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.

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.

Tari Tari – Melody for the Heart

I remember Tari Tari. I remember it fondly. It was a show made by P.A Works that aired in the Summer of 2012 that seemingly flew under many peoples radar due to the popularity of SAO and Kokoro Connect and the such. However, the people who kept their eyes open that faithful season were gifted with a musical treat. With great characters and a down to earth feeling, its a show that I would highly recommend to anyone, no matter your tastes. While it is grounded in music, it truly is a character driven show with a soft spot for comedy that remains fresh. That is my non-spoiler review. Now, I will dive into spoiler territory so you have been warned. JTJ8DWhat I love about Tari Tari is its “Down to earthness”. Its not over exaggerated, over dramatised and overly forced in any way. It has fresh comedy that doesn’t grow stale, interesting characters that have realistic and genuine problems and a plot that doesn’t rely on romance but is very much present. You could almost say its a slice of life that is….well, a slice of life. While it does have an overarching plot of the school ‘s financial problems, it is still very heavily character driven, and oh my, aren’t these characters good. So good in fact, that they deserve a paragraph each. They deserve that but I’m lazy.

I’m going to start with my favourite, Atsuhiro Maeda or, as he is better known, Wien. Now Wien isn’t only my favourite character in the 1348457253656show, he is one of my favourite characters  in all of anime. Seriously, this bastard is the coolest guy you will ever meet. You worried that he is alone? Don’t worry, he’s got his Power Rangers. Sad that his props that he worked so hard on are destroyed? Nah, he just sings it off. Want to help him when he is getting beaten up by a mugger? Relax, he will just sing and his friends will back him up. Like every character in this show, Wien is faced with a crisis, however his “Crisis” could just be a dilemma when compared to other characters in this show. His lost letters to Jan and the move to Japan take up the most of Wien’s troubles. From a neutral stand point, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem as he ends up seeing Jan but its how the show handles Wien that makes this effective. The way he is constructed and presented to the viewer is very well done. He just appears as some cool guy that you wouldn’t mind hanging out and feeding birds with. It was a mixture of his  isolation at the start and his light heartedness throughout that made this dilemma work. You’ve grown to care for Wien so if his “crisis” is that he stubbed his toe and has to walk with a limp for half an episode, you would care. The fact that Tari Tari was able to pull this off is commendable but the ride doesn’t end with Wien. Although he may be the conductor, he certainly is not the one piloting this musical train.

Wakana Sakai was probably the character I felt for the most. Unlike Wien, she has a genuine crisis going on in her life that is rather heart wakanabreaking. This crisis being the death of her mother and Wakana’s last words said to her. For such a sweet and innocent girl to be seen so guilt ridden really got to me. She promised her mother that she would finish composing a song which would turn out to be  the fulcrum of her arc. What I love about Wakana are her outbursts of emotion, whether it being laughing or screaming, smiles or tears, they are all great. While to some, this may seem like her hormones are in a mess but to many, myself included, they are great insights into her character. She is generally a withdrawn girl but I wouldn’t go as far as to say introverted. Her trauma is gnawing at her always so when her emotions are let out, they are always beautiful. A common theme in Tari Tari is that the characters crises don’t tend to get fully resolved. I’m not saying that the writing is lazy and they just didn’t bother to write a conclusion, I’m saying that it is like it is in real life. Not everything gets sorted out like you would want them to. Not every tale has a happy ending and Wakana is no different. She has to cope with the fact that her mother is dead and she can’t change her words. She, however, overcomes her obstacles by sticking to the two things her mother left behind. Her keychain and her song.

In Sawa’s arc, the same emotions I felt for Wakana were evoked once again, not as strongly but nevertheless evoked. Her physique and rather large bust denies her life long dream of becoming a jockey. As random as that sounds, it still has the required effect of being a good arc. Life is ccdd6adeef5d1fe983e85fd8527587d0unfair and her crisis sums up that statement perfectly. Now, I could go on and say “Oh, My boobs are too big that I can’t ride a horse professionally. Woe is me!” but I won’t because I like this show. Seriously though, from an objective standpoint, this does seem to be a rather minor problem and I would agree with it. However, Tari Tari works its musical magic and  proves that there is more that meets the eye. Sawa goes through many family struggles that, in itself, take the primary focus of her story. This “More to what meets the eye” scenario is very pleasing as I love to see this done in anime. Her arc, just like Wakana, doesn’t conclude entirely until the end of the show. It repeats the message of “Life isn’t fair” and sacrifices need to be made. Her sacrifice of moving country to chase her dream leaves Taichi heart-broken. But in the end, following ones dream is the utmost desire for people in life. Sawa is no different.

Konatsu and Taichi are the two members of the cast who I would class under the “dilemmas”. The problems cannot really be compared along side Sawa and Wakana as they lack in any real consequence. If they fail in their goals then it will only really effect their lives in the short term rather then the long run. Konatsu failing in starting a music club could put a stunt in her confidence but she can still study music in college like she did at the finale of the show. Taichi failing in badminton would effect him but not as much as Sawa would be effected if she failed in horse riding. While their stories are entertaining and crucial to the plot, they do not leave the lasting effect that the others had.

I like to mention the seiyuu cast for just a second. I watched this show when I wasn’t really aware of many seiyuus so I went into this show without knowing of Saori Hasami, Seto Asami and Ayahi Takagaki. If I knew these before hand, I believe I would’ve loved this show even more then I would have. Mainly because hearing these girls sing out of nowhere in a show would make my ears go into a trance. Tari Tari gave a debut to one of my favourite seiyuus, Hanae Natsuki. His performance of Wien was amazing. He perfected the role and then some. Seriously though, I would recommend keeping an eye on him. He has a decent amount of roles this season (Fall 2013) so check him out.

f289cd3f39e7d59f633896533dd2b0f7The soundtrack is what you would expect from an anime about music. Pretty damn good. It has a lovely mix of calm, relaxing music to sombre, emotional music. There are songs that won’t really catch your ear but they will still sound nice when doing other activities. I wouldn’t regard it as a amazing soundtrack that would rival some major OSTs but still good nonetheless.

The studio behind this is P.A Works who are known for doing amazing work on animation and art. Tari Tari is no exception. From the backgrounds to the character designs, they stand out from the heaping piles of mediocrity. Maybe its just my bias coming into play but holy damn the art in this show is great. Many screens from this show can be used as wallpapers they are that good. I especially love Wakana’s character design. She real does stand out in this show and keeps my attention really well. In other words, I think she is cute. So what.

Tari Tari is one of my favourite shows ever made. Its simplicity in its craft is what makes it so special to me. The lessons learnt from the show are lessons I put into practice even to this day. From the loving charm of Wien to the heart breaking tale of Wakana, its a show that left a lasting impression on me. Its a show that I recommend to anyone and everyone because there is much to be loved from this show that will please the hearts of many. While the show is over and done with, this radiant melody will live on in my fond memories and heart.

Sword Art Online – The Anime That Couldn’t

If someone were to ask me, “Aoi, what is the worst case of wasted potential?”, I would reply with Sword Art Online. I would say that only a minority in the anime community would say that they hated SAO from start to finish. It did have the potential to go somewhere and be able to work its way into the hearts of anime and video game fans alike. However, having potential and using potential are two completely different cookies. SAO, unfortunately, is in the former. Its been a whole year since SAO had started airing so to celebrate its One year anniversary, I thought I would commemorate this by bashing and ripping Sword Art Online limb from limb, Gary Stu from Mary Sue, Plot devices from Deus Ex Machina and QUALITY from PLOT. 1347773733463

There are two things that I will openly admit are good about Sword Art Online; The first three episodes and the soundtrack. The first three episodes are done really well. In fact I surprise myself looking back on it and how well they are done. Each episode serves a purpose, the first was to set up the world, the second was to show off the action and MMO elements in the anime and lastly the third episode was to show the harsh reality of this world and they weren’t just playing  some video game. Then the fourth episode happened…lets get to that later. What I like about this trio is the third episode. Sure, the first two are cool and all but it is in the third where we see just how good this anime could’ve been. All thanks to one very special blue haired girl. 1353279006781I’m not the type to feel sympathy for characters that die in the same episode they are introduced in. But Sachi was different. It wasn’t just sad because she died, it was everything surrounding her death which made it great. Firstly, it showed how delicate life is in this world. Life is1356246091206 but a candle in the wind in Aincrad and no one can help that. That harsh reality hits Kirito and the viewer alike just like that strike that killed Sachi. Her personality, albeit not expanded on in great detail, aided to this disaster as well. As soon as she was getting over her fear of dying and living in Sword Art Online, she is unfortunately whisked away along with her clan to their demise. Her overall death scene as well was very powerful. Her “Thank you, Goodbye” really hit home with me. Even up to her death she was thankful to Kirito that he was able to put her fears behind her and be able to cope with this world. The fact that Kirito couldn’t do anything but watch his only real companion up to this point get murdered was hard to watch. I really appreciate when a character in a certain moment of intensity, they are as hopeless and helpless as the viewer.  It was the only time in the show where I actually felt sympathy for Kirito. Throughout the rest of the episode, we see a mind broken Kirito, confused as to what his next move should be. Sachi is dead, but he had no other choice but to just play the game. When he hears news that there is a way to bring Sachi back, his last shred of hope is put into use to fight what appears to be a scary Santa Clause. It is only after this battle that the cruel reality of the world hitting him like a brick. People stay dead and should stay dead, humans should never be able to play God. He returns to the inn at which he, Sachi and their clan were staying. Maybe he was seeking some sort of nostalgic refuge there or simply chose to not live anywhere else for some morbid type of closure. Instead, what he got was something he sought for but never wanted. A post-mortem Christmas present from the late Sachi in the form of a message. In this message, Sachi thanked Kirito for letting her live happily in this world, even if it were for a short time. She proceeded to hum Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Kirito showed the most genuine piece of emotion that he will ever have in the entirety of SAO. It was a perfect finale to this harsh episode. And as Sachi died, the potential of this show died with her.CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90

One final thing before I bash Sword Art Online. The OST composed by Yuki Kaijiura is fantastic. I see many people say that this soundtrack is “mediocre” and “decent”. I get the feeling that those people just listened to the songs that got overplayed like “Swordland” and the like. I believe its the fact that since Kaijiura has composed such great soundtracks before in anime, she was put on this pedestal by the anime community, so if a soundtrack doesn’t meet their expectations, then its not good but just “decent”. If some, unknown composer made that OST then they would be going places right now and everyone would praise the soundtrack more. Songs like “In The Cage” or “At Our Parting” are songs that I still listen to today. That’s what I think anyways.

Positives aside, its time to dive into the mess of this show, everything past episode three. I went into episode 4 with my expectations raised high after the latest episode. How would Kirito cope? What’s going to happen next? Is Sachi really dead? These questions were answered but not in the way I hoped. We got introduced to Silica and I knew that this show was going down the shitter. What we got for the next 4-5~ episodes was nothing but solid filler. It still baffles me that they put this here. Why was this needed? The conclusion I came to wasn’t a pleasant one. I believe the writer got insanely lazy. He came up with a great introduction and world, yet he couldn’t follow up with a solid story. As a an unfortunate result, he opted for a cheap, poorly written “story”.

The flags were raised when episode 4 came along. I should have threw caution to the wind and realized what I was watching was just pointless shenanigans, I should have realized that its only going to go downhill from here on out, I should have realized that effort being put into characterization was getting thrown out the window. I should have realized this. However, I was stubborn and kept giving this show chance after chance to redeem itself and return to the glory of the first 3 episodes. But if everything I wanted came true then Horizon would have a season 3 and we all know that isn’t happening. I felt helpless while watching this. I wanted to stop, I really did but it was like a car crash to me. No matter how horrifying it is, you simply can’t look away from it.

The relationships with the characters in the show are forced and quite cheap. Whenever something is brought up, it is quickly dismissed 1347214623213because Kirito has to help one of his harem slay a dragon or something. That entire murder mystery arc which was supposed to develop the relationship between Asuna and Kirito, was just a waste of time. What could’ve been time to actually develop the relationship was spent dicking about looking for some clan that was never brought up in the anime again. As a result of this, the relationship between Asuna and Kirito felt very shallow and weak. Their relationship reminds me of Tomoya and Nagisa from Clannad. The girl is introduced at the start to indicate that she will win, she fucks off doing whatever then comes back and suddenly the Casanova of the show is head over heels for her. At least in Clannad, I can somewhat understand why Tomoya likes Nagisa but in SAO, I cannot see the connection between the two.

Let me summarize their relationship in detail : Kirito meets a hooded girl and is more or less forced to party up with her cause vidya. They team up, Kirito gives Asuna some butter and they share a DEEP conversation. They kick ass in episode 2 and then Asuna decides to do her own thing. Two years later, Asuna is head of the major clan and Kirito is the edgy lone swordsman of SAO. Asuna criticised Kirito at a meeting for saying that they shouldn’t kill NPCs (which is a valid argument since Kirito should know, being the “beater” that he is, that NPCs can just respawn, but hey, ethics in VRMMORPGs are past my time). They solve a mystery together and decide to go dungeon hunting for whatever reason. Kirito sees that Asuna doesn’t like being in the clan and says “Time to show why they call me the messiah!” and challenges  Heathcliff to a duel. Kirito loses cause hax (I like the way the anime shows that he only loses when someone hacks the game.) He’s sad cause he is forced to join the clan and Asuna is all like “Hey Kirito, Cheer up! I have tits, look at them!”. Kirito goes on a fetch quest and nearly dies to only get saved by Mary Sue herself. Kirito “sacrifices” his arm to save Asuna. They kiss. They fuck. They get married.

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Now, I’m not sure if its only me but that is all of their character interactions before they get married.  People call their relationship one of  the best in anime. I know it could just be the obnoxious fanbase but I still need to prove my point. Honestly, their relationship is laughable. From what we are given, we are expected to accept their relationship as a genuine thing between the two. If the Murder Mystery arc was dedicated to just them then maybe I would appreciate it more. Maybe. But the fact still remains that that fantasy romance was not to be as filler is always a good thing to see in anime. As a result of this, the relationship feels incredibly forced with flags being sprung up out of nowhere and BOOM, love couple of 2012. I guess people are misinterrupting their relationship simply because of how attractive they are or how “perfect” their romance seems. I won’t deny that their relationship is very idealistic for their situation but by no means does that mean its solid. Pacing isn’t the real problem here, its the actual characters themselves. Kirito is just a male power fantasy for otaku to self insert into and Asuna is your stereotypical tsundere whose only real defining traits is that she can cook and is good at a video game, nothing more, nothing less. When you just take a step back and look at it, all I can see is this: Kirito is the greatest in the game, so good he can defeat bosses 1v1. He meets the uber kawaii girl of the game world that everyone either wants to fuck or imitate. With a dash of bravery, he woos her and they get married through a video game. Plus, she can cook. Yeah, this totally wasn’t just mindless pandering.

Every other character interaction in the show is either worthless in the long run or is just there to advance the plot. Its either a girl from Kirito’s harem trying to get his dick or mindless EVILNESS. You know what’s funny about it though? Everything that happens in the show revolves around Kirito in some weird shape or form. There isn’t any plot development while Kirito isn’t on screen or that doesn’t involve him in a way. Its like every character in the show is defined by how much they want Kirito’s dick or how much they want to chop it off.

Character motivations in the show are insanely illogical as well. The actual players have a very clear and distinct motivation; to get to floor 100 and beat the game to return to their world. I understand that completely, in fact any other motivation would be incredibly stupid. Its in the villains motivations where the cracks begin to show. All their motivations boil down to is “Cause why the fuck not” or “lolidunno”. When the villains motivations aren’t stated then there is no point in having a villain. You might as well replace him with a sheet of cardboard saying “Look at me, I’m evil GRRRRR!”. Imagine if Bal Masqués motivations weren’t stated in Shana S3 and all they were doing was getting the Tomogara to another world because “Why the fuck not” or “lolidunno”. Wouldn’t that just be the most ridiculous writing ever? What about in TTGL, the anti spirals were fighting the Spirals “Cause why the fuck not” or “lolidunno”. You get my point. So, with this death game being created, wouldn’t it make more sense to have an explanation rather then leaving everything up in the air with the excuse of “Shit, I forget, Teehee!”

So when the romance side of SAO is more or less done with, its time they move on to the DRAMA of it all. And when drama is applied to poorly developed characters, you get sloppy drama. Developed and interesting characters is vital in producing good drama. If an anime hasn’t established any real conflicts within characters, troubling backgrounds or just personalities in general then we are left with nothing but situations that feel incredibly dull and unnatural. The biggest instance of DRAMA in the show is the part where the Yui disappears cause reasons. Yui made her initial appearance in episode 11 during Kirito’s and Asuna’s lovely dovely honeymoon.  She was presented to us without a hint of what she actually is, so I guess that was the show trying to be mysterious but it kinda back fired on them since there was pretty much nothing else to her other than her being “mysterious” and a idealistic daughter for the idealistic couple. She’s just a plot point that the author thought up to advance the plot, 1348504775061So when she suddenly says “Turns out I’ve been pissing off the higher ups so I’m going to be erased or some shit”, it was just a “oh….well ok” moment that felt iimmensely underwhelming. We have a poorly developed character adopted into a poorly developed couple for 2-3 episodes to only get erased because she performed Deus Ex Machina on some boss thing. It was a cheap way of evoking tears that just left an insanely bad impression on me.

The animation is something that gets praised as well. To be fair, the action scenes do look somewhat smooth and fluent but I always have the personal believe that the animation within the show is something to be credited as an aside. As long as the show is a great watch, I don’t really care if the animation is sloppy and vica versa.

I think I covered everything I wanted to say about Sword Art Online. In retrospect, I can see why the popularity of the show is immense. Its a very easy to watch “gateway” show that combines two huge media into one. It did  have the potential to go somewhere. However, like I said, having potential and using potential are two completely different things. However, one thing left satisfied…My OTP.1356246288887