Welcome to the first semi-final of the 2016 edition of ‘A Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ We’re heading into the home straight now! Before we begin though … a quick reminder of the rules:
- The QF winners have been paired up for battle, and I will now be watching episode three of each anime
- If the series has multiple seasons, Istick with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show has made it through
Now … confession time. From the moment that this match-up was drawn, it became the most highly anticipated battle of the tournament for me thus far. Love Live! has been one of the biggest surprises of this who piece for me, tromping to two 7 – 5 victories, first over Sword Art Online, then over Lupin III Part 4. What makes that surprising for me is that it’s really not my sort of show in general. Standing across from this surprising behemoth is he equally surprising Flying Witch, which bagged a 12 – 0 victory over Danchigai then an 8 – 4 win over Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories. Again, this is not the sort of show that I normally watch, and to see if have such a consistently good run has been marvellous. Only one can advance to the final though, while the other will move into the third place play-off match. Which one gets a shot at glory? Let’s find out …
Love Live! School Idol Project
We start with Honoka and Kotori continuing their training with Umi, and we can see that they’ve progressed from simply running and exercising to also practicing their dance routine during the session. The trio stop for a break and Umi exclaims that she expected Honoka to oversleep and be late all the time, but Honoka says not to worry as she gets plenty of sleep in class. Meanwhile, Nishikino is nearby and gets spotted by the ever-happy Honoka, who calls her over. Nishikino tells her off for shouting at her (because it’s embarrassing) and Honoka brings out her MP3 player, confirming that it contains a copy of the song that Nishikino wrote. She asks her if she’d like to listen to the three of them singing it, but Nishikino pretends that she didn’t write it. With a roar, Honoka leaps at the poor girl, invading her personal space with a plethora of creepy faces, and forces an ear phone into Nishikino’s ear. She hits play, and we jump to the opening credits. I still can’t get over the animation style. It’s so off putting, and for me, an accidental blight on what has otherwise been an enjoyable series thus far.
Back at school, random pupils are discussing which clubs they’ll join. Kayo, being incredibly shy, waits until they’re all gone, and makes a mad dash for a sign up form. It should be fairly clear by now that she plans to join the Idol Club, of course, but we shall see. Meanwhile, outside the main building, our intrepid trio is accosted by some other pupils and they request a preview of the concert. Honoka is all up for it, but Umi seems unsure. Like really unsure. Like absolutely terrified at the prospect. Honoka tells the girls that they’ll give them a preview if they’ll bring lots of friends to the concert, a term to which they agree, and Honoka and Kotori get ready to start … but Umi has scarpered. We cut to the roof to find that she is huddled against a wall, convinced that she won’t be able to do the performance. It’s such a wonderfully played contrast to her general confidence. Unfortunately, some cheesy music plays in the background to break the mood. That’s actually the first piece of misplaced soundtrack that I’ve heard in the series. Anyway, Honoka tries to talk Umi out of her nervousness by advising her to think of the audience as vegetables if she gets nervous. Umi thinks about it briefly, but it’s a no go. She says that she’ll be OK as long as the singing is not in front of people, and Honoka decides to take drastic action, dragging Umi to her feet and telling her that she’ll have to get used to it.
Out in the streets, the trio are about to hand out flyers. Honoka has intentionally chosen a crowded area to get Umi used to public speaking. Umi tries the vegetable trick again, but it leaves her with visions of weird human / vegetable hybrids, ruining any shot that she had. The group move to outside the school instead, but Umi is still struggling to talk to people. Worse, when she does manage to offer a flyer to someone, she gets turned down straight off the bat. Honoka tells Umi that she can’t leave until she hands all the flyers out, citing that she took the same route with Honoka when it came to doing five laps up the stairs, so Umi gets herself motivated and gives it a crack.
Later, Honoka and Umi are watching Idol videos on a laptop and Honoka notices that their own Idol Ranking has increased. Kotori turns up with the group’s outfits. Honoka loves the prototype but Umi takes a knock from seeing how short the skirt is. She had previously insisted on it being knee length and is now rather annoyed. Honoka tries to pass it off as just something that Idol’s do, but Umi rightly states that there are no rules on skirt length. She threatens to do the concert in her school uniform and tells her friends that it’s their fault for conspiring behind her back. Honoka apparently just wants it to be a success, and is eventually able to convince Umi to agree to wearing the outfit. That’s a shame, because there was potentially good message there, but oh well. The girls go off and pray for success, and we hit the half way mark for the episode.
The next day, the welcome party ends, and Honoka and Kotori attempt to hand out more flyers, but are having a tough time. Umi manages to have some more luck though, and various other pupils start helping the girls because they too want to save the school. The girls change into their outfits while some epic music plays in the background. Umi tries to get away with wearing tracksuit bottoms under the skirt, but Honoka rips them off. Between that, the skirt thing in general, and the roar attack earlier, she’s potentially setting herself up as a bit of a *ahem* pest in the future there. Meanwhile, Rin pops up and tries to drag Kayo off to see the Track Club. Kayo wants to go to the concert, but Rin’s Nya-and-run assault prevents her.
It’s show time. The girls count themselves in and burst into giggles, then step out in front of … an empty auditorium. Everyone has been drawn in by the other clubs you see. Now that’s a setback. Honoka is shocked and starts thinking about all the training that she’s done. She tries to tough it out, saying that ‘of course this would happen, the world isn’t that easy’, but immediately drops into being on the verge of tears. Suddenly, Kayo turns up. This heartens Honoka, and she decides that they should go ahead as planned. The lights dim, and they begin … it’s a good song, but the animation feels like it’s jumping between normal and opening credit style, which is a little jarring for me. Slowly, as the concert goes on, a handful of other people start to listen in from various places, and the handful of people that the girls have managed to draw in seem really impressed. Ayase, the Student Body President turns up and asks them what they’re going to do now, to which Honoka replies that she will continue. The Prez doesn’t see the point, but Honoka wants to give people what she can, and believes that they will one day fill the auditorium. We end with the bouncy end theme kicking in over an intense stare down between Honoka and Ayase. In general, that was a good episode, albeit not as good the previous two. More on that later though.
The desert. Sandy, wibbly wobbly to look at, and clearly rather hot. A lady asks her cat what year it is and states that ‘she must be off on her own now, that girl’. That’ll be Makoto that she’s talking about, I bet. Queue the ever fun opening … and we’re back at Makoto’s current home. Makoto’s Uncle is about this time, and Makoto asks him if he can recommend a farm where she can grow some vegetables and plants as part of her witch training. He points out that there’s one behind the house, but that it’s full of weeds so she’ll need to tidy it up first. He also offers a shovel and fertiliser, and Makoto zones out a bit … ah, I see. The Uncle was using terms like ‘thar’ and ‘haf’ta’ a lot, and she didn’t understand. Luckily, Chinatsu is on hand to translate. Outside, Kei and Makoto laugh about what happened, with Kei pointing out that his Dad does have a bit of a thick accent. Makoto feels a little bad that Kei is helping her with the work, but he says that she shouldn’t worry as he was bored anyway, and as the son of a farmer, he should learn this stuff too. He isn’t sure whether he’ll take over the family business as, although he thinks about it, his family told him that he can do whatever he wants. That’s a beautifully progressive attitude compared to that shown in some anime where the eldest son is expected to take over the family business no matter what. They find the farmland and … it really is covered in weeds. Like literally covered in them. Oh, and there’s a ladybug. The land hasn’t been touched since Rei’s grandmother passed away, so has fallen into disrepair. He points out that it would take forever to tidy properly, so they should probably just clear the bit that they’re going to use.
Makoto begins the endless cycle of pulling a single weed, falling on her butt, and repeating. Chinatsu comes to help too, and Chito the cat tags along, as he follows Chinatsu around a lot. The girls discuss how witches need to grow vegetables to increase their knowledge as that will make them more efficient. Makoto asks Chinatsu what her favourite vegetable is and, being a kid, Chinatsu says that she doesn’t much care for vegetables. Time skip, and the weeds are cleared from a large chunk of land. Rei calls a break, and Makoto finds a pheasant. It’s the first time that she’s seen one, and she is enthralled with how pretty it is. So much so in fact that she tries to catch it, and falls flat on her face in the attempt. While Rei and Chinatsu relax with a drink, Makoto continues the attempt at catching the bird, causing Rei to comment that she looks like she’s ploughing the field. Eventually, she tires and comes over to rest, but decides that the bird is taunting her with a birdy ‘bring it on’. Seeing how fun the chase is, Chito decides to try too, but the pheasant is far too fast, leaving the poor pussy grumpy.
Next, Rei and the girls spread the land with lime and fertiliser. He tells Makoto that they’ll have to leave the soil for a few weeks so that it can soak everything up. Chinatsu asks what vegetables they’ll be planting and Makoto proceeds to list every vegetable and herb she knows until Rei points out that they don’t have that much land to work with. Next, Uncle Kuramoto comes out, and is suitably impressed. He offers to give advice as and when needed. Makoto says that she heard that you can’t grow some vegetables together, and the Uncle starts to explain this … but he spots the pheasant starts to give chase so that he can show it to Makoto. Ha!
The mid-way interlude comes and goes, as is its habit, and we cut back to Chinatsu watering flowers. The mysterious desert dweller shows up and tells Chinatsu that the flower is a pretty petunia. She knows Chinatsu it seems and asks if Makoto is home, but it turns out that she’s not. Chinatsu’s Mum is home though, so the lady wanders in to say hi. Chinatsu decides that it must be ‘another weirdo’. Later, Makoto and Rei return, unaware of what they’ll find. The desert cat wanders up, mews, and Makoto says ‘Kenny-san, long time no see’. After a moment, she realises that Kenny wasn’t in the house previously. Inside, Chinatsu is busy beating the now unmasked lady from the desert at Old Maid. The lady is Akane, Makoto’s sister. She’s dropped by to see how Makoto is doing. Unlike Makoto, she’s a bit more forward and confident, and she’s been living as a nomad for some time now. Anyway, she has gifts from Africa for everyone. Chinatsu gets a fruit that she can apparently use to make chocolate, Makoto gets a chunk of rock salt, and Rei gets a small pot of oil. Oh, and Akane also brought raw coffee beans.
With the weird gifts out of the way, Rei and Chinatsu wander off, leaving Akane to ask Makoto if it’s true that she hasn’t used magic since she arrived (Chito blabbed). Makoto is rather embarrassed, and apologises. Akane says that she doesn’t need to apologise as she’s not the sort of witch that relies on spells like she does, but points out that if she doesn’t cast any spells at all, then her power will weaken. She decides to teach Makoto a simple spell to practise, and asks Chinatsu if there’s a good place they can go where nobody will be around. They go outside and Akane asks Chinatsu for some strands of hair. She puts them in an envelope and writes an incantation on the front, explaining that she needs a girl’s black hair for it to work so, as her hair is grey, she can’t use her own. Next, she burns it to ashes in a small fire, then puts out the fire out with water. Chinatsu asks if that’s it, as she thinks it was lame. Akane tells her to put her arm out and … a crow flies down! The spell summons wild crows, and is something that withes did during the war so that they could use the crows for reconnaissance. Makoto tries the spell, but instead of a thin wispy white smoke, she gets a massive black plume when she pours water on the fire. Whoops! Makoto has summoned every crow in the area. This, if you hadn’t guessed, is the result of using a witch’s hair rather than a regular girl’s hair. Silly Akane, you should have told Makoto that.
Akane is about to leave, and Makoto asks her how to get rid of the crows. She says that they’ll go away themselves eventually, steps into a pattern that she’s drawn on the ground, and disappears. Chinatsu describes Akane as being like a typhoon. The funny thing is, that’s all relative. Compared to something like Bleach, Akane was nowhere near a typhoon. In the laid back world of Flying Witch though, she was pretty chaotic in comparison to the regular cast members. The rain soaked end theme is as relaxing as ever.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The categories are: Best Story Progression, Best Character Progression, Best Individual Scene, Best Character, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
Both shows approach this in different ways. In terms of Flying Witch, the story moves along as a slow, leisurely pace, with little snippets dropping out along the way. Love Live! moves a fair bit quicker, and gives chunks in each episode. While both styles are well suited to their respective shows, I must admit, Love Live really did this a little better this time around. The whole move towards the first concert, the near disaster that it was, and the resolve moving forward all combine to give it the win and the points here. And if that’s not enough for you? Lots of little seeds were sown for the involvement of other characters throughout. Best Story Progression: Love Live!
It could be argued that switching Umi to the lead role for this episode allowed for some pretty good character progression here. We did get to see her nerves getting the better of her, and she did work through this, but it felt a little too easy to me. I get that she had support from her friends, but Honoka’s pushiness did verge of overbearing this time around, and Umi was just kinda dragged along until concert day. Meanwhile, we got a fair bit more out of Makoto this time around. The addition of her sister, learning about how her powers will fade if she doesn’t practice magic, learning about her requirement to work with plants and that there’s more than one type of witch … this was actually pretty hefty for Flying Witch, and more than enough to give it the points. Best Character Progression: Flying Witch
While Flying Witch was a hoot, Love Live! gets this one. The moment of realisation for Honoka when the curtain parts and the auditorium is empty, followed by her attempt to cover up her disappointment and the way that it fell away so quickly? That whole thing was so well done. Easy win. Best Individual Scene: It’s all gone wrong (Love Live!)
Oddly, Love Live! tripped itself up here. The only two that really got any major screen time were Umi and Honoka. Honoka was for the most part less likeable this time around for me, and Umi, despite being a firm favourite for me, felt like she was rushed through her arc. Meanwhile, Flying Witch had the usual suspects and the introduction of both the Uncle and Akane. Akane, while only present for half the episode, was so instrumental in moving things forward, and she did so in a fun way. Like I said, she wouldn’t be a typhoon in most series, but in this one, she was precisely the type of typhoon that it needed. Best Character: Akane (Flying Witch)
Flying Witch. It’s smooth, the style is beautiful, and it’s consistent. Love Live! could have snagged a draw here had it stuck with its normal animation throughout, but the switching back and forth during the concert performance was just so jarring to watch to me. Best Animation: Flying Witch
Flying Witch’s soundtrack continues to be completely unobtrusive, and pretty damn pleasant overall. Love Live! does have the bonus of working with a pretty good song, but it made a few fumbles here: the epic music playing after the girls had changed was misplaced, the music during Umi’s breakdown broke the mood, and the bouncy end theme came in a little too early for my liking, detracting from the stare down. For sheer consistency, Flying Witch gets the points. Best Soundtrack: Flying Witch
Final Scores: Love Live! School Idol Project – 4 points, Flying Witch – 8 points
And so Flying Witch advances to the finals to face the winner of Amanchu! and Kiznaiver! I am continuing to enjoy Love Live! despite it slipping up this week, and so it’ll be interesting to see how it does in the third place off, but Flying Witch is just such a charming show that it’s hard not to love it.
Regardless though, I hope you’re all continuing to enjoy the series, even now as it draws near to a close. Until next time, thanks for reading.