Sunday, February 3, 2013

Zetsuen no Tempest - 16

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Bless you, BONES, for continuing to not give a damn about the flavor of the week.


Zetsuen no Tempest is yet another Fall series of sterling quality that’s a complete commercial flop, which is something of a recurring (and depressing) theme.  I can understand it to some extent, because Zetsuen took a while to really get under my skin and even now, I sometimes don’t quite feel connected during the A-Part.  But somehow this series has a magical quality to it that reaches critical mass somewhere around the episode break, and from that point on I’m usually completely entranced – as indeed happened this week.  ZnT definitely isn’t getting any less bizarre, but this arc seems to have found its legs in a big way.  It’s radically different from the last in many ways, but I’m beginning to appreciate that this might not be such a bad thing.

Getting Andou Masahiro to direct was clearly a decision of paramount importance, because the sense of sweeping theatricality is the one element that sets Zetsuen apart from almost all TV anime.  It’s beautiful, for starters – beautiful to listen to (it’s hard to go wrong with Beethoven as the spine of your soundtrack), beautiful to look at.  The dialogue has a rhythm to it that’s quite unique, and the background and facial animations are some of the best of the year.  But beyond being beautiful, Zetsuen is big.  It’s full of grand words and grand themes, outlandishly cool poses and larger-than life personalities.  As I’ve said in the past not only do I doubt any studio but BONES could pull this off with a (mostly) straight face, I sincerely doubt there are many who would even try.

One element I’ve really liked about the last couple of episodes is the way it’s taken the fantastical characters of the first arc like Samon, Hakaze and Natsumura and shown them in mundane situations.  These are exotic anime characters in a post-apocalyptic world, and we see them shopping, cooking, talking about high school and being turned into moon-eyed schoolgirls by a crush.  Natsamura’s question to Mahiro after mentioning high school brought a surprised reaction – “Just what do you think I am?” – is on-point here.  These kinds of radical scene-changes in the middle of two-cour anime don’t always work, but the sheer dichotomy here is appealing. 

You might think moving the setting to the isolated village of the Kusaribe would take us back to the vibe of the first cour, but it doesn’t – what we see instead is the villagers as perfectly normal people who happen to be magic-users.  I loved this setting with it’s mountain landscapes, deep gorges and rushing rivers – it fits the majestic tone of the show perfectly.  As Hanemura is beginning his career as a Genesis-battling superhero, Hakaze and Yoshino are headed to the village to track down rumors of a spy from the outside world.  I enjoyed Hakaze’s inner monologues as she becomes more and more hopelessly entranced by Yoshino (“Would I be cuter if I acted scared here?”) more than I have in the past, and there was some interesting back-story about Aika – including Mahiro reading Hamlet and discussing it with Natsumura.  It’s still hard to keep track of just who is working with who and why, but it seems pretty obvious that Tetsuma has the strongest antipathy for Yoshino – he seems to interpret everything that happens as a sign that he’s really the Mage of Exodus.  Is there a deeper reason for this animosity – such as his own feelings for Hakaze?  Hard to say yet.

I see all of this as more less highly entertaining diversion, to be honest.  We’re still dancing around the main events – the truth of Yoshino and Aika’s relationship being revealed, Aika’s true fate – the events which will decide whether this series is The Tempest of Hamlet.  There was a lot of talk of ghosts this week – about how Mahiro refuses to believe in them, or anything he can’t quantify, and Aika’s comment to Yoshino that he’s “slowly becoming a boring person like Mahiro, who won’t accept irrational things.”  And “You’d like to see someone who’s passed on, even as a ghost.  Will you deny those feelings, too?  What if it were my ghost?”  There’ve been so many hints that there’s a huge secret about Aika waiting to be uncovered that I can’t believe for a moment that flashback was anything but highly significant.  Even if Zetsuen no Tempest is taking its time getting to the answers I really don’t mind, because with this series it’s really more about the journey than the destination for me.

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16 comments:

  1. looks like i was right about vempires in doki doki precure please write a review only on the first episode enzo

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  2. There we go, I had a really hard time describing why this cour felt so different. Fantastical characters in the mundane. I wish I could write like you, Enzo. I tend to get caught up in summary and, like this series, dance around the topics at hand. It's a shame this and Shinsekai Yori aren't as appreciated as they should be. Every year I feel like I see less of these and more of, well, not these.

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  3. Zetsuen no Tempest is a flop? News to me. What the fcuk do Otaku like?

    It seems that very few shows with proper quality get as much success as they deserve and this is one of the big differences between the anime industry and hollywood. There a giant pointless equivalents of SAO like Transformers and GI Joe that hit the box office but at the same time there are truly inspiring movies like Dreamer and Remember the Titans (personal favs) and they are rewarded for their beauty.

    The only reason I can think of why success is leveraged by the amount of moe a show has is because the anime industry is nowhere near as international an industry as it could be. The main market and for many shows the only one is Japan (east Asia occasionally) and there simply isn't enough diversity in one country for an industry of such diverse genres as anime to flourish. I truly believe that if the industry made efforts themselves to make anime more available through commercial routes to other countries shows like Shin Sekai, Chihayafuru and Zetsuen would be hit makers.

    This doesn't just mean have a company in the States make dubs and sell them but use the massive and expanding online anime network to advertise legitimate methods of buying BDs or DVDs or special goods. The subbers are out there, the translators for manga, so if they just started employing these people for next to nothing since they're doing it for free now anyways to sub pay per view anime then they will have a massive increase in market for hardly a drop extra of capital.

    Amazon and the like are good ways but anime should be sold through dedicated anime sites at prices normal, non obsessed, otaku can afford. And it should be an initiative taken by the industry as whole because they won't survive on hoping the pockets of perverted otaku last forever. If you put main stores in the Americas/Europe/Australia/various places in Asia and then shipped stuff all over the place imagine how BDs sales would rocket.

    In conclusion, many of us view anime for free and thus are part of the problem because we undermine the ability of these anime companies finding legitimate ways to provide for us at a cost we can accept. But companies are to blame as well as they have to come down harder on illegal sites and free subs, use sites like crunchyroll instead as a viewing site and an advertising tool and start making access to anime goods as simple as possible. I live near Toronto now and I can easily get my hands on plenty of stuff but not everything I want and I sure as hell know that if I didn't live near such an important liberal city I wouldn't even be able to get my hands on a copy of Shounen Jump.

    Rather than buying up an anime company I'd rather educate their marketing department.

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    1. There is an option for people concerned about this. Hulu airs anime as it airs in Japan (it's usually just about a day or two behind the subs). For instance, now they have SSY, Robotics, and Psycho-pass on there. They are a good 2-3 episodes behind on SSY, but Robotics and Psycho-pass are completely up to date. If we are really serious about supporting these series, perhaps we should watch what we can on there. Based on finding this, I may start watching Psycho and robotics on hulu. I watched House of the Five Leaves on there, and it was an excellent viewing experience. The subs, in many cases, are much better too!

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    2. Cruchyroll licenses and broadcasts Zetsuen no Tempest, as well as a lot of other shows either simulcast, an hour late, or a couple days late for free with commercials or commercial free with paid membership (and on many devices). Plus, I find that Hulu sucks as a site, no matter what you're watching.

      But I don't think that the anime makers will ever go the route of commodity pricing for their DVD/BD offering on a large scale, because I just can't see that large of a jump in volume happening. Say they cut the price from the ludicrous 80 dollars per two episodes to 20 dollars for two episodes. Are they going to sell 4 times as much? I dunno. And even if they sold 4 times as much, their profits would go down, because all of that price cut is the profit, not the fixed costs.

      So as much as I'd like to see more friendly pricing, I just don't see it happening.

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    3. The only reason for the ludricous pricing for Bds in my opinion is because they have such a small market that to break even they have to increase the price. If BDs were more accessible and cheaper for an international market rather than just having a domestic one I expect that BD sales for shows that aren't commercial hits but are critical ones will increase in folds as there are more normal people watching anime outside Japan than in it.

      Crunchyroll and Hulu are a good start but unless they can beat free subbers in both speed and quality, no one will pay for it. There has to be an effort to either shut or limit the ability of free subs much like how the same as done for American shows like Big Bang or GoT.

      Also like I said using the existing free community to provide anime at a beggar's cost to the world is also a viable option as many of us are so used to it now. Sites like AnimeDreaming or Gogoanime should follow crunchyroll's model or be shut as they aiding the problem.

      With a more international market the quantity and quality of shows would increase exponentially as there is a lot more people out there to sell to. Speed is everything and until the industry can beat the free online community there will never be a strong international market for anime.

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    4. I'm finding that Crunchyroll is beating the free subbers in speed, especially (simulcasts with Japanese broadcasts really can't be beat), and that the sub quality is really not much worse on average. The real difference is in typesetting signs, as there just isn't the time or care taken in those. And the price for CR is extremely affordable at 8 bucks a month for premium access to anime, day and date with no commercials and access through just about any kind of device (since they've now added Xbox, I can watch on my big TV, instead of just the computer).

      The marketing that bugs me a lot, tho, is that stuff just isn't available, like song releases. Most of them don't even have digital downloads for sale in Japan, it seems. I don't get it. And if you sell it as a digital download in Japan, why not in the US or worldwide? The whole licensing scheme is... not my favorite.

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  4. The wavy purple background for the inner monologues worked a lot better here in the short bursts than it did in the extended sequences with Samon earlier in the series.

    And like Robotics;Notes, this is just a show that you start watching, and enjoy until it's over. And it's fun to me that instead of Hakaze just being a wishy-washy girl about the guy she likes, there's actually a justification about her hesitance to act or talk to Yoshino in a way that betrays her love for him. I personally think the justification doesn't matter, and I don't think that Yoshino is the Mage of Exodus (although who knows really), but at least it's not just being lame.

    And everyone else believing that Yoshino is the Mage of Exodus is really deep in the confirmation bias. Is there anything he could do that they wouldn't think proves he's the Mage of Exodus at this point?

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    1. It doesn't help their cause that Yoshino has shown some extended use and aptitude with Kusaribe magic. I would think that it would be pretty contradictory or some sort of betrayal to the Tree of Exodus if the supposed Mages, Hanemura or laughably Yoshino, would start using their magic.

      Just a warning, some of the users and authors on RC seem to be treading dangerously close to ZnT spoilers under the guise of "theories" or guesswork.

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    2. Thank you for treading dangerously close to ZnT spoilers under the guise of "confirming" dangerously close theories elsewhere.

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  5. ZnT is still proving itself to be a rather unique series. Sure it's not the ultimate masterpiece, but it's honest on all front, and not a total insult to the viewer's intelligence. There is a lot to speculate and comment on, and that's certainly a quality to be appreciated in the realm of anime. What was the last BONES series that garnered commercial success?......I really do hope they keep it up without having to join the commercial parade.

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    1. E7 AO will make money for them, even if not as much as they hoped.

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  6. So like, am I the only who noticed that this post is marked as episode 17 even though this was actually episode 16?

    Another solid episode but I feel like I'm ready for the show to really kick into high gear again, right now there's a lot of hinting going on and I'm ready for it to start building the crescendo again.

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  7. Whatever.

    The moment Yoshino put his life in danger was NOT the time for Hakaze to be mulling over their relationship status.

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  8. The village twin(?) grannies are a riot. Go grannies XD!
    Hello there Enzo, you converted me to this series since about episode #6.
    I'm not really in any shape for thoughtful plot speculation atm, but the bad sales data you mentioned sort of prompted me into action.
    Really, I would have thought there was enough action and cool factor plus the fanservice as purchase bait in Zetsuen so far has been quite clever ( even leaving the BL hooks on the side Hakaze on the island especially was often miss wet shirt and got some verrrrrry nice butt and cleavage shots, the latter being championed by Evangeline too :p. And the three girl including Aika have lovely legs shown to their best advantage. Non even winter and snow can stop their miniskirts and tight shorts - or yukata slits teasing - , yo! yes, my female gaze can appreciate shapely maidenly legs just fine. Bones did a good job on those legs *thumbs up* ) . What else should the poor girls and BONES show?
    Back on the latest episodes: watching epsodes#13 through #16 in a single evening I didn't suffer the mood change from the 1st half as much as I had feared. The interaction and the curveballs so far have remained enjoyable, there's still a healthy dose of Bard goodness and the bgm is still strong. I do miss the previous OP though. The butterfly vines visuals are intriguing but the new song is just so... forgettable.

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    1. P.S.: also, DAT GLORIOUS FOOD porn at Samon's. BONES, I bow to you for turning me into a hungry pitiful creature salivating at the screen.

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