AURON570 (Level 15)

kukuku, how did that laugh ever become cute?... mysteries of the world..
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Kami-sama no Memo-chou (literally translates to "God's Memo Pad"), or the english title, It's The Only NEET Thing To Do, has just started airing! And the first episode is a whole 45 minutes! WOW. I am very glad they decided to do this, as it was able to take it's time with introducing various characters and themes. It almost felt like a short movie, even the ending credits were scrolling. If I had to compare it to any other anime I've seen before, it would be something like Eden of The East or Steins;gate, with a little bit of mystery solving like in Gosick. I am impressed with this anime so far, and I'm definitely excited to watch more. 
 
So let's get to the plot. Narumi is a male high school student. He has transferred schools quite often due to his father's work. As a result he has a hard time connecting with other people, even when he hangs out with friends he has gotten into the habit of concealing the fact that he doesn't remember his classmate's names. Now living in a large city, he comments as himself like a single dot, and even as he tries to make more dots and create a bigger picture, he ends up just moving again before the picture is complete. 
 
The episode starts off as Narumi is looking for a building, he arrives at a small love hotel, and quickly figures he has the wrong address. As he is about to leave he hears a girl scream and jump off of a balcony with her shirt unbuttoned, landing on a pile of garbage. A few other high school students, judging from their appearance, arrive quickly on the scene and help her out. Narumi finds this odd, but is unable to question them further.
 
Then at this new high school, things seem to change as a hyper-active female student, Ayaka, quickly recruits him into the school's gardening club. It turns out the gardening club only has 2 members, him and the girl. After school Ayaka invites Narumi to eat some ramen at a place she works. When they arrive he meets the high school students that he saw earlier. They turn out to be NEETs and they introduce themselves. One is a womanizer, another is a technology geek and the other is a dropout. Soon enough Narumi is tasked with bringing a bowl of ramen to "Alice" who is in her room. 
 
Alice turns out to be a NEET detective girl. She sits on her bed which is littered with cute teddy bears, and the room is lit by numerous wide-screen monitors surrounding the bed. She explains what she does to Narumi: Alice, searching for a reason to exist has determined that there are only really 2 useful professions in the world. A writer and a detective. The writer does justice to the dead by expressing them in an art form. And the detective also does justice to the dead by getting to the bottom of cases, but also sometimes at the expense of the living. Alice then explains the current case to Narumi. The girl that Narumi saw at the beginning of the episode was trying to work as a prostitute, and also the female sempai of that girl, named Shoko, was also working as a prostitute and has gone missing. 
 
The rest of the 45 minute episode follows Narumi as he learns more about the characters involved in the case and what actually happened and why it happened. It concludes with Alice, the NEETs and Narumi figuring out what happened to Shoko and a confrontation. Whew. Before we get to my impressions and thoughts, take a look at some of the many screenshots I took, sorry for subtitles and also there may be minor spoilers.
As I've said, I really enjoyed this first episode. The way in which the case was solved didn't feel contrived or anything. And the episode shows the team working together to try and get to the bottom of things, so it isn't only Alice the one that solves the case, even though she is ultimately the one to put all the pieces together. Alice is cute and well-likeable, unlike a certain... other female mystery solver. I think this has partly to do with the fact that she states outright her reason for becoming a NEET detective, and also her living conditions are fairly modest.
 
I also really enjoyed the fact that Narumi was pulled into this, and just as he's telling us about how he is like a single dot, he then meets all these new and interesting friends. And to think, it was all because this hyper-active girl decided to recruit him into the gardening club. It will be interesting to see how the plot and characters develop in the series. How the cases will be told while also telling more about the main characters. 
 
The whole idea of retelling a story of someone who is dead, or something that happened in the past, is in itself interesting. For example, how can you really be sure that you are doing "justice" to another person's life story when you weren't the one experiencing it. Sure you can search for reasons for why they might behave that way, and frame the story in such a way that it makes sense that way, but is that really the truth? In a way it's sort of self-reflexive because we the viewers are actually watching the story of Narumi as he finds out more information about the people around him and each case.
 
I think this episode did a great job in pulling everything together at the end and explaining the case. I get the feeling that the series is going to have an overall serious tone (this time it's a prostitution case, next time something else). And the long-term character development will focus on Narumi and the group of NEETs. I guess in a way, Narumi is becoming even more connected with other people by helping with Alice and the NEET's detective-work. It'll suck if the series ends with Narumi moving to another place, but we'll see.
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A while back I downloaded episode 5 of Hen Semi. I usually don't download episodes, but this time was because the episode was taking unusually long to get subbed, but then someone commented on the raw version that another sub group already had it subbed and available for download. So I went to the sub groups website, downloaded it and watched it, it was alright as usual. 
 
Yesterday I discovered how to turn of subtitles, both on Crunchyroll and when watching my downloaded anime in a media player. I also discovered a free print-screen-capture program, called Gadwin Printscreen. (thankyou sickvisionz) Now I can take screens without doing the old open photo-editor, paste. So I took the chance to rewatch ep 5 of Hen Semi without screens and took a whopping 19 screenshots! Which you can view on the wiki, here. Unfortunately not much happens in this episode in terms of fan service or crazy fetishism. Essentially a female classmate visits a male classmate's house.
 
If you want to get a better idea of what to expect from the series episode to episode, or want to know more about the plot, I suggest you read my previous blog post on episode 10 of Hen Semi, here. I hope you find my look at the series helpful.
 
I also find it interesting to just read the episode titles for Hen Semi. I still think "An Inquiry on the psychological impact of watching 2D characters in questionable situations," would have been an interesting addition to the series, but the show never gets that serious.
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Note: I'd like to apologize for absence of screenshots, or other visual media. I know how daunting this article may look, but half of it is just setting up the plot of the series. I hope you enjoy my look at the series!
 
Abnormal Physiology Seminar, or Hen Semi, or Hentai Seiri Seminar, is a short comedy, ecchi, seinen series about a group of around 6 university students and their antics in one of their seminars. Hen Semi, has been running for 10 episodes so far, 13 minutes each. From here on I'll be using Hen Semi and Abnormal Physiology Seminar almost interchangeably.
 
Whether or not you can tell from the title alone, the seminar is focused on "abnormal physiological behaviour" of the students. However, after watching the first episode you quickly realize that this is more likely a euphemism for "perverted/sex-related desires". Each is episode has a title that sounds like it might be found on the front page of an essay. The title for each episode is structured like, "An Inquiry on the ...." For example episode 10 was titled, "An Inquiry on the psychological impacts arising from indirect contact". The episode explores the characters in a situation where one of the female characters has an indirect kiss with a male character. The characters talk about what is happening, and there is some timed fan service. 
 
Our heroine however, and arguably the most "normal" of the students in the seminar, is the shy Nanako Matsutaka. She's about as innocent as they come and is voice acted by the ever popular, Kana Hanazawa. She is often put in very uncomfortable situations as the rest of the students talk fairly openly about their perverted desires for the seminar. The interactions between the small cast of characters is subtle. With only 13 minutes in each episode, there is not a lot of room for drawn out conversations or exposition. But the anime still manages to paint a picture of recognizable characters and has some fun showing them in different situations. Some of the characters include: a female ex-delinquent who has a split personality, a guy who likes punk rock and a masochistic girl. 
 
To give you an example of the dynamics between some of the characters, I'm going to have to properly introduce the male student that Nanako has a crush on, Komugi Musashi. Komugi is a pervert, no other way to put it, and proud of it. He's something of a smooth talker. However, he is either not aware that Nanako has a crush on him, or is just teasing her excessively by ignoring her feelings. This often puts Nanako in very embarrassing situations, as Komugi does his perverted stuff under the guise of doing it as homework for the seminar. 
 
If you'll remember, episode 10 is titled, "An Inquiry on the psychological impacts arising from indirect contact". In this episode Komugi has another experiment, he leaves an open bottle on the table, with the assumption that he drank from it and wants a girl to drink from it too, thus having an "indirect kiss". So, a female student (not Nanako), comes in and drinks it, it seems she is aware of the whole indirect kiss thing, and takes her time teasing everyone by erotically drinking from the bottle. It is then revealed that Komugi had intended the bottle for Nanako, and that Komugi filled the bottle with his cum. The female student quickly pukes in her mouth and storms out the room. Nanako is more than a little embarrassed, while Komugi casually passes the whole thing off. 
 
This is the sort of interaction between the characters that you can expect episode to episode. Short scenes focusing around some event or topic, with many sexual undertones. Now that you have an idea of what the series is about, I can tell you more about what I think of the series so far. The series isn't great or awesome or amazing. At best, I would say it is a pretty good or pretty decent anime. The music isn't anything to complain about. The voice actors do their job well enough, while Kana Hanazawa is the stand out. The artwork is interesting enough. The females looks somewhat chubbier than your average anime (which I think is a good thing), while also looking fairly attractive and makes the anime easier to watch. The animation is solid and helps make the character's actions seem more natural and less forced. 
 
When watching this series I can't help but wonder what a seminar like this would be like if it actually existed at a real university. Although the series definitely uses fan service and other perverted tactics to hook viewers, underneath the characters are just humans with desires like you and me. Although it may seem like some of the character's fetishes are "weird" or "abnormal", let's face it, there must be something about each of us that, at some point, seems weird to someone else. I don't know whether I'd be ready or comfortable enough to join a seminar devoted to that sort of thing, which I think is why I keep watching Hen Semi. In a way, it's a relief to see other characters (albeit fictional ones) going through their own desires in a relatively light-hearted comedic way. 
 
For me, Abnormal Physiology Seminar has been an easy show to keep watching week to week. It doesn't do anything amazing or great, but the characters and situations it explores are interesting enough. Some might complain about the "fan service", but I think the fan service in this anime is used to relatively good effect, and taking it away would mean missing out on the humor. 
 
So I guess if you haven't checked out Hen Semi, don't go in expecting anything amazing. Take it for what it is, and maybe take the time to think about the real-world implications under the sexual innuendos. An episode title that I'd like to see for this series would be, "An Inquiry on the psychological impact of watching 2D characters in questionable situations." ;)
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A while ago I started watching One Piece. Before I started watching One Piece, I couldn't help but think that I just "had to" start watching one of the big 3 shonen (One Piece, Naruto and Bleach). Ultimately I decided for One Piece because I heard that it is the most consistent in terms of quality, both in the long run and from episode to episode. At first it felt weird to start watching a series that started airing over 10 years ago.
 
With the ever advancing animation and sound technology, the fact that the series is over 10 years old definitely shows. But that didn't stop me from being engrossed in the world and enjoying the story and the characters. From the beginning of the series, One Piece sets up a grand adventure and has many likeable characters with unique characteristics. 
 
I think one of the main reasons Luffy and the crew are so likeable are because of their sense of duty. They do what they think is right, and stick to it through thick and thin. But, they are also not perfect. The characters make mistakes, or things don't turn out as expected, but they take that and go with it. 
 
Sanji the chef
Sanji the chef
I just finished watching ep 22. At this point in the series Sanji has just fed the pirate Don Krieg. Don Krieg proceeds to punch Sanji in the face, tries to take over the ship-restaurant and orders the cooks to prepare food for the rest of his crew. Despite knowing before-hand that Don Krieg is one of the most wanted and feared pirates of all time and that feeding Don Krieg could endanger many many people, Sanji cooked food for him anyway. "I am a chef, if someone is hungry I'll give them food." So far this is the only explicit principle that he himself lives by. If somebody messes up or disagrees with this principle, Sanji has no problem fighting for it. 
 
This is a sort of duty, abiding by a principle, or set of principles. You can imagine someone saying in a more general way to Sanji, "Why do you do what you do?" and maybe Sanji would reply, "Because it's my duty. " Of course, it doesn't take a philosopher, psychologist, or lawyer to tell you that, humans are just more complicated than that. So far in One Piece, the series has used flashbacks to flesh out certain characters. I am excited to see how Sanji's character is fleshed out when we learn about his past. 
 
I had a funny thought thinking about Sanji's principle of being a chef. What would Sanji do if a person has an eating disorder where the person eats too much, but constantly feels hungry? The cases that have been highlighting in the episodes so far, have shown Sanji helping and feeding those that were on the brink of starving to death. This seems like an obvious gray area to explore, and I hope it's looked at in future episodes.
 
It still amazes me that One Piece has gone for over 500 episodes now. Sometimes I am equally amazed with the possibility that someday I will catch up with this series. That maybe one day I will, alongside thousands of other One Piece fanatics, eagerly await each week's next episode. Having watched 22 episodes now, I find that even though my initial decision to check out the series might have been tinged with a sense of duty, "As an anime fan I should be watching one of the big 3 shonen." Even the desire to finish a series could be taken as a sort of duty that one should finish what one starts. Even so, I like to think that I continue to watch this series because it is presented well, is interesting and is fun to think about. 
 
Maybe that's why I watch anime in general. "I watch anime because I want to find something interesting or fun to think about." Haha. 
 
P.S. Duty
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Note: I've been meaning to do a full blog about Nichijou for a while, but haven't had the opportunity. I said to myself a few weeks ago, I'll do it when the next episode is released. Of course I procrastinated. But here I am, and here's what I think of the series, with screens from ep 8, and the opening for reference as well. If you want to check out the series yourself, you can find it on crunchyroll.com, here.

Nichijou or My Ordinary Life is a comedy, slice of life, parody anime series. Some might call the humor in this series random. But I prefer to call it ironic. The title and premise of the show is itself somewhat ironic. Here I am, an ordinary dude, living another day, sitting in front of my computer, watching another episode of My Ordinary Life. Each episode is broken up into multiple skits. Even though each skit doesn't seem to have much connection to one another, we revisit the same characters throughout the series but in new situations. Aside from having all the characters in the same universe, each skit focuses on a new scenario. To make it more ironic, these scenarios are mostly, underneath the brilliant animation and music, just ordinary everyday happenings.

Yuuko tries.
Yuuko tries.

Take the first skit in episode 8 for example: The girls, Mai, Mio and Yuuko, are on their way to school. Yuuko tries to tell them jokes, but Mai and Mio don't give any sign that they hear Yuuko. Yuuko keeps trying her best to tell jokes but doesn't succeed. End scene. Or the last skit in the episode: Nano catches Hakase eating snacks before going to bed and after brushing her teeth. Nano gets angry. Nano and Hakase get into an argument. Hakase unintentionally insults Nano. Hakase tries to patch it up by lying. End scene. These skits, partly because of the the way I explained them, are as ordinary as they come!

Hakase is caught.
Hakase is caught.

However, two of the main reasons this show is worth watching, and partly what makes it interested to keep watching, is the animation and music. Certainly, some anime try to impress and hook the viewer with a flashy and catchy opening and first episode, then take it easy for the rest of the season (whether for financial reasons or other). My Ordinary Life is not one of those anime. The quality of the animation in the opening is very close to what you can expect in each episode. With that said, the opening is very energetic, but that doesn't mean the anime is always hyperactive and random. The series does take appropriate breaks in between each skit.

It is able to build tension when it wants to, and has a keen awareness of the viewer's expectations and how to flaunt them to make us laugh. For example, let's look at another scene from episode 8: Mai, Mio and Yuuko are trapped in an elevator. It looks like they've been there for a while, tired, lying on the ground or sitting against the walls. The music is appropriately tense, and the black background takes up most of the screen to make the characters seem even smaller and trapped. After a long minute or so, Yuuko (the joker), proposes to play a game of shiritori (the japanese variant of the common language game of saying a word that begins with the last letter of the last word said). Mio starts, saying "Eggplant". The tense music stops and the tension is gone. I'm not sure if this is a joke lost in translation, but Yuuko and Mio trying to hold in their laughter, eventually burst out laughing, clutching their stomaches, rolling on the floor. Happy, upbeat music plays. End scene.

Again we have a scene which, underneath the music and animation, is something that might happen in everyday life, being trapped in an elevator. But somehow the characters can end up laughing hysterically and we move on to the next scene. Maybe this series is an allegory about life in general, we just need to be able to laugh about the situations we're in, make the most of what is happening, and sometimes imagine having our own broadway-musical-esque soundtrack playing in the background. All so we can keep moving forward.

I have really enjoyed the series so far, and despite the seemingly disconnected feel of the show, there have been a few hints that the characters will eventually become more interconnected (like in the last episode where Mio sees Nano for the first time in passing). Whether or not this is another commentary on the nature of human social groups and interconnectedness, I'll leave you to decide. ;) And with that, enjoy the screenshots, thanks for reading, and if you haven't checked this series out yet, I do recommend it!

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