Anime Review: New Game!! (Season 2)


I really liked Season 1 of New Game, as a fan of seeing stories told about creative people being creative in their field or fields. When that review came up, I had already started watching the show’s second season, and I stuck with it throughout that season.

As with Season 1, New Game!! sticks with Eagle Jump games, with all of the previous season’s cast returning, along with a few new characters joining the cast. The story for season 2 follows the same pattern as Shirobako did. Season 1 of Shirobako started with an anime series already in the midst of production, and then went through the entire production process for an anime adaptation of an existing work. In the same way, season 1 of New Game had protagonist Aoba Suzukaze coming onboard with an existing game, season 2 takes us through the entire process of designing a game, writing it, and sending it out into the world.

As part of the shifts in this season, our protagonists have new responsibilities. Aoba’s childhood friend Nene Sakura has come onboard at Eagle Jump as a fledgling programmer, and almost terminally shy (but getting better) character designer Hifumi Takimoto has become the lead character designer on the new game and now has to manage and motivate the team, including new member Momiji Mochizuki (or Momo), who has decided to become Aoba’s rival.

Aside from the new explorations of the software development and marketing process, we also get much more exploration of the personalities of the supporting cast, including the new characters. This season also almost cuts out most of the fanservice from last season. Unfortunately, perhaps in anticipation of the reduced amount of shots Kou in her underwear, we end up getting a shot in the first episode of the season with Kou’s butt in the center of the frame as she gets comfortable again under the desk for approximately 5-6 seconds. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but considering that when you film something in animation you do it on purpose, and considering the posterior in question is not stationary, but moving, it’s a excessive.

Otherwise, it’s a great season, and if you watched season 1, it’s definitely worth moving on to season 2.

As of this writing – New Game!! Season 2 is not available for pre-order for a home DVD release, but is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll, and from Funimation with a dub.

Advertisements

Anime Review: Himouto – Umaru Chan (Season 1)


Anime has an interesting relationship with the “Otaku” lifestyle. There’s an undeniable appeal to lounging around the house or apartment playing video games and/or watching TV (especially for an Otaku), but that’s not particularly a healthy way to live your life – so we get a variety of anime that romanticize the Otaku lifestyle in a manner both congratulating and self-depreciating, like Genshiken and Otaku no Video.

Himouto Umaru-Chan has an interesting take on this. The main character of the show is Umaru – a die-hard Otaku who is currently attending high school and who is also living with her brother Taihei, a salaryman who handles the cooking and cleaning. However, her public identity is not that of being an Otaku, but instead as one of the most popular girls in school, proficient in most sports, and who gets As in all her classes. On returning home, she undergoes a seemingly physical transformation into a chibi version of herself, with a radically different personality and wearing a hamster hood. The difference is dramatic enough that it’s something of a running joke that people who don’t already know can’t tell that Umaru’s public and private personas are the same person.

From there, the humor of the show comes from juggling the silliness of Umaru’s behavior (and with it the split between her public and private personas) and how Taihei responds to her behavior, along with other characters reactions to the two personas when encountered on their own. The writing for the humor here works very well. It’s helped by the fact that unlike far too many anime of late, this anime writes a brother-sister relationship that stays on the familial level, instead of stepping into the romantic level like like Oreimo and Eromanga-Sensei did. Nor does it get heavily into risque fanservice, keeping the show from getting skeevy.

It makes for a comedy series that isn’t particularly ambitious, and not particularly deep, but is fun and makes for good light viewing.

Himouto! Umaru-Chan is currently available from Amazon.com (Blu-Ray, DVD), and RightStuf.com (Blu-Ray, DVD).

Film Review: Dawn of the Dead (1978)


There are a few films that other people really like that I have completely bounced off of. I bounced off of Fight Club due to how the film handles mental health issues – and particular its discussion of support groups – using support groups as the negative avenue which Tyler Durden uses to put together Project Mayhem, and ignoring or dismissing the helpful elements support groups have (though, having organized a support group, I admit that I bring some distinct baggage to the table).

The same way, I bounced off of Dawn of the Dead – the most beloved film in George Romero’s Dead series, the same way. The first time I watched it, it turned me off the wagon of the entire Zombie genre. That was almost 10 years ago, so I thought with 10 more years of life experience, maybe I’d be able to roll with the story it’s trying to tell.

Nope.

I bounced off this like Sonic the Hedgehog spin-dashing into a spring in the Green Hill Zone.

I think fundamentally, the reason why this doesn’t work for me is that I’m not particularly nihilistic. I am pessimistic – I try to prepare for the worst so I’m not surprised by it, but I’m never really nihilistic – I never expect and actively hope for the worst.

That’s the problem for me – Dawn of the Dead is a very nihilistic film. It assumes and believes that humanity truly is the worst, and that the best possible outcome for the world is that humanity is wiped out and rendered extinct – that nothing good can come from or for humanity, and that belief is represented clearly by the film’s originally planned (but never shot) ending, where after the protagonists home is destroyed not by the encroaching force-of-nature undead (as with Night of the Living Dead), but by greedy selfish humans – leading one protagonist being killed, one wounded – the remaining two survivors kill themselves – one eating a bullet, the other by decapitation by helicopter blade.

According to my research, that ending wasn’t used not because George Romero thought it was a bit much – but because the audience would have thought it was a bit much.

In the world of Dawn of the Dead, while our handful of protagonists seem okay – or at least are not the garbage humans that are part of the SWAT team, or the project dwellers who are saving their dead even though they are clearly turning into zombies, or the network executive who wants to keep out of date evacuation center information on of the air for the sake of ratings, or the bikers from the film’s conclusion – they are clearly the minority compared to the rest of the world. As that previous run-on sentence makes clear, the rest of the characters in this film are generally crap. We’re not supposed to have empathy for them. We’re supposed to either not care if they live or die, or be okay with them being chewed on by walkers – and that’s the problem.

Horror works best, at least for me, when there are good people in the film who we don’t want bad things to happen to – and for there to be a possibility for the horror to end. With Romero’s Dead series – the source of the horror doesn’t end. The Zombies aren’t going anywhere – and any attempt to rebuild or make any sort of safe place free of the horror will be destroyed by the Assholes.

That said, I can roll with a Worst Ending style apocalypse, but those work for me when it’s a clearly telegraphed uncontrollable situation – the alien from The Thing, The Ancient Evil from In The Mouth of Madness and Prince of Darkness, that sort of thing. In Dawn of the Dead the apocalypse persists because people are inherently assholes so attempts at reconstruction aren’t worth it or automatically tainted.

My original intent was

Film Review: X – The Man with the X-Ray Eyes


X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is a Roger Corman film from the early ’60s. This, in general, is something of a warning sign. Numerous ’60s Corman films ended up on MST3K, or its successors Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax. The fundimental story is actually pretty good, but the execution stumbles. Continue reading “Film Review: X – The Man with the X-Ray Eyes”