Oh hell, I’ll never end up doing this thing right. Change of plans for my last 3 Kurisumasu posts: they’ll come out later; mostly because I’ve run out of moments that I particularly want to talk about. I’m thinking there’s one moment I want to save for last, and then the other posts will be a bigger cumulation of moments, but since I didn’t plan for this ahead, I’ll just push the posts back. Plus, I’ve still got a couple more shows to finish before the year clocks out. So far, I’ve probably watched more anime in December than I did in, like, the entirety of 2009.
Anyway I would’ve felt bad if I didn’t announce that, but I’ve sworn against doing any posts that don’t directly deal with anime in some way, so here’s some brief thoughts on the show that just ended/I just finished, Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai.
I had no expectations going into this show and it knocked my socks off. Kami Nomi is, strangely enough, the best showcase of Manglobe’s talents since Samurai Champloo. With that series, the studio established itself as one who was going to come out hard and make visionary anime. They never gave up on that idea, but their vision was, to me, clouded.
Ergo Proxy is boring and pretentious. Michiko to Hatchin is painfully unfocused. After that series, Manglobe turned from original anime and started doing adaptions. Their first was last year’s Seiken no Blacksmith, which was generally considered a flop. This year’s House of Five Leaves (an adaption of god-level manga-ka Natsume Ono’s work) topped a lot of peoples’ favorite lists, while a lot of others said it was painfully boring.
But then there’s Kami Nomi, a total break-away from the pack. Going into it, I thought that Manglobe was continuing the apparent sell-out effort begun in Blacksmith. I was wrong—Kami Nomi is most certainly a visionary adaption. This is one of the most playfully directed anime of the year. It’s a show that tells its non-serious comedy parody of visual novel stories while doing whatever the hell it wants in-between. Tons of random outbursts into song (especially in the idol arc, but not exclusively) randomly hilarious scenes, episodes that seem to come out of nowhere (one told in a fractured timeline just because the episode didn’t have much too it otherwise), and gorgeous visuals that never wavered and took the occasional chance to totally take off.
Manglobe had a ton of fun with this series. They weren’t throwing in the towel to do average adaptions—they were proving that even with adaptions, they could do something unique and splendid, and the style is so utterly sure of itself that it seems to be nodding in agreement with that very statement. This is a show with an eight-minute, original musical suite for an opening theme. Make no mistake, it knows exactly what it is.
A lot of what I said about Manglobe above is stuff that I wrote with the intent to take back right now. That’s my comparison of KamiNomi against my perception of Manglobe over the years. I’m interested in changing that perception.
Obviously, that I know so much about the studio means I really did go at their shows with the intent to enjoy them. But, I think, I was not ready for them. I know that these shows aren’t bad because I’ve read a lot about them and seen the meanings others get from them. A lot of those people have been frankly pretentious, but that doesn’t really discredit them. There’s a lot in these series that I think I could love. (After all, I bought the Ergo Proxy volume 1 + box 3 years ago because of the ABe-looking cover art alone, and I made at least two attempts to not fall asleep during it before I sold it off.)
When I went to pen out my thoughts on KamiNomi as a response to the other work, I noticed a trend. I never made it through episode 4 of Ergo Proxy. I only made it through episode 4 of Michiko to Hatchin. I never even watched House of Five Leaves because trusted friends said I probably couldn’t handle it. Now, how exactly am I to open my mouth about these series that I haven’t even seen?
Lately, I’ve had a growing interest in the avant-garde and artistic vision. But don’t get me wrong—I still have a sour spot towards arthouse shows (which Panty and Stocking is reinforcing) because they tend to lack the things I care about most in anime (characters!), but I’ve come to appreciate things with more awkward and strange structures. I used to consider it a problem that Futakoi Alternative, Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, and Angel Beats had such mood-whiplash plots and erratic pacing, but in reality, those things were only problematic as a first-time viewer with concern for what was going on and a desire to judge. In the afterglow of those series, I realized that I loved them even more for that randomness, because the works had a certain heart to them that more careful anime don’t have.
This isn’t to say I’ll like every oddly-structured anime. I fucking hated Seikimatsu Occult Gakuen which attempted this and failed. But at the very least, seeing Kami Nomi pull this kind of thing off so exceptionally re-kindled my desire to watch all of Manglobe’s anime. I’ve got a good feeling that the shows I wanted to like before, especially Michiko to Hatchin, will be easier for me to appreciate now.
And holy hell, do I look forward to their upcoming work. Manglobe will be adopting the excellent Deadman Wonderland manga and a new Hayate no Gotoku movie, as well as the second season of Kami Nomi next year. Sounds like fun!
Bonus: 8. MINUTE. SUITE.