Friday, December 23, 2011

Mashiro-iro Symphony – Series Review

[Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 05 [720p h264 AAC] [7A140642].mkv_snapshot_07.09_[2011.11.03_14.12.07] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 11 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [732C332A].mkv_snapshot_20.50_[2011.12.15_15.00.43] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 12 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [92568677].mkv_snapshot_17.54_[2011.12.22_17.53.22]

If I never see an adaptation of a romance game or VN better than Mahsiro-iro Symphony, I’ll be pretty content in that I’ve seen a studio get at least one just right.

 
I’ll be writing two series reviews today for shows that have something highly unusual in common – my opinion has improved from the first episode to the last as much as it has for any anime I can remember.  This is one and UN-GO the other, and it’s remarkable how two concurrently running series can become so much more than I initially expected them to be.  While Mashifoni is by no means a perfect series, in the end I found it impossible to resist.  Rather than love at first sight, this was a slow build – a pleasant affection for a friend slowly growing into something much more powerful.

I won’t list all the bad, indifferent and truly execrable romance adaptations that have graced our screens in recent years, but it would be a long list if I did.  A hell of a lot longer than the list of good ones, anyway.  True Tears might be the best, but that’s such a dramatic retelling that I consider it more of an original than an adaptation.  Mashifoni was special for a lot of reasons – perhaps most pleasing from a selfish standpoint, it settled on the girl I absolutely loved as the romantic lead despite the fact that in doing so it defied every anime trope in the book.  Perhaps most pleasing from an objective standpoint was that it never, ever stopped surprising me.  And it wasn’t the sort of shock-value surprises we’ve seen in shows like MPD, but the surprise in never taking the low road.  In never humiliating its characters or having them act stupid.  And by having the kids at its center stand out by acting so refreshingly normal, and not like cartoon characters.

I was absolutely, rock-solid convinced Shingo would end up with Airi.  She met every requirement – she was the “main” girl.  She was the first girl to enter the MC’s life.  She was a tsundere (though a mild one).  But while it turned out Airi was most important to the plot, Miu was most important to the romance.  Now I know there’s an Airi route in the source material – among others – and the thing is, I would have been fine with Airi as the “winner” here.  But what I thought I saw but thought was the result of bias turned out to be very real – for all his interaction with Airi, it was Miu that Shingo had romantic feelings for, right from the beginning.  Sana got into the mix, too, and while she was very important in the sensitive telling of a tale of first-love heartbreak, she was never really in the game as a serious contender.

Miu, oh Miu – what a wonderful character you were, right from the beginning.  So elegant and serene and refreshingly free of all the BS we see from anime female leads.  Yet it was as we got to see the other side of Miu – her shyness around Shingo, her fear of loss, her self-doubt – that I truly fell in love with her as a character.  For Miu, I think, giving is a way of not thinking about herself. She gives to the animals, to her friends, to her job, does it all because it’s the kind and mature thing to do, but really she also does it because she’s so full of self-doubt and she’s so afraid of losing things she emotionally commits to.  She might be a bit of an ideal, but Miu was even more beautiful as a flawed diamond than she was as a perfect one.

Her counterpart in all this Shingo, also resisted the pitfalls of the male lead.  He wasn’t an idiot, or a sex fiend.  When he saw that others needed help, he stepped in and did what had to be done without calling a lot of attention to himself.  While he was certainly possessed of a libido and certainly capable of embarrassment in the stock embarrassing situations, his reactions were never over the top.  He’s just a good guy, plain and simple – not a superman or a saint, just a caring and kind fellow who treats everyone by the golden rule.  This was the downfall of Airi and Sana, of course, who saw his gentle nature as romantic attention focused on them.  And like R-15 did, Mashifoni turned the spotlight on the odd girls out in the romantic drama and treated them with as much respect and attention as it did the romantic leads.  Though their coping mechanisms were dramatically different, each girl dealt with the pain of losing their first love in a realistic way that didn’t gloss over or over-romanticize it.  It sucked – but they’ll get over it.  Life goes on – the school still needs a leader, and the Nuko Club needs a new President.  And now that the notion that all guys are trash has been disabused by real-world experience, there will always be more boys to fall in love with.  I think both of them will be fine.

Mashifoni was certainly slow-paced, and certainly took its time getting where it was going.  But more so than in almost any romance adaptation, hindsight reveals that it had a clear path from day one and never wavered from it.  It was never flashy – the wonderfullness of the animation and backgrounds and BGM crept up on you slowly rather than bowling you over.  It was the whole series that mattered more than any one part of it, and that’s why the finale dealt as much with Pannya and the school merger as it did with Shingo and Miu.  Rather than a “romance” this was really a life drama that happened to have romance as a big part of it – much as real life tends to be.  I’ll always admire series that rise above cliché and over a truly individual experience, and Manglobe has definitely given us one here. 

[Zenyaku-SC] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 02 [720p h264 AAC] [47B7B5AF].mkv_snapshot_10.09_[2011.10.12_16.05.56] [Oyatsu] Mashiro Iro Symphony - 04 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [051E4F83].mkv_snapshot_03.09_[2011.10.27_10.36.32] [Oyatsu] Mashiro Iro Symphony - 04 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [051E4F83].mkv_snapshot_21.02_[2011.10.27_10.55.00]
[Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 07 [720p h264 AAC] [294082F0].mkv_snapshot_12.12_[2011.11.16_17.24.41] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 08 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [AB3D072A].mkv_snapshot_14.10_[2011.11.23_14.12.39] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 10 [Hi10p 720p h264 AAC] [735B1360].mkv_snapshot_18.20_[2011.12.09_13.02.51]
[Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 12 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [92568677].mkv_snapshot_01.01_[2011.12.22_17.36.29] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 12 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [92568677].mkv_snapshot_19.12_[2011.12.22_17.54.41] [Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 12 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [92568677].mkv_snapshot_23.30_[2011.12.22_17.59.42]


13 comments:

  1. yea give sorta late watcher to it give seeing pic & mention really like this series.

    give really nice slice of life drama good heart warming series.

    & yea cat like ball creature who really came with it indeed a show stealer.

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  2. It deserves 24 Episodes , in my opinion.

    Really , I'm seeing alot of criticisms on Animesuki that this is a generic harem romance. To them , I say that if it's so , this genre is in for glorious times ahead...

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  3. Mashiro-Iro doesn't need flashy gimmicks to shine its appeal. It focuses on what it does well, always knowing the extent of its qualities, as well as its limitations.

    As a result, while each individual scene does not provide any mind blowing experience or any kind of shock value, the sum of its parts is an extremely respectable piece of work.

    Manglobe is to praise for so many intelligent decisions regarding this adaptation. What impressed me the most was how natural the main character's choice felt.

    During these 12 episodes, each girl had their time to shine. Given screentime, they successfuly presented their appeal, but at the same time, they also wasted their chance to progress their relationship with the main character. Some girls weren't very sincere with themselves, while others didn't try hard enough.

    There was, however, a single girl that did everything right. Since the very beggining she was there, kind, receptive and at the same time strong, dedicated. Both her and the main charater developed in the course of the story, and stood out for their moral valors, for the fact that they were always there to help each other, as well as other people, and even animals.

    IT WAS SO REWARDING TO SEE THE MAIN CHARACTER CHOOSE THE GIRL WHO DESERVED HIM THE MOST! Yet, at the same time, had the producers wanted, they could have easily made another route, while being just as natural. The narrative is that good.

    I wanted to say much more, but Enzo's review is already nearly perfect. You can see how he got to like it more and more as you read through all of the episode reviews.

    I give Mashiro-Iro a 9/10. My love is PURE GOLD for this series. Hope it sells well enough for an OVA.

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  4. I almost dropped this series after the not so good impression I have on its first episode. Thank goodness I gave this a chance and after completing this series, I felt this is one of the better harem-like theme story I've ever watched. The male lead is a good one with a clear focus to what he really likes, the girls on the other hand, while typical of harem, they have their own unique personality that made everyone of them likeable. Also a bonus for this series is it's nice and consistent animation (also the eye animation is very good), music is good too especially the ED theme.

    Story: 8
    Animation: 9
    Sound: 8
    Character: 10
    Enjoyment: 9

    Overall: 9

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  5. One of the highlights of 2011 for me. Here is hoping it does well in sales so that the anime industry realizes this is the way to go (ha).

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  6. I love this series, maybe wasn`t perfect but it was a refreshing take in a already dried genre, now if they make OVAs about the other routes I`ll be so happy, specially with one about Inui! <3 Thanks for blogging this Enzo, and for giving us this compelling review! It`ll be nice it you could post this review (and the Tamayura one) over RandomC to give this series the so much necessary exposition...

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  7. The rule at RC is pretty much all or none when it comes to blogging a series, but hopefully a few people find this site and watch Mashifoni based on that.

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  8. I'm one of those people who had pretty much been disillusioned by VN adaptations. However, thanks to your glowing reviews, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, and have just finished marathoning it. Suffice to say, I am really glad I did so. So, thank you Enzo.

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  9. Glad to hear it, Gandalf - that's why I do this.

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  10. Your strong work on Ao and many other anime on RC led me to check out LIA -- and to watch Mashifoni. I might also point out that, as expected by now, I came to fully concur with your impressions of the series.

    It reassures me to continually find these impressions of yours (even the seemingly "controversial" -- no, especially those) match up so well with my own. "An holistic appreciation" of character and narrative is sometimes difficult to find, but its these and other well-considered qualities that seem to shine through your series coverage of late. Mob bias detraction be damned.

    Too often it appears that writers are led astray by heavy-handedly aligning their preconceived hopes and expectations with their observations while watching a series, tinting (and often tainting) their lens with such close-minded bias. I hope you'll excuse me for saying you deserve some kudos for managing to keep yours mashiro-iro throughout.

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    Replies
    1. Well, thank you - that's very nice of you to say. I try to stick to my guns, that's all I can say. And yeah, Mashifoni was a very nice surprise - a really good-hearted and dignified high school romance, and those sure don't grow on tress.

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  11. As this has already been necroposted to once today, I am going to take the opportunity to record for posterity that I <3 Miu <3. I was rooting for her the whole way and she WON. The feels. The girl I like winning is so incredibly rare in shows like this that when it happens I float around on cloud 9 for like a week afterwards.

    This show is really one of the bright spots that makes me keep watching anime, proving that even a tired, stale, worn out genre can still be great if only the writers and staff actually try to give a shit and turn out quality work. All too often what we get is a half assed cash cow but the occasional diamond in the rough like this makes dealing with all the dirt clods worth it.

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  12. Just finished the Mashiro Iro Symphony-thon.
    Pannya-chan plushie NAO plz?
    More seriously this was like swimming in a glowing sea of niceness barely interrupted by random nipple islands (hooray for uncensored torrent batches). So.Much.Niceness. And kittens (and pseudo-kittens-mochi-shaped-furries). <3
    There are a few things that just left me perplexed [in short:
    1) Ange (at least the wtf of her circumstances and behaviour was acknowledges in.universe ) and her episode were to me the weakest along with episode #1,
    2)Sena's development - defrosting? Fine. But sharing a bath with the object of your affection must really carry miracolous osmotic empathy properties :p - and the odd way the writing decided to conveniently sideline romance-wise her after said fateful bath .
    3) Sana's denial and violence toward Shingo the human. The latter is supposed to ring false yet still her antics overstayed their welcome for me. Her behaviour felt more suited to a (immature) junior high kid attacking her crush.]
    Miu an Shingo themselves were a tad too nice. nice. NICE.KIND. AND SELFLESS. HNNNG. and came dangerously close to sainthood but given the scarcity of good-natured decent fiction it's hard to really criticize such traits as 'flaws' rather than feeling your kokoro turn into a marshmellow while saying bye bye to your teeth.
    I'm a firm believer that quality writing and fleshing out nice non-flashy characters - an ode to decency and kind-hearted normalcy, let's say an ode to goodness - is much harder to achieve in such a way to keep your audience engaged by virtue of said normalcy and decency vs more... adventurous stuff. MS managed to be pleasant and very watchable in both form and content a good deal, if a tad one-note (and unevenly walking the fine line between good bland and bad bland).
    And yey the two best and non-blood-related characters got together 8D. And there was some good piano bgm. Miu's mother was also quite funny, plus the dialogue occasionally managed to inject some spice (!) as in the kitty talk.


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