Today is World Wildlife Day. Today is also National Anthem Day in the United States, Liberation Day in Bulgaria, and Girls’ Day in Japan.
Today, however, is a personally interesting day. It’s March 3rd, or 3/3/2018, otherwise what I will tentatively call 3×3 Day.
For those wondering what it is, a 3×3 is a layout that wanderers on the Internet will use to display their favorites within a certain subject matter in no particular order. While I am unclear about its true origins, it happens to be most popular within the anime community and where I first discovered it, and I personally find it a fun and intriguing way to showcase beloved works or things.
And that is what I plan to post about. Three times over.
On this day of writing, I will be composing three separate posts featuring a distinct 3×3 and brief elaboration for each thing highlighted. This time around, I am going to discuss the following subject matters:
- YouTube Creators
With that out of the way, this blog post will be discussing the reasoning behind my current 3×3 for anime
A Silent Voice
Most of this may seem like a rehash from one of my earliest blog posts detailing film, but I feel like it should be stated again: A Silent Voice is an emotional roller-coaster of narrative and thematics disguised by a gorgeous production. With a main protagonist that I can relate to concerning social anxiety and thought process throughout my life and a powerful showcase of its messages, it is difficult not to become overwhelmed with some emotion over its two-hour runtime.
However, I would like to focus on the animation this time around. As a narratively grounded film that is largely driven by the interactions of its two major protagonists Ishida Shouya and Nishimiya Shouko, it would be visually inappropriate to have extravagant animation included throughout its runtime. Yet in the grand scheme, the delicacy of character animation in A Silent Voice underscores the film’s capacity to implicitly convey a diverse range of character traits, working hand-in-hand with the thematic narrative surrounding the nuance of communication and frequent use of sign language as a medium for dialogue. But what’s most stunning about the animation of A Silent Voice is how natural it appears. The movie’s overall production is embedded with so much detail that it can quickly become second-nature, but it’s the driving force behind the authenticity of its narrative and the quintessential component of A Silent Voice as a beautiful experience.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
The hero’s journey is a tried-and-true archetype for storytelling and often finds its recurrence in literature and film, but in many cases it can find itself going stale. I am personally not a big fan The Odyssey, and while the Star Wars franchise can be considered sci-fi incarnations of the hero’s journey, nothing else that wholly embraced its roots has managed to fully satisfy me
Then I watched Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and it blew away my expectations, quickly climbing the ranks as a piece of animation deserved to be viewed by everyone.
What I love about Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is the fact that it’s character Simon clearly follows the archetype of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth unabashedly, but does so in a compelling manner through the use of his mech and the assistance of his closest allies. Viewing Simon climb his way to the top of the universe to achieve greatness remains one of the most inspiring adventures that I’ve borne witness to in entertainment, and it helps that the series’ backbone is composed of a memorable cast including the likes of the Kamina and Yoko, both igniting the flames of passion that burn with excitement through every episode even when not present. Just as this show instructs us to break down barriers and reach the very top, it too demonstrates its greatness to the very end.
March Comes in Like a Lion
Rei Kiriyama seems to have everything going for him. He became a professional shogi player at a young age, earned enough to live an independent life, and people who care deeply for his well-being. One would think that he was living a perfectly content life living out his passion.
But he doesn’t. Rather, he’s trapped within an endless cycle of turmoil akin to that of a large ocean. His purpose is aimless, tainted by the pressures as a shogi professional, the death of his parents, and the ostracization by the likes of society and his adoptive family for his sequestered personality. Rei Kiriyama is depressed with such thoughts and barely manages to navigate his life thoroughly, but there is still hope for redemption, and even at his current stage there is still room to achieve the bliss he unknowingly desires.
March Comes in Like a Lion dedicates itself to exposing the thoughts of Rei Kiriyama and others similar to him in such a thoughtful, intimate way that tears apart his mind in the context of his everyday life. We come to understand the reasoning behind his actions and the justifications for his seclusion based on his interactions with those around him, and they in part contribute to an underlying message about the extent of depression and its gripping hold on our emotions and perceptions biologically and psychologically. Through its extremely creative use of visual animation and reflective dialogue, I not only caught a glimpse into the mind of a character that felt real, but I saw a nearly identical reflection of my own self. Underneath its exterior, March Comes in Like a Lion remains a powerful narrative that deserves much greater attention and capable of making an impact like it did on me.
I’ve yet to finish the Monogatari series in its entirety, (currently watching through the Monogatari Series: Second Season), but it is quickly and thoroughly cementing itself as an interesting deconstruction on the harem genre driven by the premise of its supernatural elements and character interactions rather than its ongoing narrative.
Out of the anime featured here, I can undoubtedly say that this features the best dialogue amongst them all, successfully making the most mundane of conversations something worth listening, while contributing to an even greater revelation surrounding its individual characters on a thematic scale. For example, the premise of the first three episodes of the series surrounds a girl who is cursed with weightlessness (not anorexia, just feels like air), and throughout this mini-arc she learns to accept the terms of reality for its beautiful and heartbreaking moments.
Undeniably, there are several aspects of the series that will come off as off-putting or weird, and it may be filled to the brim with many “wtf” moments. However, I have chosen to embrace it for its quirkiness, and it has already resulted in a tremendous payoff concerning extensive character growth and compelling world-building. With so much content to dissect and look forward to, I’m positive I’ll find myself pondering the mysteries of life and circumstance after every episode for the better.
Kill la Kill
Nothing quite beats the lunacy and zaniness that is Kill la Kill. Even to this day, I find myself dumbfounded at my excessive infatuation with a show that is wacky yet mature, comedic yet grounded, action-packed yet subtle, nothing yet everything.
kill At the very least, I find Kill la Kill to be a masterclass in storytelling that is unashamed of its creative liberty and subsequent execution, because what results from it is a show that from its cover appears quite distasteful, but in reality has something for everyone as a result of its multifaceted story.
Want a raunchy satire on the magical girl genre? Kill la Kill’s got it. Want a commentary on Japanese imperialism? Kill la Kill’s got it. Want a warning about the advancements of wearable technology? Kill la Kill’s got it. Want a display of American politics and its forthcoming implications? Probably not but I think Kill la Kill’s got it :).
Eve other aspects of its production deserve tremendous praise. For example, I find Kill la Kill to be one of the best-looking anime ever conceived of due to its diverse experimentation with animation techniques to strive for creativity and interesting shot composition. Hiroyuki Sawano’s masterstroke of an epic original soundtrack keeps the blood pumping, especially within its best action sequences.
With an open mind, nothing can stand in the way of Kill la Kill doing everything in its capacity to leave you entertained in a way that feels unique to you and you alone.
There are a bunch of sports anime out there that crank up the excitement to the max to deliver exhilarating matchups keeping its viewers at the edge of their seats, almost like an actual sports program. As quick examples, Haikyuu!! and Kuroko’s Basketball take distinct approaches to achieving this goal, but nevertheless want to nail the fun factor through the development of intimidating opponents and the infusion of exaggerating yet gorgeous animation.
So what’s the deal with Baby Steps, that nearly has none of those qualities?
In short, the series takes a much different approach to the sport of tennis, choosing to ground itself further in reality and showcase the significance of mental fortitude and strategy within the sport through the lens of our protagonist Maruo, who has an obsession with note-taking and studying. As someone who has had experience with tennis for a few years, there are shockingly accurate portrayals of the sport’s appeal and mechanics well-suited to a story that is arguably character-driven. Instead of watching pseudo-superhumans somehow manage to whack the tennis ball around the side of the net into the court through wrist training, we see Maruo struggle in every moment to get the basics down and become viable for competitive play. Therefore, each victory that he seizes, whether big or small, feels noteworthy in some way, and given the similar experiences that I and many others have had in other endeavors in our lives, his journey can surely resonate with us all.
In what seems to be a straightforward high school series focusing around a high school band vying to go to the national championships actually turns out to be a coming-of-age story detailing the relentless, complicated transition from childhood to adulthood over the course of a short year or two. In that sense, its bubbly exterior and godly production value can be remotely deceiving. Ironically, I find Sound! Euphonium uses this specific message as the driving force for the show and the marching band serves more so as an amplification of its messaging.
Near the beginning of the series, most of the characters are content with being average or enjoying band just for the sake of it. Our starring euphonium player Kumiko fits the former description, but is perfectly content with going through the motions of her life without fray. However, her personal struggle and discontent with circumstance through the majority of the first season and beyond discovers that she would rather discovering her true purpose in life and strive for improvement rather than settling for normality. Around the time I was watching Sound! Euphonium, I found myself dealing with similar thoughts and consequently it facilitated the development of my future aspirations
This specific development also occurs within many other people in the marching band, and observing their own revelations as they come to terms with their callings in life are fascinating in their own right and infuse the series with a sense of energy that feels believable.
Little Witch Academia
If I had to quickly describe what makes Little Witch Academia a phenomenal experience, it would be its successful attempt to find beauty and heart in its simplicity.
While it may appear to be a major departure from the bombastic nature of prior work such as Kill la Kill and Space Patrol Luluco, the flair of Trigger’s magic shines through each and every episode with its eccentric humor and unpredictable surprises. Whether its star-studded cast is traveling the convoluted labyrinth of Sucy’s mind, sneaking into a royal party with a love-infecting bee, or piloting a mech to eradicate impending beasts, I couldn’t help but don a huge grin on my face, overfilled with pure joy and excitement in the moment. And it’s those feelings that emphasize where I found the showl to shine brightest, where I felt the passion of its creators through the multiple displays of overflowing creativity and stellar animation. It even satisfies those looking for an episodic or overarching experience, with its two cours effectively tackling these approaches to storytelling by means that allow the show to realize its fullest potential.
All in all, Little Witch Academia is pure fun at nearly every twist and turn, and proudly displays itself as such to the rest of the world. It’s a magical experience, and as Akko would triumphantly say, “magic is the most wonderful thing in the entire world!”
Of course I couldn’t help but include a film from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli, that many may know for the film Spirited Away given its commercial success. However, there are over a dozen films to choose from that each deliver a solid standalone narrative featuring its timeless animation and directing from figures like Hayao Miyazaki and Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Even then, Princess Mononoke quickly emerges as my favorite work from the studio as one of Miyazaki’s more mature and dense films that takes a more nuanced and balanced approach to its storytelling. Instead of trying to shove environmental propaganda down our throats, the film settles instead to focus more so on humanity’s awareness of the environmental impact of their actions, often through plot devices like the personification of wildlife and rural setting. Ashitaka in particular is the shining demonstration of the sympathetic figure committed to forging a stronger relationship between humanity and the natural world. While its inclinations obviously lean in favor of the latter, Miyazaki doesn’t shy away from revealing the corrupting hands pitting both forces against each other.
I should also mention that the production of Princess Mononoke stunned me three times over again in the context of the already spectacular-looking Ghibli films, not only for its more graphic scenes, but its implementation of computer-generated imagery that still blows away to this very day.
Out of all the entries on my list, Princess Mononoke is easily the most accessible for people not familiar with the medium and hits the same notes of Spirited Away, but additionally communicates what makes the medium of anime so unique and unlike any other.
And that’s all I have! Hopefully after reading through this post, one can gain a better understanding of my overall tastes as an anime enthusiast and gain insight into the qualities of animation that make it such a captivating medium for me on the whole. In the meantime, be sure to check out the other 3×3 posts that’ll be on the blog!
*Note: As a heads-up, the introduction and conclusion for this series of blog posts will be nearly the same (copy-and-paste), and don’t necessarily require reading through it you already have once.