Building More Than a Wall

Building More Than a Wall (A Haikyuu!! Analysis)

If you’ve read some of my other Haikyuu!! essays, you know how valuable I consider the show’s world. Often in sci-fi/fantasy stories, the world becomes as iconic and alive as the characters—think of Academy City in the Raildex series or the Sybil System in Psycho Pass (or think of Westeros, to bring some Western media into the mix). These storyworld constructs—be they cities, technology, or nations—play as large of a role in the narrative as any character, and oftentimes are a guiding (or even driving) force in the story.

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Without spoiling anything from those series I just mentioned, let’s quickly clarify. The goals and purposes of Academy City drive certain characters to create near-catastrophes in Raildex, even if their intentions were pure-hearted. In some ways, the city and its government are a mystery for us to explore via various arcs. The Sybil System poses a moral dilemma, as well as a safety risk. Even if we aren’t hooked by the crimes committed in Psycho Pass, we are eager to watch law enforcement and morality play out under the regulations of, and in obedience of, the Sybil System (a certain scene with a certain main criminal comes to mind…).Read More »

The Sub’s Sub-Thread

The Sub’s Sub-Thread (A Haikyuu!! Analysis)

I’ll admit it, I’m obsessed with Haikyuu!!. Just when I think I want to take a break from writing about this show, it pulls me back. With the ridiculous number of interesting characters in this series, and the brilliance with which they’re all developed, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Ennoshita’s true arrival as a character over the past two episodes is just the latest in a long list of spectacular storylines. So, with an elimination match and an opponent’s development to boot, let’s figure out how Haikyuu!! gets us invested in the “don of the second-years”.

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To start, let’s just briefly mention that we meet Ennoshita way back in Season 1, and we do get to see and hear him a few times throughout the series—to the point we have a general idea of his personality. However, not until Episode 17 of the second season do we discover his history as a volleyball player.Read More »

Time on My Side

Time on My Side (A Clannad Analysis)

I’ve been trying to find a way to write about Clannad in a concise manner for a while. What I really want to look at is the visual novel as a whole, but that’s a project for the future (not to mention I still need to 100% it…). Luckily, I found something we can talk about quickly that still pokes at some larger, more interesting themes of the series as a whole. For our purposes, the Tomoyo OVA from After Story provides the series’ most concise glimpse into Clannad’s trademark storytelling.

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Repetition, cycles, and time’s tug-of-war between change and constancy are all major themes in Clannad. These themes are even more prominent in the visual novel (and even more fascinating given the narrative structure of most visual novels), but they’re certainly present in the anime, too. Clannad makes brilliant use of foreshadowing through both its dialogue and symbols to portray life as a cycle of emotions and changes. These cycles build in meaning and intensity until we reach a dramatic climax. Let’s figure out how that happens in Tomoyo’s arc.Read More »

Wandering Identity

Wandering Identity (A Hourou Musuko Analysis)

As I began writing a character analysis of Saori Chiba from Hourou Musuko, I realized I couldn’t say all I needed to say without first establishing the nature of identity in this show. Obviously, a story that deals heavily with gender and sexuality also has to grapple with identity. That being said, we won’t be looking at identity strictly through the lens of gender issues. We’re going to investigate a more universal idea of identity—applicable to any scenario and any perspective.

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Whether or not gender and sexuality are things we should include when we think about what a ‘personal identity’ consists of is a discussion for another time. We won’t be investigating what attributes are included in Hourou Musuko’s concept of identity, we’ll be figuring out what factors influence the formation of personal identity. The topic isn’t what identity is, but rather how is identity formed (and the show’s opinion of those influencing factors).Read More »

Show the Story

Show the Story (Dimension W Ep. 1)

In my One Week Friends analysis, I mentioned how there are certain things a director has to show. Most simply, the shots have to show the viewer enough so that we can follow the steps of the story. Typically that means we need to know what action is occurring, where that action is occurring, and who is performing the action. Some movies and shows play around with excluding one or two of those details (a mystery movie might hide the perpetrator of an action, for example), but usually those three details are the bare necessities. Anything more than that—such as characterization or world-building—is bonus.

A first episode benefits the most from shots that convey extra details, since the viewer needs to be introduced to the characters and world, as well as be enticed to continue watching. The writing of plot and dialogue plays a major role in accomplishing those tasks, but the directing can elevate a first episode from good to great. Let’s figure out how shots in Dimension W work to create a fantastic first episode.Read More »

Spoken Suspense

Spoken Suspense (Erased Ep. 1)

As we’ve seen in Hibike! Euphonium, dialogue can reveal aspects of character, and, as in Owarimonogatari, dialogue can also be a tool to develop theme. Like every other component of anime (and stories in general), dialogue has endless uses. Sometimes, what’s most interesting about dialogue isn’t how much it reveals, but rather how much it sends our minds spinning. A single sentence can leave us full of questions as we hang in suspense. Let’s figure out how Erased’s dialogue leaves us searching for answers.

In Episode 1, there’s two pieces of dialogue that set up serious suspense. The first comes from Yuuki in a flashback. Nervously, he asks, “Want me to guess about the most popular kid in your class?” He goes on to describe a stereotypical ‘popular kid’ before asking what would happen if someone tried to be like that popular kid in one or two ways. What would happen if someone unpopular tried acting as much like a popular kid as they had the courage to do?Read More »

Faces in Failure

Faces in Failure (A Haikyuu!! Analysis)

With the second cour of Season 2 of Haikyuu!! approaching—and the more serious matches of the tournament with it—I’ve decided to take a look back and write about some details of the show thus far that will help hype me (and hopefully you) up! The episode that hypes up the second season the most absolutely must be the last episode of the first season. Let’s figure out what the last episode of Season 1 shows us about these characters and their emotions.

The episode opens with a montage of Hinata’s successes and failures from the tournament, which is mostly to refresh our memory and set the tone for the following sequence of classroom shots. We get to see every character’s state of mind the day after their loss. Some emotion is conveyed through their postures and expressions, but all of this is meant to be expanded upon later in the episode. This is mostly a groundwork. Let’s just run through a few groups of characters so that we’re on the same page:

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Cozy to Cold

Cozy to Cold – An Isshuukan Friends Analysis

You might have seen my first Isshuukan Friends analysis last week where I focused on directing. All those scenes we looked at last time are supported by the show’s warm and cozy atmosphere. Actually, in the case of Episode 4, we should probably say that the scenes are supported by a contrast against the show’s usual warm and cozy atmosphere. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have to set the metaphorical table before we flip it (or maybe we wouldn’t want to do that…?).

Oh well. Let’s figure out how atmosphere can influence drama.

The first thing you notice when you turn on an episode of Isshuukan Friends is the watercolor-like background, coated in a pastel color palette. While Isshuukan is far from the first animation (Japanese or otherwise) to utilize a soft, brush-strokey background, it might be the one that benefits the most from it. These backgrounds (combined with a couple other elements we’ll get to in a second) create a relaxed atmosphere that meshes perfectly with Hase and Kaori’s interactions. These characters are timid in their friendship—especially Hase.

Psycho Pass, for comparison.

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Directing the Heart

Directing the Heart – An Isshuukan Friends Analysis

While Isshuukan Friends did have its issues—primarily a wimp protagonist and lack of romantic resolution—it makes up for those issues with fantastic atmosphere and moments of stellar directing/editing. Shougo also saves the day on an almost episodic basis, showing that the writers were at least aware of what they were doing to us. It’s a little like they wanted to punch us in the face, but were at least kind enough to bring us an icepack afterwards. For the sake of time, let’s blame it on the manga artist and move on.

In this essay, let’s figure out how smart directing can turn a small conflict into a powerful drama. If you’re interested in atmosphere—don’t worry, I have an essay on that coming as well. Now, prepare yourself for a lot of pictures. At the beginning of Episode 4, Hase is insecure as usual, and is struggling to express himself to Kaori (as usual). A rift is about to slash through their friendship, just as the cloud streak and bar of the fence slice between them visually. These characters are very clearly about to have an issue with each other.

This is more symbolism than anything, but this episode throws way too many dandelions in our face to not mention it now: dandelions symbolize friendship in this show, specifically the kind of fleeting friendship Kaori experiences because of her memory loss. The dandelion seeds drift away as easily as her friendships might if she doesn’t work hard to maintain them. Obviously, the two dandelions in this shot represent Kaori and Hase. Actually, this will be super important in a second, so remember it and keep an eye out for dandelions!Read More »

As We Were Told

Owarimonogatari Ep. 11 – As We Were Told

The debate between Shinobu and Kanbaru this episode is interesting even by –monogatari standards. Their dialogue gives us a lot to think about, while simultaneously telling us exactly what to think. Yet, the telling in this scene isn’t the same as bad telling (i.e. ‘I was scared’), nor it is quite the same as good telling (i.e. Hibike Euphonium revealing Reina’s flaws by telling us “band isn’t an individual activity”). To figure out what exactly this new telling is, obviously we need to check out some dialogue.

Shinobu Mail is a story of Shinobu’s past with the Apparition Killer, and their eventual meeting and resolution of conflict. That’s how’d you summarize it, anyway. Throughout this arc are themes of repetition and the hope for an ending. We spent a lot of time looking into repetition two episodes ago, and Owarimonogatari essentially means ‘End Story’. How do these themes play into the conversation between Shinobu and Kanbaru, and what do the characters tell us about this story via those themes?

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