Spring 2017 Season Wrap: Sword Oratoria, KADO: The Right Answer, & Atom: The Beginning

We are finally at the end of my season reviews, and finishing on a high note! I do hope you’ll read through to the end, particularly my thoughts on Kado and Atom, series whose genre and topics may not be for everyone but left me with the kinds of echoes only the best stories can create. Thank you, Spring, for being such a wonderful season full of memorable characters and settings. I walk away with a renewed belief that anime will continue to show and take us to the kinds of places that only appear in our dreams.

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka Gaiden: Sword Oratoria

I had the fortune of sitting in on a DanMachi panel at Anime Expo this year with creator Fujino Omori in attendance, so please check that post out if you’re interested!

I have no clear explanation for why I picked up Sword Oratoria despite my lukewarm response to the original series, other than the fact that I try to taste a bit of every new show per season out of fairness to the creators. Too many times have I shunned a series based on its premise, visuals, studio, or staff, only to go back and realize my mistake.

Unlike many others, I was not put off by the fact that Sword Oratoria is a spin-off rather than a continuation of Bell’s story. And while Aiz is the poster girl for this new series, she is not the sole focus–we spend a lot of time with all of the Loki Familia, as well as some time touching on the larger conspiracies plaguing the land of Orario. This side story reminded me quite a bit of the way that Toaru Kagaku no Railgun supplemented and built upon the world introduced in Toaru Majutsu no Index. In that case, I ended up preferring Railgun because of its characters and more interesting plots. The same cannot be said for Sword Oratoria, but I do like it well enough on an equal level to DanMachi.

What works so well for me this time around is the combined efforts of the Loki Familia to improve themselves as adventures and delve to depths in the dungeon never before explored. They thrive off a similar fire of motivation as Bell; we even witness a wonderful scene near the end where the Loki party gains inspiration with Bell’s powered-up fight with the minotaur. I, too, wanted to gear up and charge into the deeper levels with them after seeing his determination. This sense for danger and triumph is much stronger than what I experienced in DanMachi, and I find myself for the first time in a long time thinking of getting back into gaming for those large guild raids.

Aiz as a main character is an interesting choice given her silent nature. She doesn’t give away much expression wise to strangers. But spend a few fights with her and her peers and you’ll start to see another side of her full of emotion: frustration, confusion, hunger. She isn’t the invincible warrior we first saw with Bell; she struggles like everyone else to reach unknown heights and has a shrouded past we still don’t clear by the end of this season. I would love to see a second season, but I’m not sure if there’s one on the books for either series.

Loki, the deity of Aiz’s familia, is even more skeezy here than I remember. In the panel I sat in on, Omori attributed her personality to his idea of a lusting old man, which sounds about right given the way she acts around her girls. This character trait works well for Loki, but I didn’t like it as much in other characters, like Tione or Tiona, and especially with Lefiya whom I could have gone completely without in this story. Lefiya came across as the female equivalent of Bell, and didn’t add much to story or character development. I can see how she’d be popular with some fans though, so I can easily overlook her scenes.

Rating: 0 dango

Seikaisuru Kado

Let’s tackle this controversial sci-fi piece, shall we? I stand firm in my support for this show as both an excellent story and a commendable commentary on human advancement, and encourage you to read my earlier thoughts on the anime. The story was always bigger than just Shindo and zaShunina, addressing all of humanity now and into the future. The right answer could not be found with just one or the other, but had to include everyone to ensure their “happiness.” Despite the mixed responses on the ending, Kado is still worthy of your attention.

As an anime original, Kado had no manga, light novel, or game source material to pull from for its plot.  A manga adaptation was started, but not until after the series aired. The lack of an original work meant that the writer had the freedom to experiment, but also faced the danger of overextending. Taking the topic of advancement into mind, the show paced itself well within its allotted twelve episodes by limiting the number of relevant characters and staggering the surprises with zaShunina’s gifts to humankind. While the first gift of energy seemed to solve countless issues of poverty and war, it also softened the world to the alien encounter. The second gift of a sense for the anisotropic started to worry us, since it revealed the intention of manipulating our physical makeup. With the third gift giving us near-magical abilities, viewers worried along with the show’s human characters about the cost for all of these gifts. Were all the seeming inconveniences of humanity a comparable price to pay for evolution?

This brings us to the ending, so if you’d rather not be spoiled, please skip the next section.

I was a bit spoiled myself with tweets regarding a “magical girl” swooping in to save the day in the last episode. I thought they might mean Saraka, Shindo’s co-worker who turns out to be an anisotropic being born into a human body. What they really meant was the child of Shindo and Saraka, a half-human, half-anisotropic being somehow stronger than zaShunina. My only misgiving about Yukika is that I don’t see how she can be stronger than zaShunina. I want to know what it is about her human side that props her to the next level. The show claims that zaShunina misunderstood the true nature of the anisotropic, but I’ll have to do another watch to digest their meaning since it wasn’t clear to me in the first viewing.

It’s a mistake to oversimplify her role as encouragement to have sex and make babies. While, yes, Yukika comes about from the union of Shindo and Saraka, she better represents the next generation of humanity that accepts the merits of both sides without destroying either. One simple answer would be to go out and make children, but another approach would be to encourage education and communication. These are already issues present in today’s world, and we still face opposition to interracial marriages and global trade.

/end spoiler

I hope as the initial indignation at the final episode fades from discussion that more viewers will give Kado a chance and keep themselves open to the underlying messages. Multiply, sure, but also go forth and interact outside of your own circle. Listen and negotiate. Don’t be afraid of change, and don’t be afraid to honor your past traditions.

Rating: 2 dango

Atom: The Beginning

I’m glad to have a show like Atom: The Beginning to close out this spring season, since it finishes more powerfully than I had originally imagined. What started as a light-hearted show with a daily life feel turned into a serious discourse over the future and purpose of robotics, particularly AI like Lab 7’s A106 and Professor Lolo’s Mars. I also now feel an urge to try the original Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) series, which first aired almost sixty years ago. This desire came about by the prequel’s refreshed view and the depths to which its story and characters stirred my heart. It sounds cheesy, I know, but I found myself terrified and gripping my pillows in the last couple of episodes.

Six, officially A106, represents the ideals of the two young men who made him: Tenma Umatarou and Ochanomizu Hiroshi. Umatarou’s goal is to make the best robot, physically and mentally, and he treats Six like a tool. Hiroshi, too, wants to attain the highest level in his field, but is most concerned with creating a robot with a “heart,” one that does good and works together with humans. He shows real concern for Six’s wellbeing and forms an attachment that resists Umatarou’s frequent attempts to replace the old with the new.

The two seemingly opposing platforms come together with Six’s Bewusstein AI system, one that allows the robot to constantly evolve with his surroundings and experiences. He is able to assess a situation, even the expressions of humans, and act accordingly. We see this firsthand with more serious events like the near terrorist explosion at a highly populated robot gathering, as well as with a seemingly frivolous school festival where he shows off his udon-making skills. Each mini arc gives the audience a better understanding of Six’s capabilities, and leads us straight to the final act of Robo-Wres.

The robot wrestling tournament looks like a standard battle arc where we get to see Six’s strengths and weaknesses, but it goes so much further than that. We see a clear division between man-powered robots and those with A.I., the latter taking a superior stance. Six’s quick finish to his fights that seem to bypass the excitement of wrestling reveals not just his clear evaluation, but also his unwillingness to do unnecessary harm to his opponents. He ignores Umatarou’s commands to destroy, choosing to interpret orders in a way that preserves their dignity and gains their loyalty. As wonderful as it is to see Six take the high road as the “Kind-hearted Child of Science,” we’re also left wondering if he should even have the ability to choose. If he can take a gentle path, can he not also take a violent one? Robots like remote-controlled Mohican Boss and human-piloted Gigaton Hammer can only act exactly as they are told. This is particularly troubling considering the implications behind Mars’ specs–he is clearly created with military use in mind.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll leave my discussion of the story here. I really wish we could have spent a bit more time with Six and his crew, particularly Ran, since the last arc covered almost half of the season. There was also a bit of overlap in a couple of characters where one could’ve been completely folded into another. Moryia took up such little screen time and I don’t think it would’ve been too difficult to erase him and turn Motoko into just another student, or perhaps the little sister of Professor Lolo instead. The art and animation are top notch whenever the robots take the screen, particularly at the end. You can pause at any point during the fights and take a fabulous screenshot. With all this in mind, Atom: The Beginning is a wonderful addition to its franchise, and a story I dearly hope you will follow.

Rating: 2 dango

3 thoughts on “Spring 2017 Season Wrap: Sword Oratoria, KADO: The Right Answer, & Atom: The Beginning

  1. Of these, I only watched DanMachi, and it’s one of those series where I like the idea of the series a lot better than the execution. Unfortunately, it seems like Sword Oratorio is kind of a dumping ground for whatever story the author wants to tell, from whatever viewpoint is convenient. So it feels like it ends up incoherent, especially if you haven’t thrown out the promo copy of “See the story of Ais Wallenstein!” I mean, yeah, her story’s in there, but so is Lefiya’s, and so are the twins, and so is the Loki Familia. And they’re all told through different viewpoints, and there’s too much switching around, and it just kinda gets mushy.

    I like the characters, and I like the ficton, I just wish the story was told better than it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Listening to the author at his panel he did come across as a bit aimless, like he’s swimming in an ocean of material but isn’t sure which direction to go. This attitude is reflected well here with all the characters you name. With all that in mind, I’m surprised both you and I are able to still like the cast.


      • Yeah, it’s that kind of thing where you have to listen to an 8-year old tell you a story about something and they get hopelessly deep into some digression that is even LESS interesting than the story they were telling you about the first time.

        But honestly, with the characters and the story setup in DanMachi, it’s a lot better than that 2nd grader’s story. It got a lot better for me when I realized what it was doing and abandoned the expectation that it was going to be about Ais (sometimes people need to completely reevaluate their promo copy). It did end up being primarily about her, although even that part was less interesting than I hoped it would be. Instead of some interesting motivation for her quiet nature and working with Bell and working so hard, it was just “I want to get stronger.” That may have been the single most disappointing aspect of the series.

        But what made up for that was the other characters in the Loki family, especially the senior members of the expedition party. Those were the ones I found much more interesting, especially in the “changing of the guard” feeling. Gareth, Riveria, and Finne (even if he looks like a little kid) all recognizing that time is marching on them, and that these kids are coming along after them. I did find the gushing over Ais reaching Level 6 kind of overdone, especially coming from these other people who are already Level 6.

        And I just want to mention how ridiculous that whole setup with Ouranos (Uranus?) was, with that 10′ high throne in this room of darkness.

        Liked by 1 person

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