Little Witch Academia, Episode 7: Passion Counts

2017-03-07 21_49_40-[Asenshi] Little Witch Academia - 07 [CEE6E21B].mkv - VLC media player

Luna Nova’s academic year continues and with exams around the corner, Akko willingly and boldly trudges onward, determined to overcome her shortcomings as a student of magic. This is a completely different Akko than we’ve seen before. While her determination was always prevalent, the inherent flaws in her self-absorbed approach have been exposed. No longer can she afford to ignore her lack of effort. After coming to startling revelation willingness alone is not enough to achieve your goals, she finds herself face-to-face with her lack of talent. And she’s every bit motivated to show Luna Nova she has something to offer.

Through Akko’s point-of-view, we get to experience first-hand what it means to work towards something. With exams around the corner, Akko studies hard, pays attention in class, and even takes notes on things people wouldn’t even ordinarily take notes on. For Akko, fun is just about the last thing on her mind—She wants to succeed at all costs.

But seemingly enough, nothing is changing for Akko (Well, at least on the surface). She hasn’t been able to keep up with the minimum that’s expected of her as a student: She can’t communicate with crows, she can’t make tea, and she can’t even use basic magic to open a window. Despite Akko’s best efforts to learn even the more mundane aspects of magic, the rest of Luna Nova wants to remind her she’s a talentless dunce that’s still failing all her classes. Continue reading “Little Witch Academia, Episode 7: Passion Counts”

March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 20: The Harrowing Death of A World Unexplored

2017-03-07 01_09_12-[HorribleSubs] 3-gatsu no Lion - 20 [1080p].mkv - VLC media player

March Comes in like a Lion’s episode this week comes to a head on Shimada’s match, but not before establishing the sacrifices he took to get there. While Shimada has long since decided the path he’d take at his proverbial fork in the road, the crushing weight of his past decision looms over him as residual feelings of regret. The exploration of these feelings through his dreams serve to enhance Shimada’s characterization while contextualizing his pain in a way that hits home for most people—a very simple, yet deeply humane fear of making the wrong decisions explored through the infinite world of ‘what if’ scenarios.

Through the introducing dream sequence of the episode, Shimada explores the ‘what if’ of the path he didn’t choose. As his ex-girlfriend beckons him over with a child in hand, Shimada comes to the startling realization he is in fact dreaming. That his hometown, his friends and family, his ex-girlfriend and any possible future with her, were all thrown to the wayside for the sake of an uncertain future. Everything about his dream—the hauntingly beautiful sunset, the bittersweet guitar melody, and Shimada’s sad monologue—evokes a sense of the harrowing death of a world unexplored. Continue reading “March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 20: The Harrowing Death of A World Unexplored”

March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 19: Shimada’s Past

2017-02-27 21_24_21-[HorribleSubs] 3-gatsu no Lion - 19 [1080p].mkv - VLC media player

March Comes in like a Lion’s shift of focus this week was on Shimada, whose narration reintroduces him as a complex character driven by simple but firm beliefs. In the past, we’ve seen glimpses of his drive: despite his aloof exterior, there’s a fiery passion within him that’s set ablaze by competition. What we hadn’t seen just yet was his reasons for being so.

We’ve been led to believe that’s just the way he is. However, his inner dialogue uncovers that there’s something even deeper and more fundamental to his character that keeps him going—his attachment to his home town and the people that have come to encourage him along the way. While competition is the vehicle for his passion, his love for his hometown is the fuel that pushes him forward.

Shimada is a character who values his connections with people above all else. There’s a stark contrast between Shimada’s inner dialogue and the visuals that accompany it, highlighting how he truly feels about his past. The things he says about his hometown being boring and underpopulated lead you to think he doesn’t care about the place much. Despite the matter-of-fact tone present in his words, the washed edges of the visuals and the small clouds of steam interspersed among the scenes where he’s surrounded by the elders permeate the atmosphere of his past with a gentle warmth—the kind where you’re nestling into your favorite blanket on a winter day with a mug full of hot chocolate—and effectively confirm how fond he is of his village. Continue reading “March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 19: Shimada’s Past”

March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 18: Rei’s Emotional Growth

2017-02-22 16_38_08-[HorribleSubs] 3-gatsu no Lion - 18 [1080p].mkv - VLC media player

March Comes in like a Lion episode 18 builds upon Rei’s enlightened perspective, allowing us to see just how much Rei has come to trust others. Rei visits Shimada’s workshop, where Nikaido bickers with Mr. Shigeta over their contrasting game philosophies. A playful tone permeates the scene as cute metaphorical Jedi cats narrate their fiery battle. Shimada easily and comedically extinguishes the flames, throwing the two a complicated shogi question to divert their attention. All of this confirms what we’ve already come to know—everyone in the workshop is deeply passionate about shogi and they have firm beliefs on how the game should be played. Shimada, upon noticing Rei has largely been taking a backseat in the workshop, urges him on to speak his point-of-view, like one of those teachers picking on the quiet kid in class.

The fact Shimada reaches out to Rei shows how adept he is at judging the emotions of those around him. He recognizes Rei came to him because Rei wanted to change—he’s desperate to properly connect with his peers, friends, and family after years of keeping people in the dark—he just needs a shove in the right direction. Shimada asking him was his way of allowing Rei to take his first steps, to lean on them and show them the fiery passion that’s ready to burst at any moment now. Shimada’s depth of character in recent episodes—the bottomless passion that’s revealed behind his aloofness, his understanding and compassion for his peers, and his modesty—has quickly won me over, earning him a spot among my favorite characters in the series.

With the focus on Rei, the scene indeed confirms his emotional growth thus far. As he struggles to vocalize his thoughts, his choice of words reveal just how private an experience shogi is for him. Continue reading “March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 18: Rei’s Emotional Growth”

March Comes in like a Lion, Ep 17: Drowning in Despair

2017-02-22 21_11_55-[HorribleSubs] 3-gatsu no Lion - 17 [1080p].mkv - VLC media player

“While I was running in circles getting lost, my peer has already hardened his resolve.”

Rei, March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 17

March Comes in like a Lion episode 17 has silently and ever so delicately brought to focus Rei’s shifting emotional state. With Shimada’s triumph over Gotou, everyone’s attention was on the impending challenge match between him and the man everyone deems to be the peerless shogi monster, Souya. Nikaido and Rei have both made their way to the hotel where Shimada is being interviewed just before his first of seven match showdown against Souya. While Nikaido is genuinely excited for Shimada, Rei looks physically uncomfortable and struggles to find a reason to even be at the hotel. Rei feels as though Shimada’s interviews have nothing to do with him. In his mind, he hasn’t earned the right to be there. This event demonstrates one of the central themes of March Comes in like a Lion: Sometimes our problems can feel so pervasive, so all-consuming, we can almost forget the world around us.

By giving into these thoughts, we effectively magnify our issues by isolating ourselves. In Rei’s case, his attempts to solve his familial problems lead him to move out on his own, ultimately exacerbating the root cause and giving way to an unyielding depression.  It’s no surprise, then, when Rei responds the event has nothing to do with him, as he’s been so caught up in coping with his own emotions it’s almost as if he’s forgotten those around him have emotions too.

The thing is, Rei isn’t as oblivious to people’s feelings as he seems – his plight is not the result of self-absorption, but on the contrary, altruism. He firmly believes not being a nuisance for those around him is best for everyone. Nikaido’s words point out a glaring flaw with Rei’s approach – sometimes we need the support of others to feel at ease. Continue reading “March Comes in like a Lion, Ep 17: Drowning in Despair”

Little Witch Academia, Episode 6: There Are No Shortcuts

2017-02-14 21_01_22-[Asenshi] Little Witch Academia - 06 [4F252ECE].mkv - VLC media player

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all it took to become good at something was a magical spell with maybe some slight pleading?

No huss and fuss over mistakes, no self-tormenting over your inability to do something you so desperately want to do, just all of the glory, right from the get-go.

Well, let me and Akko know if you find it. For now, I’ll stand the belief that real life doesn’t really work that way (although it would’ve been great to have one of these magical fountains to save me from all the heartache I experienced in art school).

Little Witch Academia’s message this episode was simple and to the point: there are no shortcuts on the path to your dreams.

Those who have followed Little Witch Academia so far will undoubtedly see a contradiction to the message with Akko only managing to overcome challenges at Luna Nova through dumb stroke of luck. At this point, we’re conditioned to expect that she’ll miraculously overcome anything thrown her way, so when Akko’s setback doesn’t go as planned this episode, it’s equally as alarming for the viewer as it is for Akko.  Continue reading “Little Witch Academia, Episode 6: There Are No Shortcuts”

ACCA: On Expectations and The Allure of Simple Delights

2017-02-08 23_07_05-[HorribleSubs] ACCA - 13-ku Kansatsu-ka - 05 [1080p].mkv - VLC media player

“To win her heart, you will need to set up a bakery for sandwich bread in Dowa.”

Maggie, ACCA, Episode 5 

I’ve always been the competitive type. When I was much younger, this drive manifested in sports and other outdoorsy activities (much to the surprise of people that know me now, I was actually somewhat of an extrovert back then). During the 5th grade, I’d often be one of the last people tagged out during gym class as I viciously hurled myself at the other kids’ flags during capture the flag. I remember one time in particular I swear I was flying — I did a belly flop on the hard gym floor and knocked the wind out of myself — all for the sake of sweet, sweet victory.

As a young kid, my whole world thrived on gym and recess. There was no better fulfillment than clumsily and successfully maneuvering the army of kids trying to take me down, whether it was football, dodgeball, or whatever else. I was the (self-proclaimed) recess king.

And that’s precisely why when my homeroom teacher took my recess away I cried long streams of crocodile tears begging her to put me back out there. I looked up from behind my desk and stared out the window to see my friends all out there laughing and having a good time. I begged her: “Please, I’ll do anything!” She just looked at me for a bit before walking up to hand me the first novel of the Harry Potter series.  I looked back disgruntled: “Why would I read when I could be doing something fun outside?,” my dumb 5th grade self thought. Never in my life had I read one of those books and I sure as heck wasn’t going to spend my recess doing that. I had a ‘cool’ image to uphold to my peers.

I caved out of sheer boredom and hesitantly read a few pages.

Those few pages turned into a few chapters, and before I knew it, recess was already over but I hadn’t bothered to look up; I was completely entrenched in a world I dismissed as boring not even thirty minutes prior. I hadn’t even noticed until the teacher called my name.

Continue reading “ACCA: On Expectations and The Allure of Simple Delights”