Rolling Review – Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – Episode 01

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Episode Synopsis:

Mari, a high school student, has always dreamed of doing something special; as a notebook she wrote at the start of her time as a high schooler proclaims, she wants to “go on a journey without a plan”.  That was over a year ago, and she’s still the model middle-of-the-road student, never skipping classes but not doing anything out of the ordinary either.  Try as she might, she can’t muster up the courage to make a big change.  Fortunately for her, that’s when she bumps into Shirase, a fellow schoolmate laser-focused on her own dream – going to Antarctica, and soon, to see one of the most remote places on Earth for herself (and to chase after her mother, who was lost long ago in an expedition and never found).  Mari decides to encourage her, but Shirase tells her she’s had others do the same, only to lose interest.  If Mari really wants to help, she’ll join Shirase.  And, finally taking courage, she joins Shirase on a real (if short) trip – halfway across the country to see a Japanese icebreaker ship that’s on display to the public.

Episode Review:

There’s a lot to like in Sora your mo Tooi Basho, and it’s good to see the characters themselves form a solid foundation.  Mari may have trouble finding motivation, but she knows it, recognizes it, talks about it with her friend.  She’s been where we’ve all been at some point – wanting a change, feeling like we’re in a rut, and yet held back by the comfort of our routines.  That and she really hates getting up in the morning.

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Our heroine

Shirase, meanwhile, is the kind of driven person most of us aren’t – she researches Antarctica and spends all her time not in school working to save money to accomplish her dream.  Even here, though, the show sidesteps the clichés – she might be serious and focused much of the time, but she still has a sense of humor and is able to enjoy downtime with Mari on their trip.

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Hold fast!  You can afford to either go to Antarctica or eat overpriced train shrimp!

From the outset, I might have expected Mari to be the listless klutz character that gets dragged along on the trip, acting surprised and complaining whenever there’s hardship, and Shirase to be the cold, emotionless character who drags Mari along heedless of her pleas.  And that’s absolutely not who these characters are; in a single episode they’re already quite a bit more textured, interesting, and real, for lack of a better word, than that.  I’m looking forward to seeing where these two go.

Especially as the show promises they’ll be going to Antarctica.  There’s a bit of mystery in the show that I’m looking forward to seeing resolved – how ARE these two high school students, with a decent amount of money but zero experience or connections to any governmental or research institutions, going to get to Antarctica anyway?  Shirase seems to have a plan, and it should be interesting to see how it goes, because the show seems pretty well-grounded in reality.  From the bits and pieces we get in this episode, it looks like the show’s creators have done their homework, having the character look over maps and pictures that look fairly legit.

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Heck, their first trip isn’t to try to fly a plane there, or try some disastrous scheme to get there in some small boat, it’s to go look at an icebreaker and get some perspective on what kind of equipment is required to get to such a harsh and remote region.  A Wandaba Style-style moonshot this is not.  So I’m intrigued to see where we’ll go from here, and interested to get to learn something about Antarctica alongside our already pretty compelling cast, which the show’s opening theme song promises to double.

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Yeah!

 


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Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (12)

Episode Synopsis:

On what I assume is the imperial mothership, Orka pressures the commander of another nous ship into letting it be used for another Falaina mission, and reveals to the audience that retaining emotions, which is indirectly accomplished by eating pieces of nous, is an aristocratic privilege that he is extending to his archivist, whom he plans to marry.  Back on the mud whale, Ouni manages to talk some sense into the twins – or at least manages to stop everyone else from taking them seriously – both before and after Suou makes the truth of Falaina public.  The marked then proceed to get a dance going so as to steer the vessel out of the Bermuda Triangle / doldrums of the sand sea, and off towards Amonlogia.

Review:

Let’s see if the show has answered any of the questions I had when I was last here.

About the “captain” – other than the fact that he seems to know what Ouni is? Nothing.

About Falaina – other than what I had already guessed? Not really. Orka speaks of some of the legends surrounding the origins of the nous, but the only important thing we learned (other than the life force thing) was that the marked can channel their dance or something through special dolphin-tailed rodents to move the vessels that the nous keep afloat in the sand sea. In the absence of one of those creatures, the mud whale couldn’t be extricated from the cyclical currents to which it was banished, which does answer the question of how the empire could reliably locate it (and man – they are gonna have a hard time now). Honestly, though, this only raises the question of how the empire moves their vessels, since what we see of the bridge of the vessel Skylos didn’t give much indication of how it was steered (dance doesn’t seem like their style), and the Kokalo-like critter that was found on the vessel Lykos has been of no concern to anyone this entire time.

About the sand sea’s ability to support large nominally-aquatic life: well, it’s got manta rays now.

Crossover with Vampire Hunter D confirmed??

Also, apparently this world still has actual oceans?  Outside of the sand sea?

A map of the surrounding region finally revealed and it’s an isthmus? This is Utawarerumono all over again – but I guess a lot of old maps of Japan probably looked similar, being as narrow as it is.

About the “objective” that the Skylos soldiers were looking for on the mud whale – nothing, unless I haven’t been paying enough attention to Orka’s interaction with whatever was interrogating him to read into his actions.

About the prisoner that the bowel-moles took from the original Skylos raid – nothing again; I’m pretty sure she hasn’t even been on screen for four straight episodes.

To top all of that disappointment off, Liodari is back, as I had feared, but not because he was reanimated or transmogrified or anything – he just miraculously survived numerous life-threatening injuries sustained before falling a hundred feet into a sea of quicksand. Come on, show.

Once again, I feel like not a whole lot happens in this episode. The important stuff is mainly that Suou makes the relationship between Falaina and the marked public, and we get to see Chakuro and Lykos reaffirm their commitment to the community of the mud whale.  Beyond that…

We spend some time watching Ouni put down that mini-rebellion, but that whole thing was pretty flimsy to begin with. Lykos rejects another offer from a nous avatar person to give up her sadness, only this time it’s from Ema, and Falaina doesn’t even eat sadness – what exactly was the plan there? Orka performs some obtuse political maneuvering on the mothership to gain control of the nous vessel Karcharias, which, having gone back to re-watch the scene on the Sklyos bridge to look for controls, is where the archivist said he was during the raids on Falaina. Like… what? Also, he’s putting the moves on said archivist and is presumably giving her enough emotions so that she’ll be loyal to him instead of the empire, so we probably have some dysfunctional “romance” to look forward to.

Pass.

Summary:

I’m done, folks. I know there are more books and there’s probably going to be more anime, but I have checked out. Almost nothing that happens in this story is well-explained enough to make any sense and I don’t like enough of the characters to keep me invested. The show does try to go out on a good break point, but that’s where I’m gonna call it. Let us know if the books are better.


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Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (11)

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Episode Synopsis:

Orka, the commander of Skylos, is put on trial for his failure, but instead convinces the council of his country to stay his execution with a dramatic speech.  Shortly thereafter, he petitions for a new warship to go to the Mud Whale again, this time to capture its most powerful thymia-users, now referred to as daimons.  On the Mud Whale itself, the ability to choose a direction for the ship creates new opportunities (as the visitors from Siderasia offer to take the Mud Whale under their nation’s protection) and new problems (as a pair of rebellious Marked youths start making the case for rule by the Marked instead of the Unmarked council).

Episode Review:

As the show crawls towards oblivion, I feel blessed that for once my episode didn’t have even a single sighting of the shrieking sadism fairy.  Additionally, credit where credit is due – this episode, while still a mess, isn’t all that bad.  Finally, we get explanations for why the Clown Around Empire exiled the Mud Whale, a sense of where the different factions in the show are located, and the secrets behind the Mud Whale’s nous.

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Granted, some of this would’ve been nice about 10 episode ago, when it actually mattered, but it did give some context for what’s been going on so far.  It’s also a slower-paced episode, and the show does a lot better when its characters don’t have to move around a whole lot, since you get to appreciate the nifty art instead of the often sub-par action.

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Unfortunately, the reason the episode is slow-paced is that it’s almost 100% people talking.  The first 6 or so minutes are Orka giving a speech (which, admittedly, they try to jazz up by having him make a lot of dramatic gestures), followed by the Siderasians explaining where things are on a map, and ending with the Trouble Twins giving a speech calling for a coup.

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Riveting.

It does set everything up as we roll towards the end (though I doubt the show will have time to adequately pace the many things it wants to resolve in the time that remains), but it does it in just about the most boring way possible.  Still, given the lack of visible clowns or pink-haired psychopaths, it’s about the most pleasant episode we’ve had in a while.

Down to specifics, then.  Although Orka’s speech does answer some questions, it asks so very many more, and leaves crucial questions still unanswered.  We know how the nous work and why the Mud Whale’s is special but we still don’t know where they come from.  The Jester Imperium exiled the Mud Whale so its citizens’ emotions could be used as a demonstration of why emotions are bad… but how would anyone from the Imperium be able to watch and learn that lesson?

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Orka’s plan is to capture the daimons and use their power to either a) purify the world, b) protect the empire from God’s purification of the world, or c) just take over the world, but there’s no indication of how he would do this, or what his original reason for attacking the Mud Whale was.

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The whole thing feels like the writers are desperately flailing to somehow retroactively create a coherent world, but instead it’s ever more apparent that the show’s plot was not well thought out when it started.

Then there’s the Twin Rebellion which is brewing on the Mud Whale.  The show was going to be complicated enough with the Mud Whale racing to get to Siderasia while being pursued by Orka’s new warship.  I don’t know that also having a revolution kick off on the Mud Whale in the meantime is what the end of the show needs; there’s plenty of drama to go around already.

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I forsee some more episodes with truly abysmal pacing.  At least it’s almost over.


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Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (10)

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EPISODE SYNOPSIS:

There is a temporary calm now as the remaining Mud Whale members have sunk the Skylos’s battleship and according to Lykos, the next threat may be a way off.
While bathing in the lakes to pray for rain (uhh…okay..), a mysterious ship appears and the leader attempts to conquer the Mud Whale? It doesn’t work. Chakuro learns a little secret about his new shrimp platter and elsewhere, Lykos’s brother is talking to clowns.

Review:

Warning: This review is NSFW for some of the images below (nothing objectionable, just naked people).

Okay…this is it guys.  Whales is super officially a lost cause as you can tell at this point, half the staff has gone mad and is contemplating seppuku, and the other half is desperately trying to do…anything to get the show to move along and have appeal.  Let’s take both halves.

The “Save the Boat!” staff has decided that in this week’s episode…there’s going to be fan service.  Yes you read that right.  Fan service.  As the show is desperate to world-build, it adds yet another strange tradition to the Mud Whale’s repertoire, but this time it involves nudity.  We absolutely can’t be a fantasy world and not have public baths.  The bathing scene doesn’t last long, it’s the follow up that’s laughable.

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Legend has is that if you put enough fan service in the show…
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You might be able to pretend people are attracted to it.

The nation of Amonlogia appears, and decides that they want to take over.  When that immediately fails, Suou establishes himself as King of the Nudists (did someone let Kill la Kill in here), and uh…they welcome the people of Amonlogia as guests.  Why the hell not…

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You seriously attempted to negotiate with these people and didn’t even remember you didn’t have clothes on?!?!
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There is no caption worthy of this screenshot.

The fan service is just pathetic at this point in the game.  My rage comes from the newly introduced characters/location.  Guys…we are three episodes away from the end of this show (I know there’s more manga to follow, but you can’t be expecting a second season…please tell me I’m right…”) and NOW YOU WANT TO EXPAND THE WORLD?!  Just stick to the conflict at hand with Skylos.  That was semi-compelling enough.  You haven’t even fully explained the whole “Sinners of Falaina” thing (unless the explanation in Ep. 9 is just…it…), and now you are introducing us to places that don’t even know about the whole “sinners” angle?!

The only important piece of information we get is from Captain Eyepatch’s mom and Ema.  Apparently Neri is just…never going to appear again.  Why did we even have her in the first place?  Captain eyepatch clearly has some sort of plotline with his demon eye (or at the very least, his terrible personality).  His mother, the Elder, hints at it, but as with all things Children of the Whales it raises questions like…”Why is this guy allowed to stay here?”.  He seems like a nihilistic psycho, but that’s okay…we are all friends here.  I’m gonna hang on to this plot point and pretend it’s interesting because I just have nothing else.

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Eyepatch…I’m counting on you for some plot…

Ema reveals that the shrimp coctail that Chakuro got is secretly a steering mechanism for the Nous and so now, the Mud Whale can set a direction!!  Hooo…raaay?  I don’t know why we care about this, but it makes for a pretty light show.  Other than that we learn…absolutely…nothing…Thanks Ema.

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Why do we need a helm?  We’ve already steered this show clean off a cliff
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Pretty lights distract me from how little I learned about the plot.

Now…on to the staff that know this show is garbage and are prepared to thrust themselves into full-tilt nonsense.  Let’s start with this:

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Just imagine me screaming “NOOOOOOO” like the end of Revenge of the Sith

Why…how…could this even happen?!  He was shot twice with arrows, slashed down the front of his chest, AND fell into the sand sea.  ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!

Thankfully, it looks like he’s going to become…a jester…and honestly…that’s a fate worse than death so maybe I’ll rejoice.  As we get a glimpse at Lykos’s brother, it seems that he is awaiting repurcussions of letting the Skylos battleship sink, and he’s also…got a posse full of people in jester suits.  They are like his servants or something.  I literally can’t even right now.

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Summary

Let’s just all unanimously thank Japan for this terrible terrible show and never speak of it again once it’s finished.  I can never fathom the depths of stupid the show is willing to dive in order to keep this thing chugging.  Pure and simple: This episode is a mess.  Thank goodness my turn is never going to come up again.


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