A short post every Sunday, 9pm (I hope!) summarizing what I've watched in the past 7 days. Notable episodes this week have a (*) beside the episode number.
Star Driver 22 (*)
As expected from last week's preview, this episode was quite good! I love it when they control the pacing of the episode, changing where the OP starts just so we can get a good build up and a nice little cliff-hanger. Could have done without some cheesy dialogue, but overall the characters are great (Takuto's childhood friend especially). We still don't get the full story about Takuto (saving that for the climax?), but we get some weird reveal about VP (the fox) and the drama club president. They don't seem to be kiraboshi. Within the play itself there were some hints about them being some peaceful aliens? Weird to drop something like this so suddenly, but definitely makes the approaching conclusion even more interesting. Oh and, Entro-people?? VP talking in a voice similar to kyubey?? Starting to feel like a madoka cross-over :S
Wandering Son 8 (*)
Correction: last episode was after exams, before the school year ended. This episode they start year 2. A very interesting episode where Chiba finally becomes a little bit more likeable. We also delve a little deeper into Anna's psyche, which hints that things might go wrong with the couple soon... I really liked how Takatsuki developed this episode. It was so unexpected and drastic, yet really subtle in it's execution. Perhaps Yuki is right: the time is not right for Takatsuki and Nitori YET. They are still struggling to come to terms with their gender identity, especially Takatsuki. As she points out, Nitori is a real go-getter, not really being shy to take the first step, although he might seem a little quiet and reserved. This episode also introduced Doi, an ex-classmate from Nitori's elementary school. Apparently this guy is mean and used to bully Nitori a lot. He spots Nitori walking out of a cafe with Yuki. I smell a storm brewing...
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica 10 (*)
This episode left me speechless. Perhaps it is because of how much I have invested in these characters for the past 9 weeks, but this episode is certainly THE BEST SO FAR. When I blogged about episode 9 last week, I was already under the impression that Madoka doesn't need to do great for the remaining 3 episodes. It just needs to finish up with a nice little conclusion, thrill us with some cool fights and it'll easily earn a spot as one of the best anime TV series this year. However, this episode goes way beyond that. I don't need to watch the last 2 episodes to say this: IMHO, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is one of the best anime EVER.
Anyway, for the episode itself, we see 9 "deaths" (I use the word death loosely here, but their impact is equivalent to an actual character death). Don't bother counting while you watch though, as that would just ruin the whole experience. My advice would be to just sit back and try to keep your jaw off the ground, because it is gonna drop quite often throughout the episode. I noticed some discrepancies though. How much time can Homura rewind? Won't her Soul Gem turn very very dark after each super-long rewind? Also, it seems like she uses conventional firearms, but the scene where she chases after kyubey (also shown in episode 1), Homura is firing "magic missiles" at kyubey. Perhaps they only decided on her weapon stash mid way through the series? Anyway, these little details do not take away anything from the whole experience of seeing Homura's past. It was TRULY EPIC. How epic? Here are 3 images to sum up Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica episode 10:
rain town short film by Ishida Hiroyasu (*)
In the midst of rushing projects and studying for midterms, I stumbled upon this short (well, I saw it come up on my news feed), and was totally blown away. "rain town" is a short animated film by final year animation student Ishida Hiroyasu. He's the same guy who did Fumiko's Confession last year, which garnered a lot of attention (more than a million youtube views) and an indie animation award. This year, he finally released rain town, which was 2 years in the making. While Fumiko's confession was a well animated homage to FLCL's fun and crazy style, his latest work is a blend of Machinarium (an indie game by Amanita Design), the Oscar-winning La Maison en Petits Cubes, and perhaps some of Studio Ghibli's Iblard Jikan. The animation of the rain and puddles of water is simply amazing, and I have no doubt this is what he spent the most time on. Not only is he a master animator, he also knows how to tell a heart-warming story with just visuals, soft music, and ambient sounds. If Makoto Shinkai was "the next Hayao Miyazaki", Hiroyasu Ishida is "the next Makoto Shinkai". Looking forward to seeing a full-fledge project from this promising young animation student. After winning 2 indie awards in a row, I don't think he will have any problems with finding companies to fund his next project.
All 3 series were excellent this week! And to top it off, Ishida's rain town surprised me with how wonderfully subtle he can be when he wants to (Fumiko's Confession was far from subtle). With the overwhelmingly epic success of this week's Madoka, Shaft has set the bar really high for the final 2 episodes. Sadly, most anime (and ESPECIALLY Madoka) will be delayed due to the devastating earthquake that shook Japan on Friday. There are people to save and buildings to rebuild, anime can wait. Be strong Japan!