My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. We did growing up, but none of us are Christians, so it didn’t make sense to keep it up once the kids were grown. Instead, we celebrated Festivus in 2008, The Feast of Winter’s Veil in 2009, and this year I invented my own winter holiday called Agarwood Day (details in future). Each time, I’ve made up a series of themed activities to participate in, and we have a lot of fun.
Still, I like the mythos of Santa Claus. Maybe it’s just because in spite of being decidedly un-Christian, my mom loves Christmas movies, and therefor I’ve seen them all, but there’s something about Santa that just kicks ass. So while I might not see the fun in just any Christmas activity, something like Secret Santa is still a lot of fun to me.
I hadn’t known about the Reverse Thieves project last year until ghostlightning had already blown up Binchou-tan’s mountain (not actually sure this was the same secret santa, but I found out about it nonetheless then), so this year, there was no way I’d miss out, especially because I *love* receiving recommendations as much as I love giving them. I used to ritually make rec threads on Anime Suki and be a pain in people’s ass by asking for highly specific items and having seen more than most of everyone else. By now, I know all the anime worth watching, but it’s still nice to get the drive to actually sit down with something.
All three of the shows recommended to me were ones that I already had an interest in seeing to various extents. People have been recommending me Asatte no Houkou for years. Bungaku Shoujo had looked interesting, and I got to feeling like I had to watch it when I was working on my Hanazawa Kana post. Ookiku Furikabutte is somewhere on No Name’s 100-series-strong favorites list, and he was all giddy to have me watching the show. So with those on my plate and my constant need to take things to the extreme, I started out to watch all three of the things I was recommended.
Bungaku Shoujo – It’s Time For A Book Burning
My expectations for this were moderate, and yet still managed to be betrayed. I hated this movie. I knew things were going bad right from the start because I disliked the character designs with their Kanon2003 chins and it started so slow I could put children to sleep with it. Things didn’t look good when the plot started to emerge and I had no idea what was going on.
I don’t like mysteries. I hate suspense. I don’t want to spend a whole movie going “what the hell is going on?” because even if I’m genuinely interested, as I was for about 20 minutes of this film, then I’m also frustrated. You have to give me something to abate me until things come together. Kara no Kyoukai 5 is my favorite movie of all time, and it’s two hours of not knowing what the fuck is happening—I loved every minute of it because it dripped with style from the directing and visuals and the characters were interesting, the plot enthralling, and the whole experience just magical. I enjoyed the hell out of Shutter Island because it had breathtaking cinematography and great acting performances. Those are the only suspense-thrillers that I truly love—everything else just leaves me begging for more substance.
Bungaku Shoujo kept withholding information for no reason other than for me to ask the question “what’s going on?” The only thing it does to be interesting is try to be interesting, if that makes sense. Keeping the information at bay does not enhance the information. If I had read this as a 2-page recap told in chronological order, nothing would be different, and I’d be happier to know what was going on from the start instead of spending 50 minutes waiting for a payoff.
Because it doesn’t come. The only satisfaction one gets from a well-made suspense thriller is when the plot twist happens and everything clicks. This movie never clicked. There was no satisfaction. There was no point to most of the events. When the truth was revealed, it left me scratching my head. I got angry, honestly, at every plot twist, because all they did was make me hate the characters more and more for being retarded and poorly written.
Now, less broad strokes. All of Inoue’s friends were useless. Inoue himself had no personality whatsoever, and some of his actions were downright confusing, especially towards the end.
ASAKURA MIU WAS AN ANNOYING, CRAZY BITCH. At first, I thought I might like her. She was cute and clearly insane, which is something that I dig sometimes. Not this time. She wasn’t good-crazy, she was contrived, this-writer-is-just-making-up-bullshit crazy. Maybe I expect too much from crazy people and want them to have a clearly defined mental illness, but seriously, her crazy was so lame that I hated her for it. Doesn’t help that Hirano Aya gave a fucking terrible performance. I’ve never liked Hirano crazy—her voice is the worst part of Kate from Seikon no Qwaser for the exact same reason. If Miu had been played by someone else, there’s a chance I could’ve enjoyed her to some extent, but Hirano made her completely unlikable.
Production I.G. utterly disappointed me on the animation front. This is a movie, but I can barely tell. The animation quality is that of a good-budget TV series, but not even like a Kyoto Animation level one. More like something A.I.C. or J.C.Staff might do without even putting an especially large amount of effort into it. Production I.G. has a reputation as the biggest and baddest studio around with the highest animation quality, and movies are expected to look at least higher than TV quality—in this respect, the movie failed. I don’t understand why it wasn’t produced as another OVA along with the rest of Bungaku Shoujo.
The only bright point in this film was Hanazawa Kana, and God I’ve come a long way to be able to say that (by now you’ve read my post on her, but at the time of writing this, it hasn’t been published yet.) Her character was decent. Had she been a character in a series and perhaps actually had anything to do with the plot of that series, I might’ve really liked her. Here, her character is just sort of there for no good reason but to be cute and wrap things up at the end. Hanazawa is great for the role, but with so little to go on, I just don’t really care.
Overall, I think this movie was a total failure. Would not rewatch, would not recommend.
Asatte no Houkou – Mastery of Writing
I’d planned to write something profound for this series but I didn’t get around to it, so here’s the summed-up version.
Asatte no Houkou is beautifully written. The series moves at a very slow but deliberate pace and not a single moment nor line of dialog feels wasted. The plot and characters are interesting and deep and Nogami Shouko, the best character in the series, ties everything together with a beautiful bow. Even though she has perhaps the most development to do, she facilitates the growth of all the other characters in the series. She’s the keystone and, being an adult mind in a child’s body, I absolutely adore her. She’s very much the type of character I want to write.
The first thing I noticed about this series is the gorgeous background art that I knew could only have come from Kobayashi Shinichiro working with J.C. Staff. Being a dialog-driven drama, there’s no reason for it to need fantastic bouts of animation, so it focuses instead on looking very nice and having attractive character designs, at which I think it succeeds.
There’s no unlikable character in the show and everyone comes into their own by the end. The human aspect of the series is very poignant. In some ways, it reminds me of Honeymoon Salad in the strange but beautifully heartfelt way that the family of no blood relation comes together. I’ll always remember Shouko as a loli, but I’m happy with how everything turned out.
The trouble with the series is simply that I can’t see myself ever wanting to watch it again. It’s a series that makes its point and moves on, and there’s nothing I could really stand to gain from watching it again. I love Shouko, but not enough to rewatch the show. For that reason, it can’t approach being a favorite of mine, but it’s a series I can easily recommend to others.
Ookiku Furikabutte – Actually, I Didn’t Watch It
I said I set out to watch all 3, not that I succeeded :p That plan was made before another plan to watch almost everything that aired in 2010 before the year clocks out. So far, the latter plan has been successful, which hasn’t left me time for a 24 (36 if you count S2) episode series. I was gonna watch the first episode for the sake of giving an impression, but the files I got from No Name are really low quality (must’ve been from his earlier days) so I said fuck it, maybe some other time. I’ve been assured that the series is great, so I’ll probably get around to it sometime.
Well, that covers my secret santa recommendations. I’m certainly interested in knowing who recommended these to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if my secret santa recipient already knows that I was their recommender, because I totally forgot that I’d been their secret santa (and recommended them some of my favorite shows), and talked about what the person watched with them without realizing, which is kinda hilarious.