December 24, 2023

Another week, another round-up! This time, I'll be talking about a trendy Amazon Prime release and a video game with a fan translation five years in the making.

The Deer King (2021 Movie)

Image credit to GKIDS

I’m surprised The Deer King isn’t more popular in the west. Not particularly because it’s great, but the style and tone seem the type to instantly call the attention of overseas Ghibli fans. There are some genuinely stellar moments of spectacle to be found here, and it’s hard not to appreciate the animation on the horses and deer after finishing Shirobako’s first half just a day earlier. Whether these lush visuals can carry a narrative as flat as this is another story.

Saltburn (2023 Movie)

Image Credit to Millennial Falcon Reviews

I don’t get it. Themes of obsession, materialism, and elitism that go seemingly nowhere. I’m not sure if it’s the movie or myself that’s dumb. Despite being sold to me as kinky and transgressive, there are only really two scenes in Saltburn which fit the bill and neither are any worse than the shit found in a majority of erotic thrillers. I found myself too frustrated and annoyed to admire how pretty the photography was.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003 Movie)

Image credit to

A coming-of-age story told through the eyes of the subject’s master. His perspective lingers on even after he disappears from the picture. Human passion and sin are displayed as inevitabilities with the cure being to abandon materialism entirely. Possessiveness of others just as well as possessiveness of objects. People will come and go as they please, and they may spend years in despair before they can truly enlighten themselves. In reality, there is no sin too great to move on from, even if they may leave permanent stains on your soul. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring understands that perfectly.

It’s rare to see such a contemplative, peaceful film move at a pace this fast. It feels fleeting even for a movie covering someone’s entire life in two hours. These seasons—and by extension this entire existence—is over in a blink of an eye. Time only truly exists when you’re thinking about it, after all. Kim Ki-duk’s camera shows off the floating temple and its surroundings in a way that only exemplifies the quaint lifestyle which allows the world to turn faster than usual. If your entire existence is art, meaning doesn’t have to be much of a struggle.

A Random Assortment of Norman McLaren Shorts (1951-1965 Short Films)

Image credit to IMDb

Norman McLaren is very likely the greatest animator who has ever lived. Although nothing will ever top Begone Dull Care for me, I really loved everything I watched from him this week. Short and Suite has such a unique texture with every bit of paint seemingly having its own backdrop, Around is Around marks a historic moment for CGI, and Rythmatic finally made math enjoyable through McLaren’s quirky sense of humor. Canon was probably the biggest highlight due to its whimsical exploration of audio in film. What a legend.

Shirobako (2014-2015 TV Series)

Image credit to The Chuuni Corner

I knew watching Fables of the Green Forest would pay off eventually! As saccharine as it can get, Shirobako is incredibly touching and represents animators in all the best ways. These aren’t prodigies, but rather just a couple of fellas working their asses off every single day. The actual craft is portrayed with a surprising level of accuracy and intimacy. It does help that the production is genuinely great as per P.A. Works standard. Also probably has the best tie-in OVAs of any TV series I’ve seen. 

Shirobako: Kaminoyama High School Animation Club (2014-2015 Manga)

Image credit to Kinokuniya USA

A cute if basic prequel to Shirobako focusing on the girls’ high school club. There’s some absolutely adorable interactions.

Shirobako Movie (2020 Movie)

Image credit to IMDb

I definitely understand why Shirobako Movie isn’t held in nearly as high of a regard as its prequel. There’s an interesting enough premise with Miyamori being left to repair a studio in ruins, but a predictable narrative sets into place as soon as the first act ends. It becomes clear that most of what’s shown here is just treading old ground and doing so with barely any breathing room. The emphasis on a workplace family that the show had gets replaced by a mere desire to “save the company,” which is fairly fitting considering what this follow-up very inherently is.

Fate/EXTRA CCC (2013 Video Game/Visual Novel)

Image credit to Tokyo Otaku Mode

Fate/EXTRA CCC is many things. It’s predictable, cheesy, overly expository, lacking in subtlety, extremely janky mechanically, and horny to the point of discomfort. Yet its emotional core remains so strong throughout that it’s hard to care. CCC is essentially the “Heaven’s Feel” route for Fate/EXTRA with a spice of hyperindulgence. The entire structure is built around Kinoko Nasu going ham with his character writing, each chapter serving as a clear-cut analysis for one of the heroines. When the script isn’t making crappy sex jokes or delivering character dissections, it doubles down on the sci-fi lingo and existentialism. This is a story that works only because of how much love was put into it. 

Dungeon design is far improved, with each level having its own unique gimmicks and containing more narrative segments sprinkled throughout. Can’t not bring up the presentation, either. On top of the same gorgeous VR/techno aesthetic the first EXTRA game nailed, you get one of the most consistent electronic soundtracks ever made! I’m a sucker for these extremely messy yet profound and gorgeously crafted works. YU-NO’s DNA really is in every visual novel made afterwards, isn’t it?

Beyond Orbits (2023 Album)

Image credit to Edition Records

My introduction to the works of Miho Hazama! I’m a massive whore for sophisticated jazz fusion, and it’s super rare that I hear something as energetic and powerful as Beyond Orbits. Every track feels almost alien with its uniquely atmospheric big band sound. So funky!

Source ⧺ We Move (2021 Album)

Image credit to Pitchfork

A remix of the 2020 album Source, Nubya Garcia’s debut is beautifully experimental and has an intense variety of influences. Some of the weaker tracks are simply pleasant, but at its best there’s something legitimately incredible to be found. I once again apologize for being completely dogshit at talking about music and will probably educate myself further sometime soon. Wish I could say more.

That’ll do it for this week. Lotta great stuff as always. Shirobako and SSFWaS both heavily exceeded my expectations, both albums I listened to were exceptional, and I doubt I’ll be forgetting Fate/EXTRA CCC anytime soon. Probably not going to watch another movie written or directed by Emerald Fennell, though.

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