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The top 10 anime of 2010: the cream of the crop

I didn’t really go much into detail with regard to the later entries of the top 10 not because they were bad anime, but because they were merely decent to above-average entries that every year would probably have. On the other hand, however, I feel that these five anime were really in a league of their own for this year, especially the top three. One made something already exquisite even more beautiful; another resurrected a franchise in the dregs of its own stupidity; and one was the landmark event: it was just far and away the best anime of 2010. I must forewarn you that the individual entries of these great anime are relatively lengthy, but I felt I had to give more respect to these gems of 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Kuragehime – 06: the waterless ablution

Little has changed in my perception towards the Amars since the first episode. They mainly serve as the comic relief of the series, and, while irritating at times, are nothing more than innocuous anyway. It has always been the dynamism of the central characters that have sucked me in, and the recent episode is proof of that.

The waterless ablution

I should have seen the episode by early Friday (and spared my pharmacology exam by waking up early), but I’ve had connection problems these past few days, so I couldn’t update as quickly as I wanted to. Mayaya is a pestilence, as always, but the other ladies have slowly been growing on me. More than the Amars, however, I admire how Kuranosuke strives in his own way to expose the Amars to the real world and attempts to let them understand that it’s not as horrible as they think it is. I also love how he’s slowly becoming more and more besotted towards Tsukimi, as seen with him being heavily affected by her small gestures. It’s pleasing to know that he appreciates Tsukimi for who she really is and not merely for her beauty.

I think that the episode’s centerpiece, however, is Shu. Inari’s quite a vicious bitch (I mean no disrespect, but she is one) to sedate Shu and then let him think that he was molested for her own selfish causes. I love how the show does the opposite of Shiki when they show evil or foreignness: in Shiki, the vampires’ eyes becoming nearly black; in contrast, Inari’s eyes become white during her crusade to bag Shu in.

I like how the four major players in the series oppose their same-sex counterparts: Tsukimi is a virginal recluse of society, but has a heart of gold; Inari, on the other hand, is a sexually-promiscuous woman who uses the act of intercourse to get what she wants. Shu is a cool and calculating man who cares for the good of his family; Kuranosuke is a childlike crossdresses who lets his impulses drive his actions.

Flustered

Shu’s motivations and contemptible actions the previous episodes were given reasons, and these were heavily intertwined with Kuranosuke’s existence. He is virginal because he detests women for the most part, seeing that his father was sucked in by Kuranosuke’s mother: the incident this episode will probably not ease this fear. What he did after the incident, however, was quite a delight to watch: it was loyalty at its finest. Having been molested by Inari (how could it have been otherwise?), he drags what he believes is his filthy body to be purified by Tsukimi. His heart is only towards her, and the simple act of him taking her hand has such beautiful implications regarding his character. Although his past has given him scars towards women and has made him preternaturally dense, the fact that he trusts and relies only on Tsukimi to save him is just beautiful.

Kuragehime is just another love story. But it’s also another love story. I’ve always believed that a romance is beautiful when the major players are not difficult to root for. There will, of course, be drama along the way, but when the protagonists are noble and likable in their own quirky ways it’s bound to be at the very least great – or a masterpiece.

Kuragehime – 05: a challenger appears

With this episode the series established its central plot, and an important secondary problem: the destruction of the current Amamizu-kan due to redevelopment. The series also introduced Tsukimi’s virtual opposite (as I mentioned in my previous post, her antipode): Shoko Inari is a woman with a progressive career. She’s also highly attractive, and very manipulative, using her body to get what she wants from men. She is a world away from Tsukimi’s virginal innocence and Tsukimi’s introversion: Inari has no hesitation to go out and be a whore to propel her career forward.

The beauty and the beast

It has become troublesome for Tsukimi because she has finally fallen in love with Shu, only to deal with him ignoring her and then seeing him with Inari. As much as I hate to admit it, beautiful women, or at least women who know how to make themselves up tend to attract men more than types like Tsukimi, no matter how beautiful she is. It didn’t help that she saw Shu with Inari and protected her from the rain.

The episode made Shu’s affections for Tsukimi clearer: he loved the attractive Tsukimi, but remains to be dense that he could not associate that Tsukimi from her normal self. While his affections for her are undoubtedly genuine, the fact that he cannot accept the totality of Tsukimi’s person lessens the probability of a relationship between them becoming successful. In a relationship of love, the good must be accepted with the bad. Ignorance excuses no one.

Somehow, Kuranosuke’s more respectable in this aspect, because he accepts that the normal Tsukimi is all right, but not if she wants to improve herself, or fight for a cause, as was shown in this episode. While he’s also quite selfish, as his acts of kindness are nothing more than acts to stoke his ego for the most part, he accepts Tsukimi as herself while prompting her to improve. His concern for Tsukimi, however, evinces itself in this episode.

It’s really a difficult thing to peg Inari as a villain of this series, since she’s really just doing her job. She’s the designated high-class whore, and it’s been working well for her, judging from the number of phone calls from her fans. She just represents the modern lady who seeks to improve herself by doing her job, whether it’s presenting or having sex with powerful men. She will be more of a catalyst to the story, proving perhaps to Shu that it’s not only appearances that matter, and providing some attrition to Tsukimi so that she will force herself to change.

Did anyone else like Kuranosuke’s resolve this episode?

Kuragehime – 04: the weight of words

One of my notebooks was nearing depletion after about three years of use, and so I decided to write a lengthy write-up with dedication until I filled up the notebook’s remaining pages. I decided to write about Kuragehime.

The weight of words

It is nothing funny to lose a loved one at such an early age. Children for the most part are unprepared for it and have difficulty dealing with such loss. The absence will most certainly color their maturity and define their personalities in the future (as what is visible with Tsukimi). There are certain things one should never say to children suffering from the passage of someone dear: in our block on pediatrics one of the most memorable things I’ve learned is that one never tells a child who’s lost a loved one not to cry. It’s also no good to lie about the one who died, since children, while being young, are more perceptive than they seem, and lying about who they love will reverberate through their entire lives.

A loving mistake

Despite being unprepared, however, these children’s perceptiveness must not be ignored. Even at such young ages, children often correctly understand a certain event from the priming cues that event presents. In child psychiatry, it is an absolute no-no to be dishonest with a child upon the death of a loved one. As much as we’d like to believe the contrary, children are not idiots. Honesty is extremely important so that the child can face the truth of the event, although that truth must not be forced upon the child at loss: the child must know the truth, but in his due time and in his own terms. It’s no good to shove the truth down his throat.

A costly mistake most parents commit towards their children is lying to them with regard to their (the parent’s) condition for ‘the sake of the child.’ Simple words and statements like this build up a child to have faith in the dishonesty of fantasy, even if the words were said with noble intent. Another mistake is for the parent to tell the child not to grieve: as most of us know, children don’t have a mature sense of ideation, and their actions are mostly rooted in the physical world. If a child was told not to grieve by a loving parent, chances are he will follow that command even if it will be to his detriment in the future (how should the child know how about that?). Taken to the extreme, the child may have difficulty growing up adjusted, as the process of grief was not followed naturally.

The process of grief (described properly by the thanatologist Kubler-Ross) is not something to be taken lightly, as it is only in its completion that people finally move on and face the reality of the loved one’s passage. Because of her mother’s words, Tsukimi was not afforded this normal process of grieving. It is no surprise that her current existence was majorly defined by her mother’s death as she was still unable to move on from it. Because the normal process was stilted and stoppered, it transmogrified into something pathologic. Even after years have passed, Tsukimi was still heavily affected by her mother’s death. Had she been allowed to cry her heart out or had she not been ‘pressured’ by her mother, she may have become more adjusted as a person. She may even be one of the princesses who proudly strut Tokyo. One must recall that the primordial reason to her being an otaku of jellyfish was her excursion with her mother when she was near death: the child is the father of the man.

The OP expanded further

The opening animation of the song, as I mentioned in a previous post, is full of prognostication with regard to the future events in the series. As the allusions speak for themselves, they predict certain events from the short, referential skits.

At the later part of the OP, there was a marriage skit with Shu protesting the marriage of Kuranosuke with an unknown lady. That unknown lady popped up in the preview for the next episode, and it is currently obvious where Shu’s emotions lie. While it may seem disturbing for some that Kuragehime was going to become a love story, I am enjoying the direction it’s been taking as it won’t be anything but an iridescent love story: I’ve had my fill of the Amars and they’re very good, but only as side characters. I hope they will be more than one-dimensional at the end of the series, but I’m thankful that they have shifted focus to the relationships of the main characters. Besides …

Every story is a love story

All stories eventually and inexorably deal with love. The love may not be romantic or erotic in nature, but love can never be skirted from and can never be avoided in any story, as it is a fundamental positive emotion ingrained in every human being. It’s just that the love is directed towards different objects: whether these are inanimate or imaginary, as is the case with the Amars; filial, as with Quentin Compson; or of course, romantic, as with Shu’s towards Tsukimi’s. Every story is essentially a love story, however, perverted or sublimated.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous segment, I’m not too fond of the previous focus on the Amars and their idiosyncratic manifestations of love, so I find that the current direction of the series is more interesting. By placing focus on such a paradoxical emotion among the series’s central entities, the show’s become more colorful.

Kuranosuke’s jealousy

It has already been pointed out by many that Kuranosuke is highly attractive. An unbiased observer, as observed in the previous episode, funnily pointed out that Kuranosuke was ‘ikemen.’ Whether dressed as a woman or man, he’s highly confident in his beauty. He isn’t delusional: as he pointed out, he was endlessly scouted and his girlfriends were the beauties of his place. Their bitterness towards each other, however, lead to his disappointment in them. Their outward beauty was masked by their ugliness within.

Ikemen.

In contrast, Tsukimi did not bathe in the knowledge of her attractiveness: in fact, she tried to shy away from it. She masked her outer beauty with disregard, but it’s quite obvious that she’s a kind girl. When Kuranosuke touched her up, however, she noticed her being a diamond covered with just a ton of dirt. Even then, he still wasn’t able to see her beauty, because he was so focused on her physical makeover. It was only in this episode where they looked into each other’s eyes (as Tsukimi’s disability with her vision made her braver), and he saw the beauty within and without. It was very entertaining to watch because he was in persistent denial with his feelings until he finally realized that his feelings towards her were growing. It’s ironic that despite his overwhelming handsomeness, physical charms and aggressiveness, he’s quite the underdog for Tsukimi’s heart.

I think it’s difficult to root for him, however. He can practically just walk and beauties will flock to him, whereas his brother has difficulty even having relationships with women. Shu has never been besotted as much as he is with Tsukimi, after all.

Final notes

I sought to write this post topically, since there are a lot of interrelated but highly disparate issues that the current episode tackled. As the puzzle slowly gets constructed, the pieces more and more become connected to the picture. I’d assume that the mystery woman will present complications to the love triangle being fomented by Kuranosuke’s jealousy. She will either be interested in Shu or Kuranosuke, and will be a confounder to the major players involved.

I really don’t think Shu’s turned off with the normal Tsukimi, although I will have to see the future episodes to really tell. The incident during the previous episode was just one bad fluke, after all: he saw her at her worst. Sooner or later, he will have to see her as she really is. I am patiently waiting for the role the new lady will play, since she, at a physical level, is the antipode to Tsukimi: she is quite stylish; she looks mature; and seems social, too. She’s one of the princesses that Tsukimi dreams one day to be (even if she is already one).

Kuragehime – 03: the issues of withdrawal and the OP expounded

I watched the third episode of Kuragehime twice these past few days, and it has both that foreignness and familiarity that drags me closer to it: it has been consistently brilliant, as what can be expected from Takahiro Omori, and yet offers no easy answers to the problems of the main characters.

Before I explicate on the episode itself, let me place focus into the opening animation of the show. Like other great shows, it subtly offers a background of the conflict and some possible plot points of the series. What I initially thought to be mere references to enduring movies and movie franchises has actually something beneath it established through the archetypal characters referred to. Read the rest of this entry »

Kuragehime – 02: the next best thing

I don’t think anything will beat Tatami Galaxy for me this year. It has become THE favorite anime series of mine, and with good reason (elucidated over thirty posts).

Isn't this extremely apt? The lyrics ... and the preview ...

Isn't this extremely apt? The lyrics ... and the preview ...

Kuragehime is shaping up to be the next best thing. To prove that the first episode was no fluke, the show delivered with its second episode once again. While this doesn’t rival Tatami Galaxy in terms of depth and analytical openness, it presents an interpretation of the otaku life without resorting to cheap jokes or sensuality. It paints a portrait of the irrational phobias pervading each withdrawn otaku female, and their need for isolation, as well as their defense mechanisms against reality. The second episode presented sophisticated methods in avoiding reality and beauty, and while not very pleasant to watch, is at least something that tries to be verisimilar to reality. I was amazed with the ability that Kana Hanazawa showed in her portrayal of Tsukimi this episode, especially with that funny ‘Ole’ song of hers.

Because of the early passage of her mother Tsukimi grew up to be a reserved and highly withdrawn girl. While the Amars are kindly people, they only offer her a unidimensional friendship: an intraspecies friendship, in other words. They only help her accept that being withdrawn from society is all right because she has a few companions. On the other hand, however, Kuranosuke brings a different weltanschauung into the table. He brings the other side of the world to Tsukimi, and she recoils from it because of her fears. His sincerity shines through as the episode progresses, however, and he also merely seeks an endearing friendship and acceptance that he could not get from his family: Kuranosuke sees that Tsukimi is a great girl trapped in her own fears, and slowly tries to pry her out of that xenophobia.

It’s the anime to watch this fall. Nothing else compares.

Kuragehime: the barriers of reality

I’ve never wavered when I said the anime to watch this fall season is Kuragehime, even when people were saying that Panty and Stocking was the fall show. After seeing the first episode, I really think I’m right. People have already mentioned its similarity with Kimi ni Todoke, although in contrast to that this possesses a more realistic bent: there may be iridescent facial expressions, but there isn’t a plethora of sparkles and bubbles that characterize the shoujo genre. Instead of a reticent and misunderstood yet beautiful lady, there’s Tsukimi, who’s great at drawing, yet is not quite as beautiful. She isn’t as socially disconnected as Sawako is (explained by her understanding that the social beings, ‘princesses,’ are just altogether from a different world as she is), but she seems to be just as nice. [If you guys have ever heard of Janis Ian’s At 17, I recommend you listen to it. I think it’s more apt as OP than Chatmonchy’s song. The video is below.]

[I learned the truth at seventeen: that love was meant for beauty queens … ]

Like Sawako, however, she is quite reclusive: she is a lover of jellyfish, and she is quite lucky to be with persons with focused, passionate interests (read: otaku). They all look like social misfits, with Tsukimi being the least abnormal-looking among them. She nevertheless struggles with the normal social rigors people face in their daily lives: going to a popular spot (Shibuya) is a chore for her. Life normally went on until she saw an Aurelia jellyfish admixed with spotted jellies: knowing that the substances that Aurelia secrete usually kill spotted jellies fast, she tried to rectify the situation but failed due to her nature. She was helped by someone who seemed to be a beautiful princess, but in reality was a handsome transvestite.

I’m not fond of doing summaries. I can honestly say, however, that it was the most interesting first episode among the anime I have seen aired this season, and it caters to me particularly: it is focused on characters that are both unique and open to development; it represents the beauty and sadness of reality; and it values character interactions.

I don’t think Tsukimi is an ugly girl. When someone mentioned that Kuragehime was the mongrel of Ugly Betty and Kimi ni Todoke, I think he was more in the right than in the wrong: I frankly don’t think Tsukimi is an ugly girl, although she has to deal with societal withdrawal and issues of letting go. Among the different boarders of their fangirl apartment, she’s the one who looks the most decent among them. I think she could even be pretty, and the transvestite will probably help her in that journey to self-acceptance in the same vein that she will help him accept him and the rest of the boarders for who they are. I’m not saying she’s going to be a fashion model, but her mother was pretty attractive.

She isn't bad-looking.

She isn't bad-looking.

I can’t wait for the next episode: this may not be rife with symbolism like Tatami Galaxy, but even from just the first episode its emotional thrust is palpable, and that’s really just what I need. I didn’t like the OP as much as their Shangri-la ED from Hataraki Man, but it was decent. The ED by Sambomaster was awesome.