[Film] Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale Review

I can’t believe it’s been over 2 years since season 2 of Sword Art Online finished airing; fans have been waiting for new animation to be released and we get that in the form of a film this year! I don’t really post anime reviews in general but I feel confident enough to put forward my opinion on the Sword Art Online series as I have read most of its material (including all the main light novels and some of the side story light novels). I’ve decided to split my review into a spoiler free section (to help those who want to make an informed decision about whether to watch this movie or not), and an in-depth section with spoilers to engage those who want to analyse the intricate details behind the movie and the series in general.

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The Non-Otaku Guide to Anime

This semester is very busy; I haven’t blogged for a while. Put two and two together, and you’ll simply see me blogging about anime, rather than something more “important”. But why not? My goal hopefully is to explain to people who are not into anime, the beauty and complexity of this Japanese “art”. Are they nothing more than just “cartoons” you ask? Well, these cartoons contributed to many of my English essays back in high school (and I scored really good marks with them) so they are of some intellectual value at the least.

 

Anime is a difficult to understand art form because people generally put it down to the same level as children’s cartoons. However, I think a more reasonable way to understand anime is that it is a combination of children’s cartoons (with its imaginative design) and regular TV series (with its complexity in story elements). So essentially, many (not all) anime can be compared to everything else you see on TV, except it’s translated into cartoon animations and may have imaginative themes and elements – or fantasy, more like.

 

Anyway I’ll try to keep this short so that it won’t bore those who have a weak (or null) interest in anime. There are certain elements that each anime has which determine its appeal to the public; but at the same time these elements are probably apparent in anything else you see on TV. It is these ones which will be common to most anime:

 

Characters

Well obviously the characters are important.

Personality – For personality, it is not just about a single character’s personality but rather all the characters in the anime juxtaposed with each other. Yes I know, it sounds like English again, but this is what makes certain characters likeable. Commonly, pairing up a nice, quiet and shy character alongside one with exactly the opposite traits (loud, hot-headed, outspoken) makes for an interesting cast of characters. Obviously, it makes no sense to have multiple characters who are just like one another, it’d be like seeing the same character over and over again. But anime does well by having a wide cast of characters, all of whom have a wide variety of characteristics which complement well with other characters. Can’t think of a prime example but this one would count:

Edward & Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist

Character Development – This is by far the most important aspect for characters; that is, watching them grow as the story develops. In movies and in most TV series, characters maintain their traits throughout; most of the time there are the same character at the end, as they were at the beginning. But a series of anime can go on long enough for characters to open up a side of themselves that nobody has seen; or they can just change completely as well. Some characters change for the better, and others for worse. But part of the enjoyment in watching anime is seeing the characters “grow”. Not the best example again, but this one definitely stands out:

 

Uchiha Sasuke from Naruto

Voice Casting – The Japanese term for this is “seiyuu" which refers to the voice actor of characters. Obviously, animated characters need a voice behind them; and just like Disney carefully picks their voices actors for their movies, so it is also for the many series of anime that have aired. A character’s attitude and personality is definitely influenced by whoever is playing them and so it’s important to pick the right person for the right job. You can’t just put any voice behind any character. America is a good example of someone who does it completely wrong; just take a look at ANY English-dubbed anime and you’ll see voices that don’t match the character (just from appearance alone), ; it needs to be done right. One recent actor who’s added a lot of depth to the characters she’s played is:

 

Ayana Taketatsu (Notable roles: K-ON! and OreImo)

 

Story

Plot – Again, quite an obvious one. All anime need a plot in their story, otherwise there is no sort of “progress” in the anime; and the characters won’t really be doing or achieving anything. It makes sense that any story is easier to follow if the events follow a sequence of some sort. There are some anime that don’t have a plot but can be good, but that really depends on the audience’s taste – do they want a story, or do they just want to see characters do random stuff? In either case, a plot gives the audience something to focus on. And as for anime that don’t have a plot, their strengths must lie elsewhere:

 

No plot whatsoever:  To Aru Majutsu no Index
(A Certain Magical Index)

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Ironically, the side story does: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun – same link
(A Certain Scientific Railgun)

Ah, better get back to work. Will update later.

Temporary Intermission

Wow I haven’t blogged for so long that I’m starting to get rusty at it, language-wise and all; but then I have been exposed to nothing but numbers over the last 2 months. Anyhow, perhaps in this moment of peace I should give an update as to what’s been happening since the absence of my presence here. The exam timetable was released and I completely devastated to find that I had 3 exams over two days (just this past Tuesday and Wednesday). I had my hardest two exams on Tuesday (which was the real setback) and my least important one the following day. In total, those 3 tests came to a total of 185% of my final marks. So in the span of 26 hours I had obtained nearly 2 courses worth of marks, how sad.

 

So for the last few weeks especially I have been stressing over how to manage that foreboding flow of exams; I (tried to) study day and night but even so I wasn’t as productive as I would’ve liked to be. I realized towards the end of last week, that temperature played a factor in my concentration. Clearly, the colder it was, the shorter my attention span was. But it was too late to reconcile for that at that point, so I made with what little time I had left and did my best.

 

My marks this semester will be at their lowest yet; but then again, second year courses are more challenging than first year ones, so it comes to no surprise that the amount of effort required for this semester should be double that of last year’s. I’ll pass, but sadly I’ll have to let go of my ambition to get the same level of marks as in high school. But that’s life.

 

Amongst other things that have distracted me while studying, the following are the top 2:

 

AnimeNFO

AnimeNFO is an online Japanese radio broadcasting from either Europe or South America (not specific I know, the point is that it’s not from Japan) which broadcasts all sorts of Japanese music 24/7. I found the site while I was at work, and wanted some anime music to listen to. The music they play is completely user requested and offers everyone a chance to hear something new (even if it’s a really old song), which is the point of a radio. This site sort of re-lit my passion for Jap music because of just how fun the site was. Below is a screenshot of what the site page looks like:

 

AnimeNfo Radio V2 -- Your BEST source for Anime and Japanese music!_1276822076094

What’s good about the site is that it shows you the playlist, including current song, upcoming songs and recently played songs, plus the album art. That’s useful information because the thing people hate about the radio is hearing a good song but not knowing what it’s called or who it’s by. This way, once I come across a good song I’ll be able to find out what it’s called (and promptly obtain it via the Internet haha!)

 

The site also allows you to rate the songs that get played, and hence gives you a rough indication on how everyone has been reacting to that particular song. There’s also the option to add songs to your personal favourite list, but that’s only available after you donate money to them or rate a total of 500 songs, whichever comes first. Ah the joys of combining anime and radio together.

 

Check it out at: https://www.animenfo.com/

 

 

Angel Beats!

The last anime series I picked up just as semester ended was Angel Beats!. I hadn’t realized it at the time but it was actually the biggest thing hitting Japan at the moment. Anyway, the series is about a bunch of teenagers who have died and are taken to purgatory (the setting is a high school), where they are meant to live a satisfying life that they otherwise were unable to obtain while they were actually alive (hence dying as youth). The characters, on the other hand, recall how horrible their lives were and instead of trying to find satisfaction in purgatory, seek to rebel against god for the injustice that he has committed on them.

 

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The series provides a wonderful balance between action, comedy, and especially the deep down personal side of the story, as each character talks about the way they died. It’s that last aspect that sort of appealed to me. And this is the second time that an anime has made me legitimately cry; the first was “Voices of a Distant Star”. Anyway here’s the scene that made me cry:

 

 

Yui, the pink-haired girl, was my favourite character, mostly due to her cuteness, which was probably why I cried haha!

 

The anime is really popular and appealing also due to the fact that they’ve marketed it really well. Music has been a really strong point of this anime, the opening and ending theme hit no. 3 on the Oricon charts in its first week, as well as a number of other songs listed under the band name “Girls Dead Monster”. Wacko name for a band yeah; but three of their songs also hit the charts that same week, they ranked like below 10. But as you can see, a single anime managed to secure 4 slots of the Japanese music charts in a single week, now that’s popularity. The band technically exists within the anime itself, but they did make a real version of the band, using the same singer. Here is their first PV and also the song I’ve been obsessed over for a while now:

 

Looks like I’ve gotten back into Jap music now; probably push aside the K-Pop a bit. I realise now that the major appeal that J-Pop has to me is the strong vocals combined with an equally strong bass, makes for awesome music!

SMASH! Committee

At long last I am finally part of an anime convention’s team; but at a very untimely moment.

 

After 2 applications to SMASH! they rejected my application to be karaoke coordinator (in light of what happened at Animania two years ago) and have appointed me as Online Media Coordinator; pretty nifty title yeah?

 

Anyway it will be my job to monitor all the Internet sites that SMASH! uses; I have them all favourited now:

 

Hmm, now that I look at them I suppose it shouldn’t be too rough looking after 5 different things. My job is just to monitor them and add new posts and entries when new info becomes available. Part of social side of my job is to stalk down people who post or comment on any of these sites, just to be friendly and show that we want to interact with the community. I suppose I can do that.

 

But part of the untimely thing I was talking about is that I’ve seemingly picked up too many commitments for this semester, particularly at church. So this could prove to be a rough semester yet again with all these things I have to do. But on the flip side it will be a good test of my ability to juggle many things at the same time. Also, just being part of any project team will simply teach me how events are actually run; the only other event I’ll be a part of is RICE.

 

But having said all that I’m probably not much of an anime person these days; not a die hard fan but I’ll still keep up to date with a couple of interesting series (not always mainstream and not always liked by many others). I can say for sure, though, that I will be never on the same line as any other normal anime fan here in Sydney. The sheer slowness they exhibit(ed) makes me *thumbs down* at whatever judgement and passion they have for anime – being like 2-3 years slow is seriously nothing to get excited about. If you are a true fan of anything, you should like it in the context from whence it came; which would be the country Japan and the time period “2 – 3 years ago”

 

I’ll end it on this: it just never surprises me at how lame Naruto fans are here in Sydney. Just the other night on Bored Aussie I came across some guy who was like: “Omg Itachi dies?!?!” Yep, tough crowd…

October 2009 Anime

Hmm…it really is a bad time to be getting back into anime now, especially with semester exams just round the corner, sort of. Oh but it’s so hard to resist just watching them in my spare time, to procrastinate or to relax. There are so many good series to catch up with recently, for once, and I’ve suddenly found myself finding a way to actually use my 25GB of bandwidth a month now; combined with whatever I use at university tee hee.

 

Inuyasha Kanketsu-Hen

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That’s right boys and girls Inuyasha is back! “Kanketsu-hen”, translated as “The Final Act” will bring to us a rumoured 26 episodes that will continue to fill us from where the 2003 anime left us, all the way to the end of the manga series, which ended one year ago. I for one was an extreme Inuyasha fan who was disappointed when the original anime series stopped abruptly and left the story to hang while the manga continued to run. But finally we get to see the rest of the story animated, although it will appear to be very condensed if the season is going to run for a mere 26 episodes.

 

The pilot episode was really condensed. *Spoilers warning* Condensed to the point where we actually have Hakudoshi dying already, now that is really condensed. Episode 1 wasted no time in re-introducing us to all our main characters, the Inuyasha group, the Sesshoumaru group, the Kouga group, the Kikyou group and the Hakudoshi group; all the characters were present at some point in the episode and a lot of fighting ensured their paths crossed. The violence is still top notch that rivals the gore in the very first episode of Inuyasha; take a look at this screenie:

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Very slick. Not accustomed to seeing a giant dog’s head get decapitated and then continue flying around and attacking people, but okay.

 

I’m glad they’re still using the same voice actors as before, although now they’re 6 years older, wonder if they can handle it. Likewise, the animation seems to have improved to 2009 standards which is good; the Kongousouha technique is animated much better this time, compared to 6 years ago. We I have some high expectations of this anime now, since they decided to start it again; keep watching to see how hey condense the next 150 or so manga chapters into 25 episodes.

 

 

Bleach

Yes Bleach I reckon is still running pretty well; although I am getting weary of these filler arcs, they just don’t seem to lead anywhere. But I suppose for once this filler arc is very interesting; finally something the fans would want to watch. In short, it’s become a fight between the Death Gods and their own swords, well the spirits inside their swords really, and finally there is a mismatch in power against the protagonists, for once.

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This has brought about a whole new range of characters, each with their own personalities, and will obviously create enough material for a long filler series. So many new characters and so many new conflicts; this is a definite watch for those who have long given up Bleach in the past, it is worth picking up now. Plus the story starts to get really good when we come to the twist:

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Which comes from episode 240 which aired this week. Byakuya alongside the bad guys? Oh yeah, keep them coming!

 

Other anime to keep an eye out for are “Fairy Tale” and “Darker Than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini”. I have not heard of either before, so that just means more catching up to do; and that’s already on top of the other older anime that I’m trying to catch up to T.T”