Maybe I become much softer to anime medium but I think I’m the only one who feel that this season had a lot to offer. Everyone has been complaining on how weak this season is, whereas I have a hard time to cut down shows at this stage. After quite a busy week anime-wise, 3 shows are eliminated from my watching list. With the arrival of Tsukumogami, however, the list of anime I’m currently following round up to 16 shows. I might cut down some more fat in the following weeks, but as far as this week in anime goes… well, it wasn’t a satisfying week. To be fair, week 4 is always one of the low point of the season, as the freshness of the premise starts to wear out, couple with the typically scheduling production issues in anime industry. Same deal, random grouping with stupid remarks. Good luck reading my blurbs you readers. Now, Let’s get down to it.
Welcome to the first weekly coverage of this Summer season. After went through 30 plus shows in the first week (there’s some new additions to the First Impression post. Go check them out), less than half of them make the cut at this stage. As of now, 16 shows remain, basically from Happy Sugar Life downward in the rank, plus 2 ongoing shows from last season. I’ll cut down the list once we go through 3 episodes of everything, and once more time when we reach the halfway point. Another change to this weekly format is that I don’t see the point of ranking them week to week anymore. Instead, I’ll group them by some random category. It’d be more fun that way. For reference, this period last season I also had 16 shows before cut down to 10, and in Winter season I also had 16 shows before settled with 12. That means, 16 is my lucky number all the way.
With all that said, let’s get down to business, with styles:
How are my blondies doing?
In keeping with my anime-mood at the moments (well, that also means I keep delaying on my 2018 Women’s Cinema Festival but I hope you readers don’t mind about that much), I revisit all the anime shows I watched on the Winter season. It’s the practice that might not be relevant with you guys much since it was already half a year, but it benefits me to put all my thoughts on shows I watched into some written forms. The more I watch shows and films, the more I realize that I will eventually forget most of them. Some vague feeling and a general impression about them, but hardly anything substantial. And I’m consistently reminded how wasted it is. At least, by writing them down, I still have some point of reference in the future: my feeling about those shows at that certain point of time.
The beginning season of 2018 calendar was an underwhelming one. There was a large amount of cute girls doing cute thing shows, and Violet Evergarden didn’t meet the hype it generated. Another special trend of this Winter 2018 season was the multi-release of Netflix original shows. I only finished Devilman Crybaby (I stopped after 3 episodes of AICO and I couldn’t survive pass the premiere of B: the Beginning). So while the quality can pretty much an acquired taste, those Netflix original shows do push more edgy context and mature theme into anime industry, just like in the old days. Anyway, the Winter season I finished around 12 new shows, including 2 carry-over from last year’s fall season (3-gatsu no Lion 2 and Mahoutsukai no Yome); plus 2 shows that would run over to the next season (Saiki K 2 and Darling in the FranXX). A bit of footnote here, while I ranked 3-gatsu no Lion 2 and Mahoutsukai no Yome in this Seasonal Preview, they are technically ineligible for 2018 Yearly Review.
Well, first off, I know I haven’t posted many new material here for the last 2 weeks, but it was more because I was in a total mood for the new season of anime. It’s always my favorite part of the season and I always regard this period as wine-tasting period. You take a sip and see which one you want for more. About this Summer 2018 season, while I agree that this season is lackluster, especially compared to the previous season with only 1 true hit Banana Fish, there are a surprisingly rich under-the-radar, sleeper hits from wide range across many genres (we have sports, comedy and even “idol” shows for a chance). This season turns out to be much better than I thought it would be, at least so far.
So far, I’ve watched 30 new shows with some shows yet to air until next weekend, which I’ll update here once I watch it. Those remaining shows are Aguu: Tensai Ningyou (from Chinese web Manhua which no one care to sub), Tsukumogami Kashimasu and Muhyo to Rouji no Mahoritsu Soudan Jimusho (on that note, you won’t find the 3rd season of Attack on Titan here as I fall off that Titan’s wheel during its second season). I’ll group the shows based on colour code (see below), and while I don’t officially rank them, the order we have here is from my least to most favorite. Let’s do this:
Welcome to the Spring 2018 anime review, in which I will give you my overall thoughts about all the shows I watched airing the last season. I’m intending to do the same for Fall 2018 in a few days time, so remember to go back for it. In general, it was the season that had wide range of recommendable shows, although except for maybe my top 2, I personally don’t feel that wild over the crop. Certainly it was a better season than the Fall, and looks to be much stronger than the current Summer season. I will rate all those finished shows. Shows that have second cour playing next season won’t be ranked or rated. Overall, I watched a total 10 new shows, plus 2 continuous shows and 1 OVA, that makes it 13 shows in general. Let’s run them down now, from worst to best:
Oops, a day late. You know me by now. Anyways, this Spring season is truly gone, guys. Many shows aired their last episodes and in regard to that, they’re underwhelming. Many shows just stop in the middle of the street, while others conclude their stories misfired. Well, I know anime industry always have problems with this, especially how anime is sometimes designed as a promotion material to sell their manga and products, but sometimes it’s frustrated to follow a show for few months just to see their intended full story never see the day of light. Next week, I’ll rundown some blurbs for on all the shows I followed this Spring season, with ranking, rating and stuffs. If I feel up to it then the week after that, I’ll do the same for the 2018 Fall season so you know where I stand for this 2018 year in anime. But enough of that, let’s run those shows down this week:
I’m still alive, guys and welcome back to Day 6 of this festival. If I could group this two films in a general sense, it is that both Kathryn Bigelow and Kirsten Tan are the most comfortable when they display the uncomfortable sense, Bigelow for the unflinching look of injustice, and Tan for her offbeat tone about her characters in an awkward situation (just imagine, how a wife could talk things out to her husband when he finds out about her dildo). While the two doesn’t necessary share many things in common. Placing the easy-going with a right dose of drama Pop Aye right after a frustrating and don’t-believe-in-people events from Detroit is the right choice to bring back the mood. And what’s better to gain back your mood than an elephant sprinkling water to your face? I’m bringing you Day 6, a night to forget and a road trip to remember.
Original Name: Pop Aye
Director: Kirsten Tan
Runtime: 104 minutes
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3740066/
Kirsten Tan: A versatile filmmaker with a penchant for bold visual storytelling, Kirsten Tan’s works straddle a range of genres, but are consistent in their humanity and off-beat humor.
“I do remember it was very common back [in Thailand] to see elephants roaming city streets begging for money and that image always struck me because it is very sad to see an animal as majestic as an elephant and yet you see him right in the middle of a concrete jungle. It is sad and yet at the same time there is also something surreal about it, how this elephant is removed from his natural environment to live amongst man”
Pop Aye is another road tale about a man and his pet, except, you know, the pet this time is an elephant. The production of this film is a curious case, Kirsten Tan, a Singaporean, directs this Thai-set story based on the tow years she was living there in her early 20s. Sometimes it takes an outsider’s outlook to make the story that feel distinctively the place it sets (we have more example of that later on this project). Suffered from a mid-life crisis where he’s being oppressed in both at work and at home, Thana (Thanete Warakulnukroh) bumps into his childhood elephant and decides to make a trip, on foot, to bring the animal back to his hometown. It’s not much about the elephant, but more about him, to make sense with this trip. Tan has a knack for putting this straightforward story an offbeat and somewhat surreal tone. The image of a man walking with his elephant, is both striking, whimsical and distinctive. As two halves of the narrative, both Thana and the elephant Popeye have a strong chemistry together. Although Popeye hardly expresses anything, as time passes where can see him a gentle and sweet creature. The most notable scene, as such, is the long take on Thana slowly climbing up to him, as he keeps raising up one of his leg so that Thana could step on it.
As typically in road movie, along the way the duo encounters various characters and each of them add something extra to the table. A bum, the police, a trans, a long lost crush, Thana’s uncle. This is where I could say Tan has a eye for depicting this part of Thai that we don’t see much on screen. Some of them aren’t realistic, like the part about a bum who strain many convenient plot points later on, but they are portrayed in such singular light that they add up nonetheless. All of them have their own stories to tell, and they’re fascinating as like they’re a central in their own narrative. The falling apart relationship between him and his wife, on the other hand, doesn’t develop into its full potential. We could see the frustration, but don’t see much into their core of the relationship. Being said that, the line in the end, strangely sums up their trust for each other and the film’s narrative.
The editing, however, falls out of place sometimes. The segment where the elephant literally is in the room, for example, could flow much better if it is in an natural order, instead of cutting back and forth as a flashback like this. There’s a bit of a bitter tone regarding the modernization whether it’s the hectic pace in the big city Bangkok, or his uncle selling their own land for apartment, or whimsical bit about the Buddhist priest accepts credit card, Pop Aye is a celebration of a stripped down life, where life is simpler, where money doesn’t mean much and where people (and elephant) can connect to each other more wholeheartedly. Moreover, this road trip is pretty much a trip for Thana to take a step back to his crisis, to reconsider everything happening in his life and his relationship with others, especially his wife. Ultimately, Pop Aye is a worthy addition to this well worn road trip, and despite its inconsistency sometimes, it raises itself for it offbeat tone and offer a side of Thailand that I would love to see more on screen.
Original Name: Detroit
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Runtime: 143 minutes
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5390504/
Kathryn Bigelow: an American film director and screenwriter, noted for thriller films that often featured protagonists struggling with inner conflict. She was the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director, for The Hurt Locker (2008).
“Certainly, my first reaction when I heard this story was: ‘Am I the right person to make this film?’ Because I am absolutely not. But it’s been 50 years in the shadows, and what is more important than whether I am the right or wrong person to tell the story is that it is told. There is a responsibility the white community needs to take for racism in America. And I’m trying, with what means I have, to be a part of encouraging that conversation.”
Clocking over 2 hours and thirty minutes, Detroit is a long and messy account of Detroit’s riot in 1967, in both for its strength and weakness. The duo Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter, journalist Mark Boal have collaborated for the third time for another American tale in its vital moments. While Detroit ends up being like a little brother compared to their last two efforts, it still at times a demanding and frustrating look on the systemic racism in America during that era. Arguably one of the finest Hollywood director working today, Bigelow’s style is more than suitable for grand scale, semi-docu story like this. Along with Paul Greengrass, she has that long “you-participating-too” approach, where we are in the same distance as we would in real life. It comes as no surprise,l that they have the same DP, Barry Ackroyd, to shoot their film. The long take handheld cinematography that refuse to look away at these events unfold, make it a (rightfully) tense and exhausting experience for us viewers.
I consider the film hits its mark fairly early on, in the aftermath of the “unregistered party” in the black community that results in an angry mob and all-out war. Detroit is very good at building tension, and in this particular case you can sense very well how the tension boiling up and how that tension is bound to happen anyways, it’s just waiting for the fire catching fuel. The real event, however, happens later on in much smaller scale that take the biggest chunk of this film, the Algiers Motel incident in which after the police raid the hotel for a night, resulted 3 dead bodies, all black. When I said Detroit is long and messy, these are basically the characteristics of the film. The events itself are messy, that night feels like a long winded nightmare you can’t get out of, frustrating so. We see the police, lead by the young and racist Krauss (fearless and totally committed performance by William Poulter), investigate and torture the residents in the hotel at the time to find out about the gun. But there’s no gun to begin with. The compelling of the part is that, as Bigelow and the crew make no mistake that these events are results of systemic racial tension, the police side has their reasons for doing so. It’s not the kind of racism we see in movies like Mudbound, these police rarely outright insult their victims, but it’s more about their determination to repress the colored people at all cost, slowly and slowly stepping out of their boundary.
This uncomfortable feeling is elevated by Bigelow’s refusal to tone down or make shortcuts to what happening on screen. As the story unfolds, we see how a simple harmless prank could lead to such dangerous situations, and how what should be a mere “putting down pressure to figure out where the gun is” could lead to the abuse of power. Their most iconic sequences, which run for the length of an hour, feature the victims lining up against the wall, while the forces investigating (but more like yelling and abusing) them. You could feel the whole range of tensions from every member of this wonderful cast. This becomes a great strength in her films. Usually they don’t feed us much about the characters in terms of their backgrounds, but they act and do like real people, and their personal tension plus what they do tell you pretty much who they are. For example, you could feel one police has an intense sexual tension to those two white girls when he learns that they were in the same room with a black guy. Or Dismuke, a black private security ward, does his best to tone down the tension between two sides because he knows the drills. The sexual tension is especially on point because it speaks to the fear of black’s power from the white’s point of view.
What makes this event scary, moreover, is that 50 years on it’s still as relevant today as ever. As much as we try to look other ways, black oppression is still going on. And while I have issues with the focus on this particular event (which I’ll address later), the filmmakers nail it by making this just a peak of a systemic racism from the forces that root deep down in an American identity. If that particular event isn’t outrageous enough, what come after raise the anger to a higher notch. The cops were ruled out from murder to self-defence, and the only black guy in forces took the fall. Being said that, in many instances the film could benefit much better if they can cut some unnecessary parts. The earlier scene with the Dramatics got cancelled from their gig, for example, doesn’t offer much and could reduce into few lines in the dialogue. The aftermath, in addition, runs half an hour too long and they reduce compelling characters into some generic characters in service of the plot. Lastly, while Detroit is undoubtedly another homerun from Bigelow and Boal, the focus on smaller scale (compare to their previous features), make it not as impactful and earth-shattering as The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty.