Yuri!!! on Ice – Everything on the Ice

When I first read about Yuri!!! on Ice I dismissed it. The title misled me as to what the genre of the show would be. And three exclamation points in any show title is just a few too many. I barely knew anything about figure skating either. I’ve been ice skating just enough times as a kid to know it isn’t as easy as it looks and that rental skates are designed to be as uncomfortable and blister-inducing as possible. My knowledge of professional competition extended as far as the occasional skating routine I’ve caught on television and having seen the movie Blades of Glory.

But anime has a knack for being able to get me interested in any type of competitive sport or activity, whether it be a boxing match or a competitive card swiping game. So I went into Yuri on Ice with an open mind thinking eventually it might be able to capture some of that same magic. Halfway through watching the first episode when Yuri and Victor perform their routines to the aria “Stay Close to Me”, I became a figure skating fan.

 

Yuri on Iceyoititlecd

Yuri on Ice is a sports anime all about the world of professional figure skating. Competitions and performances take up the show’s main run time.

All of the routines in the show were choreographed and performed by professional skater and choreographer Kenji Miyamoto. The rotoscoped animation captures every motion and subtle body movement in each rendition. The angles and perspectives used in the animation are visually stunning. The combinations of close ups and wide shots, jump cuts and long takes give the performances a real sense of motion and spectacle. They breathe life into each routine and make you feel like you’re watching a live performance.

The music used in each performance covers a wide range of genres and styles. Full orchestral symphonies, classical piano arrangements, pop, and rock songs to name a few. And each song complements the choreography of the performance. The step sequences, jump combinations, and spins are all timed in sync with the rhythm. The crashing and cutting percussion of their skates on ice are accompaniment to the piece.

When the skaters glide out onto the ice in costume they transform themselves. Every performance is a physically straining technical sport that pushes the athletes to their limits. Each routine is a ballet where the dancer demonstrates his beauty and grace. The characters’ programs tell stories of romance and heartbreak, of being in the depths of despair and of feeling on top of the world. And when the music stops and the curtains close, the skaters’ exasperated panting and tears of joy and grief are wonderful catharsis.

 

No story in the show is so captivating as its protagonist’s, Yuri Katsuki. At the beginning of the series Yuri has just returned home after a failed figure skating season, contemplating whether he should retire from the professional skating scene. His entire life Yuri lacked confidence in himself on the ice and off. He always considered himself a loner, going off to practice on his own whenever he couldn’t deal with the rest of the world. But he turned his solitude into his strength, channeling all of those feelings into his practice and performance.

The story of Yuri on Ice is about Yuri’s transformation after meeting his new coach and figure skating champion, Victor Nikiforov. As his coach Victor doesn’t teach Yuri new skating techniques or skills so much as he inspires Yuri to reach his own potential. Yuri has to prove to himself and his competitors that he is worthy of having Victor as his coach.

At the first tournament of his comeback in Japan Yuri is competing against a young up and coming Japanese figure skater named Minami. To his surprise, Yuri learns that Minami and many of the other competing skaters idolize and look up to him in the same way he had previously done with Victor. During the competition Yuri finally steps up to his role as a leading skater from Japan and rediscovers the fun of skating.

When I first saw Yuri perform his free routine to the song “Yuri on Ice” I was stunned. The piano piece was originally composed for Yuri to represent the entirety of his skating career. Previously the song was flat and dull, a reflection of Yuri and his uneventful skating career thus far. But now the song was filled with the feelings and emotions of all the highs and lows of his fantastic journey. Through his performance Yuri is able to express all the different forms of love he feels. Yuri’s free routine was the culmination of his life as a skater, and it was wonderful to watch him live it on the ice.

 

Most of the other skaters in the show only get a small amount of screen time, but the show still manages to create compelling characters and personalities for many of them. In the few scenes they appear each skater distinguishes himself as a character. There’s Phichit the fun-loving, selfie taking, social media fanatic who dreams of one day having his own ice dancing show so he can share the joy of figure skating with the world. And JJ the pompous, narcissistic superstar who skates to a rock song, he sings himself, all about how great he is.

For Yuri and many of the other skaters who make it to the Grand Prix Finals we get to see their routines multiple times, but each repeat performance still captures the same feeling of anticipation and excitement as the first. Each skater shows his ability to adapt, recover, and reinvent himself every time he takes to the ice. I watched along with the other competitors and supporters at home, holding my breath at each jump. And by the end of their routines I was cheering for them whether they stuck every landing with their arm raised or crumbled under the pressure.

 

On Loveyoilove

Love is the main theme of Yuri on Ice, and it takes on many different forms throughout the series. For the start of the new skating season Victor choreographs the short programs for both Yuri and Yurio (Yurio Plisetsky). Each will skate to a different arrangement of the song “On Love”.

For the adolescent Russian punk Yurio, Victor chooses Agape arrangement, which represents unconditional, divine love. At the beginning of the show Yurio’s only way of interacting with others seems to be by yelling and starting fights with them. He boards a flight from Russia to Japan to do just that with Victor and Yuri at the beginning of the series. But Yurio is forced to grow up quickly and develop further as a person and skater in the new professional skating world he’s put into. Yurio’s search for his agape leads him to think of his Grandpa who was always supportive of him and his skating. Yurio learns to express his agape through the loving memories he has of his Grandpa and displays it to everyone on the ice.

For the shy and self-conscious Yuri. Victor chooses the erotic, sexual love of the Eros arrangement. At first Yuri struggles to find his eros, having never been in a romantic relationship before or ever having thought about himself in that way. Oddly enough, Yuri discovers his eros through the lust and uncontrollable desire he feels for eating his favorite pork cutlet bowls. Rather than try to be a playboy on the ice Yuri learns to express his eros and seduce the crowd with his feminine charm. By giving them these tonally clashing songs with their personalities, Victor forces both Yuris to evolve as skaters and discover new types of love within themselves they never knew existed.

 

Yuri and Victor’s love for each other is the heart of the show. The two’s interest in the other starts off as infatuation from both sides. For Yuri it comes from his idolization of Victor going back to when he was first learning to skate. For Victor it came from the first drunken impression Yuri made on him and later seeing Yuri’s take on his own free skating routine. Their love develops over the course of the series. You see it happen in the light banter and emotionally charged moments they share with each other. They have fun and laugh just as much as they misunderstand and get upset with each other.

Yuri and Victor both find new strength and inspiration to continue skating from the other. For Yuri, love becomes the theme of his comeback season. He rediscovers his passion for skating through Victor and gains someone to fight for besides himself. Victor is also on a journey of rediscovery. He used to have the same mentality as Yuri, that he could only rely on himself and become a better skater on his own. After having focused on skating for the past 20 years, he finally admits that he has been neglecting the life and love that he so desperately desires. Victor discovers this brand new world filled with life and love through his experiences with Yuri. He comes to understand more about Yuri, his weaknesses, his insecurities, and what motivates him. And he constantly questions what more he can do to for Yuri to become a better coach, friend, and special person in Yuri’s life.

Yuri and Victor’s relationship is complex. As a coach and student, fellow competitors, and as two adults who have thus far pushed aside romance and relationships their entire lives to focus on their skating careers. But as Yuri says, he has no other words to describe his feelings for Victor other than love.

 

From the very first episode it is evident how loving and supportive Yuri’s family and friends are of him and his skating. Minako waiting for his return home at the train station with a welcome back sign. Yuri’s mom bursting out the entrance in excitement to greet him and his sister’s monotone words of support. They are all filled with their own forms of love. Even the minor characters in the story have their moments. Mila’s constant teasing of Yurio and the pork cutlet Pirozkhis that Yurio’s grandfather makes for him are the ways they show their love.

Yuri on Ice is a labor of love. It is the passion project of director Sayo Yamamoto and writer Mitsurou Kubo. Their love and creativity shine through in every aspect of the show. Their love for figure skating and their desire to share it with the world is made evident in every performance. The two have a deep love for their characters and for cultures across the world. You can see it in the little things like the different foods the characters eat and that are displayed in the show’s transition cards. It is in the shouts of Ganbarou, Davai, and other words of encouragement yelled in the skaters’ native languages before a performance. Yuri on Ice is an anime where people of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds are all connected by their love of figure skating.

 

History Makeryoiop

Yuri on Ice is an anime that I will remember. The show is able to capture comedy and seriousness in its story and character development all at once. It’s the best show I’ve seen that uses social media as a natural part of its story and its characters’ lives. The skaters check each other’s Twitter feeds to find out where in the world the others are at and what they’re up to. Their Instagram posts add to their characters, highlighting their individuality and making them relatable at the same time. The show even uses an embarrassing viral Youtube video of the main character as a gag and the catalyst for the entire plot of the story. And one of the best credit sequences of any anime is at the end of episode 10. We’re treated to a slideshow of pictures the skaters took depicting Yuri’s drunken dance battle, and we get to see the origin of the two protagonists’ love story.

 

Yuri on Ice is a show that I will recommend and compare to others in its genres. As a sports anime for its focus on realism and the actual performances of the sport. As a character piece with a diverse and modern cast that play off each other in hilarious and dramatic ways. And as a show about love that handles romance and relationships better than most others who dedicate their entire run time to those subjects.

Yuri on Ice has engaged me in a way that no other anime has in a long time. I was looking up the scoring system for figure skating routines just so I would have a better idea of how well a skater was performing during a skate. What were the number and types of elements allowed in each skating program? What was the difference between an axel, Lutz, and loop?

While I was watching the show there have been instances where I’ve laughed so loud I had to pause and rewind to see what I missed. At other times my eyes have been fixated on the screen and my mouth hung open, just marveling at the spectacle of the performances. And on more than one occasion I’ve caught myself just standing up and doing a spin for no reason at all.

 

I’ve rewatched scenes and episodes multiple times since they’ve aired. I’ve listened to the Yuri on Ice single on repeat many times over and can recite many of the lyrics to “Theme of King JJ” by heart. I’ve read through long episode discussion threads and translated interviews with the creators. I saw Yuri on Ice explode on social media and gain popularity far beyond the normal anime watching community, even getting real professional skaters watching and involved.

In his last line of the series Yuri tells us that figure skaters call everything on the ice “love”. Skaters put their life and love into their training and every program they perform. It is the reason why they push themselves to train until their feet bleed and get up and continue after a fall. Love is in every jump, every spin, and every step sequence of a routine. It is in every strained breath taken and every bouquet and plushy thrown into the rink by cheering fans when the music ends. Love is the theme of Yuri on Ice, and it pervades every facet of the show. It is everything on the ice. And I love it all.

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Jormungand: A Perfect Order

Starting with my face in my palm groaning at some of the unnecessary and out of place fan service or some of the ridiculously unbelievable gun play. Distaste at the lack of characterization for a majority of the cast. Skepticism mixed with intrigue at the eclectic choice of music in the show. Finally giddy with excitement as the fast paced, engrish hip-hop soundtrack starts playing and Koko shows her best master villain face yet. These are all emotions I might experience over the course of an episode of Jormungand.

I like short haired Koko.

I like short haired Koko.

With everything thing said and done though, I can definitively say that Jormungand won me over. If it can in any way be taken as a comparative measure of quality, the second season did have many more moments where I was pumped up and singing along with the ridiculously silly but equally catchy lyrics of the soundtrack as Koko stylishly and decisively plays her winning hand or the enemies suddenly fall like flies to perfectly placed sniper shots. I’ve listened to the various versions of the Time to Attack song and other pieces from the soundtrack more times than I care to admit. Again Koko steals the show away, always putting on the right face for the occasion with just a hint of sinister evil beneath her complexion. However, I was glad to see that some of the other members of Koko’s team finally got their time in the spotlight. The arcs giving backstories to some of the more overlooked cast in the second season delivered far more than I would ever have expected from the show and easily made up my favorite episodes of the entire series. The over the top reactions and acts of vengeance. The sudden betrayal that seems to come out of nowhere but ends up making perfect sense. The twisted humor derived from watching a psychotic killer in action. Witnessing Koko reach the pinnacle of her crazy in her theatrical monologue revealing her grand scheme for world peace.

Nothing like the fear of being blown up to inspire students to attend class.

Nothing like the fear of being blown up to inspire your students to attend class.

Everything just clicks together and fits perfectly. It really feels like the show comes into its  own in the second season. If you could say that the first season of Jormungand laid out the framework for a great show but just didn’t put the pieces together correctly, then the second season truly came along and made a perfect order out of the chaos. It took what was good about the first season, improved upon it, and then some. It didn’t throw away its comparatively bad aspects either. Instead, Jormungand embraced its silliness and the quirky, out of place personalities of its cast of killers so well that you can’t help but retire your suspension of disbelief, sit back, and just enjoy the ride. Ultimately, every aspect of the show, good and bad, helped to establish a name for Jormungand separate from the vast sea of other guns blazing, shoot-em-up anime.

Which would win in a fight,belt sword or metal boot? The eternal question has finally been answered.

Which would win in a fight,belt sword or metal boot? The eternal question has finally been answered.

I especially liked the last episode of the series for this reason. No shots are fired. There was no hitch in the master plan that led to a final epic battle. The series ends with Jormungand finally being set in motion and the dawn of a new world lying just below the horizon. And this is fine with me because at its core, Jormungand was never really a show about the politics of war or even arm dealing for that matter. Jormungand is a show all about its characters and all the extra stuff is only there to push the characters forward on the crazy adventure they find themselves traveling on together. The final destination is not really important and a definitive conclusion is not necessary. Jormungand never tries to be more than the cool, crazy, bloody mess of fun that it is. It never really tries to push an anti-war message on its viewers or address the moral ambiguity of the cost of world peace in any serious manner. If the show was pushing anything, it was only the idea that all ex-assassin and arms dealer groups should just switch to the business of running their own restaurants. Because even if there will come a day when people will have no more need for missiles and guns, sandwiches will never go out of style.

Spin off idea. Hell's Kitchen, Jormungand style.

Spin off idea. Hell’s Kitchen, Jormungand style.

Summer Anime 2012: First Impressions

The summer season of anime has started. I’ll be putting my first impressions of the anime I’ve started watching here. I’ll continue to update this post until I’ve seen the first episodes of all the shows I’m watching or giving a try.

 

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity has Declined):

Well, I did not know exactly what to expect from this show when I first read its description in previews. Deep down I was hoping it would be a down to earth slice of life anime about how the remaining human population has come to terms with their situation and how they manage to live alongside their fairy counterparts, much in the same vain as something like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (the manga that I’m using for my avatar and blog picture). I could not be more wrong. First and foremost, Jinrui is a comedy. Or should I say it tries to be a comedy. Its style of humor and the types of jokes it uses are so dull and boring that they’re almost laughable for how bad they are. Almost. The only part that I found passably funny was when the robotic piece of bread ripped itself open and covered the main characters in its blood jelly. Looking back though, I think the only reason I found that part funny was because of its absurd shock factor that contrasted the very slow and stale humor of the rest of the episode. Something positive I have to say about the show is that its art and visual direction are very impressive. The colors are vibrant and bring the show to life. However, not even the show’s great art or interesting concept can make up for its failed delivery and bad sense of humor.

My predictions: I’ll watch the show for one more episode before I recognize that it truly has no potential and lament the fact that I’ll never get to experience something as great as YKK again. The show will try to be become more funny by putting in more of the same style of jokes into each episode, but that will ultimately cause it to be even less humorous and more terrible than it already is.

 

Tari Tari:

So, this is P.A. Works’ follow up to their show Hanasaku Iroha which aired last year. The art style and character designs from both shows are very similar, which is to say that they are well polished and nice to look at. Even the main characters, Konatsu and Ohana, from each show seem alike in both appearance and personality. Just based on first impressions though, the characters and personalities from Tari Tari seem significantly less remarkable and interesting than those of Hanasaku Iroha. This first episode did an adequate job of introducing the characters and bringing them together, but the real quality and potential of the show hasn’t really shown yet. I think the deciding factor of whether Tari Tari will be worthwhile to watch or not will be in how well it makes use of its concept of being about music. Will the show put music off as an afterthought in favor of focusing on the characters’ everyday lives with each other like in K-On or will it use music to bring out the most from its characters, to both elicit and express feelings and emotions that could not be shown simply with words like with Sakamichi no Apollon? My guess is something in between.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching the show until the end but be disappointed in how the show’s characters and plot do not live up to the expectations set by Hanasaku Iroha. Ultimately, the show will leave no lasting impression on me.

 

Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi

If it was not for Chihayafuru, I would have no idea what the 100 romantic poems from the Heian period in Japan actually were and would probably have little interest in them. However, after watching the show my interest in the poems used in Karuta and their true “meanings”, as Kanade put it, was piqued. Seemingly as if to answer my interest in the subject after watching the shows comes the anime Utakoi, whose goal is to adapt the stories and meanings behind the origins of each of the poems in a very liberal fashion. And it just so happened that the first story of the one hundred that they decided to adapt was the “Impassionate Gods” or “Chihayafuru” poem that was so prominent in the show. Based on the first two stories in the first episode of Utakoi, it would seem that most of the tales adapted in the show will be about two lovers whose relationship is tried and tested by hardships and forces out of their control. The simplistic and traditional looking art style fits with the show nicely, although I am not a fan of the outlined character designs which makes them look like cardboard cut outs set in a picture play. I still very much enjoyed watching the first episode though, partially due to my favoring of short and sweet stories about star-crossed lovers. The “super-liberal interpretation” of the stories also adds some flare and quirky humor to the stories that contrasts nicely with the traditional and old-time nature that these kinds of love stories are usually told in. However, I do hope that the show does not only adapt the poems about lovers for the stories in their show. I would love to see their take on how a poet came to be inspired to write a poem about Spring or one of the other subjects that were mentioned at the beginning of the show. I think that people who already have knowledge of the back stories and meanings of the One Hundred Poems will also be able to appreciate this liberal adaptation of the stories behind the poems much more than I was able to.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching Utakoi until the end because I’m a sucker for these kinds of love stories and already have an interest in the content that the show is adapting.

 

Binbougami ga!

Here comes the latest comedy series by Sunrise, the producers of Gintama. The description of the show did not really stimulate my interest in it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the show’s humor was not boringly stupid but actually hilariously stupid. The crude, slapstick, parodying humor that the show employs is pretty similar to shows like Gintama as well. The main character of the show Ichiko Sakura at first seems like a mash-up of many different stereotypical high school heroine traits, but her own acknowledgement of her perfect characteristics and the absurd nature of the situation that she finds herself in make her character feel refreshing and unique. The personalities of the two main characters also play off each other well and make for a great comedy duo. The whole premise of an imbalance in “happiness energy” and fortune caused by the super popular, rich, fortunate high school girl is also so absurd but satirically relevant that it plays out wonderfully. However, I think that the future success of this show really depends on how well it uses the personalities of the remaining cast of the show that have yet to be seen. Based on the butler character of the first episode though, I think that this show has a lot more laughs in store.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching this show until the end as long as it is able to keep up the same amount of humor and energy that it had in its first episode.

 

Sword Art Online:

What would you get if you combined the Matrix and a Japanese MMO RPG? Well, I’m only slightly joking when I say you’ll find out with Sword Art Online. I’ve never seen any of the .hack// series, so I can’t make comparisons between the two. However, as someone who is new to watching anime about people being inside an MMO RPG world, I must say I was very impressed with this first episode. The background art for the virtual world was impressive and the two main characters introduced seemed like real people who you would expect to be playing the game. I especially liked how the show didn’t have the main character Kazuto monologue about himself outright, having him say something like he was a loner who didn’t have any friends, but instead got the point across through his actions and conversations with Cline. The music that played while they were doing boar training really helped make the world of Sword Art Online seem like a real RPG as well. The show also explained a lot about the game’s mechanics without making the first episode seem like an instruction manual. The death game premise of the show isn’t anything new, but I rather enjoy watching stories with these kinds of set ups. When people are truly cornered and placed in life or death situations their true nature comes out ,and that’s always interesting to see. I just hope that this show really draws on the direness of the situation that the players are in to characterize its cast better. On the subjects of characters though, judging from the ending and promos for the show, it seems that a large amount of the characters in the show will be of the cute anime girl variety. I don’t know how much the world in the anime has changed by 2022, but I would certainly expect a lot more of the characters to be of the fat male nerd variety given the fact that they can’t disguise themselves as GIRLs (Guys in Real Life) anymore. And that last scene at the end. After a month you can’t even beat one floor?! I would hope that the 2,000 people who died did so because they weren’t given life support and not because they couldn’t take the damage from a wild boar. So many noobs.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching this if it can keep up the excitement and tension that a show like this should have and doesn’t lose sight of its original premise.

 

Natsuyuki Rendezvous:

The first of the two Noitamina shows this season, Natsuyuki Rendezvous is an adult romance with a twist. The cowardly man who is in love with the woman of his dreams can also see and communicate with the ghost of the woman’s deceased husband, and he is not very fond of him. The whole things sounds like a setup for some dumb romantic comedy, but Natsuyuki Rendezvous plays out its serious nature well. The characters really make the show. The cast of Natsuyuki Rendezvous are all well written, and they feel very real in comparison to the stock character traits and archetypal roles used in many anime. I especially like the character design for the heroine of the show, Rokka Shimao. She’s slender and has a short haircut that seems more suited for a man, but her round blue eyes give her a distinct sense of femininity. She’s uconventionally beautiful in a way that most females in anime are not, and that makes her character all the more interesting to watch. I also like how the main character finally got some backbone and confessed his love to her at the end of this first episode. With only eleven episodes to work with I’m glad that the show didn’t dwell on the main character’s cowardly indecision and did not keep the heroine oblivious to his feelings for her for too long.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching this show. I always end up loving any josei anime on Noitamina (except Paradise Kiss).

 

Moyashimon Returns:

The second of the two Noitamina shows this season. I was not a big fan of the first season of the show like so many others were. It didn’t click with me as being very funny and its characters seemed dull and boring beyond their one defining trait that was always played on. That being said, I’ve definitely come to appreciate watching Moyashimon more this time around than I did previously. The first thought that I had when I was looking for changes in the show from the first season was that the character with the big round head seemed to have an even bigger and rounder head than in the last season, but that might have just been the widescreen. Other than that though, the style and feel of this second season of Moyashimon feels very much the same to the first season from what I can remember. The whole setup of the show almost seems like it came from an improvised comedy show skit where the audience shouts out characteristics, settings, and situations for the actors on stage to pretend that they’re in. The daily lives of a boy who can see microbes, a crossdressing best friend, a sadistic and violent drunk woman who wears biker clothing, and other equally eccentric characters, all set in a college of agriculture. And at the same time it all feels very natural. The characters feel right at home when they’re placed together and their interactions with each other form the core of the show. Another aspect that Moyashimon performs well on is that it presents a lot of educational information about bacteria and its use in agriculture without ever breaking the show’s flow or giving off the feeling that it’s an educational show. From this first episode alone I learned a lot about the whole process behind how rice is used to make sake along with some interesting trivia and brewer secrets. The microbes are cute too.

My predictions: I’ll continue watching this show. Came for the characters. Stayed for the Microbe Theater.

 

That about does it for the anime I’ll be watching this summer and my first impressions of them. If I do decide to pick up another show somewhere along the road though I might update this post again.

Jormungand Season One: Review

Let’s talk about some recent anime. One show that I have been following this spring season is Jormungand. The show follows the adventures of a female arms dealer and her team of mercenaries as they try to make deals and deliver their weapons without stirring up any trouble. However, as these situations are prone to in fictional stories, peaceful negotiations are never really an option. Jormungand was by no means my favorite show of the spring season, but it did have a feel to it unlike any other show and satisfied my guns blazing action show craving for the season.

My first impressions of the show were not great. The characters’ personalities either seemed unrealistic for the situation they were in or were simply not present at all, as was the case for the better half of the cast. Gun play in the show was ridiculous as well, and not in the awesome and over the top way either. The “let’s fire at every place but our enemy as a transition scene between dialogue to advance the plot until we’re done talking then someone gets shot” method has been used by many anime and other action films, but Jormungand took the trope to new levels in their Orchestra arc. I recall one scene where Jonah is running straight forward at the enemy while they both fire at each other with their automatics for several seconds and not one bullet comes close to hitting either of them. Then, the next moment the same enemy easily gets headshots on two snipers on top of a roof across the street without even trying. Any perceived suspension of disbelief I had tried to hold onto up to that point in the show was swiftly erased.

I can name maybe half the characters here.

Slowly though, as I continued watching the show it began to grow on me. I went from dreading the terrible engrish female rock band opening song “Borderland” to actually enjoying and looking forward to when the opening of the show started and not skipping it like I do with many other anime. I had a similar change of heart with the rest of the show’s soundtrack, which had an odd but interesting mix of rap, techno, and other genres. My most pronounced change in opinion was about the arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar. At first she seemed completely out of place in the show. Carefree, whimsical, and always fawning over Jonah, Koko had the exact opposite personality to what I would have expected for her role. However, as the episodes progressed and the team completed more missions, I began to appreciate how the opposite sides of Koko’s two-faced nature complemented each other. Her childish manner at the beginning of an episode made the moment at the end where she briefly takes off her mask and reveals her ruthless side that much more enjoyable to watch. The moments where Koko outsmarted, outgunned or simply outplayed her opponent and makes a display of her power to turn the tables became the main reason why I would continue watch the show each week.

Her name is Koko. She is loco. I said oh no.

Sadly, I did not grow to like the rest of the cast in Jormungand so much. This was mainly due to my previous statement that the majority of characters in the show did in fact not have any character. The larger half of Koko’s group served only to increase their numbers and make the group seem more like an elite squad to differentiate them from the elite trios or other small groups of mercenaries that they encountered. Omitting the few flashbacks and very sparse back stories of the tacked on characters, their dialogue consisted mostly of one-liners where they would express their desire to kill things. Even at the very end of the last episode where they reveal that one of the members is actually a spy of some sort for the CIA, when they first introduce the spy and he walks out of the shadows for his big reveal my first reaction was “Who is that?”. It was only after his name “R” was spoken and a quick look up on the internet that I recalled that one time where he was given a few seconds of screen time during Valmet’s muscular fan service scene before he was both literally and figuratively kicked out of the picture

Manly fan service. For men.

If I were to compare Jormungand to its often mentioned counterpart Black Lagoon, I would again say that the primary difference between the two, and the reason I would strongly recommend Black Lagoon over Jormungand, lies in its characters. Characterization is the reason why Roberta can pull off wearing a maid outfit while she guns people down so well, and have it actually complement her character. On the other hand, the scenes where Valmet turns into a lovestruck school girl at the sight of Koko for no apparent reason conflicts with her hardened soldier persona so badly that it’s hard to sit through. Contrary to Jormungand, Black Lagoon does not only give any semblance of a personality to its main characters either. The supporting cast and even the enemies that they team fight against in Black Lagoon are characterized well and keep the viewer interested in watching them and makes them care about what ultimately happens to them. When you compare a young girl with past ties to the mafia who struggles to choose between a normal life and a life of crime to be together with the man she loves, it makes for a slightly more interesting and compelling villain than a girl who main characteristic is that she chooses to not wear panties.

I did not dislike Jormungand as much as this post might lead you to believe though. Action scenes were well choreographed and exciting to watch even if many of the characters lacked in depth. For what it’s worth, the show kept me entertained enough to follow it through to the end, and I’ll probably continue on with the second season when it airs as well. However, I sincerely hope that the next season develops the rest of the cast more thoroughly and gives each one of the characters more than a “Oh, by the way. I have a family back home.” flashback for one minute before it never mentions them again. If you’re looking for an action, shoot-em up with some well-executed and thought out squad based missions, Jormungand would be a solid choice.

Dondake Gintama!

Hello World! Originally for my first post on this blog I was going to do some form of introduction, but as you can probably tell from the post title I decided against it. I wanted to get straight into talking about the main subject of my blog, and I couldn’t think of any anime more fitting for this than Gintama. So in true Gintama fashion, I will be starting right in the middle of things.

So go easy on my first post

Recently (just as I’m first typing this up), I finished watching the anime series Gintama, starting from episode 1 all the way to episode 252, over the course of a few months. The first time I remember hearing about Gintama was when it seemingly out of nowhere took the number one position on MyAnimeList after the original series had finished airing. Like many others who had never seen the show before I was surprised that such a long running shounen comedy series could achieve the number one ranking, and I was more than a bit skeptical that Gintama was all that its fans made it out to be. So after finishing the entire series let me just say:

I loved it.

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