Ongoing Investigations: Case #209

This week it the OI where I watch something again for the first time. These are all titles I have watched to completion before but Narutaki either never watched or only saw a little of.

I have mentioned Emma: A Victorian Romance on the blog several times in the past. I have praised in several different panels and podcasts we have done as well.  I even named it one of the best show of the 2000s. So I have little to add to plugging Emma on that front. What I can talk about is what I have noticed in my recent re-watch.

The first thing is a recent Answerman column that used Emma as an example of having lousy animation. While he praised the content of the show he pointed it out as a prime case of good story but rubbish animation. While I see what he is saying, because the animation is usually done on the cheap, I mainly never cared before and can’t start now. It is mostly a show about Victorian men and women sitting in chairs talking to each other while domestics clean in the background. You hardly need the animation form the bike scene from Akira to fully experience that. I just want to see the scenes from the manga in color. The setting of Emma is just so well researched and atmospheric who would not want to seem them animated even if minimally?

Other than that it was just nice to revisit this love story. Emma is wonderful, William is dense (like a neutron star) but loveable, Ms. Stowner is your stereotypical stern but kindly wise old lady, and William’s dad is just a jerk. I was am amused how quickly Narutaki realized that nothing but horrible things were going to happen to Eleanor Campbell despite the fact that she is undeniably nice.

I liked the new litebox version of Emma from Nozomi but I am glad I got the limited edition versions back in the day. The booklets that came with the original version were just filled with wonderful information. The Crystal Palace information alone was fantastic. I wish they had added that digitally to the new version but I understand why they did not.

This was a wonderful little series to come back to. I hope we can start the second season soon. The end to the first season is so melancholy. I really need the pick me up of the second season to balance that out.  That and Tasha being Tasha.

I can’t believe my old roommate used to think that the series should have ended with the first season. Pshaw!

I finally watch Emma: A Victorian Romance, though just the first season so far. I don’t think there was really ever any doubt I would like this series. And having completed the third season of Downton Abby, I needed a little period drama to fill a void in my heart!

There aren’t really any schemers in Emma trying to ratchet up the drama; it is more of slow and fairly simple class-divided love story. But since William has the IQ-level of a rock, he only needs himself to cause every problem in the show. Sometimes I’d often wonder why I even want Emma to end up with this idiot. But I love Emma herself so much that I will respect her wishes in this. He is willfully ignorant of his station and doesn’t seem to really do his job at all so far, but there does feel like a turning point at the end which I can hope changes him greatly.

On the other hand, my darling Eleanor better get swept off her feet by some charming rogue because really I need her away from William ASAP.
I loved Mrs. Stowner she was a really cool lady. I was glad to get a bit of her backstory as the series went on. Also she should have hooked it up with Al.
William’s friend from India alternates between offensive, weird, and mildly amusing. I definitely liked him driving the car through the house. Him falling for Emma seemed totally random but at least he is able to give William a few swift kicks over it.
As you can probably guess, I wouldn’t mind seeing this series be a little more soapy but I enjoyed it anyway. Onward to season two!

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009

Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009 is in part an award show, in part an exercise in humor and snark, in part a challenge, and in part a love letter to everything great this year. We picked several categories and each of us picked titles, characters, and people who we felt best summed up our feelings on the year. Take a peek into what we thought on the anime and manga of 2009 and the people who bring it to us. Feel free to suggest new categories and challenge our picks.

Would also love to hear other people’s picks for some of these categories as well! By the way, some of this stuff happens to have come out in years gone by but we first watched/read/whatnot this year so that’s why they’re here, I’ll hear no guff about it! I really enjoy this part of the year, all the posts seem to be more fun and this one is no exception.

Best Anime of 2009 or Show that Infuriates You to No End When Someone on MAL says “If you like this show you will love Dance in the Vampire Bund.”

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
The noitaminA is your go to animation slot when you are looking for something that is simultaneously different, mature, well produced, and smart. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is no exception to this rule. An exceptional look at ordinary people involved in an extraordinary but still extremely feasible situation. It is a superb mixture of intense character study and survival drama. I know some people feel the end is weak but I thought it did well in capping off this  powerful and thought provoking show.

Eden of the East
It is a little bit mystery, a little bit drama, and a little bit suspense wrapped around an intriguing concept. It’s a wonderful series to watch unfold and since Takizawa doesn’t remember what has happened there is a wonderful element of discovery that comes. Takizawa himself is a refreshing and mysterious guy but you always get the feeling, or I did, that he was a good guy even when things looked dubious. Also he loved dogs, can’t be bad. The game was able to engross and impress me from episode one and continued to do so throughout its broadcast.

Anime Man of the Year or You Must be Swift
as a Coursing River

Battler Ushiromiya
Have you ever wished Phoenix Wright could be the star of his own supernatural murder mystery anime? Well if so then someone heard your prayers. In Umineko no Naku Koro ni we have Battler Ushiromiya who is a clear homage to Phoenix Wright with dramatic finger pointing, manly crying, and split between having to do detective work and acting like a lawyer. He may have his flaws but no matter what he keeps marching forward despite numerous set backs and tragedies. Plus he is just plain cool whenever he is on the counterattack. His casual charm and iron clad will set the tone for the anime as much as they do the games it was based on.

After thinking this over way too much, I finally decided on Guin for a few reasons. First being that after more than 100 books about his quest on the bestseller list, Guin finally got an anime. Adding to that is that Guin may arguably be the most manly character animated in 2009. If you watch just the first episode, this will become obvious. I also read about Guin in novel formthe first time this year myself. And finally, and sadly, Guin’s creator Kaoru Kurimoto passed away in 2009, a woman who was still writing about her most popular creation.

Anime Woman of the Year or I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Canaan is a competent kick arse girl with a gun. That is usually all that you need to sell me on a character. The fact that Canaan has her rather slick synesthesia ability which I thought was a very original superpower. She has a stoic and cool feel to her but it she still cares for the people she wishes to protect and gives her all to do so. I also think that her competence on the battlefield but her awkwardness in personal relationships gives her a good mixture of strength and weakness that make her a serious version of Sousuke Sagara. I also think makes her an interesting character to me.

Picking a woman of the year became a lot easier the more I watched Kimi ni Todoke. Sawako has a special strength of character that uplifts you, just as she does to the many characters around her. She is humorous and endearing and you never doubt that she will succeed and grow in each new scenario she encounters. Sawako’s positive attitude, even after endearing so much isolation is a true testament to the human spirit and the ability to change.

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Manga of the Month: October

Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi

I know nothing of ballet, in fact I have zero ability to dance but I am consistently drawn to ballet manga. There is something about how it looks on the page that makes it very beautiful and very dramatic both of which Sawn has in spades. Japan’s ballet is a baby compared to its history in the rest of the world, but there is plenty of young (and old) talent. Great dancers from all over the nation are invited to compete, the top chosen will receive private lessons from famous dancers all over the world. This is done in hopes to expand Japan’s ballet reputation internationally. We follow Masumi, who is unexpectedly invited to the school for private lessons after being eliminated early on in the competition. She has had poor training but her staunch supporter, famous Russian dancer Alexei Sergeiev, sees great potential in her. Masumi is uneasy and has self-doubt but she is determined. The many people swirling around her add wonderful contrasts to her style and outlook as well as creating tension and of course sowing the seeds of love, friendship, and competition. All of the rivalries so far have been fair, on the level, but fierce and make each push themselves harder than before. However, they have not leaped into sabotage or foul play which is a easy direction to take such things especially in a series that is as highly melodramatic as Swan is. It is rather amazing how much emotion, suspense, and progress Ariyoshi Kyoko packs into each volume. Each character is given the ability to improve and grow which only seems to get more dramatic as the series goes on. Swan a beautifully rendered story with some of the most dynamic page layouts I’ve ever encountered. You will also learn tons about ballet. Swan is a highlight of shojo manga that shouldn’t be missed and that I can’t personally put down.

Hyakko by Haruaki Katou

I believe that most of anime and manga fandom is always looking for the next Azumanga Daioh. While I will not be so bold as to say that Hyakko is just that, I will claim that it will hold you over until you find the next Azumanga Daioh. It is as if you made Tomo the main star of Azumanga making sure to keep her energy at 11 but turn down her skill at getting under your skin to a more reasonable 5. Beyond that, you get what made Azumanga great: releatable high school characters with all their quirks exaggerated just enough for comedic effect; a focus on relationships to create a natural flow of comedy; but unlike Azumanga there are actually male students who are regular characters. Shocking, I know.

Torako Kageyama is a hurricane at Kamizono Academy, a co-ed private high school. She is an energetic spitfire that is constantly getting involved with other people’s lives. She has no great altruistic streak but instead just wants to shake things up. By hook or by crook she has three other friends who usually get involved with her shenanigans as well. Suzume Saotome is Torako’s very peculiar childhood friend, Ayumi Nonomura is a mousy but cute girl, and Tatsuki Iizuka is a straight-laced lady who is often strong armed into participating. Fortunately for Torako there are many a strange student at Kamizono Academy so she is rarely at a want of what to do next.

Hyakko is an excellent comedy manga set in high school. The main appeal is the characters and how they relate to each other. Torako’s brash nature is amusing and I especially like her antagonistic friendship with Tatsuki. We have a wide variety of odd students from the bisexual class president, a child prodigy, a delinquent, and a man with a crush on Torako who play off each other very well. There is no overall plot it’s just a different day in the life of Torako and her classmates. It’s a fun little series that will not change the way you look at life or manga but it will make you laugh and that is all it needs to do.