Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday Musings: Sub vs. Dub, CG vs. no CG

Let's get this out of the way early, shall we?

Personally I prefer subtitled shows. If a show is only available dubbed, I'll take it. Otherwise, I'll go for the subbed version instead.

Nothing against dubbing or the VAs. Except in rare cases, I've found most dubs to be lacking. I caught one episode of K-ON! dubbed and found that, while the performances were more or less satisfactory, the vocal qualities of the main characters grated on my ears. I didn't finish the dub and went back to the subbed version.

Another example: Warriors of the Wind had been my "go to" version of Nausicaa until I saw The Truth. So when the English dub became available featuring, among others, Patrick Stewart, I was thrilled. At last! A version that would blow Warriors out of the water. I mean, come on--Patrick Bloody Stewart. No doubt as Lord Yupa. He'd totes kick ass in that role.

I watched in eager anticipation at the phenomenal performances and when the closing credits rolled over the ending animation...

...I was sorely disappointed.

Short of taking over the rest of this post with an examination of the Nausicaa English dub, I'll leave it for an upcoming review.

So "No" on dubs for me.

In this instance, I'm going with some CG.

See, I think CG works when it's used to accent the animation and the story. Like using spices in cooking. You don't want to overdo it and destroy the dish.

Using CG for things like machinery (mecha, spaceships, etc) and sequences that feature them is fine by me. The planes and aerial dogfight sequences of Kotobuki, for instance, are enhanced through the use of CG. I can also see it working well for certain effects like intricate spellcasting sequences with swirling glyphs and symbols and magical energies coursing throughout (e.g., Re:CREATORS, Tanya).

But when turned to character animation it's...unnerving. Too mechanical. The expressions are there but they're lacking a kind of organic energy, an "aliveness" that, to me, comes through better with hand-drawn animation. (Here I have thoughts about Kotobuki that I'll save for an upcoming review.)

So my vote is for "some CG," with the caveat it actually supports and/or enhances the rest of the animation.

What about you, Dear Reader? What's your take? Sub or dub? CG or no CG? Chime in below in the comments!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Best Girl (With Weapons) Wednesday: NausicaƤ

We celebrate our first Best Girl (With Weapons) Wednesday with She Who Tops All My Lists--NausicaƤ.

Always and forever.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Anima Yell!

SUMMARY: Hatogaya Kohane falls in love with cheerleading at the end of middle school, and begins a cheerleading club in high school with Arima Hizume and Saruwatari Uki. The positive, hard-working girls will be sure to cheer you up! (summary taken from Crunchyroll)

I'll admit my initial reaction on seeing this was: Cheerleading anime? Nani?

But then I remembered I'd seen airsoft, tank platoons, and a cycling club. So sure. Why not cheerleading?

And so we have Anima Yell!, a thoroughly fun and enjoyable series chronicling young Kohane's attempt to put together a cheerleading club at her high school. 

Kohane, our heroine, is endearing and the ultimate optimist. Her enthusiasm for cheer is infectious despite being a total novice and running into a string of obstacles. Foremost is her fear of heights; it's a constant battle for her as she tries to be the best cheerleader she can be. But luckily her Cheer Power ability is strong enough to weather her through whatever life and Kaminoki High School throws at her.

Uki, Kohane's childhood friend, is a bubbly blonde who strives to look after Kohane and often attempts to be the voice of reason. Sometimes to no avail. Still she tries. She's unsure about joining the squad but soon sees it as a way to support her friend. And then she's all over it. Plus, her asides are hilarious and wonderfully delivered. Kohane's straightman to be sure.

Hizume is the cheerleading vet of the group and it's up to her to get the girls into proper fighting--er, cheering trim. She's hesitant to join Kohane's club but our heroine's persistence finally wins her over and she agrees. She's the more serious of the lot and sometimes can be too literal. 

Timid Kotetsu really wants to be a cheerleader but lacks confidence. She joins after seeing the potential in the club which is, in a way, a kind of seeing of her own potential. I found myself really pulling for her during the run of the series. It's nice to see how she goes from timid to--well, I'll let you find out.

Kana, the fifth member, is a fiesty fireball. Red-haired no less. Out on the field, she's a veritable cheerleading machine: precise, controlled, polished moves. She's got history with Hizume and, though she initially casts doubt on Hizume's place in the club, soon realizes what the club has done for her former compatriot. 

Once the show was underway, I kept thinking this could be Bring It On: The Early Years if done live and from Disney XD. It's light, bubbly entertainment, and makes no bones about it. 

I got the sense that, if they wanted to, series writer Fumihiko Shimo could've taken it down a more serious road. But everytime it seems to head in that direction, it veers back toward light and cute and I think it works better that way. Attempting to fit this into a cheerleading version of Cinderella Girl or Girlfight would've produced a whole different critter.

On that note, though, we have Episode 3 in which one character makes an interesting admission that received a well-handled reaction from Kohane, Hizume, and Uki. Didn't bat an eye or miss a beat. I won't say more but I thought it was nicely done. Applause to Shimo-san. 

The show does a great job of telling the story of friendship and what it is that friends do for each other. The conversation between Kohane and Hizume in episode 1 is a great example, for instance. Or Uki's gesture toward Kana in episode 8.

I also found it interesting that, according to Hizume, cheerleaders in the U.S. are "admired by all and considered to be top-class women. They are proper, intelligent, beautiful, with sparkling smiles, and have the ability to be motivational leaders."

Well there you go.

One thing I was happy to see was that even with the somewhat intricate cheerleading moves, stunts, and dancing, the producers stuck with standard animation techniques and didn't resort to CG. Thank the gods. I have an issue with the over-reliance of CG but I'll take that thought elsewhere.

Two laugh out loud moments for me...

In episode 1, Kohane helps an old woman cross the street. Hizume, nearby, tells Kohane she shouldn't follow people around like some sort of pervert. Kohane shoots back "Like a pervert?"

And the little old lady looks at Kohane and says:

In episode 2, Hizume gives Kohane her old middle school cheerleading practice outfit. Kohane notes not only is it cute:

In both instances I nearly had food explode out my nose.

Episode 10 is my favorite. Who knew the manga club would need cheerleaders? Why not, I say. More power to them.

Overall, fun fun fun. Twelve entertaining episodes plus a catchy opening theme. Definitely a series that I would rewatch.

If you're looking for some light fun with endearing characters, give this one a try.

Now give me a high V! And "Go, fight, win!"

Genre: Sports, Comedy, Slice of Life
Length: TV series, 12 episodes
Version Viewed: Digital streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full season (12/12)

Note: All images are used only for purposes of review/critique/commentary. No infringement is intended. All images copyright their respective creators.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Site Notes: On Reviewing

(This is also in the About The Blog page under "Review Policy" but I thought I'd highlight it with its own blog post since our first review is just around the corner.)

I'm slightly picky with my anime so I may not routinely go after the "must see" shows because "they" say so. If the premise sounds promising or something else about the description catches my eye, I'll check it out for review.

In general, I'll give a show at least 3 episodes. If it hasn't captured me by then, sorry. That's a no go.  I know some out there might say "But this one gets better after episode 6!" or something to that effect. But I think 3 episodes is enough time to get your story movin' and groovin'. Given a typical anime show's individual episode length, we've already hit the hour mark. Plenty of time in my book.

However, I do reserve the right to deviate from this standard if the first episode hooks me hard, really turns me off, or just doesn't warrant the need for another episode. And I'll note it as such in my review.

I don't use a rating system of any sort. No stars, thumbs up, X out of X, smiley neko heads, etc. I'll just give you my take on the show. 

I don't pretend to be any kind of final authority on the merits of a given show. Again, my personal take. You may feel it's the greatest thing since David Lynch's Dune*. I might say it's "meh." 

That's okay. 

I'm just a guy sharing one opinion. 

Your mileage may vary.

I'll also note here that some reviews may have spoilers. Fair warning.

*For the record, I absolutely love David Lynch's Dune. Even more than the John Harrison miniseries. One of my favorite all-time movies.