Ongoing Investigations: Case #238

narutaki_icon_4040 I started reading A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima, a series that apparently had a great reception prior to being put on CR Manga. I myself hadn’t heard of it, but I am much less aware of shonen romance titles. In any case, all the love that poured out from people when I mentioned reading it is well deserved.

Ishida is an ex-bully, who became bullied himself, and has given up on friends and life as he drifts through high school. Shoko is the girl Ishida and his classmates bullied due to her hearing impairment. Ishida seeks her out, all these years later, in order to apologize before ending his life. But suddenly, after years of isolation, he has made a human connection and that snowballs into another connection and another and another all which changes his course.

The beginning of the series is actually an extended flashback, things don’t really shift into full gear until the second volume. It is an angering and painful few chapters which makes the changes later so much more earned.

Despite the serious nature of that premise, and by all means A Silent Voice is thoughtful in its seriousness, the series creates people who aren’t simply downtrodden. There is light and hope in the series in such unexpected ways. Everyone is fully realized and has layers, a character like Ishida being so sympathetic is testament to this. The people from Ishida’s past, and his mistakes and how he deals with them, are incredibly complex. It isn’t so easy to dismiss people or to rebuild one’ life, and it is doubly hard for a boy who doesn’t truly believe he deserves better.

This series is lovely and brilliant.

(Read it on Crunchyroll Manga)

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hisui_icon_4040 If you have been following our Twitter feeds you will have seen the building we both live in has recently been having Internet problems. This means our normal anime viewing schedule was completely thrown out of whack. Being at the end of the season, with the massive Spring avalanche just around the corner, this is all sort of annoying. But we made due in the mean time. It has let us catch up on two series we had put on hold. We were watching Infinite Ryvius and Future Boy Conan as the result of our poll for our 200th Ongoing Investigation but we started to prioritize some of the newer shows and were saving Ryvius and Conan for the lean times. Exactly for times like this.

I’m really glad that we finally finished Infinite Ryvius from Bandai. I don’t regret watching the series. It definitely was a series that was right up our alley so when people thought we would like it was a good choice. That said I did not like ending of the series. There was some weird hiccups and odd choices in the middle but I was engaged until the ending. I was ready to give this series a thumbs up. But when the last episode ended I was just left with an unfulfilled feeling.

Now it would be easy to assume that the series had no idea what it was doing and just slapped on some random clumsy ending because they did not think the complete narrative arc out from the start. But I feel that the generally ending point seemed like the ending point they had from the start. I’m not really sure how the conflict between the crew of the Ryvius and government could have gone any other way without is just being a total downer ending. Anything else would have required total deus ex machina or some other equally underplayed power to get involved. Past that point the exact number of people who lived or died were distinctly in question. It was clear that the crew was a powder keg waiting to explode so a number of people could died either being killed by space forces as well as their fellow crew members.

I think the characters reactions to what happened seemed really … questionable. I did not need the survivors to be broken husks unable to function in society or ever forgive any transgression BUT certain characters get nothing more than a slight “those were some crazy times” attitudes for REPEATEDLY and PURPOSEFULLY trying to murder large parts of the crew whereas other people mainly either are forgotten or scorned for lesser crimes. At the same time while it is good to see most of Kouji Aiba storyline resolved (he is the main character after all) it did seem like some very important character arc just seemed completely dropped. But we get resolution on the fates of a lot of the really minor characters at the same time. I’m not saying they needed two more episodes of conclusion but a little more time devoted to the central cast and a little less time to finding out the fate and life path of the girl in the dinosaur costume might have been prudent.

Also the creepy stalker finally gets with the girl he was creeping on. And we are supposed to think this is cute. No no no no, Infinite Ryvius. You don’t get to do that.

Other than that I know the pace got to my roommate. He wanted things to go crazy much earlier on. Pretty much total Lord of the Flies ASAP without it being silly. I think the slow and meandering path to conflict was a little more realistic. The slow decent into insanity with several false starts and shifts in power seemed how things were likely to go down. There is a never a time when things become a complete anarchy. Part of this is just due to them constantly having a mutual enemy but also because anytime things slide towards anarchy someone would form some of structure to at least stem the tide for getting to the point of monstrous chaos. But it was not an appeal to some higher principle or ideal. It was just the natural tendency of nature to abhor a vacuum and fill in the empty place with anyone. That said I could see how it can feel like slog to get to the “good part” but I thought the slow decent was smarter.

I just feel there had to be something in between the ending we got and bleak unending nihilistic despair that could have finished the series in a satisfactory ending. Infinite Ryvius main problem is it brought up some fascinating scenarios and dilemmas but at the same time constantly resolved them in a manner that was usually one or two marks off of fulfilling. It never totally botched things but at the same time I was never happy with the way anything turned out. The ending was far too happy for the moral grayness that came before it but at the same time if was far too pleasant for a relentlessly dark ending. I could see how people rated this show very highly but at the same time it failed to win me over in the end. It was not a single poor or unsatisfactory turn that lost me but a thousand tiny paper cuts in the ending that turned me off.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #200

To celebrate getting to the 200th Ongoing Investigation (which I’m still pretty sure only like half our readers understand) we decided to open up what we talk about in the post to the readers like we did with the 100th. This time we had a poll to help reduce the number of suggestions of shows one of us has already seen (and avoid having people suggest we watch Little Busters!, Oreimo, or something equally repellent). We still got a bunch of requests for Oreimo, but luckily other things won out.

narutaki Future Boy Conan (eps. 1-4) was the oldest series (1978) on the list and a very popular choice by readers which kinda made me happy.

The series style will seem very familiar to any Ghibli fans; character designs, flying machines, etc. Future Boy Conan immediately felt very proto-Laputa specifically too, especially the relationship between Conan and Lana. This was definitely not a bad thing.

At the beginning, Conan was living on a tiny uncharted island with his grandfather after the world had gone to hell. Lana washed ashore after escaping from some baddies. But then they showed up and stole her away leaving Conan to try to find his way to her in wide open ocean.

The world outside is a harsh but exciting place as Conan sets off in his small handmade ship which brings him to another island and one step closer to Lana.

Things progressed at a rapid pace and not at all in the ways I expected for the show. I’m certainly curious to see where it is headed.

What I liked best about Future Boy Conan was the true spirit of adventure that was present in each episode. Conan was fearless, resourceful, loyal, and damn strong! Heck, he took on (and kills) a shark in the first scenes we saw him in.

Random note, we watched the BD version which looks really crisp and the color was great.

I have always been curious to watch Future Boy Conan if for nothing else to see what Hayao Miyazaki could do when he was still in his prime when he worked on his only full TV series. The show itself has always had a bit of a legendary reputation in a small circle of people in America who revere it as a little known classic. On the other hand in Japan it seems like one of those series that inspired a whole generation of current animators. With a strong pedigree and the knowledge that Isao Takahata was balancing out Miyazaki it seemed like a good choice for the list. Thankfully the show has lived up to the decently high expectations I had set for it in my head.

The first thing to note is the budget and animation on the show seems quite high for a TV series. It is not quite at the level of a full on Ghibli movie but for a 26 episode TV series it impressive. You can tell a good deal of love and care went into animating this show. And since we were watching the Blu-ray version it came through looking crystal clear. It probably did not look this nice when it first played on TV. But the character designs, character types, and themes clearly mark this unmistakably as a Miyazaki directed TV series.

Conan (the Future boy not the detective) is your stock plucky but naive shonen hero. He is also crazy strong but I suppose you can’t be a 98-pound weakling in a post apocalyptic world. Conan  kills a giant shark and throws car size boulders with only a small amount of difficulty. He is hardly the most original character in that respect but he is fairly likeable in a very Monkey D Luffy fashion. His first friend on his journey Jimsy is a bit more of a burden than an asset but thankfully while being a bit rough around the edges he is a decent counterbalance to Conan.

Captain Dyce is definitely an odd duck in his mood swings towards Conan. He goes from being indifferent, to straight out trying to murder him several times, and then settles on rather harsh but considerably less homicidal when he finally captures him. If Captain Dyce killed Conan it would have ended the series rather abruptly but it seems odd for Miyazaki to make the Captain so blood thirsty and then dial it back just as quickly.

You can see that much of the series would go on to greatly influence Castle in the Sky. While there are many significant differences between the two the echoes from Conan that go on to shape Castle in the Sky are unmistakable. The relationship between Sheeta and Pazu was clearly a refinement on Conan and Lana’s relationship. And the post apocalyptic vibe and themes or environmentalism and the futility of violence are very much the same even if Laputa’s world has recovered to a far greater extent. I’m curious to see how much more Castle in the Sky borrows from its older brother as I watch more Conan.

But I assume that out of the three series we watched we are most likely to continue watching this series. I’m curious to see how well Miyazaki does with a longer form of storytelling. So far he has done a good job of it. I hope he can keep it up.

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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