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Thank You, Nanamin!

Hashimoto Nanami. The intelligent and level-headed pillar of Nogizaka46. The only one besides the super popular Maiyan to have been a fukujin or front member in every single since debut.

Graduating from Nogizaka46, and sadly retiring from show business as well — on her 24th birthday, and on the group’s 5th birthday live. For a popular idol to just disappear after graduating is incredible. But it feels just like Nanamin.

With her financial situation now fine, when her best friend in the group has already graduated, and her mother even telling her to “take it easy” — why continue this job that has always taken a toll on her weak body? Even without knowing the actual reason, it’s still a logical choice viewed from outside.

She decided that she wanted to do something else, away from the public eye. We may not see her anymore after this, her calculating and private but ultimately honest self. But the moments she has given will be a reminder that there was a time when such a person was around. Those moments will be remembered, as she herself wished.

Why did they have to release her graduation song’s MV just days before her graduation? The song was already available since November! T_T

Never forget, when she cried hard when they were pranked about Bananaman’s MC duties for their weekly show coming to an end. Nanamin, who almost never gets emotional on film, but can’t help it when it’s about people she loves. “Bananaman-san suki nan da mon!”

Never forget, the Nanamin who was almost too honest in answering kids’ questions when she wasn’t being weird. While she probably exaggerated her tone for comedic effect, it was the same honest Nanamin who doesn’t just throw around words lightly. Even the members get really happy when she praises them, because she only does so when she truly means it.

Never forget, when Maimai “confessed” to her on the 2014 Nogizaka Valentine episodes but her prepared gift wasn’t for Maimai because she felt that it’d be too embarassing to give one to Maimai for the event —  the Nanamin who regretted that and went all out with her present for Maimai in the following year’s Nogizaka Valentine.

Of course, never forget her kangaroo masterpiece, and her hand dryer monomane, and this cool picture.

When they were still a new (but heavily promoted) group, she said that the power of media is scary after hearing that their live sold out. I think having that reaction in that moment shows an awareness that’s really admirable for me. Like when she told the ponkotsu Captain Reika that even if she was disappointed, she laughed when she wasn’t called in the temporary senbatsu during the time when their 1st single senbatsu hadn’t been decided yet. It was because she thought about how the cameras will be focusing on them to get their reactions, to use their pain and sadness for business. She knew precisely what was wanted of them at that moment, and what that meant. Maybe I admire it because self-awareness or really, just awareness in general, is something that I think is one of the most important things to have. But I feel like it’s often overlooked because it doesn’t directly relate to morality and justice.

There many more moments like the twirling actress and the Nanamin Beam. For those I actually forgot, other fans will surely remember them lol. Her solid but never overwhelming presence will be missed, and is actually already being missed since she has stopped appearing on their weekly show (except for the latest one/her last one) since her graduation announcement interview last November.

Finally, like Nanamin’s time in Nogizaka46 and show business, it is time to end this entry in which I tried and failed to be sentimental about a person I don’t actually know.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It started with Nogizaka,

and you wanted it to end with Nogizaka.

Thank you, Nanamin!

Sotsugyou omedetou~!

Sayonara.

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Shinkai Makoto, Endings and Universality

Being universal is a requirement to produce big hits. How else would you reach the people around the world, with their vastly different cultures and experiences? If you get too specific and detailed, you narrow your audience. That’s why being generic is being universal. That’s why big hits like Kimi no Na wa are always somewhat generic to an extent. It’s like how the Myers–Briggs Personality Types are always true.

The trick is always balance. Put in enough details just to have enough depth. Be generic enough without actually feeling generic. Compare Kimi no Na Wa‘s characters to Kotonoha no Niwa‘s. Look at how they speak, what they think and talk about, their situations. Isn’t it easier to summarize Kimi no Nawa‘s? Their defining qualities are more pronounced because you omit details that would make them too complicated, all while still maintaining a lifelike quality to them.

Look at their stories. Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name.) is the fantasy one with the twists but ultimately, isn’t it a simple romance just sprinkled with lots of entertaining fantasy? Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words) on the other hand is riddled with real life’s complexity beyond its seemingly simple premise. Remove the detailed human complexities of the two, and it would just be an uninspired “taboo” romance between teacher and student. But I guess that’s already how people who didn’t like it or didn’t connect with it see it. It is their story, rather than a story about them — if that makes sense.

I think I’m failing at articulating my points well lol. The difference I’m stating may sound like the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven narrative, but I believe it’s different. I’ll try using a badly thought out analogy. Being universal would be cooking an unfamiliar dish in front of people using ingredients that most people know, and talking about those ingredients. The other side would be cooking an unfamiliar dish using ingredients fewer people know. Some people may like the latter more, but more people would probably gravitate toward the former. I’m not sure that helped.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with both approaches in my opinion. It always depends on what the film’s goal is. I liked both films very much. But I happen to be on the side which prefers the The Garden of Words Shinkai over Your Name Shinkai. The Garden of Words is my favorite Shinkai film. 5 Centimeters Per Second would’ve owned that title if it wasn’t so clumsy in its second act, because no other Shinkai film made me feel the Shinkai feels as strongly as 5cm/s has.

Moving on to the second point I wanted to cover. On people saying that Shinkai’s sad endings, partiularly on 5cm/s and Garden of Words are forced, this is one of the things I’ve heard/read that I strongly disagree with. First, I wouldn’t even classify both as sad endings because the people accepted their situations and are moving on. They aren’t trapped in their sadness anymore. In fact, both end in a sort of breaking free stage.

Yes, the “sad” ends could’ve been avoided had the characters acted differently. But failing to do what they “should’ve done” is being human. People have always willingly chosen not to do what they could. Shinkai chose to portray characters who made those decisions. That is not forced. Forced is having a wife and child resurrect thanks to light orbs just so we could have a happy ending. Not hating, just saying.

There are people who dislike his films and they have different reasons. I absolutely don’t have a problem with that. Promoting and wanting homogeneous views is harmful. Surrounding yourself with that and just dismissing “bad” opinions is when you start to lose perspective. Diversity in viewpoint exposure is important, no matter how much it clashes with yours. I’m just expressing my disagreement with the notion that it’s forced, not with the dislike. I feel strongly about it because I like his films, but it’s important to accept and think about how and why people think differently — and not in a condescending way. You try to understand them as equals, not to explain how they are inferior.

To end on a positive note, I saw someone retweet this last November and I still play it occasionally.

Happy Birthday Shinkai!

 

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Still Surprised by Omata Shinichi’s Directing Prowess

I was caught off guard by Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Showa and Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo) Season 2 #01. I didn’t expect it to start with such masterful execution of a performance to ease the transition to the second season. I should’ve known. It’s Omata Shinichi at work after all.

He’s definitely one of my favorite anime directors out there. He goes by Hatakeyama Mamoru on most of his work since he left Shaft, so maybe I’ll address him that way. Hatakeyama Mamoru would probably make my top 5 directors if I thought about ranking them. He doesn’t have much under his belt yet, but everything I’ve seen from him made me admire his work so much. I’m just overwhelmed again and again.

There’s no arguing that he’s skilled. Top 5 is another question though. But as with any favorites, this is likely also personal bias. I’m not sure exactly what are the unique aspects about his work that make me like it so much. I just feel like I’m watching something special when I watch his work. I need to study his work more.

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Sankarea was his series director debut. While the source material did have some things going for it, it was greatly lacking in its execution. The extent to which the adaptation improved upon the source material without actually changing events showed just how much power good direction has brought to the story. The first 3 episodes’ direction in particular are outstanding.

Usually, there is a silent quality to his work, but at times music is used in a showy way. He also seems to like using planar/planimetric compositions, which I happen to also like. There’s also a tendency to show things in a symbolic but in-your-face way (lol I don’t know how else to word this). Many times, these quirks go against the “being invisible” philosophy of filmmaking. But in Hatakeyama-kantoku’s case, it works perfectly, and that is what matters.

I wasn’t even hyped for Rakugo Shinjuu S2 that much because S1 only had him do #01 and #02, plus it has been a year. The remaining episodes were still great but it lacked the special feeling of episodes made directly by him. Perhaps this is what he’s still lacking? The ability to handle people and a whole production so that even the episodes made by others still feel like his episodes. Don’t get me wrong though, Rakugo Shinjuu S1 is undoubtedly my 2016 AOTY.

With him storyboarding all the episodes of Rakugo Shinjuu S2 so far, I hope we get the whole season storyboarded by him, just like how Ping Pong the Animation was storyboard in its entirety by the much acclaimed Yuasa Masaaki. 

(unrelated: We’re getting two movies from Yuasa this year! Plus Matsumoto Norio the god is animating a huge chunk of one of those movies! Yuasa’s also working with Oshiyama on a TV series that hasn’t been announced yet. 2017 is a good year!!!)

I shall also take this chance to recommend Rakugo Shinjuu (from S1 of course) to those who haven’t watched it yet. Maybe watching the Season 2 OP will get you interested!

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HBD ABM

Songs often talk about the same things. The messages are rarely unique, don’t you think? Despite their varied circumstances, people still experience similar things after all. So when it comes to their favorite songs, why do people still say that it’s because they relate or connect to the song? They probably know many more that talk about the same things.

I don’t know. But it’s also true for me.

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