So late to the game again I was watching the second episode of [C] that I had expected to witness something even better than the debut episode, which was eminently watchable, yet visibly lacking. There wasn’t enough of that Kenji Nakamura trademark insane yet structured art sensibility and the very capable directing that worked really well with the almost-random styles that really wouldn’t fit just about anywhere. I didn’t think it was that bad, since there were a few good tidbits here and there; it’s just that there wasn’t enough of those to go around, and I didn’t feel that the stuff in between held up well enough in the end. As much as I’m not sold on Ano Hana, I actually enjoyed the second ep of that series more than the latest iteration of [C]. The former show, as predictably dramatic as it feels, actually had things of interest in its own second episode, which I probably would be hard-pressed to say for [C].
Ordinary is one word I would least want to use when describing any piece of work coming from Kenji Nakamura. He is an emerging (I don’t know whether he’s had any prior directing experience before his work on Kemonozume #10) director with his own personalized style and approach that seemed totally far removed from existing sensibilities and conventions in anime. The guy was a breath of fresh air, which he then proved in his subsequent shows. I never would have imagined that a work which at least bears his name would even feel like this particular ep of [C]. In this episode there was nothing but plainness and should I say, blandness, that, in this humble viewer’s opinion, should be alien to any of this director’s work. Of course, I am exaggerating a bit here, but I can’t help but feel a little worry when even within a series headed by Nakamura, there would be an episode as humdrum just like this. But then again, I am not saying that the ep itself was horrible and shouldn’t be watched. There’s some interest to be had here, in terms of the little information being presented and the new characters appearing; it’s an interest born from the intrigue in the narrative. But there’s very little on everything else, like visual quality.
To be fair, Kenji Nakamura himself wasn’t in this episode. The only hold-overs (who I can recognize) from ep 1 were Noboru Takagi who wrote the script, and Takashi Hashimoto who I assume held the post of FX director again. Both the episode director and the storyboarder were unfamiliar to me, so I can’t really gauge their work, but based on this ep, my impression that it’s not the right time for outside faces to be put in charge just yet grew stronger. For me, the first three episodes are the most critical episodes of any anime series, since they’re the ones that mainly grab the interest and sustain it for the rest of the run, which is probably why the chief series director is in charge of at least the first two eps. It’s also important to set the general tone for the entire series during the first three weeks–something I sense isn’t really going well for [C]. Again, I wonder why Nakamura himself has had limited involvement in the series so far, and I’m waiting for an entire episode by him before I can really make an assessment of this show. He must have let his intentions for the series be known to the rest of the staff beforehand, but I haven’t seen them (whatever they are) translated to the small screen that faithfully, if at all.
As such, the episode felt like just another episode of your typical action anime, without any particular spice to get it over the hump into something really interesting. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for some degree of consistency when it comes to visual interest or directing sharpness week after week, especially after episode 1’s showing. Which makes me scratch my head trying to figure out why they chose to use a standard, by-the-numbers presentation for episode 2. The modern, futuristic backgrounds with mainly minimal color choices did make their return in this ep, but that’s it. To me, everything felt as if the ep was merely going through the motions, going through events like they just had to get them over with. None of those sharp turns, cuts, and perspective switches that happen with some level of precision, none of the inventive details, ideas and visualizations inserted in every other scene, and most especially, there was practically none of those spectacular trips of artful fancy that filled the entire screen, which made effective use of the background art and animation sensibility of the show–all of which were staples of Nakamura’s past shows. Instead we have something that at its core looked and felt like most of what we see out there in the landscape of TV anime. Even the fight sequence felt duller this time around (sorry Msyu), with run-of-the-mill action dominating the proceedings, despite the show’s inventions, which themselves were a bit standard. After watching the fight, I caught myself thinking that I would have preferred the action to be, instead, more straightforward and less gimmick-y. Give me a traditional well-choreographed fistfight with actually interesting motion over stiff battles running on tired concepts any day of the week. The FX work at the end of the fight was quite good, though, which I guess must have been due to Hashimoto‘s presence as FX director.
Then there’s the CGI. I didn’t mind it in episode 1, since it was only used sparingly, but now I’m just scratching my head, trying to make heads or tails as to the reason they had to use it to animate the characters, namely Masakaki and Msyu–hell, even the protagonist himself wasn’t spared. They could have just done these people normally and it would have looked many times more loose and less stiff. Masakaki’s movements in some places were quite jarring; the sudden switches from normal to CGI painfully obvious. The same is true for Msyu. I don’t know whether it’s a creative decision or just another result of the limitations of TV anime, but I really don’t feel the way they’re distributing the CGI work. I guess the same can be said for the integration of live-action in 2009’s Trapeze, which at times felt overdone and obnoxious, but what made the show good was everything else in between. This time, I’m not too sure.
Some quite intriguing pieces of information about the characters and the details of the Financial District and the Midas Money were distributed in the ep, plus an appearance of a new character, which still merits watching it. I’m interested in seeing how this complicated world running on money affects our protagonist and the other people in the cast. The characters themselves (except perhaps, Mikuni and Q) aren’t that outstanding on their own, but the circumstances revolving around them make them interesting. The confrontation between Mikuni and our protagonist struck me as a little too overzealous though. What happened was understandable, but I didn’t believe he had to be that mad about it. It felt a little too anime, in that respect.
I’m still waiting for the eventual Kenji Nakamura episode, wherein I feel the series would finally hit its stride, and where everything in the anime would all come together in an odd, but compelling whole. It hasn’t settled into its own element yet, in my humble and irrelevant opinion, but I’m still holding out hope for it. The show itself is still two episodes in, after all, so it’s still too early to assess it with finality. I remain wholly disinterested, however. There will be that one episode that turns everything around; hopefully it’s just right around the corner.
All that said, I really dig the English here in the ep–Open Deal, Direct, and Micro got stuck in my head, and I found myself repeating them as I heard them in the ep. The sudden and long instance of English by the professor in the classroom was also entertaining. They should use that for Masakaki; it would make him even more interesting.