Love in Bakemonogatari (Tsubasa Cat)
So far, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about overarching and sometimes abstract concepts of style and narratology. That’s all important and interesting, but I don’t think we can fully appreciate Monogatari without digging our nails into some specific scenes and conversations. The series isn’t just a bunch of a random moments arranged according to some grand scheme, after all. The tiny details are designed for their own purposes.
Like any Monogatari fan, I adore Episode 12’s starry sky scene. All it represents about the Gahararagi couple’s journey so far, and all its beauty in retrospect, make it a timeless scene. However, what I’ll be focusing on today is the build-up to that scene. Perhaps the less important sequence thematically—yet the more interesting one in some ways—is Senjougahara’s verbal assault on Araragi in her father’s car. While we can write this off as her pushing Araragi’s buttons as usual, there’s actually a subtext of Senjougahara explaining to her father why she loves Araragi and why they’re a good match.Read More »
Nisekoi is Perfect (An Analysis)
This essay is based on the first four chapters of the Nisekoi manga, analyzed via the first two episodes of the anime, which is more or less an exact adaptation. May contain spoilers for later parts of the series.
Judging by the way Nisekoi is discussed online by its detractors (and even its fans), you could easily think the show/manga is just some trashy harem with a plot more convoluted than a Rube Goldberg machine. This is an unfair judgment. While I can’t say Nisekoi isn’t trashy and convoluted—that’s part of the appeal, personally—it is also perfect. Nisekoi is the perfect incarnation and execution of the setup.
Let’s get back to basics. I’m talking barebones narrative structure: characters have desires but encounter a problem that leads to conflict and an eventual resolution. Putting on our grade-schooler hats, the setup is the exposition where we meet the characters and first crash into the main problem. The reason Niseoki is such a popular series—the reason it can get away or even thrive off maintaining the status quo—is that its setup is perfect. Imagine the setup is a car and the second act/rising action is a long road. If you build that car well enough, you can take people on a drive through potholes, snow, T-bones, and popped tires and still reach your destination.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 3) – On Romance
Come Episode 3, we can finally begin to explore some of Hibike’s more interesting and intricate qualities. Primarily, this episode reveals the series to be a Romantic one (as in my Spice and Wolf essay, this is not necessarily lower-case romance—though we’ll get to that…) and crafts some complexity into Kumiko and Reina. The overarching conflict of the season is finally explained, and with perfect timing considering how the tone of the show begins to shift this episode. Let’s figure out how exactly these changes in story and statement work together.
Hibike’s Romantic side first shows in its background music. In particular, the track “Sprouting of Senses” accompanies any moment Kumiko and the viewer contemplate what concert band and playing an instrument means for a high schooler. We hear this track in Episode 1 when Kumiko thinks back on Reina’s middle school frustration. Kumiko acts out a conversation between her and Reina, wherein she attempts to explain her feelings about band. In Episode 3, the song plays again as Kumiko and friends pick out their instruments. The three first years see themselves in their instruments—quite literally, they see their reflections—and their instruments look back at them.Read More »
Wolf and Forgotten Message (Spice and Wolf Long-form Analysis)
Spice and Wolf is no doubt widely and thoroughly enjoyed. The show appears frequently on recommendation lists or in recommendation threads and sits comfortably with a 8.4 rating on MAL, not to mention ranking as the 68th most popular anime in that same database (at time of writing). Yet, that seems a shallow metric to judge this show by. Come to think of it, all of the praise for Spice and Wolf borders on shallow. With the exception of Mother’s Basement’s fantastic (and ultra in-depth) analysis of the show’s two openings, anything resembling a critical opinion on the show boils down to “moe economics” and “great romantic chemistry”. If you ask me, that’s selling it insultingly short.
Though, I’ll admit, the two immediate draws of Spice and Wolf are its ability to turn a medieval economics lecture into riveting dialogue and its ever-developing romance. I mean, the series is titled Spice and Wolf for a reason. While I’m at it, let me also admit that the show does suffer from light novel syndrome in that only a third of the source material ever saw adaptation. However, despite the number of people praising said economics and romance, I’ve never seen any kind of meaningful discussion or analysis of why those elements succeed.
Hopefully, throughout this essay, I can expand upon those praises, as well point to several less-appreciated elements of the series that are, in my opinion, equally important to the show’s success.Read More »
A Tale of Tension (ef: A Tale of Memories Analysis)
Tension pulls us to the edge of our seats with a claw clamped around our hearts. Then, after a fist-clenching scene, the tension diffuses in a release. Tension without release becomes grating and tiresome, and an attempt to release tension that never existed just comes across as awkward. ef: A Tale of Memories builds tension in both traditional and experimental ways, and releases that tension with smart comedic or emotional timing. Let’s investigate two tense scenes from A Tale of Memories and figure out the different ways tension can work.
Tension requires time to allow for build-up and at least two opposing forces to provide that build-up (although the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, as we’ll see). The time spent creating tension ought to be proportional to the intensity of the release that follows; the attributes/weight of the opposing forces ought to determine the type of release that follows. We’ll keep these ideals in mind throughout the essay and look at how stepping outside the lines might detract from a scene. Still, we won’t forget about cinematic form.Read More »
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.
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 »