Fuuka, and the nature of bad anime

In which I talk about an anime being awful but still tell you to watch it anyway.

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Fuuka is incredibly stupid. I’m opening with something that strong because it’s true, this show (for now) is as deep as a puddle with the brief glimmers of originality drowned in a play by play of the romance/harem anime tropes. And yet I find myself fascinated by it. It’s a clear train wreck 3 episodes in, and worse, it’s a predictable train wreck but there a times I’ve laughed out loud at the sheer audacity it shows.

For example the main characters arrange a date and both arrive at the meeting place, but can’t find each other as one is stood on one side of the statue whilst the other is sat down on the opposite side. Various POV shots set up the idea that neither can see the other. So I thought to myself “I bet there going to walk around the statue and completely miss each other”….

Two seconds later they did exactly that, it was oddly beautiful. There were a few times this same line of events played out. They set up a scene, I guessed what would follow and it happened to the letter. This isn’t be petting my overinflated ego either, it’s just so generic that anyone who’s had a passing look at romance shows in general would know what’s coming. So I find myself wondering if this is going to be the next in the long line of genre deconstruction shows the Japanese seem so found of making now a days after the success of One Punch Man, Konosuba and Madoka Magi.

And after a bit more thought, I’m thinking it probably isn’t, this is show is just what you get on the tin, a generic anime with little to redeem it for now. But I’ll still watch it this season, because as stated before there is some perverse joy to be gained from watching something bad attempt to be good and only get half way. Now should I be applauding it for being a bad show, probably not, in theory the industry would only improve with well-balanced critique, I think I am not providing right now. But I would also argue, that you need to keep the bad shows around, to further reveal the greatness in other shows. I spent all of 2016 comparing every film I saw to Batman VS Superman, something I really try to avoid doing due to inherent differences between movie genres but it made everything just seem better. It’s healthy in a media landscape to have a broad range of quality, we have to take the good with the bad and several years from now no-one will remember Fuuka. So whilst it’s here, why not enjoy the fact that shows like it exist? as long as we still recognise the fact that it is bad.

Anime Winter Season: Top Picks

In which I take a look at the upcoming season, and highlight my picks

So first post of a brand new year and where better to start than with a look at the upcoming season of anime. In basically the exact same form as my Fall review, you’ll find below my picks for the next few months and the reasons behind it.

So without further ado let’s start by looking at the sequel series I’m picking up:

KONO SUBARASHII SEKAI NI SHUKUFUK WO! 2

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Otherwise known as Kono Suba, this anime was a personal favourite of last year. It takes the “trapped in a fantasy world” genre and flips it on its head with the aim of comedy, and good god does it work well. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve had the pleasure of watching. I see no reason that the sequel season won’t continue along the same lines, as the first didn’t really end, just sort of culminated in the promise of more.

The first episode is set to air January 12th

LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA

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So I would hesitate to call it a sequel, because I believe it’s going to be a full restart told from the beginning of Akko Kagari enrolment at the Luna Nova Magical Academy. To quickly summarise though, Little Witch Academia is a set of 2 anime OVA’s detailing a very Harry Potter-esq magic school for witches. It focuses on 3 obvious outcasts and the random adventures they get into it and both shorts are incredibly well made. This is something that was just screaming out for a full series and at last Netflix swooped into provide. This was on my list faster than anything else really.

The first episode is set to air January 9th

And that’s it for sequel stuff so onto the next section, THE USUAL STUFF. Prepare for a lot of my usual Slice-of-life stuff.

DEMI-CHAN WA KATARITAI

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The set up for this is that a biology teacher is in charge of teaching 3 young demi-humans. And that’s it. It seems like it can go one of two ways. A slow burning character piece that shows the growth of the teacher and how the 3 children effect his growth (a favourite plot line of mine) or it could just turn into a gag a week thing as he struggles to keep their attention in class. My guess is it’s probably gonna be a balance of both with more of a trend towards gag a week. Just because that’s easier to do. But I’m hopeful here.

The first episode is set to air January 8th

KOBOYASHI-SAN CHI NO MAID DRAGON

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Moving forward with the theme of Demi-Humans, we have a very obvious straight man/funny man duo here, with a humble office woman paired up with a ‘kooky’ dragon that is trying to repay a debt through being their maid. The PV seems funny, and seeing as I don’t speak an ounce of Japanese and there were no subtitles, that means at least the tone and timing seem on point. IT’s worth a shot either way, I am hankering for more comedy anime.

The first episode is set to air on January 12th

GABRIEL DROPOUT

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An angel on a mission to bring love gets horribly distracted by turning into an otaku. It obviously will walk the fine line between being good and awful. But that’s what chances are for, and I’m sure it won’t be that bad. It’s at least a plot hook I haven’t seen before so maybe something new will come out of it.

The first episode is set to air on January 9th

KUZU NO HONKAI

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And to veer away from this slice-of-life comedy and into romance. Two students suffering the pangs of unrequited love turn to a relationship with each other to fill the void. IT seems like it could offer some interesting character moments and far too many emotions. Maybe providing something a little bit more serious in this sea of comedy I seem to be picking up.

The first episode is set to air on January 13th

NYANKO DAYS

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And now we are back to cutesy filled waters. I haven’t even looked up anything for this past the poster and short one line synopsis “Tomoko is a shy girl who comes home from school and is greeted by her three (personified) cats, Ma, Ro, and Shi.” I’m thinking this will be show I can just switch off to and enjoy some mindlessly Moe stuff.

The first episode is set to air January 8th

The next section is me going out of my usual comfort zone. Completely motivated that I skipped over Yuri on Ice this season and didn’t hop on that bandwagon till it ended. Which I am incredibly ashamed about, because it was AMAZING

ACCA: 13-KU KANSATSU-KA

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Ah politics. I think the closest I’ve come to a thriller anime was Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood so maybe it’s time I looked into a thing about the various admin departments of a country and the guy that oversees them all. The PV doesn’t really give me much to run on. Seems like it’s trying a little hard to be cool. But the animation is a little different and I think there is room for something deeper to appear.

The first episode is set to air January 10th

CHOU SHOUNEN TANTEIDAN NEO

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Literally the only reason I’m picking this show is because of its animation style. That’s it. I don’ even know what it’s about other then maybe a kid solving mysteries.

The first episode is set to air January 2nd

Finally we move into the home stretch, and enter the last section of my choices, the THESE SEEM SO REDICULOUS I HAVE TO WATCH section. They will probably be awful, but I just have to find out.

FUUKA

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It’s a romance anime about a guy that REALLY loves twitter…… but the main love interest breaks his phone on their first meeting so he can’t tweet anymore. This is so ridiculous and I love it. I just have to know how vapid and moronic the main character is, and how much they misinterpret twitter. Should be good for a drunken laugh.

The first episode is set to air January 7th

SPIRITPACT

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This one seems very over the top, a dead exorcist teams up with an alive one to-do exorcism stuff. IT will probably have all bang and no buck. Full of spectacle and nothing else. So good popcorn fodder, and I need at least one of those each season to act as a pallet cleanser. And a comparison of the worst to make everything seem better.

The first episode is set to air January 7th

So there we go, 11 shows to welcom in the new year. Ranging from ones i know i’ll like, to ones i’ll most likely hate should be a good time for all. So here to a good year full to the brim of blogging (if all goes to plan I should have a large backlog to keep me going strong for a few months so look forward to more western centered posts mixed in with a this steady stream of anime content)

Gakkō Gurashi! – A review

“This is a weird one”

Light Spoilers inbound

‘Gakkō Gurashi!’ focuses on the daily lives of 4 highschool girls as they live their entire life out of the school under the guise of the “School-Life” club. It reeks of classic Slice-of-Life anime but it took me a while to get around to it for two reasons. One, that synopsis is really generic, it lacks anything to really grab me. The second reason I didn’t watch it till this week was also the reason I didn’t watch it until now. If you follow me. This anime is a zombie show, in the style of The Walking Dead, focusing on a close nit group of survivors as they struggle to make it day to day. It wasn’t high on my list due to it seeming like a really weird tonal mix on paper and I felt it couldn’t really balance itself without a massive amount of difficulty.

But I found myself with a hole in my life this week and a need to binge watch an anime show from start to finish, and with my current university research into horror and the spooky season of Halloween coming up I felt it prudent to finally give it a go. This is a pretty good show. It is also pretty weird though. its mixing of the tropes of Slice-of-Life on this backdrop of violence and terror eminent in a zombie show (there is plenty of blood and gore all over the place) make it feel quite jarring in places when it goes from a swimsuit episode to a pan over a grave the girls keep on the roof.

I found myself enjoying it as an anime of two halves, the Slice-of-Life pieces where decent enough, being nothing new, whilst the zombie pieces of the anime actually felt griping and at times tense. However, I don’t think this anime could’ve worked without one or the other. The Slice-of-Life sections are a great way to introduce the small group of characters and build believable relationships that seem to have existed for a while. They also help to build the tension in the zombie sections as you actually now root for these girls because of spending half an episode in that vicarious bubble that Slice-of-Life provides.

All in all this is a really interesting anime from an experimental perspective. It definitely could’ve been done better, I have a lot of issues with the way they characterise Yuki and how the other girls interact with her. I found it very difficult to actually sink into the narrative when I was constantly questioning their treatment of her. It also has some pacing issues that once you read the manga (I binge read it after finishing watching) become a lot more apparent due to an obvious desire to have all of the cast present during the first episode (Miki Noake is not actually introduced in the manga till roughly chapter 5 whilst the anime places her in the first episode only to flashback later in the series)

I would definitely recommend at least watching the first episode just as a lot of effort went into visually coding the setting. The Slice-of-Life story telling is there to obviously act as a layer to block the more sinister undercurrent seen in the actual backgrounds. For example broken windows and Kurumi carrying a shovel and referring to it as a weapon. It’s almost uncomfortable as this palatable sense of uneasiness pollutes the narrative. It’s utterly fascinating to look at, even if the rest of the show ends up being just ‘pretty good’.

“You Gotta Appreciate the Food” – Slice of Life as a Genre

In which I lead you through my process in defining a genre

That title isn’t a weird quip or framing device for this article, it’s a point my house mate raised whilst watching Sweetness and Lightning together. “It’s a Slice of Life, you have to appreciate the food”. The weeks running up to this comment I had been mulling over the inherent problems Slice-of-Life anime faces, especially to us western viewers. The chief of which is everyone having a different opinion about what it is. Not just about whether it’s good or not but about how to classify it as we don’t have such a genre established in the west. So in this post I’m going to attempt to explain it, hopefully……. Maybe.

So, let’s try the simplest approach. Word Definitions. Slice-of-Life, can literally mean an excerpt from life. So therefore a show in the slice-of-life genre is something that follows normal life. And that definition sort of works, but it also feels like something is missing. It makes the genre sound too pedestrian, too disinteresting, too generic and most importantly too broad. Technically any show can be defined as Slice-of-life via this definition as long as it justifies it’s self as displaying a normal life, for example take any Gundam series, it shows the passage of life in a world where giant robots fight in space and everyone accepts the fact and takes it as a normal day. By this definition this is Slice-of-Life. We find ourselves with a definition to broad, too much can and will fit into it. So we need to refine it.

Let’s turn to Wikipedia for our next attempt at having this done easily. A “mundane realism depicting everyday experiences”. Okay, so that’s a little better. Realism is the crucial word there that now grounds this genre in portraying situations that seem realistic to the audience. There we go, we’re done. Except. My Neighbour Totoro is a thing. A film which is unquestionably a Slice-Of-Life and there is nothing mundane or realistic about a giant forest spirit hanging out with two young girls.

So with that to fit I have to remove realism, and I find myself at the very beginning again. It seems like there’s no easy way to find this answer other than going through what makes a Slice-Of-Life anime. And at this point we will be dipping into a big old pile of opinion and generalisations

WHAT IS SLICE OF LIFE:

  • Simple
    • Not simple in that it’s lacking in character, plot or ambition. But that’s it’s simple in scope, it’s focused on a single point, this could be a small cast of characters or a particular setting. Perhaps Focused would be a better word.
  • Slow
    • In most cases due to being a chronological run through of people’s daily lives an episode will rarely cover a large amount of plot, opting instead for a small point or two per episode.
  • Character Driven
    • Running off the two previous points of slow plot but large cast of characters, it stands to reason that a slice-of-life show will put the focus on these characters. A main character is still recognisable however, often the first shown on screen.
  • Comedy
    • They will often feature jokes as a driving factor as well, to make up for slow plot. Reasons for this can vary from anime to anime, but a large chunk of adapted slice of life have their roots in Yonkoma style manga, where each page is structured like a joke, Set up, Delivery, Punch line. Once you know it’s there it’s easy to spot.

So at the end of that I put forward that the Slice-of-life genre can be defined as “Simple, slow moving, character focused drama”, and I could in theory leave it there. But I think it could do with some work. Let’s start with some discussion on setting, and see where that takes us.

SETTING IN A SLICE-OF-LIFE

My mind instantly hops to high school when I think of Slice-of-Life, thanks to the prominence of shows like “Toradora!” and “K-ON!” in the genre. It’s become synonymous with the genre to thing that slice-of-life is always in a high school. However, it’s at this point I get fussy and wave my almost finished media degree around the place. The high school is definitely a genre convention of Slice-of-Life but that doesn’t mean of course that every show is in a high school or set around one. Shows like “ServentxService” and “Wagnaria!” are both set around work places. Shows like “Flying Witch” and “Non-Non Byori” Draw more attention to the rural locals they are set in than a school and that’s even before I bring up shows like “Sweetness and lightning” and “Poco’s Udon World” that places a large focus on the characters that physically can’t go to high school due to being too young.

What I’m trying to say really, is that the setting of a slice of life is always mundane. But I hate that word in relation to this, it will act like a weight on the definition, making it sound boring. So at this point I bust out a thesaurus:

I find myself quite fond of quotdian meaning “occurring every day; daily.” But because I’m trying to make something that can be understood I think I should stick with something normal. That can be applied not just to a description of the common settings of slice-of-life but also its plot threads. “Everyday” seems to fit this bill. Shows are often set in an “everyday” environment and deal with the “everyday” events of the characters. Now to just slot that into the definition and see what we have.

The Slice-of-life genre can be defined as “Simple, slow moving, character focused drama fixed in everyday locals”

I think we are almost there. One little piece could do with being discussed, even if I find no way of slotting it into the definition.

WHY WE WATCH SLICE-OF-LIFE

This is probably the easiest thing to answer. Slice-of-life provides an effortless medium for the viewer to live vicariously through the characters. Taking joy in the familiarity of the situations on screen and drawing a bond with the character of their choice. It’s important to note that this is not quite the same as gaining voyeuristic pleasure from watching, there are distinct differences between Slice-of-Life and Harem anime the most obvious of which being the sexual content in the latter.

To include this in a definition of the genre is probably the missing piece of the puzzle. If we state it has vicarious tendencies then it suddenly means we can skim a lot off the top. The show has to be a believable realism. Just detached from our world enough to offer some form of contrivance, like the fact that only 4 girls seem interested in playing music in the whole school (K-ON!) or that witches exist (Flying Witch) or that the people working in Waganria can get any work done (Wagnaria!). Whilst we can say we can relate to a sci-fi space captain, we still feel a detachment from him that you don’t get when looking at a school student going to class. The screen is a lot thinner in slice-of-life. (To use an analogy I should’ve at the start to cut down on word count.)

TO STOP THE RAMBLINGS

So in conclusion I define Slice-of-Life as:

“Simple, slow moving, character focused drama. Fixed in everyday locales suited to vicarious living”

I’ll probably return to this at some point, and test it out on various shows to see if it does work. But seeing as I’m nearing on 1300 words I’ll leave it here for today.

Header image: Non Non Biyori

Your Name: Review

“A beautiful romance film that surronds the veiwers with Makoto Shinkai’s staple: Nostalgic melancholy, now refined”

This is going to be a blog of two halves. The first being a tame, spoiler free, review of Makoto Shinkai’s new film Your Name. The other half you’ll find at the end of this post in the form of a google link to a few more spoiler filled thoughts on both this film and its realtion to themes explored in 5 centimetres per second.

The reason for this is simple and quite obvious. This is a really good film, it’s well written and voiced. As well as being gorgeous. (Why does the east keep out pacing the west in terms of animation quality? It’s insanely unfair and maybe worth a future look) But its greatest strength, is that I went into this expecting something simple. I expected a kooky body swap story about a teenage boy and girl experiencing each other’s life’s freak Friday style. And I got that, but also a lot more.

The film centres on Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu, two high school students from different walks of life. Taki lives in Tokyo, holding down a part time job and living independently. Mitsuha lives in the country, wishing for a life in the city. The two discover, that for unknown reasons, what they thought were dreams were actually the pair swapping bodies intermittently. Both discover small comforts in each other’s life and make attempts to live normally, to some effect.

The first half hour of the film is by far its weakest point. It feels like they condensed three episodes of an anime into a fraction of the time, meaning it comes across as rushed. Story beats could’ve been fleshed out to create a better foundation for these two characters. On top of that, I had to re-watch two rapid time lapse sections in this first part just to get a decent grasp on what was happening. Once I had crossed the half hour point though the film gained its cohesion and finally found its footing.

Your Name serves as a touching love story framed soaked in a familair poingent melancholy that tugs at the veiwers nostalgia from beginning to end. So give this a go it’s another great outing for a great writer and director.

Spoiler discussion: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VzQt8fSK_i0UpbbIUN8ljp7NvHGBhitRE5xRtl6UFbA/edit?usp=sharing

Header image: https://wall.alphacoders.com/by_sub_category.php?id=239404

Anime Fall Season: Top Picks

In which I attmept to Legitimise my Weebiness

Being one of those people with a shiny Crunchyroll subscription means I now actually pay attention to what anime is being released when. For those that don’t know anime is released in a quarterly format with new seasons popping up during each of the standard seasons. So Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This means that I will always have a guaranteed dump of new shows just in time for when my old ones run out, works out pretty well. However with so many new things dropping (roughly 60 shows by my brief count) it means I have to make decisions on what I want to focus on and seeing as I have a blog now I figure I should share my opinions with the world.

Let’s start with the obvious ones I know I will be sticking with, the sequel series’

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM IRON BLOODED ORPHAN

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I absolutely loved the first season when it released and will undoubtedly get around to writing a comparison between it and 00 GUNDAM. But just briefly this is probably the most visceral GUNDAM I’ve seen, whilst most stuck with lasers and guns this show decided to feature close combat heavily which means the fights are turned up to 11. With great characters and a new setting it makes for a good underdog story. I would definitely recommend the first series (and 00 GUNDAM whilst I’m at it, that’s a really good one)

Its first episode is set to air on October 2nd                       

HIBIKE! EUPHONIUM 2

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Otherwise known as Sound! Euphonium is a slice of life show about an orchestra club which transitioned from a fairly standard example of the genre to a nicely developed romance between the main protagonist Kumiko and a band mate. Featuring some very nice music and great animation it was a nice show to chill out too. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes though as it could quite easily be a rehash of the first season given how they ended it. The original is on my list to watch next in preparation for the sequel so I’ll probably have more musings on it in the future.

Its first episode will air on October 6th

WWW.WORKING!!

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The last of the sequels I plan on watching is one that isn’t technically a sequel. It’s a spin-off of one of my favourite anime that I discovered over the summer called WORKING (or Waganaria in the eastern tongue) which centres on the staff of a family restaurant all with over the top personalities. It’s a great example of Slice of Life and also comes with the perk that it tells a complete story with an ending thanks to having three seasons. This means I’m more motivated to see this show as it’s based on the spin off webcomic the creator made. Flags have already been raised however with some of the character designs looking eerily similar to characters in WORKING although hopefully it won’t work out like a re-hash.

Its first episode is set to air on October 1st

Now to get into the thick of it with the brand new stuff and thus maybe some actual reasons other than dedication to the show can be made to explain why I’m picking it up.

MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LION

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And now I say that above statement I confess I chose this one simply because I recognised one of the previous things the creator worked on, HONEY AND CLOVER, a show I didn’t really get hooked on. But this seems exactly like my cup of tea, a slice of life focusing on the interactions between a reserved teenager on the cusp of adulthood and a set of 3 siblings he crosses paths with. It has slight wiffs of being this seasons “The One Everyone Should Watch” so it might be nice to get on that bandwagon first and act smug later seeing as I was slow to the ball with both One Punch Man and Re:Zero from the past to seasons.

Its first episode is set to air on October 8th

UDON NO KUNI NO KINIRO KEMARI

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Okay, now the actual opinions can start, sort of. This anime (I won’t keep writing out the name) focuses on a web designer that adopts a young boy and raises him. As a big fan of Usagi Drop (not the manga. That can burn) and Sweetness and Lightning its main plot thread already has my attention. Also from the trailer the little boy appears to turn into some sort of cute animal so hey, there’s a mystery there. Also it’s slice of life, and literally anything with that tag line I’ll take a look at just for curiosities sake.

Its first episode is set to air on October 9th

MONSTER HUNTER STORIES: RIDE ON

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And now we’re instantly back to flimsy reasoning. I just really like the Monster Hunter series of games, so an anime seems like a no brainer. Although it appears to be a lot more kid friendly, focusing on people that tame the monsters not kill them, so I might just get bored of it and go back to playing the game. Might be nice to switch off too however.

Its first episode is set to air on October 2nd

VIVID STRIKE!

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Okay, this one is a weird one and looks like it walks that thin line between possibly being really good or god awful. It seems to belong to that sub-genre of “Cute High School Girls Do….” Except in this case its street fighting guys three times their size. Note I’ve only watched the trailer for this show, done no other research but the fight scene they show is pretty good, so maybe it’ll have a story to back it up. I really only chose this one because the poster looked stupid and the lack of description peaked my interest. Should be good for a laugh if nothing else.

Its first episode is set to air on October 2nd

BERNARD-JOU IWAKA

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And finally we get to the last show I have picked out. It centres on a main character that really likes old literature but has never actually read them. Her two friends are set to be massive bookworms so I can already envision it putting a silly spin on them explaining books to her. At least I hope that’s the show I get, it definitely seems like it will be a comedy centric anime so fingers crossed for that.

Its first episode is set to air on October 7th

Well that’s it, out of the 60 or so shows I have chosen just 8, although I’m sure a few shows will squeak their way onto this list and others will disappear once things start to roll out. But for now this is it. My top picks for the season. I’ll do a follow up post next week to discuss what I thought and if anything else ended up here.

All information and pictures sourced from: https://myanimelist.net/anime/season
Header Sourced from: http://wallpapercave.com/my-neighbor-totoro-wallpaper
Hopefully all these shows will be made available on Crunchyroll and thus I can advertise some legal streaming of these shows here, but at the time of writing only WWW.Working is being made available with several shows still to be announced though I am optimistic.