As Time Changes – Clannad #4

As Time Changes – Clannad #4

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

True to my word, there will not be any consistency in the format of these posts whatsoever. We’re just following my whim here, and my whim for this week is to not use those helpful section breaks again. But don’t worry! I’m sure I’ll switch back soon enough. My inconsistency is my consistency.

We could debate whether this episode or the next is the real start of Fuko’s arc, considering this one is divided roughly in half between general exposition and actual Fuko content. Even so, we’re presented with the main conflicts of the arc (Kouko’s wedding and Fuko’s hospitalization) in this episode, which inevitably focuses our attention entirely in Fuko’s arc. Since things are about to get more serious over the next few episodes, I figured we’d take a moment to talk about Clannad’s (perhaps I should say Jun Maeda’s) humor.

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Obviously the straight man is an essential comedic archetype across cultures, but (at least in my experience) its incarnation in Japanese comedy seems especially common and pronounced. From traditional manzai to its representation in variety shows to “tsukkomi” and “boke” becoming archetypes we apply to anime characters almost in the same way we would a term like “tsundere,” comedic styles involving straight man types are extremely prominent in these media. I also believe the writing of straight man/tsukkomi characteristics into stories like anime is more intentionally designed by creators and more evidently picked up by consumers. Like I said, we point to characters in anime and call them tsukkomi, but we never really do that for characters in Hollywood comedies. That is judgment we reserve for something like Abbott and Costello, though even then we don’t think so concretely about the roles. Of course, this is just anecdotal analysis, but I think the jist of it holds true.Read More »

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As Time Changes – Clannad #3

As Time Changes – Clannad #3

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

Our third week of Clannad brings with it a third post and a new format. The past two posts have been arranged as a chronological flow of analysis that I tried to demonstrate some kind of logical progression within. That structure worked well enough, but I also feel it has its shortcomings. Partly as a matter of remedying those shortcomings and partly because the main ideas of this post will be more difficult to link together into a coherent storyline, I’m experimenting a bit with structure this time. I want to divide my thoughts into clear sections.

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Clannad is a story made up of a lot of key recurring elements, and one of the best ways to engage with it is to trace those elements throughout the series. For that reason, organizing posts into distinct sections that clearly mark which specific element they deal with might make that job of “tracing” easier for both you and me. All that being said, I’m not committing to this structure by any means. I’m leaving myself open to continue experimenting or to return to old structures–whatever seems to fit the episode and topic at hand.

The above text has been my own repeating element: some unnecessary ramblings about my writing process for these posts. I’ll apologize for wasting time, but I can’t promise I’ll stop. Anyway, on to the show.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #2

As Time Changes – Clannad #2

Welcome back to our long climb. I have no doubt in my mind that the hardest part of this project will be thinking up new introductions for each post. Well, at least I’ve gotten this one out of the way.

Last time, we opened up a lot of puzzle boxes about the relationships between time, change, life, and death. Our characters are going to be working through these puzzles all story long, trying to sort out their own feelings towards these topics as we make our own interpretations. Behind all of this is an emotional thesis: “I hate this town.” I had begun to clarify that “town” shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value. The “town” in question is more than just a location with geographical borders and city ordinances, etc. As we’ve already heard from Tomoya himself, part of what the “town” encompasses is the idea of his school days–their repetitive, boring nature that serves as nothing but a brief respite from his home life.

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We’ll flesh out our idea of the “town” just as we build up our understanding of those puzzles I mentioned.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #1

As Time Changes – Clannad #1

Note: I am working with two copies of Clannad: one with lackluster image quality and one with a lackluster translation. The images in this series will be from the copy with less terrible image quality, and as such there may be discrepancies between quotations and subtitles shown.

The first time I wrote about Clannad for this blog, I mentioned how I wanted to give the story the attention it deserved in a series of posts. I wasn’t ready for such a project at the time and–in fact–I’m probably not ready for it now either. Yet, I want to get to work on it. However long it takes me. To be fair, I am compromising a bit. My original plan was to focus on the visual novel–a form that would take me much longer to parse and would make cataloging/accessing relevant quotes and screenshots much more cumbersome. Time just doesn’t allow for that right now.

You’ll have to settle for ~50 individual episodes instead.

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In many ways, Clannad is a story that I have grown up with, and that I’m sure I have yet to finish growing up with. Being able to rediscover the story across multiple media has certainly encouraged that relationship, as has the range of the plot’s timeline itself. I’ve been able to rediscover Clannad as I “rediscover” myself (but more on that eventually). I’ve also found myself discovering Clannad elsewhere–from Higurashi to -monogatari. The anime adaptation is perhaps the flagship of the Key and KyoAni collaborations, growing out of and pushing forward the KyoAni style and structure that has proved too influential to ignore.Read More »

Space and Time in Yuru Camp

Space and Time in Yuru Camp

Yuru Camp, an iyashikei about an outdoor activity that (frankly) most people who watch seasonal anime will not engage in, somehow managed to match the popularity of all its diverse seasonal contemporaries. Bearing in mind that those contemporaries included a Trigger/A-1 Pictures co-produced action series featuring a cute dinosaur (Darling in the Franxx) and a highly anticipated KyoAni adaptation (Violet Evergarden), that’s quite the accomplishment for a no-name studio and director. One naturally wonders what made Yuru Camp so successful.

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The answer you’ll find throughout discussion posts and YouTube reviews is that it’s comfy–a description that’s as much of a meme is it is the truth. However, if we go a step further and try to answer why it’s comfy, we might learn something about iyashikei as a whole. Lately, every season of anime is filled up with slice of life or would-be iyashikei shows. Most of these shows come across as formulaic and wind up lost in the dustbin with the mobile game adaptations. So what makes Yuru Camp stand out as comfy when so many of its peers fall into the trap of being boring?Read More »

2018 Retrospective

2018 Retrospective

There are spoilers ahead. If you see a show title you haven’t watched yet, you might want to skip that section until you have.

This was a year full of quality and diverse anime, and even the most cynical curmudgeon couldn’t have come out of it having enjoyed nothing. It was also an incredibly busy year for me, which kept me from watching so many of these shows until just the past couple of months. That being said, I believe that my relative inactivity in 2018 was all for the purpose of having a fantastic 2019, throughout which I hope to deliver you all my best work–both in discussing anime and in my own creative endeavors.

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But since this is a post meant to celebrate anime and not my aspirations, let’s move on! The same rules apply as always: only shows that began their first cour and season in 2018 were considered. Films, remakes, and reboots were all excluded for the same reasons as usual. To say it for the (now) fourth time: I decided on these five shows as the anime that will best represent 2018 to my mind–whether that be for my emotional response to them, my appreciation of their execution, my investment in their extratextual hooplah, or any other reason I explain below. This was the hardest retrospective to put together yet!

So let’s celebrate some of the year’s anime.Read More »

What It Means to Speak: Melodramatic Articulation in Anime

What It Means to Speak: Melodramatic Articulation in Anime

This essay contains significant spoilers for Toradora!, The Anthem of the Heart, and A Silent Voice.

Introduction

In her autobiography, From Truant to Anime Screenwriter, Mari Okada faces the quintessential melodramatic dilemma: how can I speak aloud what I feel inside?

“I’m hopelessly inadequate with words,” she writes. “Whenever I try to say something, the words will clog up in my throat… Until I became a scenario writer, I’d thought that it was solitary work where you could carefully pick the right words to use and express your feelings perfectly. But that’s not how it was at all. Being an anime scenario writer means grappling with people. You can’t just write your feelings in text; you have to say the words out loud.”

When we imagine the pivotal conflicts and climaxes of melodramas, it is easy to gloss over the mechanics through which those scenes are expressed. We think of love confessions, emotional outbursts, and flowing tears, but always with a focus on their emotional weight and register. This is where the negative characterization of melodrama is often grounded–its “hysterics” and “manipulations”. Rarely do we examine the construction of such scenes in terms of their specific, observable actions and reactions. In short, what are the characters actually doing during these confessions and outbursts?Read More »