RE: Can English-Speaking Fans Critique Japanese Voice Acting?

I’m sick and a little buzzed on cough syrup. I also haven’t published any posts in 8 months. Which means that it is the perfect time to write something about Chinese cartoons. Well, not really about cartoons themselves but rather the voices that are behind them.

So, one day I come across this article. Do you ever find something so incredibly stupid that you just have to show someone? Like, it could just be as simple as a dog eating its own shit or Donald Drumpf spewing shit while the crowds eat it up (that one is for the Americans, you’re welcome). This basically that kind of article. But instead of just showing it to anyone, I’m gonna talk about how stupid it is cause I’m just one big ol masochist.

On the 26th of February 2016, ANN published an Answerman article called “Can English-Speaking Fans Critique Japanese Voice Acting?“. Short answer, yes. Long answer, yeessssssss. But seriously, to save you the trouble of reading the article itself, a fan or something writes into the All Anime Knowing Deity that is the Answerman, querying whether or not non-Japanese speaking anime watchers can criticize the acting within an anime because he has a friend studying drama that said “FMA:B has some shitty ass acting mate, there is no grey area and shit, its just black and white. I’m so fucking deep man” or whatever drama majors say (It should be noted that I am paraphrasing here). What struck me as odd really is that his friend only really talked about the acting in FMA:B, which is surprising in 2 ways. 1) Surely there are more talking points in FMA:B than just the acting right? Like there is a lot going on in that show with a lot to take in and yet, his main talking point is the acting and not like, I don’t know the directing? It just struck me as odd. 2) I really don’t think that FMA:B has bad acting in it. Granted I haven’t finished it yet but, from scenes I’ve already seen, the acting is pretty well done and nicely delivered, while still sticking to those old fashioned anime-acting tropes.
Continue reading

Onani Master Kurosawa – A Trip Through A Man’s Libido and Trauma.

I respect a manga that can get me laughing on one page and crying on the next however this equilibrium is very hard to achieve. Authors and writers alike tend to focus on one side of these two and generally just have the other as comic relief or the basic structure of their story. Not like that is a bad thing per say, I would greatly enjoy a show or manga that knows what its trying to do and focuses on it than simply having a pick ‘n mix so to speak between the two. It takes fantastic literal prowess to accomplish what Onanie Master Kurosawa did and that was combine comedy and heart breaking drama into one, 31 chapter hale storm of emotion.

22964l

 

Admittedly, I was very cautious of Onanie Master because it did a certain type of parody for its comedy and that was borderline plagiarism. Its one thing to have like a throw back to some popular anime here and there but its another thing to have the characters you created directly inserted into a popular scene of anime history (I’m looking at you Gintama…). Onanie Master was somewhat guilty of this but it did have some…interestingly unique type of comedy which was very forward. Pretty much like “This guy masturbates in a girls bathroom every week using sick fantasies of his classmates as fuel, what you gonna do about it nerd?”. The manga uses dialogue that belongs in a H-Manga more than anything, not because it is bad but more because it is insanely lewd. Onanie Master really helped itself by not using parody as a third leg and made its own hysterical jokes. There are very obvious parodies that come from Code Geass to Death Note but the outrageous monologues from Kurosawa in the early half really did bring some originality to it.

The dialogue and monologues in Onanie Master are also very fantastic. I would say that they manage to top OreGairu in the first half but the inner torment in the second half is what ends upf75fb93c60f4e7d4f2d26d735b9d858f being the driving force of the manga, but lets save that for later. As I said, the comedy in the first half was something to behold, its a genre of comedy that you don’t see done nowadays. The monologues were very frank yet it wasn’t in your face, it was just laying everything bare as to what it was trying to do rather than do something like Nichijou does and just ram it down your throat until you are forced to gag through laughter.

Now that I mentioned all I wanted about the comedy, I will now move on to why I wanted to make this post in the first place, to talk about how amazingly great the second half is. The manga more or less ditches its comedy to concentrate on the psychological drama that will torment you on every damn page you read. I would confidently say that Onanie Master Kurosawa is the greatest example of psychological drama in a school setting and all it does is a very simple yet beautiful technique, you never leave Kurosawa. What I mean by that, with the exception of one chapter, you see the world through Kurosawa’s eyes and in turn, you become Kurosawa. For instance, when Kurosawa was in love with Takigawa, I admit there was a certain type of affection for her welling up in me when I was reading it; at the start of the manga when Nagaoka was nothing more than a extroverted otaku in the eyes of Kurosawa, I did think he was a quite a tosspot. So when that moment happened between Nagaoka and Takigawa and they announced their relationship to Kurosawa, it was more of an indirect attack at the reader than Kurosawa because nothing could hurt more than the words…

Starting today, I am Nagaoka’s girlfriend, Takigawa. Pleased to meet you!”

Enough of reminding everyone of the bad times, lets talk about Kurosawa and why he is so great. Throughout the course of the manga, we see four and arguably five sides to Kurosawa. Initially, he is the edgy, holier than thou yet refreshingly frank with his thoughts middle schooler who has discovered a new routine to get his jollies. You don’t think much of him as a decent person and with the only thing creditable to his character being his comedy, you really shouldn’t either, just like Kurosawa doesn’t think much of the world around him. Now what anime or manga do in positions like these is that they aim for reliability within characters and Onanie Master does just that….to an extent. During the early to early-mid chapters, Kurosawa mainly appeals to the person within ourselves that was always looking for the perfect school romance with his relationship with Takigawa and our slight disdain with the world around, since the majority of anime fans and otaku just seem to be born edgy and/or introverted. Once the connection between reader and Kurosawa is established, it does a tidy job of ripping that connection up into a million pieces.

c693685c73f61e7358fd85ac4b4fa05aI mentioned OreGairu previously and I shall bring it up again to share a distinct similarity. At some point, be it in the end, as in OreGairu’s case in season 1, or somewhere in the middle, in Onanie Master’s case, you go from relating to a character very strongly to wishing that you are nothing like them in the slightest. I have only seen this technique done properly in both of the aforementioned works and that is one of the main reasons why I respect them so damn much. Onani Master Kurosawa does it in a more forthright way though, making every page harder to read than the last, all by taking those initial mutual connections with Kurosawa and flipping them on their head. Perfect middle school romance? HA! Tough shit mate, you didn’t act on your feelings and your getting lost in the dirt you damn pansy! Disdain for the world? Pffft, who the fuck cares? The world is a tough shit place, get used to it or your not going to be worth shit….or, something along those lines.

Kurosawa learns swiftly that reality is a cruel mistress after finding out that his crush is going out with Nagoaka which is understandable, we all have moments in our lives where life has screwed us over one way or another, these experiences is what makes us human. However, its the actions that Kurosawa takes which makes his experiences damn near disturbing. You might be questioning my criticisms of Kurosawa right now and yeah, I understand that. Hell, after my first read through of Onanie Master, I genuinely thought that Kurosawa’s actions in redemption were justifiable. But then, I took a step and read it again with a distant friend called Reasoning. Let me put it how I see it, I mentioned earlier that our experiences with how life as screwed us over as made us human. If those experiences include jizzing on your first love’s geography notes just because she started going out with someone other than you because you couldn’t act on your feelings, then I feel liable to question your sanity.

Do not get me wrong, reading chapter 17 onward is just as painful and heart wrenching as it is when I first read it. Losing in love is something that most of us went through at Kurosawa’s age and he really went through the worst of it with Takigawa. But like I said, it was Kurosawa’s initial reaction to the heartbreak is something that dehumanizes him to the point where some of the imagery makes him look like some kind of monster.  I mentioned earlier that Onanie Master shares the similarity with OreGairu in the sense that Hachiman starts off as someone everyone can 60c110e759f5f746164aeaed2fd12d15relate to then turns into someone you utterly detest but see the intentions behind their actions.  However, unlike Hachiman, Kurosawa had no intentions to help any one out in any way, he was just on a personal hunt for revenge. You do not know how glad I am that they made Kurosawa’s actions look despicable. Too many shows or movies glorify vengeance as a character’s motive, but all it does is sully them and makes them look mentally weak as it is the only driving force in their minds. His entire act of revenge is incredibly petty as well. “She can’t possibly feel the heartbreak that I feel, so I will make her feel my man juice” is pretty much the motive in a nut shell. Sure, yeah, there are other factors involved since, in Kurosawa’s current state, it seemed liked the easiest route. It kinda reminds me of a MacBeth quote “I am in blood  Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er” except blood its uhh….semen.

I think its about time I talk about Kurosawa’s break-up with his breakdown (heh). Its funny how something so small and yet so convenient can snap you back to your senses. Almost akin to “What would Jesus do?”, Kurosawa finds this thing that brings him back to his true self, well I’d actually argue a better self. When Kurosawa finds the oil painting of the school trip that Takigawa made after all the things that Kurosawa did to her, unbeknownst to her of course, that is the trigger that causes him to reform himself into to something that is beyond our wills as a reader. Facing one’s problems and accidents is something that most of us don’t have the courage or even the will to do. With Kurosawa’s situation, you would expect that he would just stop his daily ritual but he goes above and beyond that, he does something that I bet you, nor I for that matter, would never have done. He faces the consequences of his actions.

Now here is the beauty of Onanie Master Kurosawa, that being the progression of Kurosawa’s character. He goes from being the relateable MC, to someone that you wish you didn’t relate to in the first place, to someone that you aspire to be, all within the steady progression of 31 chapters. After his surprising confession of his actions, he has to go through so much shit but dammit, I damn well wish I could have just a fraction of the amount of courage and mental strength during those chapters. Its also rare to see negative events in a character’s life generally improve their outlook on their life. Kurosawa gets ostracized and bullied to an ungodly extent but he is still able to smile through it. Like he said though, he isn’t a masochist, he is definitely suffering. At this time you would expect the audience to be up in arms saying “This is what you fucking deserve you piece of shit.” but the general reaction evoked is “Keep at it man, just get through this”. Staggeringly enough, you manage to be able to root for the guy that was ejaculating into recorders not so long ago.

By now, Onanie Master Kurosawa has reached its climax. Kurosawa graduates middle-school and that is really where the drama ends with him. His infatuation with Takigawa ends and he develops romantic feelings that feel more genuine for Suguwa. Their relationship together is kinda cute and makes sense with the overall story. Some would say that the pairing was just thrown in there last minute to have Kurosawa in love with someone but I would say that Suguwa’s development in the latter half really made her the best match for Kurosawa.

In regards to Kurosawa alone, I have said all I have needed to. Its obvious that he is the main attraction to the manga as he is the center of everything. He is at the center of a cast that you would de49a00f748c2ab456507bfe3341bd3asee in a every day school anime. The boke otaku, the quiet short girl, the loud delinquent and the love interest. Onanie Master doesn’t actually go out of its way to develop these characters in great extent. If anything, they simply evolve to adapt or react to the current on-goings. They still manage to leave their respectful marks upon the story in their own special ways, usually by turning the trope that was placed on them on its head. Be it the boke otaku winning the heart of the love interest or the loud delinquent being the true love of the story or the quiet shy girl being the evil mastermind controlling the main character as her puppet. Its a nice spin on things that you don’t see too often. It shows that the author actually cared about the side characters and didn’t just squish them in there to fill a necessary role.

In regards to the actual characters themselves, there isn’t much to say beyond Takigawa and Kitahara. While the side characters aren’t bad characters, they just don’t have the depth to them that is worth noting. Except for Takigawa and Kitahara that is. I mentioned before that with the exception of one chapter, the manga never leaves the perspective of Kurosawa. That one chapter is being told through the eyes of Takigawa. It is also one of my favourite chapters in any manga ever. Generally whenever a message or character point is delivered so bluntly when it has been suggested really subtly throughout the course of whatever, it tends to be a blunt smack at itself rather than the viewer/reader appreciating this great turn of events. However, Takigawa’s mental anguish and torment was something that surprised a lot of people and really made that chapter fantastic.

Takigawa and Kitahara are polar opposites personality wise. Takigawa is popular among the school and her friends but has the self-confidence as a slug looking down on a bowl of salt. Whereas Kitahara is physically bullied yet takes her psudo-power with pride and it lifts her up to new found levels of satisfaction and smugness. These two people played the role as Kurosawa’s conscience for a good portion of the manga, Kitahara being the evil causing him to do the dirty crime in fear of being exposed and Takigawa being the good in trying to find the positives in Kurosawa and making him hesitant in his twisted game. Its pretty neat that the two never actually communicated properly throughout the manga. Even at the school trip, it was only passing glances here and there with no formal conversation. This fact adds to the whole notion that  Kitahara and Takigawa are the demon and angel resting on Kurosawa’s shoulders.

3b9c6f3ce133a3924644b0222351867eOnanie Master Kurosawa is probably the best school manga I have ever read. Its steadily paced, well directed and fits all together as a narrative. Obviously the contents within itself is fantastic but if I go on now, I will just be repeating myself so I’m just gonna keep this brief.  Onanie Master Kurosawa I believe is the only real “must-read” within manga. Controversial I know, but I need to end this on a statement like this everyone once in a while.

 

Tokyo Ghoul – An Edge Above

Get it? Because its a pun….on “A cut above” but since everyone thinks Tokyo Ghoul is edgy….an edge above….

One of the main criticisms that I absolutely hate to see of an anime is that “It doesn’t follow the source material”. Now, its one thing if it completely destroys said source material like Akame ga Kill did a good job of but when it varies itself from it and makes its own decisions and directions, then its a matter of “how do those work” and “are they any good?” rather than “how far is it from the manga?”. One of my favorite shows is Magi which is infamous for bending away from the manga as it sees fit and it works fantastically. The complaints are only from the die hard fans of the manga. However, the same can’t be said for Tokyo Ghoul.[DameDesuYo] Tokyo Ghoul - 12 (1280x720 10bit AAC) [7578A255].mkv_snapshot_01.08_[2015.01.02_17.12.59]

You don’t have to look far for someone to bring up an accusation against Tokyo Ghoul being that “It doesn’t follow the manga”. Hell, every negative MAL review of it brings this fact up time and time again like it is licking the toes of the manga and spitting the Athlete’s Foot onto the anime. They are blinded as to what they are seeing and what they could have seen was a fantastic experience. I’ve seen many complaints that Tokyo Ghoul is just a edge-fest with no primary message, moral or meaning behind it. But those complaints just tend to be backed up with “There’s a lot of blood”, so they don’t really have much weight to them. First and foremost, I wouldn’t even say there is that much blood in the anime in comparison to the manga which pretty much uses blood as a fuel to keep it going.

Blood was used as symbolism in the anime like in the final episode. The very first thing you see is a field of white flowers, e52618bf747168622531336a5130f6c3which represents Kaneki’s innocence, in which the ones in the foreground are tainted by speckles of blood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the foreboding symbolism here, it was a simple but rather effective touch that seems to be missing from most shows nowadays. The flowers would then become corrupted by the main corruption in the show, Rise. However, it was only the flowers directly around Kaneki that got corrupted. Now, you can just write this off as Rise was only around Kaneki in the scene and no where else in the white void, but I see it as a visual representation of Kaneki’s personal “motto”, that being “It’s better being hurt than to hurt others, kind people can find happiness with just this…“. Because of this motto of his, it was only him being hurt rather than the world. Thus, the corrupted flowers only appear around him rather the entire room. It is only later in the episode when Kaneki accepts his ghoul side and realizes that the world is not as great as a place as it seemingly was that the rest of the room becomes shrouded in red.

In retrospect, this symbolism is rather easy to grasp but it doesn’t make it any less effective. I appreciate simple symbolism that works over complicated imagery here and there that is just jarring to the story. However, this simplicity has caused many people to lead on to the fact that Tokyo Ghoul has no integral backbone which is a pretty rash thing to think. People always say that Parasyte – The Maxim is what Tokyo Ghoul should have been, its always unfair to make a comparison with these two since Parasyte plays around with the theme of humanity while Tokyo Ghoul is mainly a test of humanity so to speak. Parasyte is a fantastic show but I just think Tokyo Ghoul and it share very few similarities.

79466dda8eb832f4fb543b3ea8edf9c8Its very clear that Tokyo Ghoul is a character driven show from the amount of character exposition through some conversations or internal struggles, mainly with Kaneki. That’s why whenever someone tries to criticize the plot of Tokyo Ghoul, I always come back with “Who cares?” or something like that. Its true that Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t go about to make much original in retrospect to its story but I feel that doesn’t really matter mainly because Tokyo Ghoul cared about its characters. It showed both sides in the series in good and bad lights. Humanity has its flaws but their motivation is just, ghouls were shown as disgusting creatures that feed on humanity but its obvious that they are suffering as a result of it, physically or mentally. So when the two sides clashed in that supreme battle at the end of the series, it was hard to choose a side. Both were shown to have ugly sides yet they are known to do good, be it humanity with Amon and Mado fulfilling a job of murdering ghouls while being victims of the ghouls themselves or ghouls with Touka who is trying her best to live an innocent live despite the fact that she is more than willing to take a life if she damn well pleases. Its the juxtaposition created within the characters that made them so fantastic to watch. There is no fabled hero that will destroy the absolute evil, just a bunch of creatures carrying out what they think is right.

The closest thing we have to a hero in this show is Kaneki but the show is quick to jump on his weaknesses at exactly the right moments. After the 755897d6a758bc21bca540c6d4c09e26battle with Nishida, Kaneki is seen in a very positive light for saving his human friend, Hide. This light diminishes very quickly as Rise easily persuades him to devour his only true friend with the reason being “He is my friend….that’s why only I shall eat him“. Its Kaneki’s mental weaknesses that is his true downfall and that is somewhat rare to see in anime. He doesn’t lose a physical battle to some grotesque, strong and almighty monster like you would see in any shounen, he loses to the monster within himself, or rather the ghoul within himself. Anger overwhelms Kaneki and in turn, destroys him.

I must credit Hanae Natsuki as his performance as Kaneki. I have been a huge fan of him ever since Tari Tari but he really knocked it out of the park with his Kaneki, especially in the last episode. The full cast did a pretty swell job, including an impressive performance from Hanazawa Kana as Rise (She can do very well as long as she isn’t typecasted) but the show really belongs to Hanae. The torturous screams or the agonizing cries, he was born for the role of Kaneki and I really am looking forward to his performance in season 2.

655db52cf71442976af6430f77ca5bc2I feel as if Tokyo Ghoul will always be remembered as a hit or miss show. One group will always hate it for it being “edgy with no fulfilling themes or characters” and the other group being “OMG SO EPIK XXDDDD KANEKI 2COOL!” but I like the believe that there are people out there that can see the integrity with Tokyo Ghoul as season 1 was a fantastic experience. As of writing, Tokyo Ghoul season 2 is yet to air (its actually gonna air this week) but I have high hopes for it and with claims that it will be going mostly anime original, hopefully a larger audience will be satisfied with what is produced.

2014 – A Year In Review (By means of a Top 10)

A lot of things happened this year but being the absolute pleb I am, I’m just going to talk about the anime that aired this year in the form of a Top 10 list. Simple rules apply to the list being that the anime must have finished in 2014 so shows like Nanatsu no Taizai or Log Horizon season 2 are not applicable but Samurai Flamenco and Log Horizon Season 1 are. That’s it really. Without further chit chat, here I go.

#10

Nobunaga Concerto

fbffb380db8062339d290dddb0ffed9bNobunaga Concerto was a weird show in the sense that it was a promotion to a TV Drama that was set to air shortly after the finale of the anime. Thus, it didn’t actually sell any Blu-Rays or get any sort of marketing. It was a strange project but because it was strange, it allowed some sort of freedom that you don’t see much of nowadays. There was a distinct lack of fan-service as the animation was all done through artsy rotoscoping, good rotoscoping, unlike Aku no Hana. The show tells the story of a young teenager forced into the Warring States era of Japan, under the ruse of the legendary daimyo, Nobunaga Oda. This type of plot line is a personal haven for me as I generally like the idea of a foreign being shoved into another world, or better yet timeline, and watching them adjust to said change. Nobunaga Concerto got this down to a tee and it was fascinating. Also, it doubled as a history lesson as the events that took place within the show were the historical events from Nobunaga Oda’s history. Who says anime kills my brain?

#9

No Game No Life

87dad80b72b00f24c244b80e59fc6c06Being one of the most popular shows to air this year, it was quite hard to ignore.Generally within every anime season, there is one or two shows that get a decent amount of popularity and is talked about quite frequently. for better or for worse. No Game No Life was this show in the Spring Season of this year. No Game No Life flourished as it progressed through it course with multiple peaks of excitement. But the one thing that it excels at is producing excitement. Many people can cite flaws with the show, however I have yet to hear a person say they were bored during NGNL. If you look at No Game No Life as merely as a fun or exciting watch then it is amazing but it if you look for something more than that, then you are just fooling yourself and missing out on a great show.

#8

Highschool DxD New

1680a8db4a630adb93c07a96ae572006I’m serious here when I say this. Highschool DxD New is genuinely a good show. I’m going to take that one to the grave. A lot of people criticise DxD for just being borderline-Hentai and pandering but usually those people are more shallow than a piss puddle so lets ignore them. What DxD does amazingly is that it is a subtle parody of certain anime genres and tropes while still having substance to back it up. Parody in anime is so poorly done nowadays that it is mainly cringe-worthy to painful. From Gintama which bases its comedy around loud noises and blatant plagiarism to Watamote which made me feel guilty for enjoying anime, its not surprising that people will look at these are say that they are what parody is without giving much thought to other shows. So when a show with the main character nearly killing himself and his opponent with failure being the reduction of breast sizes by half or tit-cannons, it’s just “pandering”. Screw you guys, Highschool DxD New is amazing.

#7

Selector Infected WIXOSS

b323b726f2ad951943b98fadbca048f1Both seasons of WIXOSS ended in 2014 however I will just focus on the first season since that one is my favourite. WIXOSS had many themes thrown into it which all compliment each other; greed, purity being tainted and the longing for destruction, all within high school girls. Terrific. WIXOSS was surprisingly written by Mari Okada who has penned many…uhh..”great” shows like M3, Nagi no Asukara and uhh….point is, she amazed me on this show with its grim-dark themes without bordering on the edgy or melodramatic side of things. WIXOSS was clinical at using symbolism and fore-shadowing so that so many of the twists did have that needed shock value while being very valid. The finale was one of my favourites of this year though, mainly the aftermath of the battle between Ruuko and Iona. The desperation in Ruuko’s voice amass all the destruction and chaos around her after Tama seemingly betrayed her for her own wishes, disregarding the code of the LRIG’s. It all happened so quickly and was so fast-paced that it left me bewildered. While season 2 was not as spectacular, I at least appreciated the ride that was WIXOSS.

#6

Tokyo Ghoul

sample-20258a85e31dc08285bd807ff4efb4b7Tokyo Ghoul caused a decent amount of controversy this year for being unfaithful to its source material. Generally, this annoys a few people here and there but the vast majority of the audience enjoys the ride and watches what the anime can do. However, since the Tokyo Ghoul manga is an apparent God sent, simply cutting out a one word of it is blasphemy. As a result, Tokyo Ghoul was criticized for being edgy and having a lack of depth. Obviously, I disagree. Tokyo Ghoul had a very substantial theme with Kaneki, that being corruption. Not necessarily a corruption of greed or evil but rather having his innocence and good-nature tainted from within him. It also does something that I’m surprised that a lot of people didn’t actually compliment it on. If you take out Yamori and his crew, there really isn’t no “bad guy” in the show. Both the humans and the ghouls are portrayed having ugly and beautiful sides to each of them. They are both forced into a conflict that in turn forces out the ugly side in everyone, diminishing the good. Everyone has a valid reason to fight and the viewer is thrown into the middle of this war, conflicted over the true justice in the show. Even the only just character, Kaneki, is no longer fair by the end of the last episode, one of the greatest episodes of anime that I have ever seen. The show is told from Kaneki’s perspective, who is forsaking both of his sides for the vast majority of the show. Just like Kaneki, we are able to see the good in both sides. But by the end, when Kaneki devours Yamori, its quite sad and nearly disturbing that the only person in the show  that we can relate to has become no better than a monster, or rather a ghoul in literal terms, because of this war and the disgusting side of humanity and Ghouls alike.

#5

Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou

850065fc1f3453bb95b6ea32748fdca9Kawaisou was a show that flew under many people’s radar. It was a great show in the sense of performing Slice of Life well. Usually SoL is either the standard cute girls doing cute things or some fantastical romance and it fails the core concept of what it is, being a slice of life. Kawaisou nails this though and never fails to be boring. Characters are extremely lovable and the situations range from humorous to rather stressful. These situations are present in every other SoL you see but Kawaisou shares a vein with another one of my favourite shows, Tari Tari. It keeps itself grounded in reality. Its quite stupid to say this when talking about a SoL but what I mean is that Kawaisou doesn’t seem to be this far away utopia where everyone is happy and there is no problems at all yadayadayada like you see in stuff like K-On or Haganai. For doing such a basic thing as creating reality within fiction, I have nothing but compliments for the show.

#4

 Silver Spoon Season 2

2544d13f5dc3bc8c9138fc633684959cA subtle weakness is always nice to see. Something that only becomes relevant 7 or 8 episodes into a series yet it feels like its been there the entire time. Silver Spoon perfected this with Hachiken, being a “selfless freak”. The entire “A little bit too nice” character trope tends to be used quite poorly as they are pretty much saying “WHY CAN’T I HELP BEING SO NICE SOMEONE KILL ME I’M A SAINT!”. Stuff like Kokoro Connect or any harem you look at really tends to make this a positive thing but not Silver Spoon. From collapsing to various personal family strains, all of this could be solved if Hachiken was a little bit selfish. This was only a little bit of what made Silver Spoon so great. Again, it was like Kawaisou being that it was grounded in reality but the characters were so finely tuned that the drama side of things were almost tormenting at times, especially with Hachiken’s family. Its funny to think that a farming show has better character writing than the vast majority of shows out there.

#3

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun

01ce22672780c9b6b2e10de18253874cI’m just going to cut the bullshit and say that Nozaki-kun is fucking hilarious. Its sad that most comedies made nowadays have no….well, comedy. But not Nozaki-kun. This is the other type of parody that I love, making fun of tropes in a genre by completely going over the top with them. Ouran Koukou Host Club did this but it wasn’t all that funny and it ended up actually becoming a typical shoujo by the end. Nozaki-kun keeps its charm all the time but seemingly tops itself in craziness every other episode. If there is any show that ended in 2014 that needs a second season, its Nozaki-kun

#2

Log Horizon Season 1

ead2ce11fe050cd22e309cedb7a3bcabI like the type of person who says “Yeah I like Spice and Wolf…think it would be better if it was set in an MMO though”. Log Horizon incorporates some MMO economics (as shallow as they tend to be) with a touch of action and romance…like Spice and Wolf. I appreciate a show that tries to focus on politics over action to keep the interest in the show and the majority of season 1 did do that. There were various run-ins with some PKer’s and other villains but those were to add to the MMO feel of the show but at its root, Log Horizon was a very well thought out show in a compelling side that I didn’t think was possible. Since Log Horizon was so well thought out, all it needed was a lovable cast of characters and by god did it have it. Only Inari Konkon topped it by creating OTP’s.

#1

 Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

1305d403c0264c8161f63c29247d8175In the end, it couldn’t be anything but this. The second season of Magi is an epic that should be experienced by everyone. Its not the epitome of character writing but it does something that most shounen miss out on, creating excitement, grief, worry or happiness for characters in the show. Magi triumphs in this respect, its characters are insanely lovable and entertaining that when they are putting their lives on the line or are going through any trauma, you can’t help but just want to be there with them. The directing as well is insanely well done where it makes use of various symbolism or even a look on a certain character’s face. It handles comedic timing with ease and the drama with care. It is a show that is near perfection in my eyes. I don’t want to go into details with the show as there could be certain people that have yet to watch it but if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you start now. Season 1 of Magi was pretty amazing but this season took everything it had and doubled it in greatness. Magi was a magical roller coaster ride that I will not forget anytime soon and it was what made 2014 a great year for anime for me.

Honorable Mentions

  • Barakamon: An easygoing show with a not so easygoing protagonist. Barakamon was many people’s highlight of the year with its great comedy and down to earth cast of characters with some nice drama to boot.
  • Aldnoah.Zero: The Slaine pain train will maintain the same pain with nothing to gain, it is insane. A/Z wb2aeb233fdb00ceff28dfb8b956baaebas a spectacular with some flaws here and there but the characters give the entertainment that is desired.
  • Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta: A little undiscovered gem that started off quite well. It had some amazing air fight scenes with some moments of nice character writing. Some melodrama was present but hey, I enjoyed what I got.
  • Tokyo Ravens: A magic show that doesn’t fall into the many traps that magic shows tend to have. It added far too many characters than it should have but the main cast of characters were great and made the show fantastic.
  • Samurai Flamenco: What a wild ride this was. With a out of control plot line seeming to take any route it pleased but still having some integrity to keep everything together, Samumenco was one of the positives of 2014 for me.
  • Noragami: A show that I wasn’t even planning on watching in the first place. Ties in Japanese gods quite well to make an interesting story. Anime original ending has its pluses too but the main positive that I got from the show was the fantastic chemistry between the main characters
  •  Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (A.K.A OTP Generator 2014) :  While the actual story itself isn’t anything solid, the cast of characters certainly made up for that. The characters felt so…comfortable to watch, like if I kept watching them then I will just forget all my worries and get immersed in their world.
  • Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin: This is kinda similar to Koi Iroha in the sense that it is very comfortable to watch. The traps in which the cast were thrown into were very entertaining and it helped that the actual characters were also great to watch. I like to point out Asumi Kana’s performance as she nailed her comedic scenes perfectly.

Well, that’s all it is for the positives. 2014 was a pretty decent year for anime but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. There were a solid number of bad to meh shows this year and here is 5 of the worst.

#5

Akame ga Kill

ed604ddb310a23180a1259fe6e1f052bThis did wrong what Tokyo Ghoul did right, being not faithful to its original source. I am a manga reader of AgK and believe me, they literally cut out the best parts of Akame ga Kill in the anime. All of the exposition between the characters that developed them into actual human beings was just not there. They were just…things that killed each other because the plot demanded it. While episode 23 did do something nice in killing off Tatsumi (it is damn rare to see an shounen kill off its protagonist), that is the only thing I can compliment it on. The characters feel empty in Akame ga Kill and all the parts that were supposed to be emotionally gripping were just a melodramatic mess in the end.  Being a manga reader, I wanted this show to be fantastic and show the world that shounen can have meaning and backbone but Akame ga Kill just faded into the background just becoming a melodramatic, edgy mess.

#4

Nagi no Asukara

181f0315c1ce8f67c86748e02c91cc7eI bet this will piss a lot of people off but Nagi no Asukara was not good, in fact it was bad. Whenever Mari Okada has to write romance, she seems to skip the entire relationship and character building and skips right to the drama of it all. I am not going to give a shit about characters that you didn’t actually give character to. If you want to have a DEEP romance anime then you need to spend time actually creating character within the characters before actually going into the knitty gritty side of things, especially if you are a 2-cour anime. The only episodes of Nagiasu that I would consider enjoyable were the 2 episodes where Manaka was “dead” after the timeskip because it was around that time when the characters were actually acting like human beings and were starting to have depth. But then Manaka came back…You know, it takes some extreme writing to have one character utterly destroy an entire show, so I guess that’s a compliment to the show in itself when you think about it.

#3

Magical Warfare

154c36d6f5e37d908e9a621cedd9adaaI have yet to see one positive thing written about Magical Warfare. But it seems to just be universally hated among…well, everyone. Its kinda the opposite of Tokyo Ravens in the sense that I wished for some new character to be introduced that would spice up the show rather than being stuck with the same old boring cast that we have. One thing can be of worth from this show and that is that it is probably Mamoru Miyano’s worst ever performance in any show ever, he just acted like he didn’t even give a shit about the show and I don’t blame him. The show ended on a mind numbingly stupid plot twist in the hopes of getting a season 2. A funny thing about the show is that even the author of the source material came out and said that the show was a “mistake” and that it was a waste of time. Even the damn author says the show is shit.

#2

Glasslip

Since nothing happened in this show, I’m going to write nothing about this show.

Spoilers: Its shit.

#1

Sword Art Online Season 2

e7e663b56aeaa9a6051c7cbdfa2d2bcdCould it really be anything but this? In fairness, I thought season 2 would turn out to be much better than its predecessor since GGO was a promising arc, it wasn’t particularity good but from SAO standards, it was an enjoyable change of pace. It retconned itself and a lot of it was showing off Sinon and her butt but hey, it had SAO’s greatest villain and it did form some kind of tension. But then, the GGO arc ended and my hopes for the show died with it. What followed was just a Lets Play Alfheim Online with the cast of Sword Art Online as they went to go get a fantastic sword juuuuust for Kirito. My main thought on this entire arc was “Why?” like why did it need to exist? Nothing was gained from it other than a bitching sword for Kirito that may or may not come into play for his duel wielding later. It was absolutely pointless and just tainted what SAO could have become. But alas, that was just a filler arc or so I’ve been told. What followed was promised to me to be the greatest arc in Sword Art Online, Mother’s Rosario. I heard many good things about this arc and since it wasn’t going to be Kirito central all over again, it raised my expectations. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was thinking that it could get any better. Mother’s Rosario was just another filler arc which just circle jerked how great Asuna and Yuuki are. That was the entire purpose of the arc. It had no deeper substantial meaning and it certainly feels like Asuna is just going to forget about Yuuki in season 3. It just ended with a absurdly stupid plot twist that was totally unnecessary. I got personally annoyed by Sword Art Online season 2. SAO is the type of show that I would love to love since its premise is so promising and they put out ideas that they just can’t follow through with. In turn, this just makes SAO a show with failed potential, with a whole lot of bad that it must carry,

(Also, I heard that Psycho-Pass season 2 was horrible but I didn’t watch it so enjoy that misery on your own!)

You know, 2014 was an alright year for anime. When I look back on it, there were a lot of positives to take from it. One of my favourite ever shows aired this year, and while it is true that some bad shows did make its way through, it would just be awful of me to call 2014 a “bad year for Chinese cartoons” just because bad shows aired. 2015 looks pretty swell as well with some great season 2’s and the fabled return of Durarara.

You know, all I want out of 2015 is just more of the same good old anime we are used to…

…and some more Tomatsu Haruka main roles would be nice…

…….don’t think it would be too much to ask for Horizon season 3 as well….

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – An Insight Into Storytelling.

Some faget made me play VLR and then tortured me emotionally. Here’s what I went through:

Virtue’s Last Reward is the sequel to the DS game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors or just 999 for short. With an emotional roller coaster driven by quantum mechanics, it was hard to imagine where the story would go after laying the ground work of its world. However, at the end of 999, you were left with a lot of questions with very few answers. So, on a quest to find these answers, I recently played through Virtue’s Last Reward on my PS Vita. Did I get these answers? Haha, fuck no, but I did walk away from a very unique experience. VLR thrived on the quantum mechanic side of things while creating some beautiful characters. Characters so beautiful that I am going to talk about each and every one because I love this game so damn much.botanical_garden_date_by_aruetsuto-d62kwbp

Sigma

hd5UL1rx3a95o1_r1_500Our protag. What I love about the characters in VLR is that there is more than to what meets the eye and this is most certainly true since you never get a good look at Sigma until the closing minutes of the game. I wasn’t entirely sure how to write about him due to his…consequences so this may get convoluted. Sigma started off as your fighting for what is right, run of the mill main character, but there is a lot to Sigma that is gradually revealed. From a character that was primarily used to help insert the player into the game ends up like a person that you couldn’t relate to at all by the end. This can be commended on the writer’s side by this feat alone but what I truly loved about it is that it was gradual. It just wasn’t one big twist that was foreshadowed along the way (Well, that being said, there was  that one big twist that was foreshadowed but we can get to that later), instead it was information drops here and there and subtle hints as to what he truly is, a 50-something year old with robot hands, a fake eye and the ability to jump consciences in other world lines.

What was key in making Sigma’s character was that he remained human throughout the duration of the game. He didn’t feel like some robot that was thrown into a death-game and only purpose was to advance the plot. His actions and reactions help construct a mental image of a sane man in an unfair setting, which was needed with the cast of characters that the game has. Generally, there is a trend whenever there is a huge contrast within a cast of characters, the main character tends to be the most bland one and, thus, not the most interesting one. However, due to the fact that the game never leaves Sigma’s perspective or due to those hints that were being dropped, it was hard not to earn a fascination with him. Initially, he handles the situation like a normal human would which gains immersion on the player’s side of things and makes us see a part of ourselves in Sigma. Yet, as the game progresses, you come to realize that you are not like him at all, in fact, he becomes so foreign that it was hard to imagine that you empathized with him.

Another thing I found interesting in Sigma’s character writing was when suspicion was placed on K for being Zero Sr. due to the fact that he had his face was hidden behind a mask, yet it never occurred to me that I should be suspecting Sigma on the same basis. The suspicion that was  placed on K instantly could have easily been placed on Sigma for the same reason. You never see Sigma’s face in the time of the game until the closing minutes. Everything we know of Sigma is just an assumption of what his life is and what he vaguely remembers. Even though Sigma turns out to be Zero Sr., no suspicion was ever placed on him and it was entirely unexpected. Now, with that given sentence, you would expect me to bash VLR for just having a twist for shock factor and an overall convenience to the plot. But goddamnit it was foreshadowed so well that I didn’t even notice it. From everyone every so often referencing Sigma’s age (Phi called Sigma “Old man” in their very first meeting) to having never seen Sigma’s reflection (The mirror in the infirmary was fogged up. Coincidence? You decide.), it was all there for the player to pick up on but…it just wasn’t. You just don’t see character writing like that and it was probably one of my favourite aspects about the game.

Phi

dnq8t0Auv1tw3d56o1_1280No one really knows much about Phi. Hell, even the creator admitted that she is quite the mystery in one of the Golden files.  To be honest, I don’t really know much about her. Like Sigma, she can jump consciences in different world lines and…yeah I got nothing. Its not like she is a poorly written character and missing an entire personality, she was just really mysterious. From the very moment Sigma meets her, her actions dictate her aura of mystery. She always, with a few exceptions, seemed somewhat aloof while being fully aware of the current events. Its clear that she is intelligent and rational when she wants to be but she does have a streak for getting emotional which is nice to see. Many writers tend to forget this when writing mysterious characters, they just tend to make seem aloof and know all the answers while not really having any human interactions or feelings. They just seem like robots rather than people (Kirigiri from the DanganRonpa anime, in the game she does act more…normal I guess).

Phi acts like all this but there isn’t any explanation as to why. I can only assume that it is rather traumatic as she is paired up with Sigma in terms of being able to jump consciences and he has quite a disturbing past. Its clear that whatever we are going to find out about Phi would be in later installments as hinted at in that Golden file…well, that’s with the hope that they actually come.

Dio

Dio. What a bundle a joy that guy is. My thought process of him went from “This guy is suspicious” to “Well, I guess he is alright, but I got my eyes on you…” and concluding with “Yeah no, this guy is an asshole”. He is the leader of the terrorist group, the Myrmidons, but his actions is more or less dictated for him  by his parent clone, Brother. However, unlike Luna, he is perfectly happy with carrying out his enforced orders. That isn’t much to say about Dio as the personality that is presented to you for the majority of the game is simply a façade, you never knew the true Dio other than his desire to complete his objective. In many bad ends, it is usually him where he is the lone escapee for the sole reason that he is persistent on getting his role fulfilled.  Because of this, he always votes “Betray” in the Ambidex games with the exception of two instances where external influences were involved. It is also interesting to note that it is he that flips out the most whenever a character leaves through the number 9 door without him.

I can’t really judge him on his character as his job was to create a fake personality and he did it rather well. I would’ve liked to see him change in a way after witnessing the deaths and Quark and Alice going ape shit due to Radical-6 in some routes but if that were to happen, it would break his character. Odds are, he has most likely witnessed more disturbing events in his life. What is kinda sad about Dio is that it can’t really be said that he is truly doing everything out of free will. Yes, it is true that to the very end, he was praising Brother but for all we know, that could’ve just been programmed into him or even beaten into him. He is a clone with an objective, born into a terrorist organisation. Dio never had the time to become human and is willing to sacrifice his life for fulfilling a mission. While he has zero redeeming aspects and is an apex asshole, he probably didn’t even have the chance to avoid becoming the person who he had become, which is sad in its own right.

Clover

Clover is one of two returning characters from 999 and was one of the telepathic children from the first game. She is by no means a driving force in the game and for a large section, she just acts as back-up for Alice. It seems to me that she just doesn’t have any solid character, she just acts as a means to an end with the story. Her ending just involved some exposition rather than a climax of her character. Well that, and everyone died at the end of her route which is quite funny when you think about it.

Its a shame that her character didn’t get developed enough because she has her history with the first Ambidex game. However, throughout the game, she just acts as a back-up to Alice which only further enhances Alice’s character but makes Clover seem more of a useless case that needs to be handled with care.

Alice

c9a00f2e48381401f2cf29aec003e86eAlice kinda made her debut into the Zero Escape series at the end of 999 and not VLR. She was the hitchhiker that Junpei and co. picked up after they escaped. At that time, one would’ve guessed her relevance in further installments. The main thing I find attractive in Alice’s character is that she has what Dio cannot have; a moral conscience to her surroundings. Like Dio, she has her clear objective in mind but on her route it is clear that she gets rather traumatized by her actions to be even disgusted with herself. “See? I’m horrible! You hate me, don’t you? Do it!…Kill me! Get it over with!”. That’s what I love about Alice, she acknowledges her actions and in the climax of her character route, she looks pitiful but absolutely human.

I have to admit, there was a hostility in me towards Alice when I was initially playing but, unlike Dio, she has that quality about her that lets her be molded by the Nonary Game. While its true that I did hate her for sometime, I never thought of her as a bad character, she was just initially very hard to relate with and her actions seemed rather foreign. I guess I can only compliment VLR on that side of things. They successfully managed to make her actions justifiable and worth while of her dilemma with her father. Her actions to get what she wants weren’t glorified but what she wanted was everything for her. But because it was everything to her, she lost sight of her humanity and almost became deranged just like Dio. Her entire character progression was very cleverly written and it sums up the fact that even people with just goals can become evil at the chance of fulfilling said goal.

K

abc436c43e24e174c7ce3011a2a5c038K is a mystery. That much is obvious from his very introduction. The members of the Nonary game instantly ostracized him from the get go with his “amnesia” and his inability to show his face. I think that its interesting that the group were so quick to assume him guilty of some crime for the simple reason that he is unable to show his face due to his power armour, yet no one seemed to question anyone else’s appearance. There was a Dio, dressed as a lion tamer; Alice, with only some Egyptian ornament protecting her breasts and Clover, with candy pink hair and an outfit that can make an exhibitionist blush. Maybe I’m looking to much into the apparel of the characters and it can all be explained with “because its anime, its obvious that they will wear something like that” but a game with VLR’s integrity, I just can’t help but feel that there was some message behind it.

Depending on what timeline you are playing, K’s identity can vary between two people; Akane or, if she is pronounced dead after the first AB game,  the clone of Sigma. K as a character isn’t all that influential throughout the game with the exception of 2 endings where both of his identities are revealed. He is usually just…there, usually to add something to a conversation or to give subtle hints to what he truly is. However, K has nothing ground-breaking throughout the game; there is no breakdown akin to Alice’s, no revelation of a greater plan like Dio or no great mysterious vibe given off which Phi expresses. Its not like he is wasted potential as this entire act fits his character, K has “lost his memory” or its Akane who is simply acting him out, playing the fool. As such, K is mainly a tool more than a character, not that I’m criticizing K, but I’m just calling a spade a spade here.

Quark

I didn’t like Quark, in fact I don’t think anyone really did. He was just boring with nothing to give with the exception to his outbursts caused by the Radical-6 but those lost urgency far too quickly. Even his ending was kinda…meh. With the exception of Clover’s, his ending lacked the impact and, sometimes anguish that all the others had. It was just how he found Tenmyouji real awesome cause he got him root beer float. All it was was adding to Tenmyouji’s character which helped a twist later in the game relating to Tenmyouji’s true identity.

In summery, Quark was meh.

Tenmyouji

Junpei Tenmyouji. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? On first impressions, Tenmyouji can be quite a bland character. He does nothing exceptional to stand out from the rest of the group other than having a strong connection to Quark but who gives a crap about Quark so that really means nothing to me. It was everything outside of his relationship with Quark that made him interesting, that being that he was Junpei, the protagonist of VLR’s prequel, 999. There were a few red herrings to his character, initially it was presumed that Tenmyouji was like a father figure to Akane or had a similar role to her given the scene in the director’s office in one of the timelines. Like, he was like 178 years old, why on earth would Tenmyouji be Junpei? Alice and Clover were both the same age when we saw them at the end of 999 so why would Tenmyouji be Junpei? That was the red herring that fucked me up.

The moment of realization of Junpei Tenmyouji made his character so interesting. All those actions he made throughout that you took no heed of suddenly became so damn interesting. VLR did what Telltale’s The Walking Dead could not and made an already established character’s actions logical and fascinating.

Luna

tumblr_n3z8paz0Ir1rtq2kpo3_1280Saved the best for last. Luna started out to be a pretty dull run-of-the-mill female side character that didn’t seem to offer anything other than give over reactions to everything. She started out like that. By the end, she had developed into one of my favourite characters in anime, manga, video games…pretty much everything. She was so well-constructed (pardon the mechanical pun) as a character that she had me shedding tears at her end. She shares a similarity with Dio being that she is a puppet of a greater being, however unlike Dio, she wishes to have free will and be with Sigma and be free from the shackles that is the Nonary game. Its important to notice that Luna always has a “bad end” at the end of each timeline in one way or another. Either she ends up dead or has to be toyed around by the puppet masters controlling her to help Sigma realize who he is and what his mission is.

The only real time where she got what she truly desired was in her end. She was able to die, or rather disintegrate in the arms of Sigma. It was a bittersweet sort of feeling, knowing that this was one of the happiest moments of her life despite it reaching its conclusion. Her entire life during the Nonary game was sadness shadowed away by seemingly greater events. Just like the bird caged away on her necklace, she was forced to cage away everything that was within her to simply ensure the completion of an experiment. She had to suppress emotions and feelings to the one person that gave her the opportunity to experience them and if you don’t find that sad then screw you cause that shit is depressing.

Luna was greatly put together in the sense of hiding the truth behind their character. Recently SAO S2 has tried to achieve something like this with 999_vlr___prayer_by_shi_ina-d4tcs5wYuuki’s character but failed miserably since SAO has no idea how to be subtle but hey, that’s for a completely different post. But its that important word that made Luna so compelling, subtle. There were dozens of subtle hints with a few rather large hints to her true nature of being. For instance, what could just be brushed off as cute shyness when Sigma was flirting with her in the Botanical Gardens or the Bar, were actually quite heartbreaking to see due to her having to look away from such matters. The large hint didn’t necessarily say that Luna was a GOLEMN but rather she was a part of a much greater project at hand, that hint being in the Infirmary after Luna scans Sigma to confirm that there is something quite…special about him.

Then she gave him the password…the password that could maybe be a heartbreaking break in character…

MILKEVOLI.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say about the characters within the game, Akane serves mainly as a plot point more than anything and Zero Jr…..well its better if I don’t talk about him to be frank. I wanted this post to be centered mainly around the characters in VLR as that is what VLR does itself, it keeps itself character concentric in order to tell a story. The story of VLR would not work in the slightest if all the characters weren’t constructed as well as they were in the slightest. Well that and you progress through the game going on each characters “routes” so I guess makes sense that I put so much focus on the characters and totally didn’t waste 2900 or so words on characters without even talking about the plot.

caged_bird_by_achromatx-d5u798jThe game’s overall plot is mainly powered by the test of human psyche. What better way to test it with a simple co-ordination and teamwork exercise, a “Yes or no” puzzle with your life on the line? VLR manages to capture the desperation of humanity with the bait of freedom just out of reach.  I like when anime or video games toy around with the weakness of human mentality and with VLR you were placed right into the game to test how much your own mind is fortified.

I played the PS Vita port of Virtue’s Last Reward which I understand is the minority but in general, its alright to play. It was a little tedious at the start of the game since the Vita’s touchscreen doesn’t register styluses but after the first or second Ambidex game, it became second nature maneuvering around the rooms. In addition, I felt that the Vita’s large screen helped with the story portion of the game as I think the 3DS would be more awkward to hold and cumbersome to actually read off in comparison to the Vita. My point is, VITA MASTER RACE, THERE ARE DOZENS OF US!

Virtue’s Last Reward was one hell of an experience that makes me sad that I won’t be able to live through it for the first time again. The twists and excitement that were created were something that I have yet to see topped by anime or video games alike. VLR is a great example of character and plot writing that I tend to bring up from time to time. It understands quantum mechanics unlike Bioshock Infinite, it can be subtle with its character backgrounds unlike Sword Art Online and it host a multitude of ideas and themes successfully unlike Guilty Crown. It truly was a fantastic game that never failed at achieving its goal and for that the sequel that may or may not come, please come quickly.

Angel Beats Review – Death on a (Overly) Dramatic Battlefield.

Death is quite a frequent thing in media.  With the recent surge of “dark” anime, death has been used to show a CRUEL and EDGY world. But generally, it is used to evoke some sort of sympathy or empathy. Some shows are leading examples on how to do a “death scene” by either glorifying the death of a significant and loved character (Code Geass, TTGL, FMA). Other take the road less travelled and make deaths a more “Well that just happened” approach (Majestic Prince, Valvrave, KoiUta). Both are effective in their own sense, they are both carried out to evoke some sort of emotional response. But the question is, what if the characters are already dead? What if, instead of dying, they are brought back to life? Can there still be an emotional response or will it just fall flat? This is what Angel Beats is going to answer.1363665378197

Angel Beats is the one Maeda Jun anime that is not animated by KyoAni. My brief history with Jun’s works is not a good 1b08282c84009c8b9752a0030d488599one. I thought Clannad was an over dramatic harem, Little Busters an over dramatic slice of life and Kanon an over dramatic…mess. So when I saw his name attached to another “Must see” anime, I immediately set my expectations lower than low. So, did he reach those expectations? Did Maeda-sensei finally deliver what I wanted out of him? Ehh, not really. My main faults with his work is that he places too much of an emphasis on the “Make you cry” rather than the “Make you engaged”. Why bother creating characters with dilemmas and faults when you can just have a little girl cry in a corner? There are plenty of things wrong with this logic of his but that’s an entire different thing. However, in Angel Beats, to my surprise, there were a decent number of characters that I cared about. Three, I think. But hey, for Jun, that’s pretty good. It was because of this concept that he took up which made some sort of engagement happen, and for that, I can commend him. However, that doesn’t mean Angel Beats is anyway perfect, far from it in fact, but lets just stay positive for the time being.

The main reason why I like some of Angel Beats is because of the backgrounds of the some characters and how they got to the “Battlefield” (by the way, I know there is like a billion names for the purgatory-like area that they are in but I am just going to use Battlefield). The entire idea of dying with some sort of regret is something I can fully get behind, especially in Otanashi’s case as he was finally getting his life in check when he passed. Its a message to the audience that acceptance is a key thing in life, no matter what the circumstances. I would’ve appreciated this a hell of a lot more if it wasn’t so over the top with its drama. Its true that Angel Beats is one of Jun’s least overly-dramatic shows but that REALLY isn’t saying much. Even the characters and stories I like have the vein of melancholy running through them. It comes down to some cheap trick he employs to easily win over the hearts of many without actually creating anything original. Get stuff like a cancer victim, mass murder or an unlikely love story then the masses are in shambles.

32a4812591d8da402b4783c2e13ae547Yui’s back story is argued among fans and the like to be the best story in Angel Beats, and I can agree. Its a nice simplistic tale of a paralysed girl yearning to find love. What I can appreciate about it is that Yui’s actions and attitude up until episode eleven was all very upbeat and cute. So when her back story came around, it kinda made sense for her to take a hold of this new lease on life (even though she is kinda dead). Taking over as the lead singer for GDM, trying to make as many friends as possible or simply just wanting to make others smile, she is constantly trying to achieve what she couldn’t while she was alive, all unbeknownst to the audience that she is bed ridden with uhh…moe disease or something iunno. I just love the way that Maeda Jun can’t even go on Wikipedia to find some sort of disease that makes someone weak. Its always “Oh, I was born with a weak body”. Oh I see, those seem to be the symptoms of Moeitis, a rare disease which only strikes in girls with eyes bigger than their forehead. My condolences.

Anyways, Yui goes through the series wanting the only thing that can make a girl happy, that being marriage. Who better to step up to the plate then Hideki because she didn’t interact with any other boy properly but that is beside the point. The trouble with this scene is that, while it is nice, its overdone. What I mean by that is that simplicity is overrun with complexity. If things done in this scene were just a step down in regards to dramatics, it would be a lot more impactful. Lose the blaring, distracting “My Most Precious Treasure” for a stoic, nice piano piece; The over dramatic cry of acceptance from Hideki for a toned down, heart felt reassurance of feelings etc. People tend to forget that louder does not equal better, all it does is create a sense of awkwardness and, for the most part, and out of character experience. But, to give credit where credit is due, I did really enjoy the “Would be” romance that was shown after Yui accepts Hideki. Hideki taking Yui out in her wheelchair, that embrace as Hideki places Yui back in her bed, the tear that Yui’s mother wiped away. It was all very touching and sweet, its true that it could definitely be handled better but it would just be wrong of me to constantly look at the negatives of the scene.

Now usually, I would’ve mentioned the plot in some way, shape or form by now but, in Angel Beats, its only used as a 9851a72a4f901dfa96f102ecc6b5d322means to develop two characters’ “romance”, those being Otonashi and Kanade. Everything is set up for these two to be in each others pants by the end of the show. Otonashi is always there whenever something is revealed about Kanade. When he first arrives, he learns that she has weird abilities. At the GDM concert/distraction, he learns that they are merely computer programmed…things (I won’t go into the knitty, gritty side of it all). When they are locked in the jail alone, he learns that she is just a normal girl. In those previous sentences, “he” can easily be replaced with “we” or “the viewer” or something along those lines. Basically, what I’m getting at is that whenever Otonashi finds out something new about her, so does everyone else watching. This could be thought of a cleaver piece of writing but these “revelations” are pretty obvious so when they are revealed, it lacks impact and nearly breaks immersion. There is also the fact that there was not nearly enough chemistry between them to even call it a romance. Otonashi shared the same chemistry between Yuri and Hideki, the only difference between them is that Kanade is seen on screen more with Otonashi…well, that and one other thing that is unique between them.

I am, of course, talking about Otonashi’s heart that is somehow in Kanade when she was placed on the Battlefield. This part in Angel Beats has set up a rift in the community. People are divided between “This shit makes no sense” and “But the power of love wins everything”. It should be obvious to which community I am belong to. You know, I can kinda see what they were going for, the entire “connected even in the previous life” is a nice touch I guess, but damn it should at least make some sense. Its a plot hole that is so big, I had to draw a diagram to fully explain it.Angel beats timeline

Let me walk you through it…
9e0934b7cb42477be2473fde4c233d741) Otanashi dies – Its the tragic tale of him dying, sacrificing his life for the aid of others while he is successfully turning his life around. I have to admit, I liked this story. It wasn’t overdone (by Maeda Jun standards anyway), it was told at a time in Angel Beats where it could have full impact and not interrupt the story and it resembled Otonashi’s character quite well, despite the fact that he had lost his memory.
2) A hospitalised Kanade gets a Otanashi’s heart – Now, I’m no doctor but I’m assuming the heart has to be remotely “fresh” to be liable for a heart transplant so I guess the time span between Otanashi dying and Kanade getting the heart is, at most,  two weeks.
3) Kanade dies – An unknown time passes between Kanade’s heart transplant and Kanade dying. Otanashi died due to some sort of infected bruising cause by the train accident. Something like that shouldn’t affect a heart but hey, I’m sure the guy who regularly uses diseases for moe girls but can’t come up with a name for the disease should be trusted here instead of me. Regardless, I think that Otonashi’s heart let her live for a range of 6-12 months as a fully functioning heart can sustain a diseased life for longer, but hey, I’m not the expert here, Maeda Jun is.
4) Kanade arrives on the Battlefield – This should be an immediate occurrence, going off what has been provided in the show. I honestly doubt that Kanade was “Tenshi” as soon as she arrived given her personality in the latter half of the show. My guess is that, due to being hospitalised for so long and being sick, she wouldn’t have any social skills so she just chose to isolate herself from whatever group was there. In her isolation, she went about creating her “skills” that are associated with Tenshi e.g Hand Sonic, Distortion, Harmonics etc in order to protect herself. She is said to be “the enemy of the Afterlife” so this could imply that she was lingering around the Battlefield before Yuri and co. arrived, with the intention of passing people on to the next life.
5) People become hostile to Kanade and she acquires the name “Tenshi” – Again,  an unknown time passes between her arrival and this event. I’m assuming Yurippe didn’t wake up one morning and say “Man, the student council president can suck it, I’m so shooting her today”. Kanade must have wanted them to pass on to the next life but one thing lead to another and the entire crew turned against her. Communicating with each other went out the window some time in the midst of this so that could indicate some decent amount of time passed, lets just estimate 3-5 months between 4) and 5).
6) Otanashi arrives on the Battlefield – At long last, our MC has shown up. I don’t know when he did but he did. By the time he arrived, Yuri was visibly afraid or at least threatened by Kanade while she was doing recon so again, some time has passed since the last event, lets just say 2-3 months. 

All this means is that it took Otanashi over a year to arrive on the Battlefield, completely contradicting what has been dc97dd495dc6ac5b9a02a6e5316c1a10explained in the show. When he died, he should have arrived then and there, right? Apparently not. So basically, the ending shouldn’t be possible. But it happened. And people liked it. Now, I know plot holes are not the easiest things to spot at times but goddamn, this is right in front of you. The entire concept was being screwed right there. Its not even a difficult concept to grasp, its literally “You die with regrets, you go to Battlefield instantly”. It takes skill to make a plot hole out of that. What baffles me the most is that the show must have gone through many stages of production and no one raised their hand and objected to this. Kinda makes me wonder if it was just Jun testing the waters to see how much he can get away with as long as he had a cute little girl there, apparently quite a lot.

Production wise, its rather nice. I did use to really like P.A Works (I still do, its just that style over substance has been a recent approach to a lot of their recent anime) mainly for their background art and they do show off as much as possible. Musically, its sound (pardon the pun). Few songs manage to stand out but other than that, its nothing to go crazy about. The seiyuus did a rather good job as well. Nowadays, its kinda rare to see Hiroshi Kamiya get such an emotional role like Otanashi so I guess that was pleasurable to hear. Now, I don’t usually mention dubs but hot damn I need to cover this. I’m not one for dubs. The only time I would watch one is if it was a show I really liked or a show which is notorious for having a good dub, but generally, I tend to avoid them for the simple reason that I just enjoy hearing Japanese rather than America- sorry, English. But for any other show, I just look up a decent amount of scenes to compare. My ears still haven’t forgiven me for putting them through so much torture. Some scenes that I found funny or nice have been more or less ruined. They localised it too much and that is never a good thing. Moral of the story, watch the Japanese version, no one deserves such torture.

I was rather annoyed when I finished Angel Beats for the simple reason that it was missing something. Pacing. When it comes down to it, it was a rushed messed. Some characters had no time to develop despite the fact that they were showing clear signs of development. It felt as if it was missing a lot of things and maybe that’s why they decided to produce a VN to make up for everything. It is something that I would call an unfinished project and it certainly does not deserve all the acclaim that it is receiving.  Maybe if it was 2-cour and it fixed that absurd ending then yeah, I’m sure it would be great. But we have to deal with what we got and what we got was a rushed mess that used cheap tricks to make the masses cry and, to me, that is the worst type of show that can be made.

 

OreGairu Review – My SNAFU is good as I unexpected.

Expectations can really screw you over. By looking at a seasonal anime chart, you have very little to go off so you set your expectations on little more than a short paragraph. This can end up surprising you (Date A Live, Gin no Saji, Tari Tari) or it can end up fucking you over (SAO, Coppelion, KoiChoco). What could seem like the greatest show ever with heaping piles of potential turns out to be harem hijinks with a pinch of bad, and vice versa. So when the Spring anime season of 2013 rolled in, the same pattern of choosing which show you would destroy or praise for the next 12 to 24 weeks or so came into play. Now, that Spring season was filled with some rather neat surprises, some good, some bad (I’m looking at you OreImo S2). Some of my favourite shows ever made came from that season. One of these shows is Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru or just OreGairu…yeah, just OreGairu.422d6b7bf4987bd1d704a498ea8fe7da

With a name like “My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected” and using buzzwords like “antisocial high school student” and “distorted view on life” used in its synopsis, you could just smell the mediocrity from a mile away with a hint of edgyness. Seriously, an edgy young teenage high school boy is forced into a club with only him and a long haired beautiful brunette. To boot, a genki girl is introduced to the club later. To be honest, it was smelling a lot like Haganai by the second. Who would of thought that it would be more like The Dark Knight by the end?

The characters are what makes OreGairu so fantastic, mainly Hachiman. What I thought to be an edgy, introverted loser0312f90ce92da2dc8a5fad5e54a95e17 turns out to spit out some wise ass soliloquies and have a great insight into the daily doldrums of high school life. I tend to criticise Light Novel authors for self inserting themselves into their own stories so they can get a stiffy to their own creations but with OreGairu, it works like a charm. Now, I don’t  know if the author even sees a slice of himself in Hachiman but it just feels like the author went through all the shit that Hachiman went through. What I’m trying to say is that everything that occurs around Hachiman, it all feels so real, like it could actually happen. I don’t know why this is a compliment but in the light of recent LN adaptations, it certainly feels like it.

Hachiman is quite a complex character. I could talk about just him for this entire post and still not get my point across on why he is so amazing, so selfish, so generous, so asshole like, so narcissistic and so fucking nice. Contradictions are fun, aren’t they? The best way I can describe him is that he is the love child of Hachiken from Gin no Saji and Judar from Magi. He is an asshole but with good intentions…I guess. The scene with Hachiman and Shizuka in episode 12 sums up Hachiman very well. She says something along the lines of “Your methods of dealing with Sagami were good but I can’t find it within myself to compliment you”. The scene as a whole is fantastic to watch. She also says “There are people who’d be hurt by watching you get hurt”. I watched Hachiman for the entire series and I never really thought of how he was feeling on the inside. I always thought “Damn, this guy isn’t afraid of getting shit done…little harsh though”. I had sensed it but at that moment it hit me like a sack of bricks, Hachiman is human, even if his actions contradict it.

3450946812c041ef4e187b5cf70560feEpisode 12 was the pinnacle of the anime. Including the scene I already mentioned, it has some of the greatest anime scenes I have ever watched. Its remembered for the scene on the school roof where Hachiman confronts Sagami. Its this scene where we see his side of not afraid to get hurt to achieve a goal. He barrages Sagami with insults, humiliating her in front of her best friends and crush. There is a hint in his facial expression that he does seem to be enjoying the humiliation, almost like he is getting back at the people who cause him so much grief. Its great that his asshole side comes out whenever he tries to do good. It seemed like he was going to go on forever before Hayama shoved him against the wall and told him to “Shut up for a second”. What occurs next always sends shivers up my spine. You don’t see the upper half of his face but what you do see is a malicious grin and chuckle in the face of Hayama. This could mean so much. Could he be putting up a tough-guy front to hide his inner pain? Maybe that’s what he was doing the entire time. Could he be that he genuinely enjoyed the barrage and his laughing about his actions despite being grabbed by Hayama?  I tend to swing to the former rather than the latter for his intention but its still a just reason.

So that’s it. Hachiman accomplished his goal by going on that rooftop. He knew that Sagami would screw up the speech 7b3acf11f6672111d0ca19ba257e094aso he needed a way to get the embarrassment off of her and get the hate onto him. It worked just the treat. With the three girls in attendance, rumours spread like wild fire and Hachiman became the epicentre of it all. However, before Hayama left the roof, he said “Why is that the only way you know how to do things?”. Hayama is more or less an acquaintance to Hachiman. Their only interactions they had with each other was at the Summer camp and the business with the tennis club. Despite this, he figured out Hachiman’s intentions and even questioned his methods. Maybe this is just telling the viewer that Hayama is just a good judge of character but I believe that its showing the viewer that even someone like Hayama knew what Hachiman is truly like, something, at least I, wasn’t aware of. This 30 second or so gap between the girls leaving the roof to the concert scene where we see Yui and Yukino singing is quite something. After Hayama leaves, Hachiman twitches his wrist and falls to the floor to a pathetic position on the floor. Again, we cannot see Hachiman’s intimidating eyes. There is no music to be heard or any sound other a sigh let out by Hachiman. This scene is so…gripping in its direction. The way the music suddenly cuts off and we are left in the silence with him is just…intense. Hachiman was so strong and steeled in the series but know we see him just broken.

It then cuts to the QUALITY filled concert scene with Yui, Yukino and folk. The lyrics aren’t really important but the c2d6cfa5ce3214f8df17f23b66050d79Engrish before the chorus just feels awkward…well, the same could be said about all Engrish. This isn’t a legitimate criticism by the way, it was just bugging me is all. Hachiman is then seen at the back of the gymnasium, almost sulking in his despair. Only now do we see his dead, cold eyes which quickly disappear as a slight smile stretches across his face. A smile that came only by seeing Yukino and Yui on stage, people who he had nothing but mostly friction with the entirety of the show. This smile is just vague really. Even now, I’m not completely bought on the reason I have behind it. Is he happy that he accomplished his goal and can look Yukino in the face with pride? Is he happy that, after what just happened, he has people he can turn to? Or maybe, he is just putting on a self-assured front for his own good? This ambiguity created was something I really appreciated. I love it when something can leave you questioning something that is right in front in your face.

Damn, I think that’s enough on just one episode for now. I will return to that episode for just one more scene with Hachiman but before that, I need to discuss one quite important girl, Yukino Yukinoshita. Before I go on, the author has a thing for repeating patterns in names. Most the characters have a repeating pattern in their name or something like it e.g Yukino Yukinoshita, Yui Yuigahama, Hayama Hayato; The actual author’s name is Watari Wataru and the OP is sung by Yanagi Nagi. Not really a criticism or a compliment but I thought it was pretty neat when I found that out. YEAH, YUKINO. LETS DISCUSS.

To be honest, I didn’t like Yukino when she was introduced, and I think the vast majority would agree with me. She was5acaa06d706d76c3be84a8c4cafd32bf cold, malicious, and just a down-right up-tight bitch. But what I love about the show is that it uses this judgement on her and, without really changing her drastically, this judgement turns a 180. There is a common theme of “False perceptions”  running through OreGairu as it is present in Yui and rather strongly in Hachiman. She really doesn’t change throughout the show other than her opening up to Hachiman, which delights shippers all around the world. What makes her grow on you is learning her background from others. The information provided can be so subtle that you miss it on your first watch or it could be as obvious that it would make you sigh. With the help of her sister, her living conditions and her general daily routine, in a kind of juxtaposing way, she develops without really…developing She’s still cold but we know of a warm side. She’s still malicious but you can understand her fighting intent behind it. She’s still a bitch but that’s because the world has been a bitch to her.

3c96440e66f2f5f820f167810f60d3a2So in the final moments of the almighty Episode 12, she is met in the clubroom by Hachiman when he returns. What is great about this scene is just how natural and flowing their conversation is, despite the actual content of it. Its in stark contrast with the 1st episode, clearly indicating Yukino’s “development” in the show. Like even by their body language, you can see the growth between them. Yukino looks him in the eye and Hachiman looks back, she is smiling at him, she stops what she is doing to talk, she’s talking a softer tone. Its an actual conversation. Hachiman notices this and steadies himself for the all important question, Will she be his girlfriend. She politely and readily declines, saying that its impossible for them to be friends and that she didn’t know him before, but she knows him now. This pretty much tells you that they have changed in regards to their relationship and are ready to be…”friends”.

Yui interrupts their moment to invite them to invite them to an after party. This scene does really carry any real value other than showing how similar Hachiman and Yukino are in terms of social awareness. They both didn’t even know what the after party entails and they both declined to go. Its very typical of them to do this same action despite having contradicting living conditions. Kinda like a birds of a genetically engineered feather flock together or something like that.

All the characters in OreGairu play a certain role throughout the happenings of the show, just not as heavily as 1372414014543Hachiman and Yukino. Yui plays the genki, lovable girl that is friends with everyone. She carries the guilt of injuring Hachiman on that faithful day which eventually causes her to gain a crush for him. Her role is needed in the show as the Volunteer club would collapse without her but she isn’t necessarily vital for the overall plot. Shizuka Hiratsuka, or Christmas Cake-sensei as I like to call her plays the lovable teacher role that gets angry whenever you mention her age, her relationship status and…well just being Hachiman. On paper, she does seem to be a rather dull character but she turns out to be one of my favourites in the show. She’s capable of cracking really wise lines, like “Helping someone out is not a justifiable reason for you getting hurt” when talking to Hachiman in Episode 12. She plays the onlooker role throughout the show, she’s always observing their activities, whether it be at the camp or even running errands at the club, she is there to give her input at the end. That’s really her role in the show, to offer some wise words of advice to the club members even if they don’t want it. The advice she gives can be translated to the real world as well, like a moral of the story type thing.

Character wise, that’s all who really shines. Yeah sure, every character down to Hachiman’s sister has an important role to play but not nearly as intense as the ones previously mentioned. That doesn’t necessarily make them “bad characters”. The popular kids are don’t have any deep tale to tell as they are just popular kids to Hachiman. A distant breed of creatures that he doesn’t quite understand. Haruno’s primary role is to just develop Yukino in the way I mentioned. Oh, and Yoshiteru, as much as a bro that guy is, he is more or less useless. Sorry.

e74281be24a97b04fac76af99b55a520OreGairu is made by BrainsBase. They did a good job on it but its nothing to put on a pedestal. Its smooth when it needs to be and when you are telling are great story, that’s all that really matters. The music is nothing really to behold also except for the three solo piano tracks. I do want to compliment some members of the seiyuu cast. Eguchi Takuya usually voices the lovable baka high school student. The only other role that I appreciated him was Kujó in Gosick but that’s mainly because I love Gosick. But he really goes against the grain with Hachiman. He usual high pitched demeanour is swapped for an asshole like grainy voice that fits Hachiman perfectly. Saori Hayami was also great as Yukino. I feel that Hayami is real wasted talent in anime. Her biggest roles are Ayase from OreImo, Saki from “Eden of the East” and Chiriko from Ano Hana. In one anime she wants to fuck an incest crazed cock head, in another, she is utterly useless without her male counter part and the other she is either acting monotone or screaming at the top of her lungs. Not great roles if you ask me. So seeing her as Yukino felt really refreshing. Oh, and Inoue Marina is fantastic as playing the bitch blond of the class. She played the bitch in Aura and she was perfect there as well so she really needs more roles like that.

I do realise that this was me just plugging how great Episode 12 was rather than a review but DAMN that was a great episode. It embodied OreGairu so well and its constantly creeping back into my mind. It had one of my favourite scenes in anime, one of my favourite lines in anime and…well a lot of other favourites. OreGairu stands to be, in my opinion, the best character written “school” show ever created, and one of the best character driven shows ever to boot. Why? Because the characters feel realistic. They actually feel like they exist in this day and age. Really, that shouldn’t be a compliment but with the heaps of mediocrity coming from Japan, its nice to see an unexpected diamond in the rough. I can, without shame, put my hand on my heart and say “OreGairu is one of my favourite shows ever made” Oh, and I will fight you if you insult my OTP.

Hachiman x Saika forever.

1370730484955

Infinite Stratos – Why.

Why? A common yet very philosophical word. “Why cant I have this candy Mommy?” “Why is there war?” “Why did I fail this exam?” “Why do we have people dying of hunger in our modern day world?”. These questions can often be answered with “That is just how the world is”. Then why is our world like this? We can turn to religious figures for advice, scientists for evidence, or parents for reassurance. But the only person who can answer this question is you. The world is what you make it to be. You can run around your neighbourhood, screaming that judgement day is imminent. OR, you can help a girl with her troubles and have her  sway at your every move. Hell, WHY settle for ONE? GRAB LIFE BY THE BALLS AND ASK FOR AN ENTIRE QUINTET OF BABES! THAT is what a man full of life once did. One man had the courage to stand up and say “Why is not going to lead my path in life, I AM”. His story has been told. This story is called Infinite Stratos.

Ichika Orimura. Drink it in. That name is considered fable in many tribes. A name that can be heard in whispers in the 4bb4bb4645491f95ab322217c8b90cc7night. A name that seized your child’s play. A name that sends tingles down every other woman’s spine. A name so infamous that he has been declared a “gay dude who is a homosexual “. My oh my, how could you be so wrong. Whenever Ichika is confronted with a moral dilemma in his life, usually involving a woman since he grabs life by the balls, he does not let it get the better of him. He blushes in embarrassment, closes his eyes to protect his pure heart but, as faith would have it, he would unwillingly succumb  to the desires of a feeble boy and divulges the nearest females panties or feasts upon the closest bosom. This lapse in judgement is usually met with a blow to the face with a killing remark of “ICHIKA NO HENTAIIIIII~!” I assure you ladies and gentlemen. Ichika Orimura is not a hentai desu. He is a man.

Now, I can proclaim Ichika’s name from the heavens for the rest of my shadow of a life but that is not what I, nor you, are 2d4e8f2a8c0d71e5487770094d7acd39here for. You want to know about the external influences on this brave lad’s life. Like, “What was his cock-hungry quintet like?” or “How is this story told in relation to factors such as “Pay-sing” and “Khar-ack-tour dee-vell-op-mint”” Well my darling, this story excels in every category. What would be described as “shameful pandering to lowlife otaku” is actually masterly crafted story-telling that would bring a tear to the eye of many scholars. Fan-service? More like an explicit insight to the human anatomy! One-dimensional characters? More like characters so deep that they only show one-dimension. An abomination that kills brain cells? More like the deepest, thought-provoking piece of art since Evahnjellion!

The quintet is truly a work of beauty, both physically and emotionally. Infinite Stratos shows its passion for world peace 50a57b67f46b41726b9244a796ea1fe8by having many races integrating in a space. Beauties from China, England, Russia, Germany, France and ,of course, the magnificent land of Niihhon, the country of the setting moon. Being an Englishman that has been confused for looking Asian on multiple occasions, I greatly appreciate the addition of Rin, Houki and Cecilia. These pure goddesses craft a romance so gripping, everyone and their dog’s mother turned a head blushing. Their passion for Ichika is one so strong that it breaks him, sometimes physically. Whenever their pure, untouched, flawless figures are exposed to the beast of a man, they have to protect their bodies and make Ichika suffer from temporary amnesia to forget this shameful display of skin. To do so, they usually resort to violence. One can admire this in relation to independence and strength of the modern day woman. Wow, not only is Infinite Stratos  promoting world peace, it also supports women rights! Truly a humble yet gracious work of art.

You may have noticed that I failed to mention two countries, those being Germany and France. I have a bone to pluck IS229with these two succubus. Both of these two whores play as the temptation to our supreme protagonist. With sexual assault and multiple public displays of perversion,  they try to win over our Ichika with lust rather than love. Despite having what some people would call “Wasted potential” or being “Koi fish in a sewer”, I believe their stories are elongated wastes that only show how patient out hero is with sluts like these. Our mighty leader shows excellent personal skills when dealing with matters with the devilish duo. He withstands their sexual persuasions to only blow it back in their whore mouths by spending time with our other pure maidens.

Charlotte’s and Laura’s backgrounds have seemingly warranted Ichika’s approval of “Damsel in distress” and saves the used goods from a pressured family situation and a destructive internal struggle for acceptance. Pffft, talk about whiny. As a result of saving them and, in turn, making them better people, they fall for him for providing them with a new lease on life. This is where the story falters. Compared to the others reasons for falling in love with Ichika, in Rin’s case, it was because he went to her family’s restaurant regularly, Cecilia’s case being for her being able to beat the living shit out of him (which was a fluke. Ichika never loses. Ever) and Houki for going to the same kendo club as him when they were little, they both seem so incredibly shallow and artificial. If this show did not condone these two whores then it would be the Citizen Kane of everything.

Lets look at how the show presents itself to us in the form of animation and sound. The company in charge of animation 0b90042da95046987dc37457a19d8a86was 8-bit who were behind such masterpieces like “Busou Shinki” and “Walkure Romanze” so the standard has been raised high for this show. Boy oh boy, does this show follow suit and then some. With breath taking CG and astounding lip animations, it makes The Garden of Words look like Mars of Destruction produced by Studio DEEN in the Winter season. Each character looks unique with well defined body parts and faces. It is a spectacle to behold.

The audio work is as impressive as the visuals. With a totally original OP, beautifully crafted “running ED” (for both seasons to boot) and a ear-gasmic dub cast, your ears would want to take you out for dinner. I would mention the seiyuu cast but who the fuck cares about Yoko Hikasa, Hanazawa Kana, Inoue Marina, Saito Chiwa and Tamara Yukari?

So. I ask you again. Why? Why oh why? Infinite Stratos. That’s why.

Ano Hana – The Potential We Missed That Day

I was originally going to call this “Ano Hana – FUCK YOU MARI OKADA” but decided against since I’m going for subtly. Ano Hana was a very odd show for me. I believed, given the right staff, it could’ve been leaps and bounds better than it is. It had a neat premise, characters had potential and it did have the production quality to be a well done show. However, it had a melancholy loving writer and a director that hates to go outside the domain of “High School life” in his work. Because of this, I didn’t end up hating the show but instead the staff. My opinion on the show is left in this weird void where I don’t know what to think of it. I wasn’t bored while I was watching it but I certainly didn’t enjoy what I was getting. All the time I was thinking “Ahh, if this just had a better writer/director…” or something along those lines. Therefore, expect a lot of “This is the fault of Mari Okada…” or “If the directing was better here…” rather than me criticising the actual show on its faults. As per usual, spoilers are inbound (not like I care for spoiling this show but whatever).[UTW]_Ano_Hana_-_03_[h264-720p][B8736CB3].mkv_snapshot_02.30_[2013.12.07_14.21.41]

Melodrama can be quite the effective thing. It can either have people on their hands and knees crying their eyes out, contemplating if life is really worth it anymore or it can have people rolling their eyes in exasperation while laughing at the consequences the melodrama has on the show. I can say that I have been on both sides of this spectrum. Hell, one of my favourite shows has buckets of melodrama (Myself ; Yourself) but that doesn’t change the fact that it can still tell a great story and get to my heart. Unfortunately, Ano Hana falls into the latter of this spectrum. It did provide a nice premise and characters but they couldn’t do much with them other than “HURR MUH TEARS, MUH DRAMUH HURR”. So, what exactly went wrong and how did it happen? Mari Okada that’s what (See, I told you this is going to be a common theme). It takes a special gift to fuck up a story as much as she can. Its like she made the premise and was like “…what now?” and copy and pasted her usual formula of “Drama” i.e copious amounts of tears with little to no character development. Seriously, there was no episode in Ano Hana where a character didn’t cry. It made the viewer accustomed to the huge amount of tears so that when a character did turn on the waterworks, it was hard to give sympathy for them. Its kinda like Elfen Lied in the sense that Elfen Lied has the massive amount of blood and edgy gore so it made me go “Oh, a girl is getting her fingers chopped off…k, cool.”

c03204701cebb35c91557a8ea30e2de2That being said, there was moments, while being scarce, that I kinda cared about the characters, primarily Jinta . He was probably the best character in the show despite having his fits of melancholy. Overall, he is the character who has the least amount of outbursts in the show and I can understand his troubles…to an extent. It was in the first few episodes where he shined the most. There were actual instances where the show was being subtle in their development for him. For example, there was a shot which showed two certificates over his door. Both were awards for him coming in 2nd and 3rd place in a competition. Maybe I’m looking too much into it but I found it interesting that he never won them. Maybe it was a cause of Menma dying that made him fall short of winning. Maybe it was a factor that took a stunt on his confidence and made him a shut in. However, the show ruins this subtleness when they repeat this shot frequently in the latter half of the show. But that’s what he is, a confidence stunted shut in. He isn’t an emo faget that wallows in his misery everyday rambling “OH MENNMAAA, SHOW YOURSELF BEFORE ME” in much desire. He is visibly effected by her death but isn’t letting it get the better of him. I actually appreciated that. Sure, there was that moment where he was running, screaming at the top of his lungs in the first episode but that was only one of his very few emotional outbursts.

I wish that I could tell you that Ano Hana fought the good fight and made their characters have subtle interactions and developments. I wish I could tell you that. Unfortunately, Ano Hana succumbs to the Mari Okada and there is much melodrama to nourish in, constantly shoving the the tears down your throat until you drown in misery. It seems the message they are trying to convey is “Oh, you think that these characters can get sad? HA FUCK YOU I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU WHAT REAL DESPAIR IS LIKE” As previously mentioned, there isn’t one episode in the anime that doesn’t show one member of the main cast crying. Be it Naruko for calling Jinta pathetic, Matsuyuki for cross dressing, Chiriko for cutting her hair and Menma for….well, for being Menma I guess. Depending on who you are, the show either shoots itself in the foot or hits a goldmine by doing this. Its either “Oh god, they are crying. Just. Awesome.” or “OH MY GOD SHES CRYING, ALL OF MY TEARS. ;_;”

That’s the main problem with Ano Hana. Instead of just trying to tell a story, it tries to make the viewer cry. If that was what 3055020a22d0f3575fdd74e085488c42they were going for then great, it certainly worked on a few people. But that’s where the manipulation comes in. It creates these attractive characters with conflicts within themselves and hey presto, the masses are are in tears. If you found Ano Hana sad and you cried, fair enough. I’m in no position to say what’s sad and what isn’t. There are themes introduced that can hit quite close to home for people. All I’m trying to say is that the drama done in the show is very poor and shallow from a near neutral standpoint. There are many moments of unintentional comedy. For example, after Naruko is seen outside a love hotel with that twenty something year old man, many people spread rumours in class before Jinta interrupts them in Ano Hana fashion i.e in a unnecessarily over dramatic way. He defends her by saying something along the lines of “Y-yeah, Naruko could’ve gone to a love hotel once or twice, in fact she has a love hotel face. BUT, DO NOT SAY SHE IS A PROSTITUTE!” and Naruko is all like “Ah, my hero!”. So, basically it went “NARUKO SURE HAS HAD SEX A FEW TIMES, I BET SHE LOVES THE D BUT DO NOT CALL HER A WHORE”. I nearly died from laughing there.

A thing that makes the melodrama effective is the voice acting. I have to admit, I really like the acting in the show. If this was any other show, I would be proclaiming the greatness of the acting from the highest mountain in all of anime land, especially Tomatsu Haruka’s performance. However, this is Ano2dcdfcc40749ab9d2e2478c01d997012 Hana so its used in a…well, its like putting the best OST over a video of someone eating a bowl of cold porridge. What I’m trying to say it is used in a wrong way. Too much of a good thing is never good. It needs to be taken in moderation. And that’s what this show lacks, moderation. Everything is thrown at you in one go. One moment its OH DANG NO ONE SEES MENMA, the next its OH SHIT THAT GUY IS A CROSS DRESSER and, without taking a breath, its OH GOD NARUKO LOVES JINTA. I like to think that Mari Okada saw all these things were effective in other anime and was like “Welp, if I put all of this in a 11-episode show then it will be the bestest thing ever” Yeah, no, it doesn’t work like that. Again, the show needed some sort of moderation. Maybe it was the fault of the short airtime, maybe it was just lots of ideas condensed into a brief show but it didn’t go down well with me.

For the actual ending, well…it was very…very…Ano Hana I guess. It was what we had in the show but ten times OTT. What they were going for was nice with the diary pages. It could’ve been quite a bitter-sweet ending to the show but uhh…that kinda didn’t happen. If it seems like I’m acting kinda awkward right now that’s because I found it extremely awkward to watch. I was just going “Oh, well uhh….good for them…i guess?”I appreciated the idea they had but the poor execution just made it hard to watch for me. A constant track of “this would be better if the staff was different” was repeating in my head. The constant barrage of the characters bawling their eyes and roaring at the top of their lungs made it tough to get through. That’s not what I should be feeling. I should be happy for the characters or at least laughing at them. This weird little middle ground that I’m lost in is not pleasant.

Ano Hana was a mixed bag for me. I was laughing at it and sometimes with it. I got angry at the characters but I could understand their reasoning, well, to a certain extent. The main conclusion I came to was that if Ano Hana received a better writer and director, it would be a great show. Hell, it could’ve been one of my favourites. However, wishful thinking is going to get me nowhere so I have to live with this. I wanted to like Ano Hana. It was a well made show, the music was nice, the OP and ED were both great and the voice performances were exceptional. But, while those factors are important, they can’t make a show good. In the end, it comes down to the core content and what we got was over the top, bad melodrama. That’s the saddest thing about the show really, its lost potential. And the fact that Mari Okada still has work.

Fuck you Mari Okada.

Fall 2013 Anime Impressions – Pret gud

I’m lazy. I am currently writing my ALO post but that’s going at a snails pace. I had plans to write on other things but I didn’t cause I should finish ALO. So, to fill this gap of nothingness, I’m taking the easy way out and writing a “Seasonal Anime Impressions” post, the easiest thing you can write ever. Seriously, all you have to say is “Yeah, I like it. Animation is neat and the music is pretty cool. I like it” or “Yeah, its not the best, Animation is sub par and the music is meh, I don’t like it”. But, I will at least try and go the extra mile with this and put some effort into it. Who knows, I might even mention  the seiyuu cast.I do not intend to write about every show I’m watching as I am watching a decent amount (23 shows) so I will keep to the ones that stand out to me.

The Good

Samurai Flamenco

1384429724062This is a somewhat hidden gem this season. A lovely, playful show that is about a unsung “superhero” trying to fight justice for the greater good. Manglobe are behind this one and they are actually trying with this show. While I’m watching it, there isn’t a second where I can look away. Hazama is a genuine funny and cool guy. Goto is the straight forward cop that shows sign of heart break. Mari is…is….great. Just great. Fantastic even. Basically, the entire cast are a lovable bunch that are supremely entertaining. Thats what makes this show. The cast. If they weren’t how they were and were just some cookie-cutter tropes copy and pasted from every anime ever then this show wouldn’t even be close of reaching the peak it is at now. Lets just hope they can maintain this high and not crash down in a fiery mess.

Log Horizon

54267lMost of my thoughts on Log Horizon are still the same from my other post. Generally, there isn’t really anything I can poke flaws at here. MMO elements are realistic and cool. Characters are showing no signs of growing stale. Creates genuine emotion and thoughts when watching. From where it is now, Its leaving me with enough satisfaction to put it high up my favourite anime list.  The introduction of Nyanta gave LH a new spice of life and with the mystery of Shiroe’s plan, I’m left begging for more. Oh yeah, and Akatsuki is still the best.

Galilei Donna

1384061400080Three young girls with the aid of a pirate played by Hiroshi Kamiya are trying to solve Gailio’s mystery. I think that premise is pretty interesting if I do say so myself. Again, this is another show that seems to have flown under many peoples radar. With an amazing OP, Galilei Donna is turning out to be a contender for AOTS. It runs on a original plot that keeps you guessing each episode. It kinda reminds of Valvrave where each episode has its own little “surprise”, except its toned down 100 times. And without vampires. *Insertbestsisterthinghere*

Ace of Diamond

54235lSports anime have never been on the top of peoples watchlist. I, myself, was only excited for this show because I heard Hanae Natsuki was playing a main role so I was going to watch it regardless. I never expected it to be enjoyable! The baseball in this show plays a big part in it but that doesn’t mean you have to like baseball to like this show. The comedy is great and its all round fun show and one I look forward to every Sunday. I admit its not a show for everyone since comedy is the most subjective thing out there and the entire idea of sports can repulse someone but at least check out the ED by Yoko Hikasa. Its fantastic.

Honourable Mentions

  • Tokyo Ravens
  • Yowamushi Pedal
  • Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
  • Kakumeiki Valvrave S2
  • Ars Nova

The Bad

Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!

52633lLet me tell you the formula for each episode of Wrestling Boobs
>10 minutes of “EIITAII YOOOO~”
>5 mins of DEEP “Wrestling is srs stuf fellas”
>5 mins of idol fan service
>2 mins of “If I try hard enough, I can X so I can Y”
>3 mins of OP and ED
And that’s how you make this show. If that all appeals to you, then be my guest and watch it.When I started this show, I thought I would have a good laugh watching it. HA! NOPE! CAN’T LAUGH IF ITS PAINFUL TO WATCH! At least the seiyuu cast is nice…I guess.

BlazBlue: Alter Memory

56137lI’m sure the games are great. I’m sure its the anime’s fault for making this franchise look bad. I’m sure the characters make up for the lacklustre plot. I’m sure of this. However, this anime sucks. Its boring, character motivations are not clear, things happen because why not and the animation is leaving much to be desired. It gives the message to the anime only viewers to play the games, something I don’t really have an interest in. I was hoping this would just tell me the story of BlazBlue in an interesting way so I don’t have to play the games but looks like I’m left with no choice but abandon that train of thought.

Nagi no Asukara

53549lOh to be hyped for this show again. I remember it was the Fall season of 2012 when this was announced. “An original project with Hanae Natsuki and Hanazawa Kana to be animated by P.A Works”. Awesome! Two of my favourite seiyuus are going to be pairing up for one of my favourite studios. What could go wrong? Mari Okada, that’s what. She writes the most melodramatic bullshit in anime. And what did we get in NnA? Melodramatic bullshit. So long is the interesting plot of sea people. Sayonara to the use of great vocal talent. Adiós to the possibly good NTR romance anime. In summery,
Fuck you Mari Okada.

Honourable Mentions

  • Noukome
  • Yuushibu
  • Infinite Stratos S2

The Meh

Golden Time

52091lI like Golden Time. Don’t like it enough to call it good though. I do have some flaws with it that stick out too much for me. Namely, the show seems to concentrate on Koko a little too much. The show would be doing itself justice if it focused more on Tada and Linda since, y’know, they have problems other than “Wahhh, I’m so pretty and popular that I don’t know who to trust. Woe is me! Q.Q” Not a single ounce of sympathy was evoked from me for Koko. Whereas, Linda and Tada on the other hand, I actually give 2 shits about them. I do have some other faults with Golden Time but basically, if it shifts its focus into gear, I will like it a hell of a lot more.

Kill la Kill

54379lIts fun. That’s it really. I can’t really critique it since its achieving what it is aiming for, fun. So yeah…that’s about it. Like, I could go on how its just filler up until now and how everything has been a “disappointed” but with everything given for this show, I was expecting all this. Pure, nonsensical fun. Anything else than that would disappoint me. But “fun” alone can’t make a show good mind you. Just because something keeps you laughing and entertained doesn’t necessarily mean its good. It certainly doesn’t make it bad but if that were the case, every shounen out there would be considered a masterpiece.

Kyoukai no Kanata

53111lThis show started off pretty bad, then it had a decent 4th episode then it went to mediocrity. But now, we are moving to the “main event” of the show and things are starting to get rather interesting. However, it would be foolish of me to simply discredit the opening of the show and praise the living shit out of this portion of it. The good is in direct proportion with the bad and its kinda in this kinda awkward middle ground. Basically. KnK doesn’t really deserve all the shit its getting but on the same token it doesnt deserve the praise its receiving as well. But hey, at least the ED is great.

Honourable Mentions

  • Strike the Blood
  • Outbreak Company
  • Coppelion
  • Monogatari S2
  • Teekyuu S3

That about wraps things up here. I will be sure to let you know if my opinion changes on any of these shows. So far, my general impression on this season is very positive. The good shows out way the negatives by tonnes. Sure, there is your fair share of disappointments, fan service fests and poor adaptations but that’s standard with every season. When we have shows like Samurai Flamenco, Galilei Donna, Ace of Diamond and Log Horizon, complaining would only make me look like a an elitist prick. There are a fair share of 2-cour shows airing this season though. My only wish is that they do not falter throughout their course. Or rather “Fall” in quality…WELP. BACK TO CHINESE CARTOONS.