Silver-haired lolis and the boys they haunt

The endless stream of Spring anime continues on. I still haven’t seen the first episode to every single anime this season. There’s just so many. Where were all of these anime during the snorefest of the winter season? Anyway, I finally got around to viewing the much anticipated Deadman Wonderland, but does another anime steal the show?

*****

Deadman Wonderland

I first heard of Deadman Wonderland years ago. Everyone was raving about it, but aside from a couple of pages, I didn’t read it. I’m just not a big fan of reading manga and I figured someone would adapt it to anime eventually.

For those in the dark, the story opens with Ganta minding his own business. As a bit of foreshadowing, he was just checking out the surreal private prison Deadman Wonderland while waiting for class to start. All of a sudden, a red phantom appears and proceeds to slaughter everyone but our hero. Instead, Ganta gets a mysterious red crystal embedded in his chest. As always, our hero is the chosen one — the ubermensch. Anyway, Ganta blacks out and upon waking up, he finds himself charged and seemingly framed for the murder of his classmates. He pleads innocence to no avail and is thrown into — you guessed it — Deadman Wonderland where prisoners are entertainment, a spectacle for a paying audience. Even babies jeer at you.

Harsh. From the outset, I take some security in the fact that Manglobe is heading up the adaptation. The production values will remain relatively high judging by recent history. I enjoy the mix of the carnivalesque outer appearance of Deadman Wonderland against the fascism permeating the stark interiors. Soldiers appear to rule the day while prisoners cower with some controlling device around their necks. The collars dispense death in case you didn’t realize.

The private prison premise is particularly interesting, especially considering that Japan’s first private prison opened in 2007. Coincidentally, the manga also began in 2007. Here, in the ‘States, the prison-industrial complex is a huge and fascinating problem in and of itself, but even putting that aside, the gladiatorial aspect of Deadman Wonderland should be familiar to everyone. Needless to say, the anime seems fresh — these types of stories aren’t being animated often enough.

I am not without my reservations, however. Like I mentioned above, Ganta seems to have been chosen. For what reason, we don’t know yet unless you’ve read the manga, but that red thing embedded within him also means that Ganta suddenly gains shounen powers. Hopefully, this particular aspect of his character won’t unfold as shounen powers are wont to do in other stories.

Secondly, Shiro. Always, there’s a mysterious girl who either knows the main character deeply and/or her role in the plot revolves around him in some way. Always, these girls never behave like a normal person much less a normal girl. This especially sticks out when the hero she’s bound to is as normal as they come. These girls are always frail looking yet they possess unbelievable power. Since the artist behind Deadman Wonderland‘s characters also illustrated Eureka Seven, here’s one comparison: despite the heroines of both stories living in an adult world, one in a ruthless prison and another in a counter-culture, ecoterrorist group, both girls are child-like and naive in behavior. More specifically about Shiro, she is oddly dressed in a strange jumpsuit and… a-are those oven mitts?

Anyhow, the logistics of female clothing in a lot of these anime will never make sense. How does she clean that thing? How does she get in it? It looks like a pain in the ass to go to the restroom with that on… so on and so forth.

With that said, I hope I’m in for a roller coaster of a ride. Everyone’s hyping this up so much, anything less is a failure, right?

*****

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

You can’t really go a single day without hearing about financial problems seemingly plaguing every government. From the local level to the federal, from third world nations to first, the global economy is always teetering on the edge of complete destruction. In C, protagonist Kimimaro confesses to a dull dream: a fixed income with a fixed family life (I can’t blame him much as I’m largely the same way). A boring life is the last thing he gets, however, when he suddenly finds 500k yen in his bank account. Not quite as lucky as Takizawa and his 100 million, but for a college student working two jobs, it’s still no chump change.

Nothing comes without a catch, however, and Kimimaro finds himself being stalked by some Willy Wonka-ish figure of a Midas Bank who goes by the name Masakaki. He tells Kimimaro that he has been given the opportunity to make easy money. All it means is that Kimimaro has to be an “Entrepreneur,” whatever that means in the world of C. Judging by the OP, I really hope it doesn’t mean flying around with some skimpily-dressed girl with elk horns and doing battle in the Financial District like some video game (see above), but that seems to be where we are heading. The temptation of money and how it enslaves people in a “game” is the interesting part; this aspect of the anime draws many familiar parallels with the real world stock market. On the other hand, having the conflict play out on a battlefield is just a little too typical. I’m interested but not excited in C.

C is animated by the unheralded Tatsumoko Production. As such, the animation quality seems jarringly subpar for a first episode. Lots of odd anatomical proportions and lopsided faces.

If the story delivers, no one will care in the end, but it bears noting.

*****

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Damn, that’s a long title. I would have appended a “I spend my days dreaming of my dead loli girlfriend” as a subtitle but well, space is limited! How are you guys shortening this? Wiki says AnoHana and I’m guessing that AHMHnNoBwMS is probably too unwieldy.

Speaking of silver-haired lolis haunting our shounen heroes, our story focuses on Jinta, a seemingly bitter young man. Despite being accompanied by Menma everywhere, he appears to be so utterly alone. Aside from Menma, his friends treat him coldly and, sometimes, cruelly. Jinta himself isn’t so innocent evidenced by his cynical remarks toward others. Worst of all, Menma is dead. That’s right — the ghost of his dead childhood friend haunts him and only him; no one else can see her. Years ago, Jinta and Menma belonged to a group of close friends. When Menma passed away in an accident, however, the group fell apart. Everyone, especially Jinta, changed.

Throughout the first episode, I really wanted Menma to simply be a figment of Jinta’s imagination. Since no one else could see her, there are two possibilities: 1) she is a ghost who appears only to Jinta or 2) Jinta conjures her up to cope with the stress and guilt of not apologizing to Menma before she passed away. The latter is almost definitely not true considering how Menma can somehow interact with the corporeal world despite appearing only to Jinta. Why did I want the latter to be true? I could then think of the anime as a spiritual sequel to Bridge to Terabithia, but instead of a well-adjusted young boy, some lonely nerd goes crazy after his friend dies. Scenes in the anime would take on a host of whole new meanings. For example, instead of getting popped by the ghost of his loli friend, Jinta now imagined the entire thing while sitting before his father — now that would have been a serious complex!

Joking aside, I’m actually more interested and somewhat invested in this show than the two above. Deadman and C look to be exciting or fascinating because of the fantasy world they have constructed, but there’s just something appealing and, most importantly, relatable about this show. Most of us have had friends change and grow apart. Most of us have felt the weight of being left behind. We’ve either seen or heard of families coping with death. How will these all play out in AnoHana? Hey, it could all go badly from here, but right now, everything’s unknown and I’m suitably curious. While this anime remains rooted in only character affairs, I’m still hooked in a way somewhat similar to my interest in Hanasaku Iroha. I’m interested in seeing a story that isn’t about a young guy heading to a new town (usually on a train) and meeting a bevy of fuckable young girls all who develop a crush on him. There seems to be a healthy dose of real people, real drama, and real lives to deal with here.

One thing I forgot to mention in the first draft of this post was the tone of the anime. After the first few minutes of the show, where it seemed to deal too much with Jinta and Menma’s relationship, the anime really dialed it in. If I was a better writer, I could better articulate what I mean by this. All I can say was I felt it near the end of the episode. Yeah, some things are always gonna be trite and cliche, but the tone makes a huge difference in the narrative.

I’m reminded of a car commercial where a young man is speeding along the highway. It cuts often to an apprehensive bride and (presumably) her impatient looking father. The young man screams and curse (silently) as every single thing seems to be going against him getting to the wedding on time. When he finally arrives, we realize that he’s there not to marry the girl but to object. Oh, it’s like The Graduate — ho hum, nothing new. Except for the fact that the tone made the commercial effective anyway. The way everything was shot and the music engaged me, even if it’s just a commercial trying to peddle some shitty car. Or I could be wrong and I was easily fooled by advertisers (despite the fact that I’d never buy a Jetta)!

Like Deadman Wonderland, I’m not keen on the silver-haired Menma either. Again, a child-like, naive little thing whose existence begins with the shounen lead. This is exacerbated by the fact that he’s the only one who can see her. Menma died at a young age so I guess her appearance and behavior couldn’t be helped. Even so, why does she appear to a childhood friend and not her damn family? Hell, her mom sure seems to miss her terribly. How sad that a friend gets to see your dead daughter before you! Maybe the plot will resolve this later, but anyway, I’m more interested in Jinta’s friends and how their stories play out versus Menma.

AnoHana didn’t leave such a favorable impression to everyone here though. Fin offers a different take:

The most memorable thing about Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai is probably going to be the name. It’s not a bad anime per se, mind you, so far at least. I could do without the loli (spoilers I guess) ghost sexually harassing the main character, but it’s not unwatchable prima facie. What’s offputting is how after one episode I can’t imagine anything in the rest of the season surprising me. The wayward childhood friends (ugh) will kiss and make up, and the loli ghost will be appeased and vanish into the great beyond. I’d love to be proven wrong, thrown some kind of curve, but TV anime isn’t known for its unpredictability. And with this in mind, I really don’t feel any need to play along for another 12 episodes. There will be a couple twists, a couple turns, some tearful reunions, a sad farewell to the loli ghost, and the main character will finally be able to let go of the tragic death of the girl he never quite got over. A cardiovascular surgeon couldn’t craft a more coldly precise way to tug heartstrings.

While we’re on the subject, though, is anyone else tired of “childhood friends” being the punchline of every dumb anime ever? The above is a Venn diagram made by some nerd on TV Tropes to show how difficult they’re finding it keeping all the associated archetypes straight. But having known someone as a kid is such a meaningless piece of garnish for a character to have. People change, people (hopefully) make new friends. Why is it so important Jinta reunite with the people he used to play “super Peace Squad” or whatever with? Maybe I’m reading too much into the first episode and the rest of the show will allow the characters to mature a little, but as a rule, childhood friends are symptomatic of some animes’ obsession with never really growing up. I’m thinking here of the endless march of shows about highschool students with no real plans or ambitions, that never show what happens after graduation, or allow for the possibility that people will fall out of touch. Best friends forever! Snore.

Woo, harsh. N’yoron offers a quick (non-serious) rebuttal:

As for me, most of us knew Michael Corleone would rise up and take over the family business, ruthlessly crushing his enemies. In the end, Godfather is still a powerful, gripping story. No, AnoHana is no Godfather, but the destination isn’t as important as the journey and we don’t know how the journey will go yet. This relates back to my brief mention of Ganta and his powers. Having not read the manga, I hope that it won’t go somewhat along the lines of “unlimited potential > trains > powerful!” because that’s a journey we’ve all seen before. Until I see what the journey is, however, I can’t decry it completely yet (though I can certainly detail my apprehensions). Anyway, this debate can be continued some other time. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my *cough* later years.

*****

Wow, three watchable shows. Well, I did watch Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko and Hidan no Aria, but let’s not ruin a good night by talking about them. I’ll just stop here and say…

9 thoughts on “Silver-haired lolis and the boys they haunt

  1. totoum

    ” More specifically about Shiro, she is oddly dressed in a strange jumpsuit and… are those oven mitts?”

    This isn’t just to try and look different/cool/whatever , there’s a reason why she’s forced to wear this and not normal clothe.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Hey, I ain’t doubting you — I’m just sayin’: sure are a lot of anime girls who have reasons to wear asstight bodysuits.

      Reply
  2. thoughtcannon

    I think you hit the nail on the head about how relatable AnoHana was. I know I’ve lost friends at a number of times in my life. It’s not so much that we go on and make new friends but I would hope that there are always the times that we look back and remember the good times. Getting back in touch with some of my HS friends after college was a great way to re-establish those old connections I had with them. Even though we all had changed we could still shoot the shit like no other; and we all lived in different places across the state. In AnoHana everyone is within close proximity so it must be extra painful for the lead. Though I have the sneaky suspicion this will play out remarkably similar to Cross Game. Even the lead and the redhead have the same VAs, no doubt there’s gonna be romance there.

    The one other moment I could really really relate to was seeing acquaintances (not so much friends) from middle school or HS and hoping they wouldn’t recognize me. There’s nothing like an awkward “hi, how are you doing” from someone you barely even talked to in the past.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      One thing I forgot to mention in the first draft of this post was the tone of the anime (I’ve edited this comment into the post above as a result). After the first few minutes of the show, where it seemed to deal too much with Jinta and Menma’s relationship, the anime really dialed it in. If I was a better writer, I could articulate what I mean by this better. All I can say was I felt it near the end of the episode. Yeah, some things are always gonna be trite and cliche, but the tone makes a huge difference in the narrative.

      I’m reminded of a car commercial where a young man is speeding along the highway. It cuts often to an apprehensive bride and (presumably) her impatient looking father. The young man screams and curse (silently) as every single thing seems to be going against him getting to the wedding on time. When he finally arrives, we realize that he’s there not to marry the girl but to object. Oh, it’s like The Graduate — ho hum, nothing new. Except for the fact that the tone made it effective anyway. The way everything was shot and the music engaged me, even if it’s just a commercial trying to peddle some shitty car. Or I could be wrong and I was easily fooled by advertisers (despite the fact that I’d never buy a Jetta)!

      Reply
  3. KizukuKanshi

    C seems pretty unique, so far, but I do hope it’ll carry its tone and not become something ridiculous. The constant red skies reminded me of whatever anime that was like a year ago that had an interesting concept but turned out to be another helping of veiled fanservice. 11-Eyes I think.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Usually, they give you warnings in the OP and 11eyes’ was pretty trashy. On a similar note, I didn’t think too highly of C’s OP either so eesh.

      Reply

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