Tag: Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

Review: Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

Summary: Arashiyama is a mystery obsessed clumsy girl who works for an old woman’s less than stellar maid cafe. The only regulars to the cafe are the other entrepreneurs from the surrounding shopping district and Sanada, one of Arashiyama’s classmates who has a crush on her. When Tatsuno, Arashiyama’s friend, is invited to the cafe and sees the poor state the cafe is in she decides to work alongside her friend and fix things up.

Review: The style of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, SoreMachi for short, is what stands out immediately. Animated by Shaft and directed by Akiyuki Shinbou (Bakemonogatari, Arakawa Under the Bridge) the look and feel of the show doesn’t seem to lend itself well to a Slice of Life comedy, but SoreMachi is not your standard Slice of life, while there are some shorts that focus on Arashiyama and her daily life the more interesting bits come from focus on the odd characters in the town where she lives. There is no set formula to a single episode of the show which allows the narrative to use whatever time and techniques are required to tell the story. Too make the genre even vaguer, interspersed between the normal slice of life scenes are also stories containing time travelers, aliens, and the afterlife.

The content, however, is mostly standard Slice of Life fair presented in a way that makes it appear fresh and innovative. Having no constant structure, the arts style, the masterful direction and the science fiction elements sprinkled about make the shows content seem far more aspiring than it really is. I don’t want to disparage the show in anyway, as I am a huge fan of slice of life comedies and the writing and wit of SoreMachi is unique among them but when boiled down to its core SoreMachi is a hyper-stylized, well written way of telling a story about a group of girls working at a maid cafe or a group of girls becoming obsessed with an odd vending machine. The animation style and the direction of Akiyuki Shinbou is what stand out. The direction gives ordinary scenes, such as Arashiyama sitting in class receiving extra lessons, an epic feel. The art is a bit odd, lifted entirely from Masakazu Ishiguro’s manga, and gives the characters a distinct personality the instant you look at them.

The comedy writing is the heart and soul of the series. The humor plays off character personalities and antics as they interact with their surrounding town and its insane inhabitants. Long scenes of dialogue are fast flying and exciting due to the underlying theme of mystery, small conversations become over-complicated and fun by adding in an element that needs to be deduced. Even the jokes are tiny puzzles which are funnier if the viewer unravels them before the punch line is revealed. One such joke sees Arashiyama rushing to class fearing that she is late. She bursts into the classroom and is relieved because no one else is there. A keen observer can figure out the joke before the teacher reveals it because there is only one desk set out in front of him and she is, indeed, late. The science fiction elements of the series work because they are played completely straight, as these scenes are not separate from the slice of life aspects. After the few supernatural scenes the audience is left with no choice other than to believe that these supernatural elements really exist in the world of SoreMachi.

The soul of the show lies in how well the individual stories are able to come together. The stories go between the absolutely mundane to the completely insane with a few that explore some deep concepts while maintaining the series general light tone. One short feature’s Arashiyama’s younger brother being unable to sleep, so they take a walk together through the town. The piece explores how nighttime causes landscapes, environments, and even people to change. Going by the normally quiet maid cafe Arashiyama sees the characters from the shopping district up late drinking and partying with the old woman leading the festivities. The exploration of the darkened town is aided by Shaft’s excellent animation which helps turn something that is seemingly mundane into a meaningful and deep experience. The day ends with Brother and Sister sharing a bath together and growing a little closer now that he has been introduced to a completely new world.

Like many anime these days SoreMachi features a ton of Meta-humor. Instead of playing it to placate the Otaku crowd the tone is vicious. The concept itself sees the characters at a mock maid cafe; the set up itself is taking a common trope and exploiting it for humor. The world of SoreMachi is filled with familiar elements slightly twisted to make a subtle satire. For example, Arashiyama and friends even form their own girl band but instead of the standard rock set the band features a bass guitar, drums, a violin, and an accordion. SoreMachi is the generic gag anime slightly twisted in order to make fun of gag anime.

SoreMachi isn’t a perfect series; the strange format, animation style, and direction is going to turn off people looking for a light gag anime because it makes the series look far more intimidating than it really is and while I consider that a bonus I can easily see why that would cause others to panic and turn away. The long scenes of dialogue, which still work when translated on some levels, are obviously filled with puns and other elements of the Japanese language that cannot be translated to English. Reading footnotes while a joke is going on doesn’t make the joke funny, it makes the process tedious.

Verdict: SoreMachi is a visually innovative and witty slice of life anime. The animation and direction propel what would be an average comedy series into a uniquely powerful piece that appears insightful beyond its content. At the core it is a well written comedy that has a well exploited mystery theme running through most of the jokes, plus its ability to portray Science Fiction elements in a deadpan slice of life tone brings an odd twist to this extremely enjoyable show.

 

Good

Direction and Animation are above and beyond expectations

Writing is intelligent, witty, and offers some new twists to the slice of life genre

Science Fiction elements spice up the traditional slice of life formula

Bad

Some jokes do not translate into English well.

Top 5 Anime of 2010

It is the time to reflect back on the year that has passed with a look at some of the best Anime that came out in 2010. It was a solid year even though more and more predictions of Anime’s inevitable death because of the strength of the Moe fandom. But like all years some real creativity comes out of Japan and that is the reason that most people started watching anime in the first place. That one unique moment that came at an important time in one’s life can endear a person to the medium forever, or scare them away forever. I enjoy writing this list because it reminds me of those things that keep me attached to the genre even after a strong ten years of anime fandom, and it helps me forget some backward steps that Japan has thrown at us

Same as last year I only have one rule for this list: The anime must have finished airing or being released in Japan or United States in 2010. If I have already seen the show in fansubs it becomes ineligible for the list the year it gets an R1 release. In terms of films the year it is released on theaters or screen in the US for the first time, or failing that released on DVD, becomes the year where it qualifies.

On to the List:

Honorable Mention:
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I can’t make a best of the year list without mentioning Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. As someone who hasn’t seen the original I came into it without any bias from the original series. I was immediately hooked by the characters, concept, and intensely well-choreographed action sequences. The series ramped up well throughout and all the elements, plot threads, and massive cast of characters all came together in then end in a final epic battle. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood knew how to do Sh┼Źnen perfectly not only with action and characters but by developing a plot that steadily rams up and climaxes without dragging itself out and killing its own originality.

5. Squid Girl

If I were to time travel and hand this list to myself at the start of the fall season I wouldn’t believe it. Squid Girl was the complete shock of the year coming in with a quirky concept that is executed brilliantly. The jokes fly fast and the characters are endearing enough to suck you in, once caught the charm of Squid Girl alone is enough to keep you hooked. The adorable lead and her interactions with the interesting cast of characters is a joy to watch and the concept of a Squid being anthropomorphized is played straight no matter how odd from Squid Girl’s ability to produce ink to her bioluminescence. The jokes do get a little receptive and the art is uninspired standard Moe fair but the writing is enough to make Squid Girl an excellent little show.

4. Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

Like Squid Girl, SoreMachi is a gag anime that brings some unique concepts to the genre to create something new. But, unlike Squid Girl, SoreMachi has the benefit of the art of Shaft and the directing ability of Akiyuki Shinbou in order to take this gag show up another level. The structure of the show constantly shifts and its treatment of science fiction elements create a strange entry into the comedy genre but one that will leave a profound impact on those who watched it. The best part being the bizarre Science fiction elements mixed in and played as if they were just another piece of the slice of life drama. Rarely is there an anime that is so boldly odd.

3. Durarara!!

I doubt one could find a “Best of 2010” list without Durarrara!! on it. It came out early with a force and captured the imaginations of the fandom with its style and excellent cast of characters on top of a storyline that speaks to the current generation in a profound way. The action and drama combined in a perfect blend to create a piece that drew the audience in and keep them excited with some epic moments. At its heart is the idea that all urban legends are true, which include everything from the strongest man in the district to a headless woman who rides a motorcycle (and calls it a horse!). I’m eagerly looking forward to more and desperately hope they animate the remainder of the light novels.

2. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The latest chapter in the Haruhi franchise became the most anticipated piece of the story after the troll that KyoAni tossed at us with Endless Eight. Disappearance brings the Haruhi science fiction elements to all-time high as well as developing characters far beyond what they were in the series. We finally got to see Kyon step up and play the part of protagonist without being led by the nose by Kozume or overshadowed by the flamboyant personality of Haruhi. We also get to see Nagato as if she were a human girl, a vulnerable and touching version of the normally cold and distant character. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a deep character study wrapped in a terrific science fiction story.

1. Tatami Galaxy

Tatami Galaxy succeeds on so many levels that it is difficult to list them. Thematically and visually It is beyond a masterpiece. While the narrative is geared towards students finishing or starting to finish their college career, which is why it spoke to me so profoundly, the message stands as a timeless reminder that little things we do may change our lives profoundly but the large opportunities will always be waiting for us to grab them. The art style is masterful; MadHouse and director Masaaki Yuasa create a cutout art style in 2D. The art was used effectively to visually highlight important aspects of the story and some creative pieces standout as bold attempts to delight the audience such as a seemingly random scene where Master Higuchi plays music to summon a massive golden fish from the ocean, what purpose that scene played in the narrative remains a mystery to me but it was entertaining as hell.