Winter 2018 CGDCT: Cute Characters? Cute Things? Part 2

Because of a power outage at work giving me some spare time, I actually managed to get this posted without a huge delay, hoorah for sparking transformers! So where were we. Beyond camping, hiding their ages, and threatening law enforcement with rocket launchers, the cute girls of winter 2018 are up to a few more cute things. Let’s see how the rest stack up against their seasonal and historic competition. They’re going to have to be cuter on the inside and out, do cuter things, and actually be entertaining to watch. For more intro, see part 1.

I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and love testing new recipes and discovering new dishes, so I’m always eager to check out the new food anime each season. Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, shockingly, focuses on different kinds of ramen, and the little tidbits about different regional styles, sauce compositions and noodle textures are nice details. I also appreciate that the girls aren’t overly sexualized when they are eating. Sure they get red, but they’re eating hot and spicy dishes, what do you want? I get a red face when drinking tea…or existing.

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Beyond the lovingly detailed noodle animation, the show doesn’t have much to offer. Ms. Koizumi has no personality beyond what is given in the title, and Yuu doesn’t impress with her shallow and pushy lesbian routine. I’ve seen this character before and am rarely amused. After a full episode of rejection from Ms. Koizumi, she doesn’t adjust her tune at all. Whereas in Laid-Back Camp Nadeshiko left the ball in Rin’s court, giving her own contact info without expectation, Yuu insists on injecting herself into the life of someone who isn’t interested.  While it isn’t a favorite, Gourmet Graffiti Girls was much better at showing female friendships developed through shared meals. I do love that Ms. Koizumi’s hair is noodles though. As for the rest of her design, well, take these shots.

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Shot from the op
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Sakura glamour shot

First of all, the initial design proportions seem off, even the OP shot, which should have some of the best animation in the show. Her legs, torso and head all look like they belong to different character models, or like they were each scaled separately. The legs look too skinny and short for how thick and balanced the proportions covered by her uniform are. Her head should be bigger to emphasize the chibi look created by the legs and tiny feet. Moving down to the cherry blossom shot, when a character is majestically posed against a backdrop of falling blossoms, we expect a gorgeous, on-model shot with clean lines, but we instead get this blobby model that barely matches the proportions of the above shot. This wasn’t a quick cut either, they held on it for a few moments. The shots during the meal were well done, so it’s even more strange that all of these shots belong to the same show. For a premise as simple as girls enjoying a meal, the animation should be able to keep up. Again, while Gourmet Graffiti Girl had its flaws, it always looked good. The variety of dishes kept things interesting too. I can see being amused by a few episodes of ramen, but I’d rather have some variety. I got to go out for secret ramen over the weekend, and that satiated my craving for the stuff. When the dishes are different each week, I get new cravings and the urge to try new dishes.

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Another first episode spent a good amount of time focussing on food this week, though I don’t think that will continue to be a main focus. So itty that they can’t even bite through a tomato skin, this season’s smallest cute girls are found in Hakumei and Mikochi.Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 10.29.11 AM.png

These girls are flat-out adorable, and I love the storybook aesthetic the show gives off with the talking animals and panel-like composition. The clothing designs are especially endearing, with their cozy dresses and squishy hats. Speaking of cozy, that’s what this series is. The titular girls are very comfortable in their lives with each other. An off hand line about Hakumei’s mug being the former guest mug tells us that Mikochi took her in at some point, but by now they are accustomed to life together. That does mean that unless we flashback to their meeting, we’re unlikely to see any significant growth for these girls. The fact that they are already comfortable with each other means that although Hakumei does have things to learn about the world, they won’t necessarily be learning a lot about each other. Even the things they do learn, like the revelation about Mikochi’s pet bird don’t seem to change anything about their relationship. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that combined with the children’s storybook nature that gives so much to the shows charm keeps things too simple to be very interesting. The most memorable characters in these mellow types of shows have believable relationships that we will actually see them grow from over the course of the series, like in Flying Witch.

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The charm of Flying Witch came from the interactions the characters shared combined with the casually magical world they lived in. There weren’t any huge moments of personal growth in the show, but you could tell that the characters were growing and changing because of the time they spent together. Chinatsu gained a belief in herself, setting a goal to become a witch someday too because of the small moments of magic in her life. Nao learned to accept Makoto for who she was, even if she still found magic a little freaky. While Hakumei and Mikochi’s world does create that same sense of subdued wonder, and I can believe in the friendship between Hakumei and Mikochi, I see their relationship as staying fairly static over the course of the season. I could see turning this on before bed, but I don’t think I’d go back to re-watch anything I missed while sleeping.

Although CGDCT anime rarely has opportunity for impressive moments of intense movement, subtle character animation can do wonders to sell characters’ emotions and personalities. Being able to stick to the design doc while also maintaining enough squash and stretch to be expressive enough to execute successful non-verbal communication is critical. Sheesh that sentence just sucked all the joy out of the concept. For that, the winner this season is A Place Further than the Universe. The characters are extremely expressive and able to pull of faces like this one while definitely sticking to the spirit of the character, and even enhancing it.

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Before this shot, we only see Shirase as a mysterious, if slightly careless beauty, just out of reach of the protagonist, Mari. Next thing we know, she is storming out of a bathroom stall, ugly crying in relief that her money has been returned. Her expressive face shows an innocence and vulnerability that betrays her very serious intention to prove everyone wrong and travel to Antarctica, making us actually care if she gets there or not just because she cares so darn much. The girls in A Place Further than the Universe are not only well designed and animated, but they also have layers to them. Even Mari, who specifically begins episode 1 as someone without any goals or dreams beyond having goals and dreams exhibits that quintessential teenage desperation to make something of life in the here and now. If she can’t think of a dream, she’ll just piggyback onto someone else’s while showing enough gumption to actually help that someone move forward. Those qualities make you interested in following her, because she is actively trying to grow. Look at it this way, there’s a reason the show isn’t following the Mari from a year ago.

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On top of all that, as I mentioned the cute thing these girls are doing is going to Antarctica. How cool is that? I’m looking forward to having these charming girls teach me all sorts of interesting things about ice-breaker ships, Antarctic exploration equipment, penguins, and if we’re lucky, sled dogs. Please let there be sled dogs.

Man, that’s a lot of cute, and I haven’t even gotten to the cute buys doing cute things offerings this season. I think there is something for everyone, even if you don’t typically watch CGDCT. I’m ranking them as follows:

  1. Laid-Back Camp
  2. A Place Further than the Universe
  3. Hakumei and Mikoshi
  4. Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles
  5. Mitsuboshi Colors
  6. Slow Start

I don’t plan on continuing Slow Start, Mitsuboshi Colors or Hakumei and Mikoshi. Ms. Koizumi is right on the edge, I’m just too big of a sucker for food shows. On the other hand, I could see Laid-Back Camp and A Place further than the Universe becoming some of my favorites in the genre.

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Curse you ramen show and you’re tiny facts about broth composition, why can’t I quit you.
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