Finish or Fail 14, 15, and 16 – To Aru Majutsu no Index, Utawarerumono, and Mononoke

All three of these were meant to have been done like a month to a month and a half ago in the order listed. In Index’s case, I had too much to say and ended up breaking it all into different posts, then never got around to a cumulative one. The other two I just didn’t have that much to say about. I really want to make sure that all the shows in this series get posts, though, so if nothing else, I’ll just knock out the whole trio real quick.

Starting with To Aru Majutsu no Index. I did not expect to enjoy this series nearly as much as I did because of the bad things I had heard about it from people, but of course, once again, I was reminded that people can eat a cocksicle. A lot of my enjoyment had to do with my addiction to this kind of light novel, as I detailed in this post as well as this one. I felt a level of realization in the Index universe, like the author has seriously big ideas for this series and all of the things that will happen, and has it all planned out (the fact that over 20 novels have been cranked out in under 6 years feels like proof of that.) Every arc adds onto what the last arc has built, so that the story always feels more fleshed out and interesting. This is one of the rare anime where I genuinely want to know what happens next.

The arcs tended to be better or worse largely on the basis of how few episodes they had per arc, and how much exposition needed to be taken care of in those episodes. The pacing could get a little awkward here and there, but mostly I was having too much fun with it to care. I think I realized how into it I got during the MISAKA arc, and then the Angel Fall arc is what really made me enjoy the series. That was probably my favorite arc, as it suddenly blew the world open, revealing much more about the scope of the story and the depth of what to look for in the characters and their interactions. And then, of course, came the Last Order arc, which was the most emotionally gripping for me and got me strongly bonded to Last Order and Accelerator. The last arc was somewhat disappointing if just because Hyouka was such a boring character, but it didn’t leave that bad a taste in my mouth (can’t say I see myself rewatching it in the future, though.)

I love many of the women in Index, largely because of their character designs and moe traits, but the characters who interested me the most were actually the guys. Touma felt like much more than your average harem lead. He was smarter and more badass, all-around giving me every reason to root for him and to see him as deserving. I have a tendency to get annoyed by main characters who complain too much if they don’t eventually justify it through badassery. Much like Araragi from Bakemonogatari, Touma is not really complacent out of bitchiness, but out of reasonableness in consideration of his situation – it in no way means that he won’t man the fuck up at every provocation. And really, in a show full of people with super powers, how often do you see a main character beating the shit out of people with his bare fists? Being able to think on your feet during a fight is a trait I always appreciate, and Touma’s strategies when he took down that dude voiced by Tomokazu Sugita as well as Accelerator were a joy to behold.

Besides him, I had a particular interest in Style Magnus and Tsuchimikado Motoharu, for opposite reasons. Style Magnus was fun in that he was so blatant about his emotions, but he did a fake cover-up of them. He says the things you would expect him to say to cover things up, but he does them in such a lazy and obvious way that he’s not really hiding anything – just trying to look cool. I always got a kick out of that. Motoharu, on the other hand, always seems to be concealing something. The moment that we find out that he is more than we thought was quite shocking, and yet we find it fits in with his character as he remains brilliantly nonchalant and secretive, yet without avoiding anyone. He’s almost like Koizumi from Haruhi, only more manly. And finally, Accelerator, who has quite the ‘this is my development’ arc, and is part of the only OTP I actually care about from this series (AcceleratorXLast Order).

But enough about the guys, the girls! My top favorite is Tsukuyomi Komoe, the adorable loli sensei with a love for ‘desu’. Komoe provided much fun and laughs as she tries to deny her childishness in spite of her age, and yet completely embodies that childishness. Okay, I can’t really justify it that much, she’s just damn adorable, I can’t help it. Misaka and Kuroko had won my heart already (and more so) in Railgun (which needs the next finish), and my perception of them is completely and totally skewed. I can safely say that there is no pairing that I have personally read more porn of than these two characters. I actually don’t look at anything with them anymore because I got so damn overloaded on it. I do love the MISAKA army, though my favorite is Last Order. Ironically, I have a very hard time actually watching her. The manner of speech she uses with the double narration combined with her ultra-high voice is deadly to my brain cells – but just thinking about her character and looking at it in reflection/at a distance, I appreciate her much more. Index herself is a bit of an oddball in the story – she’s cute and she’s fun, but she does next to nothing after her initial arc, and while it might become clear in later arcs to transpire, her real place in the grand scheme of the plot as of this season is a bit vague. Anyway, none of the other girls got my attention.

The art/animation in this show has ruined me. This was the first full series that I watched on my new PC with it’s absurdly large monitor in GLORIOUS 1080p, and now I cannot actually watch low-quality videos anymore. I used to watch a lot of streams – I gave them up entirely. I used to pay little attention to what file I grabbed off of Tokyo Tosho – now I only shoot for 720p and up. I got pissed when I had to watch Kara no Kyoukai in the shitty rips that are available. Suffice it to say, Index was gorgeous, and now I can’t watch low-quality videos.

There’s not much to say beyond that which I haven’t either covered in another post already or plan to cover in another post soon enough. Oh, and the first half of the third episode still remains one of my favorite scenes in all of anime. There will be a post about this eventually.

To Aru Majutsu no Index – Finished (8.8/10)

Next up, Utawarerumono. This show was in some ways a huge nostalgia trip for me, because it reminds me so much of the anime I got into in the old days. Those 26-episode adventure shows with a big cast of memorable characters and a story that actually drew you in. I don’t mind the relative lack of importance of plot in much of today’s anime, but it was really nice to see this kind of series that I hadn’t watched in years. And I got very into it – the story was engrossing and entertaining and I constantly felt like I was begging to know what would happen. It is extremely rare for me to grow that attached to the story of an anime, so in terms of that, I’d say Utawarerumono was one of my favorites.

Almost every character in the show was lovable, if admittedly a bit generic. There certainly wasn’t any character in the show that you wouldn’t find in other shows of it’s like, but regardless, they were handled very well and every single one of them gave me reasons to respect and admire them, so I was always rooting for them along the way. Every character death or near-death and every major dangerous conflict saddened me, and every big victory gave me a strong sense of fulfillment. I think it really speaks for the show to draw me in like that, and for that it earns high marks from me.

Easily my favorite part of the series was the main character, Hakuoro. Not since Higurashi’s Keiichi Maebara have I seen a character as motivatingly manly and deserving of all of his fortunes, and I daresay that Hakuoro surpasses him. Nothing comes easy for Hakuoro, and he faces many crippling hardships, but he still presses on and calmly makes the right decisions and manages to inspire a great sense of hope in everyone even as he begins to lose it in himself. Hakuoro is completely deserving of his massive harem and easily makes the list of my favorite male protagonists in anime.

There is one glaring problem with Utawarerumono – the animation is pretty bad. It’s not horrible, and there were even some fight scenes here and there that actually look impressive, but there is plenty of reused animation, stills, and incredibly awkward CG. This could be a bit distracting at times, but overall it didn’t have enough of a negative impact that it would hamper my enjoyment, and the series was otherwise splendidly put together with a consistent, easy pace and impressive directing.

Overall, while Utawarerumono doesn’t do anything new, it does almost everything right, coming out at the head of it’s pack and shining on as a memorable and entertaining series.

Utawarerumono – Finished (8.8/10)

Kusuriuri is one scary, badass mothafucka. Art by io (ginno tsuioku)

Finally, we have Mononoke, which I have the least to say about, but not to understate it’s greatness. Indeed, Mononoke is easily both the best arthouse and the best ghost-hunting anime that I have ever seen. I tend to dislike arthouse when I feel that it gets wrapped up in itself, but Mononoke never does that – it proceeds to tell compelling and engrossing stories that never feel like they are just an excuse to show off some cool visuals, but also never feel like they could exist without those visuals. It is the perfect combination of style and substance with neither being less absolutely necessary to the series.

As for the ghost-hunting genre, it is probably the most tired genre imaginable to me. Most of these series tend to get old within their own airing, much less holding up against watching more than one of them. The only ones that break away from the pack are those like Mushi-shi who assume a completely different atmosphere from the usual horror tropage, but Mononoke plays it straight – it just does it as right as it can be done. Even if I’ve seen a million stories about the Japanese spirits and their evildoings, Mononoke never felt old or stale or boring. Every arc kicked ass, and there was no weak point. The series was rock solid in it’s genre and unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

But the trouble is, I still am not the biggest fan of those genres. Even if you perfect the arthouse and ghost-hunting genres, it won’t mean as much if I don’t give a damn about those genres. That said, Mononoke wildly entertained me and never let me down, so I still feel like I want to score it highly, but as far as it’s impact on me, it is quite minimal.

Mononoke – Finished (9/10)

And, there. Done. Now I can stop worrying about it.

12 thoughts on “Finish or Fail 14, 15, and 16 – To Aru Majutsu no Index, Utawarerumono, and Mononoke

  1. I brought this up the last time you mentioned Mononoke here, but when I watched it, I was shocked at how accessible it is. It seems like an intimidating series — arthouse visuals, steeped in Japanese folklore, etc., but the show first and foremost wants to tell gripping, entertaining stories, and it never forgets that, even among all the visual tricks.

    The Medicine Seller might be my favorite Takahiro Sakurai role — just seems like he is the kind of ice cold motherfucker built specifically for Sakurai’s voice. Impressive that he pulls off the slow, halting style of speaking without sounding like an asshole, too; if I tried that, I’d sound like a Grade A douchebag. LOL

    • Indeed, Kusuriuri is a great character with an unforgettable vocal performance. He certainly stands out big time in the world of mostly-silent ghost story heroes.

  2. Sorry to shatter your high definition revelry, but even the BDs of Index are upscales. The show’s barely got enough detail to be worth 720p, and 1080p looks exactly the same as if you just watch a 720p encode at full screen. See the shots I posted here:

    The decent fansub groups have gotten smart enough to encode TV station upscales at 480p. Working, for example, is broadcast upscaled and none of the 720p encodes you find on Tokyo Toshokan will look any better than 480p encodes. But there’s still a lot of 1080p BD encodes for shows that are 720p upscales. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking higher resolution always equals higher quality.

    I applaud your decision to give up crappy web streams, however. Most of those are full of eye cancer.

    • Yeah. That kinda all goes over my head, hehe. All I know is, Index was pretty as hell. Luckily for me, I have No Name, my go-to tech guy who knows all about encodes and upscales etc., and I usually ask him what subs and videos I should go for~

      • Index was really pretty, I have to agree. Good art and animation counts for a lot more than resolution when it comes to anime, so even SD shows can still look really good on a 1080p screen with good encoding and playback upscaling.

        • I’ll be sure to be wary of that. A lot of my HD high just comes from having this brand new, big-ass high res monitor, but I wouldn’t have ever known what to do with it if not for my techie pal hehe. I guess if it comes right down to it, I’ll at least know when I open the file if I’ve gotten something that looks great or looks like shit, though it would suck to have to re-download anything~ I guess instead of really raving about 1080p, I should just rave about how good a show looks and leave the things I don’t fully understand out of it. I do bloody love the huge-ass images I can look at now, though~~~~

  3. Pingback: On the Negative-Second Day of Kurisumasu My Imouto Gave to Me: A Bunch of Shows that Didn’t Air This Year | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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