagines what her life would be like if something dramatic were to happen to throw things for a loop, so when Satsuki announces that she is eloping with her boyfriend to escape his debt, Ohana is eager to join them for the chance to change her life. Unfortunately, her mother has no intention of bringing her along, and she is, instead, shipped off to live with her estranged grandmother.
Ohana had one stable element in her life, and that is her childhood friend, Koichi, who is perhaps the only true friend she had in Tokyo. Despite Satsuki’s best efforts to make Ohana more self-reliant, Koichi was the one person she could always depend on. Of all the things she left behind, it is Koichi she regrets leaving the most. Of course, that might have something to do with his confession of love right before she left. It seems she’s still feeling pretty awkward about that.
Having grown up in the city, Ohana perhaps picked up a few traits that are particularly abrasive to those who’ve grown up in the country. She is assertive, loud, and impulsive, or at least that’s how the others at Kissuisou see her. Though she grew up taking care of herself, she knows little of working on behalf of others, and this is a shortcoming that the others, especially her grandmother, make her painfully aware of. However, Ohana is slowly beginning to acknowledge her weaknesses, and whereas she never had a goal before, she realizes now that what she wants to do most is to shine.
Minko Tsurugi is the first person that Ohana meets at Kissuisou… right after Ohana tries to be helpful by ripping out some wild vegetables Minko happened to be growing. This poor first impression instantly leads Minko to dislike Ohana, which she expresses by telling her to die. This scenario repeats itself several times over, where it seems that every time Ohana attempts to be helpful, it backfires, and Minko ends up on the receiving end of punishment, embarrassment, and ridicule. It seems pretty hard to make amends with that kind of track record. And, as luck would have it, they’re roommates at the inn and classmates at their school.
Minko is apprenticing under Kissuisou’s kitchen staff, where she is constantly being criticized by the junior chef, Touru. She’s self-conscious about how inadequate her skills are as evidenced by her constant practice, but she’s also quite single-minded in her actions so far, as just about everything she does is with a single purpose in mind: to garner the attention of the one she likes. She’s not unreasonable, however. After being scolded by Ohana for telling people to die with such indifference, she makes a real effort to find a different word to express her disgust at someone, and that could be the crack in the armor that Ohana needs to get through to Minko in the end.
Nako Oshimizu is a waitress at Kissuisou who is assigned to train Ohana in her duties. She is incredibly timid, however, and easily intimidated by Ohana’s outgoing personality, which leads to Nako shying away from Ohana at first. This creates a few vital gaps in Ohana’s training, but the cascade of events that follow give Nako an opportunity to shine. As it turns out, Nako is quite athletic. She is a strong swimmer and a competition-level diver, and whereas she is nervous in just about any other situation, her confidence reigns when she is in the water.
It’s quite likely that with Ohana’s influence, Nako will find her voice and step out of her shell on her own. Just as Ohana got Minko to not tell people to die, she extracted a promise from Nako to speak out more. It seems fair to say that Nako is Ohana’s first friend in the country, and maybe even her second friend ever.
Yuina Wakura’s role is still in the process of being defined as of this article’s writing. Her brief introduction reveals her to be pretty, perky, and outgoing, but she appears to lack any sort of motivation towards her future. Yuina is in the same class as the other girls, and widely admired by the boys, rivaling the attention that Minko gets. She’s fun-loving and wants to enjoy her life, possibly at the expense of any training to become the successor to her grandmother’s hot spring inn, Fukuya. While she appears to be especially friendly towards Ohana and a foil to Minko’s grand plans, much remains to be seen as to where her role will truly fall.
Given the exchange value of pictures to words, the newsletter simply isn’t large enough to capture Hanasaku Iroha’s true essence. From the picturesque backgrounds to the character designs, each scene and setting speak volumes. The characters are expressive, both in face and posture – from both Ohana and Yuina’s grandmothers’ disapproving glare, to Nako's timid gait; every character’s action seemingly has meaning. The colors are warm and gentle in its soft lines and pastels, and the backgrounds are gorgeous – works of art in of themselves – which helps breathe life into each scene. Even if slower-paced stories aren’t your thing, Hanasaku Iroha can and should be admired for its artistry.
On May 3, 1947, a post-war Constitution was enacted in Japan, bringing about significant political change to the nation. Besides the new government structure, several tenets vital to individual, human rights were also introduced, some of which should ring familiar to Americans – after all, the same guiding principles also influenced the United States’ Bill of Rights – including Article 21, which guarantees freedom of assembly, association, speech, and secrecy of communications, without censorship. So, considering Japan’s right to freedom of speech, what’s the big deal with Bill 156 – the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths?
On the one hand, many proponents of the bill believe that certain depictions of suggestive and obscene material – most notably those in manga, anime, and video games – have a negative influence on the perceptions of Japan’s youth. Meanwhile, on the other hand, many of Bill 156’s opponents assert that this bill is a violation of their rights as defined in Article 21.
It should be noted that this Bill is not a ban, but a regulation on the material that can be sold to minors within Tokyo. On the surface, though, it seems to be mostly redundant, as the industry is already strictly self-regulating, and there are already obscenity laws in place that places restrictions on the distribution and sales of explicit material, specifically Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan.
What I believe to be most in contention here is that with this Bill, the government is now able to set precedent on what they would consider harmful material. Current obscenity laws do not strictly define what constitutes as ‘indecent’, and the courts have been able to adjust their rulings over time to address changing societal views. However, Bill 156 very implicitly targets a narrow range of media with a fairly broad definition of what is considered harmful. This leaves government regulators a lot of room to define the scope of the law pretty much however they’d like.
However, publishers and producers don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a government review board to give the green-light to an episode to be aired or a volume to be printed. These creators could lose thousands each day they are delayed if they try to toe the line – so, for financial reasons, many might choose to play it safe. That’s all fine and good, but… where is that line? It’s way up there covering pornographic material now, but what’s to say that five or ten years down the line that a kiss between siblings is considered material that would be harmful to the youth of Tokyo? Heck, what’s to say that isn’t considered ‘harmful’ right now?
To be sure, that’s an extreme example, and I can’t claim to understand all of the ramifications of such measures. However, looking at it from the viewpoint of the creators, this could very well leave them to stifle creativity in order to play things safe – essentially, having their freedom of expression suppressed because of the bottom line, and possibly even public humiliation. Either way, even if they are adhering to all the rules, Big Brother (“Dai-Niisan?”) is watching.
There’s also a matter of precedent. Tokyo has managed to successfully pass the law, so what’s to say that other prefectural governments won’t try to create a similar bill of their own? What’s to say that they won’t try to tack on one more restriction or add another medium into the mix? The possibility of this event snowballing, while unlikely, does exist.
I believe these to be but a few of the many scenarios that the bill’s opponents are fighting against by getting the bill rescinded as a violation of their freedom of speech and expression. As such, they are exercising their freedom of expression in another way – with their pocketbooks. Ten influential publishing companies have withdrawn their support of the Tokyo International Anime Fair and are publically boycotting the event. This show of solidarity could have lasting financial ramifications on the city, just as the Bill could take its toll on that of the industry.
But, before Americans go out decrying the actions of the Japanese government, they should also take note of similar events taking place on their own soil. The United States of America, thought by many as the beacon of freedom around the world, has similar legal precedents set that very much also impact these industries. You may not have heard about Gordon Lee, Chris Handley, or Jesus Castillo, but you should look them up – this is what’s happening in America now, and this is what Japanese producers, fans, and vendors fear. Then, look up California’s AB 1179 bill, and what you see there should look pretty familiar – and this is what’s happening in their back yard.
Regardless of the sides taken, the Bill is already slated to take effect in July, 2011, so now it’s just a matter of seeing what happens afterwards.
Ichigo is placed under arrest by the Soul Society under suspicion of being responsible for the disappearance of the Soul Reapers in the Precipice World. With Rukia’s help, the two make an escape, when Renji and Ikkaku appear to do battle.
It's the Ability Assessment tests for Ishiyama High, the den of delinquents. Oga tries studying for the test, for once. Baby Beel and Hilda have gotten used to various customs in the Human World and report on Baby Beel's growth to the Great Demon Lord.
Did you know that Shotaro Ishinomori's Skullman is considered to be one of manga's first antiheroes due to his willingness to sacrifice innocent lives to meet his goals? He was created in 1970, and would later become the prototype for Ishinomori's most famous hero: Kamen Rider!