2014: 3rd day of Animanga

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This year I started trying out some retro anime with my partner but we kept being disappointed in that they either were boring or had some notoriously awful script and equally ridiculous characters. So I was a bit afraid that we would drop this series, too, but we were pleasantly surprised by how good it actually was. We have to thank the anonymous joker, a commentor here, for the recommendation.

Carried by the Wind:Tsukikage Ran or Ran, the Samurai Girl, as it’s known in English, is a small hidden gem created by MADHOUSE back in the early 2000. If you liked Samurai Champloo there are high chances, you’ll love this as well. I am actually impressed that this isn’t more well known, what with slice-of-life and comedy series being popular and the fact we don’t get often female samurai much more a show all of their own. 

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Introductions are important and I found myself lately relying on them a lot. And by introductions I mean the staff working behind a series. Carried by the Wind:Tsukikage Ran is directed by Akitaro Daichi who’s worked on Bokura ga Ita and Kamisama Kiss for both of which I’ve heard really good things. Under his belt he also has Kodocha, Fruits Basket and Now and Then, Here and There. Among the script writers I noticed Yosuke Kuroda, who’s responsible for the series composition and script of Trigun, and Michiko Yokote, who wrote the Bakeneko arc of Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales and episodes 2, 5, 7-8, 11, 16-17, 24 of Cowboy Bebop.

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Still not excited? Behind the music is Toshihiko Sahashi, who’s composed the riveting OSTs for Simoun, Gunslinger Girl, Katekayo Hitman Reborn and Full Metal Panic. The music for the old Hunter x Hunter is also this guy’s work. Although Tsukikage Ran is mostly comedic and the soundtrack is jollier, there are some action and drama tracks and generally it works very well for the series. The OP and ED song are the same, a wonderful enka ballad, just sung by the voice actresses of the protagonists in turns and gives you a good idea about the series’ atmosphere. Both the music and the visuals create a retro feeling to the viewer, to the point you’d guess it’s an anime from the early 90s if not earlier.

989So what’s it about? From what you may have guessed it’s about Ran kicking ass alongside Myao. It’s about a “beautiful (sake-swelling) wanderer” and “that imbecile, blockheaded, happy-go-lucky Ninnypot” or if you prefer that “100% nincompoopsical idiot clutz”. Yes, it’s lovely tsukkomi and boke. But they aren’t only their stereotypical images. Myao might be more of a classical genki airhead, Ran isn’t totally “straight” though (take it both ways, dear readers 😉 ). As the series unfolds we see not just her tottemo kakkoi side, but also her getting overenthusiastic about seeing an elephant in a circus or reacting ludicrously to Myao’s antics. She may seem indifferent to what is happening around her; nevertheless, she’ll serve justice and won’t abandon people who need her. She’s also a bit greedy and egoistic when it comes to sake.

Their voice actresses, Reiko Yasuhara (Ran) and Akemi Okamura (Myao) do a superb job at displaying the two women’s feelings and illustrating their character. I’m particularly in love with Ran’s voice *my new waifu, you can have me*!

I’d say it’s an excellent feminist narrative that everyone will enjoy and should check it out.

Episode Summaries

  1. She’s Tough for a Woman: The title is ironic for those underestimating Ran and Myao due to their sex. Three brothers search for someone strong enough to shoo a dynastic clan out of their town.
  2. Sake Made the Tears Sting: Ran gets into a town where sake is demonized and sold only at a certain place heavily watered down. And Ran can’t tolerate this injustice towards sake.
  3. Suddenly, I was a Mother: Myao is unlucky both because Ran is a leech to her pocket and because she finds herself with a mistress’ baby from a good house that felt victim to the legal wife’s spitefulness.
  4. I Was a Target Before I Knew It: Myao steals money from a shrine along with a map. She gets followed by a gang as a result. The duo will have to defend the wife of a dead ex-gang member and two noobies who changed their mind about joining the gang.
  5. It Was Pretty Amazing When I Stripped: An old geezer wants to paint portraits of beautiful ladies and he so happens to stumble upon Ran and Myao. What he doesn’t know is that these pictures are used by his higher ups for very fishy and awful business.
  6. The Mole Was in the Wrong Place: There’s a duo that robs people during the night and whose description resembles Ran’s and Myao’s. This gets our heroines into trouble, but they’ll soon manage to clear any misunderstanding.
  7. I Buzzed with Electricity: A young scientist gets supported by his village to research electricity obtained through lightning to get them faster boats. The problem is that he gets pressured to have the rights of the device bought by Kikuhimeya, who threatens him with sabotaging the fishers’ efforts with his pirates. The protagonists give a helping hand one more time.
  8. There Was No God in This World: Some con artists have created a religion and it’d be impossible for our naive Myao not to fall in the trap. People lose their property and the life of their beloved becomes threatened, so Ran won’t take this bullshit.
  9. I Counted on an Enemy: Myao wants to visit an old friend who’s made it big and owes her some money. She’s really happy to see her but her friend not exactly so. After all, finding out she’s involved in people’s death and illegal trade means she’ll have to silence her.
  10. That European Girl was Huge: A blond, blue-eyed foreigner will either be the cause of all evil or an otaku. This gigantic girl with a kid’s brain definitely belongs in the second category trying to be samurai, mistaking what geisha and ninja are and so on. Ran tries to get rid of her ever since she latched onto her. Good satire on exotification.
  11. Vengeance Made Himself an Enemy: A father makes his kids stage a fake revenge challenge to drain their victim from money. Our duo will intervene to make a change, but the father is confrontated by his past. Good commentary on bushido.
  12. I Was So Crucified I Didn’t Know What to Do!: Myao plays the valiant hero once again only to find herself carrying an expensive plate and painted criminal by a magistrate doing some illegal business.
  13. She Hid a Romance in the Past: Ran helps her former love find happiness by taking fierce measures, since he isn’t the decisive type. He’s protecting a dojo in return for free sake, unwilling to let go of his sword even though his lover is in danger of getting bought by his boss.

I really wish it was longer.

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13 thoughts on “2014: 3rd day of Animanga

    • If I recall correctly, it’s mostly slapstick style, occasionally bordering on sketch. It’s definitely more of a “vintage” series; not the Three Stooges, but not exactly Key & Peele, either.

      I guess part of why I liked it so much, though, is that even so I didn’t find it antiquated so as to be boring (a problem I have with a lot of older series). Ran was legitimately funny, though I think it had a bit of a rocky start at the beginning.

      Let me put it like this: I didn’t watch the show for laughs – there’s plenty to like beyond the comedy – but that’s usually what I did anyways. Hopefully that makes sense.

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        • Some more clarification:
          Sitcom style means that episodes have a distinct plot, and the gags are a part of the plot. (Although a 30min slot might contain two episodes) Act-based structure applies to the overall episode length.
          Sketch style, especially in anime, tends to involve someone wondering about some phenomenon in life, and then Things Happen exploring the issue in comedic ways. Gags tend to be only connected thematically. Act-based structure only applies to individual gags.

          From this, it seems like this show is more sitcom style.
          (Is it just me, or did sketch style comedies in anime only recently become more prevalent, in tandem with the rise of moe shows? K-ON is kind of the perfect fusion of the two styles.)

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          • I see. Thanks for the clarifications!

            I usually avoid comedy because I either miss the cultural context or the sense of humor most anime comedies have is not my cup of tea. I tried Zetsubou Sensei some years ago and I couldn’t really laugh. I haven’t watched K-On, but I think you’re right with your remark from the glimpses I get from popular shows.

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  1. Yet another successful suggestion! I have never heard of this, but I do love Samurai Champloo and like plenty of those other works you reference who share the same staff. I’ll will definitely hunt this down and try it out 🙂

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    • I can’t remember the particular battle but from a point onward I felt that the battling scenes were more or less the same; that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment though. How did you find the series overall? I get the impression you found it mediocre, am I wrong?

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      • No, I actually loved it a lot! It definitely took a little bit of getting into, but I really enjoyed it once I hit my groove. I absolutely loved both the leads, I liked a lot of the themes and ideas in each of the episodes (and the execution of said ideas & themes), and I even kinda dug the formulaic nature of the series by the end.

        Most surprising to me was that I started the series really disliking Myao (or Meow, as the subs I watched called her), and by the end she was – by far – my favorite character. I’ve had that happen with very few series before, so it was refreshing in that regard, too.

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