Anime Review: Anne Happy

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A couple of reviews back, I briefly took a stab at criticizing a fatal flaw in utilitarianism, that having the illusion of happiness can be just as dangerous as letting one suffer from the pains of the truth. I still believe this to be true, but I neglected to offer an alternative that defends why happiness is something that we should value. Given the many animes that I’ve already reviewed that are made primarily to bring joy to their audience, one more case probably wouldn’t hurt. What makes this sitcom different from some of the others that I’ve reviewed, however, is that happiness is more than just something it imparts on us. Rather, happiness is at the heart of why this series matters in the first place! (That and come on, it’s in the title!)

And if you’re thinking that I’m going to somehow over-complicate a comedy anime that wasn’t meant to make sense with theoretical mumbo jumbo, well you’d be half right, but you would also miss out on all the fun things I love about this series that no analysis can capture to such humorous detail! That, and I need to subject you all to the “Timothy Rap” because catchy music is catchy!

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Anime Review: Encouragement of Climb 2

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This is it! I am wrapping up a three-month feature of anime reviews under a larger scope of feminism! And in case you missed some of them or never knew about it, read my synopsis on my project here.

I took a look at what women writers and artists of anime today convey in The Girl’s Perspective. I critiqued how feminine traits are portrayed in recent anime in Cuteness. Then I critiqued some examples where girls and women strive to be free in Liberation. As a proverbial capstone of these themed anime reviews, I hope to send us off with something not so much with critical analysis, but with something inspiring, as I find it appropriate for us to do when coming to a close on something positive. And unlike my analytical formats for the past three months, this one will be more like a collage of scenes.

This final review of the series will touch upon a little bit of everything I have talked about, under the theme: Becoming the Subject.

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Anime Review: Yuki Yuna is a Hero

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No archetype in any storytelling is given as much attention as the Hero. The Hero embodies all the ideals of our society, and everything that he does or happens to him (stylistically gendered) is a reflection of our sense of morality. The Hero is often an independent being as well as a mentor to the audience. But can this Hero interplay with other ideologies that aren’t traditionally as active or triumphant? Yes, she can (intentionally gendered). Our very existence isn’t so defined by just a few values that others are posited against it so easily. And for a series like this one, the Hero isn’t just the independent individual. The Hero is a cute girl that values the power of those immediately around her, in that they can all be freed from the essences that bind them.

Before I get into this review, please know that there are a few limitations. First, I previously commented (as did many others) that this series is very similar to another anime. There are useful comparisons, but I will NOT be talking about them! Second, again, I will not be arguing whether or not the series as a whole is in alignment with feminism, but I will be critiquing it in a feminist perspective. Third, I will be discussing the ambiguous concept of moé: an idea that is used commonly in anime and manga today, but still in development. For purposes of this review, I will be defining moé as the general comparison of girls to flowers, and the most ideal form of beauty for a flower is moé (from the Japanese term for a flower just before it blooms).

And fourth, if you’re familiar with my style of reviews, there will be SPOILERS.

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Also note: Yuki Yuna is A hero (de Aru), not THE hero (desu)!

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Anime Review: Saki Episode of Side-A

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If you liked Saki, the anime about a bunch of cute high school girls playing in a mahjong tournament, guess what? There’s more where that came from! Original Saki author Ritz Kobayashi inspired yet another series relating (but not entirely about) our favorite mahjong team from an underdog school in Nagano. The same fervor from Saki continues, as a large group of different girls all compete for a chance at their ultimate goal: to be National Champions of the mahjong high school team tournaments!

The premise of this spin-off series is about, yet, another underdog team from the Nara prefecture. The Achiga Girls’ Academy hasn’t competed in a mahjong tournament for roughly ten years, when the school had lost the National tournament in the semi-final round. In order to return to this competitive stage, former student Harue Akado returns to coach a promising fresh team of girls: the superstitious Matsumi sisters Kuro and Yuu, a level-headed Ako Atarashi, the sharp-minded Arata Sagimori, and the energetic Shizuno Takakamo! Each girl has their own playing style, as one can imagine from reading or watching the original Saki, and aim to become the National champions in their first year: a feat that their coach could not even surpass!

It turns out that Ako and Shizuno are also old friends of Nodoka Haramura, the other ace of Saki’s team. Despite not competing at an individual level, the team’s goal is to give a single shot at competing with our favorite protagonists from the original series. So in other words, as usual for this storyline, we get to cheer for the rivals as well as the heroes.

Most of the story of this anime takes place where Saki left off, where the girls of Achiga Academy compete in the A-block of Nationals. Due to some unfortunate match-ups, the Achiga and Kiyosumi teams are placed in separate blocks. In other words, Achiga must become one of the top two champions of Side-A (get it?) just to guarantee the possible chance of playing Kiyosumi, and therefore Nodoka, who are competing in Side-B. There is, of course, a chance that Kiyosumi high may lose before getting to the finals, but let’s face it, they don’t know that they’re in a TV show that practically guarantees they’re going to make it. (Saki: Zenkoku-hen, the Nationals chapter, is projected to air in Japan for the Spring 2014 season).

One thing that I did like about Saki: Achiga-hen over the the original series is the true determination that comes out of all five of these girls as they work together. Forget that there are shameless cameos from the original or the fact that all the other nationals’ teams are veterans, or that Saki Miyanaga makes an appearance just to creep the team out (though all the fans know she was simply wandering the halls, getting lost again). For me, the entertaining value lies in what makes underdog teams like them strong, and that is their resilience together and their ability to turn things around in their favor when no one else seems to notice.

My favorite scene from this series actually comes out of the OVAs that were made to complete the Side-A chapter after the regular 12-episode season. In a particular OVA, the Achiga captain Arata Sagimori competes against the three other veteran teams in a match of wits. One of the rivaling teams’ player for this match, Hiroko Funakubo, is an analyst. She appears to have the entire match figured out because she has studied all of her opponents’ in past games. What she doesn’t understand, though, is Arata’s playing style, which she eventually does piece together. She realizes that Arata’s combos are usually of the Circle suits, which are reminiscent of the Sagimori’s bowling business, as the circles and their numbers represent pins. At this point, we believe that Arata’s hand is totally predictable and Funakubo would use that to her advantage.

But Arata Sagimori has another thing coming for the veterans.

Before realizing it, Funakubo was too late in completely analyzing her opponent. Arata does not simply play mahjong the same way she bowls. In fact, she looks up to the former student (now coach) Harue Akado, more than anyone else. That’s right. Arata’s playing style is reminiscent of her mentor’s. In this semi-finals match, Arata Sagimori plays more than just for her team to win. She plays in order to redeem her fallen coach, to make it passed a round that even her coach could not get through. This was the pivotal moment, for me anyway, that showed the Achiga girls’ determination.

Once again, great show, and it certainly makes me want to learn to play competitive mahjong, despite the fact that there is a lot of fanservice presented in the anime. Can’t wait until Saki: Zenkoku-hen, airing some time in the future!

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