My Adoration of Expression Coupled with Anime

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Over the years, phrases such as “It’s too bland,” “It’s dull,” “It’s safe,” and “It’s formulaic” have been ingrained into the wordy musings of this blog. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can only assume that when I say these things, people think I mean they’re boring, bland, or formulaic in a general sense, when in reality, they’re all those things largely due to a single driving factor: expression (or sometimes referred to as “heart”). Now, something as vaguely termed as “expression” is a bit tricky to pin down in an objective sense, so as a small, yet effective example, simply look at the cute gif I have posted above of my favorite vampire waifu: Shinobu, from the Monogatari series. Notice the blended array of colors which supplants it out of its immediate reality, the emphasis on her allure being planted right on her face, and the almost cutesy representation of her original design that creates a distinct mood. This is what I like to call “expression,” something that exaggerates, defies, or simply heightens the norms of character exuberance and/or personality—which bleeds into other aspects of a creative work.

While this post is looking at anime, other art forms such as video games, manga, and films all work within a similar field, where expression can become a make-or-break factor in terms of my enjoyment towards it. Take a recently-crowned favorite manga of mine, Miman Renai, and the infinite amount of gush I wrote concerning its artistic chaos. Despite a simple story with inherently semi-problematic reasoning and characters who only briefly cross into territory that accentuates their complexity, the manner of expression and artistic freedom made me adore it to near-maximum levels. Silly faces, absurd observations, Egoraptor levels of emotional and physical overexaggeration, and an earnest atmosphere that coddled it all in a coherent space without (completely) destroying the confines of reality. This is by far the greatest spectacle of Miman Renai as an art form and a golden example of my love for “expression” in visual media.

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Taking into account my favorite anime, most of them have some form of expression to them, with the most vibrant of the bunch being Katanagatari (from the author of the Monogatari series, which isn’t shocking). Its entire aesthetic is bright and varied, with quirky character designs and a world with blown-up color. Best of all, its characters are hilariously one-dimensional, but in a way that screams parody rather than conforming to what sells.

However, my other favorites being Dennou CoilOokami to KoushinryouToradora!, and Shinsekai yori, someone reading my thoughts thus far wouldn’t be able to see what makes them so rife with expression in the way I’ve explained it to mean. And they would be right, because these other examples aren’t anywhere close to the absurdist levels of Katanagatari, but this is all surface-level stuff. These series’ expression is within the manner of their character progression and insight, such that they change gradually throughout the course of the series while still retaining the better parts of their core personality. Admittedly, Ookami to Koushinryou does not have a lot of what makes typical expression so infatuating, as it has a higher degree of focusing on an aloof narrative structure that simply embodies the relationship between its lead characters and THE POWER OF ECONOMY!!!

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Dennou Coil and Shinsekai yori, on the other hand, have another form of expression that aids in the development of both characters and narrative: artistic expression. Essentially, these series have “a point” they’re trying to make, or trying to envelop the viewer into a grandiose tale that one can empathize with and gather insight on various circumstances (i.e. loss of loved ones in Dennou Coil; social hierarchy in Shinsekai yori). The way the story is presented also plays a vital part in its retention of intrigue, which each series does splendidly enough to draw attention initially and reap rewards by the end; childlike adventure in a sci-fi setting with Dennou Coil, and the dangers of repeating the past in a fantasy setting full of telekinetic kids and anthropomorphic mole rats in Shinsekai yori. These stories with meaning are something that makes them intriguing to watch analytically as well as simply for pleasure. It also makes them more memorable for their inherent quirks as those without them. It’s part of the reason I gave mother! a good score despite not caring for it, and gave Mayoiga an average score despite its glaring technical flaws.

Yet not all is fine in dandy in the world of youthful naivety and cheeky children. Shounen anime are among the most exuberantly emotional anime on the planet, with episode after episode of monologues and screaming dialogue full of gusto and usually a lot of angst. This, in terms of what I’ve said, could qualify for an example of expression, and I would agree; however, with almost everything in life, execution is the name of the game. It is not expression alone that is what makes itself alluring, but the way it is the presented, the way it inflates itself with value, and the way it distinguishes itself from the crowd (or other ways that mean more to others than myself). Boku no Hero Academia is a great example of expression used in a very similar way to many other Shounen titles, but creates more meaning through focusing on characters by putting them in eventful situations and giving the viewer a reason to not treat them as background filler. The execution is not distinguishable at all, yet it works through tinkering—giving weight to one’s actions, and having that result in true character development. Because let’s face it, Boku no Hero Academia’s story is not nearly as captivating as its characters. Here, it works, while in other series where the focus is more driven towards narrative, it likely won’t work as well. Context is important, as one should be able to identify what a particular series is trying to do and why its type of expression works as well as it does.

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Which brings me to the obligatory “Trash all harem and trend-baiting series” section of the piece. Series such as Rosario + VampireNo Game No LifeBlend S, and Urara Meirochou all have a common fatal flaw: there’s no point to them. They indulge in what’s popular at the time for the sake of indulging in what’s popular at the time, putting no effort into any real stakes of human interest or conflict. While all are vibrant in their color palette, it doesn’t mean much when the execution is so derivative and void of impact. This isn’t to say these shows are (altogether) bad or that they can’t be entertaining to viewers (Lord knows No Game No Life is), but that they lack that sort of “oomph” (another word that mirrors “expression”) that keeps me interested long-term or invested in what’s happening onscreen. Their level of expression is fairly low in my eyes, which makes me immediately shy away from them if not for my allure to their easy-on-the-eyes design. And this applies to any anime that may or may not catch my interest in upcoming seasons. There’s a reason why I only watch two or three anime a season: the rest don’t scream, “Oh, yeah. That’ll be expressive and not super cliché.”

When it comes to anime, titles such as Ping Pong The AnimationKuuchuu Buranko, and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita are going to be infinitely more interesting to me than Free!Hajimete no Gal, or Monster (Sorry, fans). Their uniqueness, expressiveness, and potential for meaningful content are what draws me in more than simple fan service or a super-realistic plot full of normal characters. Again, this isn’t to say the latter series can’t work, but it doesn’t do much for me personally. I am, or at least I am developing into, someone who enjoys a blend of “objective” solidity and artsy-fartsy development or imagery. URAHARA was a series I had high hopes for due to the artsy-fartsy discretion, but the “objective” side faltered fairly quickly. It doesn’t always works, with execution and situation playing as much of a role in its power than the power itself. When it works, you have a crowded mess of eights and above in your anime list. When it doesn’t, your average rating per series hovers around a 5/10.

That’s what being expressive means to me. What does it mean to you?

A Halloween Horror: Mayoiga… Isn’t Terrible?

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An average rating of 5.7 out of 10 on MyAnimeList—ranked 7,657th on the site as of writing this. Numerous “Worst of the Season” awards from fellow anibloggers. Each top review on MAL is a 4 or below (not counting the 8/10, as the entire point of that review is to portray it as an intentionally abstract comedy). A friend of mine recommended that I marathon this series as a Halloween joke of sorts, and with all of these expectations placed on it as a surefire unintentional comedy the likes anime has never seen before, I’ve finished the series and am left scratching my head. Why did I enjoy this series more than Yuri!!! on Ice?

Now that is a scary statement, right?

So what’s the deal with Mayoiga, or The Lost Village? Why did it end up being rated so low, so panned by everyone as though it were common knowledge? Why do I feel like I completely missed the point as to why it’s almost universally accepted as tragically underwhelming? I haven’t been this shocked by such a positive (by relative standards) score since Umi Monogatari, another series that’s rated fairly low by most anime databases that I ended up liking. Were my expectations so low that I ended up being impressed, or is there something more to this series that I feel many averted from their gaze because the plotholes were so enormous?

Indeed, I will admit outright that this post isn’t to say Mayoiga is a good series—it’s below average. My point is to say that the series is not one that should be considered the worst of the worst that anime has to offer. There are far more shows that deserve such an “honor.” Koi Koi 7Diabolik LoversDog Days’Green Green (probably), Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, and others just like them have far less value as outlets of entertainment than Mayoiga. For those who have seen all titles listed (God save you, first of all), what is something that they all share, that they all have in common? The fact that they’re all creatively-shot. They do nothing to distinguish themselves from the pandering, market-testing corporate shells that focus exclusively on profit. They are bland, predictable, and will only truly work on someone who has never watched an anime ever before.

Let’s talk about the Star Wars prequels. No, hold on, come back for a second! It’ll be harmless, I swear. What do they have that The Force Awakens doesn’t? If your guess was “George Lucas,” that would be correct, but not quite what I was getting at. My input is “a creative soul.” The Force Awakens feels like Star Wars for the sake of giving people more Star Wars, with no real weight put upon the things that happen without relying entirely on the already-established characters of Star Wars lore to pick up the slack of the mindless new characters and their cookie-cutter motivations. The prequels, for all the shit they get, whether the acting, the writing, or the overuse of special effects, actually feel like they matter. They feel like George Lucas put his numbed-up brain and drug-induced heart into his precious creation and released it into the cruel, uncaring world. Said world is correct in tearing it to shreds, but what I would argue is that they at least felt like they had that sort of gusto that made them enjoyably dumb, instead of efficiently dull. In some cases, this is all one needs to make a “better” product, though the scenarios involved are wildly varying and dependent on numerous different situations and expectations.

Mayoiga is essentially the Star Wars prequels to me. It is dumb, it has plotholes, the characters are really overdramatic and the world they soon discover has logical inconsistencies. Not to mention, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Yet in spite of all of this, I felt its heart beating within me, I was able to empathize with the “message” it tried to convey. I was able to detract the logic in favor of the symbolic imagery and moral coding it embedded into its narrative. In some cases, it’s better to look at the world not through the perception of your own reality, but the reality faced by the characters in fiction. In many ways, logic plays a major part in Mayoiga’s downfalls, with characters being really hyped up for no reason while at the same time cool under pressure when the moment calls for it. In others, the logic within, that states that these characters, who all deal with the backlashes of deep emotional and psychological abuse and trauma, somehow aren’t allowed a little insanity to satisfy the viewer’s idea of realism? I’m willing to adjust, if ever so slightly, for the sake of trying to understand the world within.

In nutshell form, that’s all I really have to argue, at least to an incessant degree. Mayoiga has creativity all around, whether intentional or non-intentional, through the manifestation of its fucked up world, and I think people should be more open to explore how isolating it can be to think that the world is against you. Edgy as it turns out, or consistently inconsistent, I can at least get out of the experience saying, “Holy shit, this one dude had silicone implanted in his head to grow two whole inches and now his inborn psychological scarring takes the form of a giant, malformed pair of tits!” CAN KOI KOI 7 ALLOW ME TO SAY THAT? HOW ABOUT DIABOLIK LOVERS? Of course not. Those series don’t take chances.

So am I hyping it too much? Is the splendor of something new and enticing (and non-traditional in its approach to human emotion) blinding me to what is actually something obscenely bad? Probably. Despite all of this pent-up frustration that I was swindled out of ironic enjoyment for genuine enjoyment, I really do feel this series has worth—if not for the sake of what the message entails, then how it’s presented. Despite all the dumb, I was immersed every second of the experience, constantly trying to pinpoint who was doing what and why and how. A series that both inhibits and encourages thinking. Mayoiga is an absolute mindfuck that I would recommend simply to see how people would interpret it.

Is it just stupidity incarnate, or something more?

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Early Impressions: Blend S

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Three episodes in, it’s pretty bouncy.

Bouncy? In what way? Bouncy in the sense that its quality hinges upon the utilization of its core aspects; those being comedy and character interaction. Much like Working!!Blend S features a number of characters with one (or two… but usually one) distinguishable trait interacting with one another in a restaurant environment. While in Working!! the focus is more on the characters and their lives than the restaurant business itself, Blend S features a heavier focus on the fetishization of Japan’s café business. While technically a coffee shop, the establishment presented features young, attractive girls appealing to various otaku fetishes, whether it be sadism, tsundere(-ism?), or the little sister persona. Does Blend S serve to say anything about this now common practice? No. Does that really make the show bad? Also no.

What it does, however, is limit the ability of self-awareness to service said otaku fanbase. It doesn’t chastise or provoke the idea behind business establishments catering to specific “tastes,” really. It hardly does anything at all with it. This, in turn, makes it immediately “dumb” to those looking for a more involved viewing, and anyone looking forward to a more mentally-involved experience will be sorely disappointed. See, I saw the cover art, the premise, and the studio, and thought to myself, “Well, this could be fun.” Stereotypical and somewhat repetitive, yes, but little tidbits of fun, as well.

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I am one who acknowledges this series’s “dumbness” as an obvious flaw, such that despite how much fun I find the series, I will likely not grace it with a good score. Still, it is enough to say that the fun aspects of the show are appealing enough to make this not utterly unwatchable; Blend S is far more concerned with amusing the audience than anything else. To this end, it does its job well enough. I’m glad I talked myself into picking it up, as with all the mental stimulation and slowness that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou provides, it serves as a pleasurable counterpart. Much more lively, colorful, and bombastic in its approach to situations. Almost like night and day.

Such fun is present most amicably through the characters’ interactions with one another. It has that same zany appeal as the aforementioned Working!! has to it, if not a lot more clichéd and sexualized. Blend S also has a fair amount of sexual fan service; nothing too prevalent, but enough to be noticeable. This applies to both revealing of skin and dressing them up/customizing their personality to appear more moe. Why even note this at all? It somewhat takes away from the individuality of the female characters, such that they’re all seen as fantastical representations of boys’ desires rather than actual women. Again, why even note this, seeing as most anime are of the same way? This lies within, aside from its dumbness, Blend S’s biggest flaw to me: its heavy indulging in catering.

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Not catering to customers, catering to horny, adolescent viewers. It just so happens that the three girls (within three episodes) are all beautiful. Just so happens that one is really into video games. Just so happens that one is a cosplay fanatic. Just so happens that they all have incredibly moe features to them. Just so happen to not be involved in any romantic relationships (within three episodes). Just so happen to run into a business that prioritizes moe features. Just so happen to have beautiful females work on ultra-ecchi doujinshi. Just so happens that one of the male workers has an insatiable yuri fetish. It just. So. Happens. Almost in the same vein as New Game!!, all of these uncanny coincidences pile up to support that the series does little to hide its titillating priorities. What series ultimately annoy me to my very core are ones so shallow and vapid.

Still, I expected no less, so why get upset about it? It’s one of those things that, when watching anime, one simply grows accustomed to. Not that that makes it any less irritating to watch, but it’s something that’s inevitable and easy to spot from far away. Aside from such, Blend S is still a fun series to bounce around to, primarily for its kooky characters and decent, although not altogether wonderful animation and design. This could certainly be someone’s best comedy of the season, or most easy-on-the-eyes anime of the season, but it’s definitely not something worthy of quality entertainment.

Early Impressions: Net-juu no Susume

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Three episodes in, it feels like I know everything that’s going to happen already.

A certain bug over on Twitter dot com made a plea for this series, stating that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou was not the only thing worth watching this season. Desperate as I was to watch anything more, I took him up on his offer, and ended up disagreeing tremendously.

I will keep this post relatively short as I forgot to save screenshots don’t have that much to say about it. Net-juu no Susume is about a thirty-year-old NEET woman—because women can be NEETs, too, guys—who finds solace in the virtual world of online MMORPGs. Looking in from the outside, it’s a combination of industry selling points, a la virtual world and NEETs doing “incredible” things (incredible here being social, I guess?). However, taking a gander from the inside shows that Net-juu is more of a… “love” story between two people who meet and connect in an MMORPG. The main character being a NEET is more just an aspect to the show and not a driving point.

Expectations being slightly tweaked aside, there are two hugely noticeable flaws of Net-juu (thus far): narrative structure/execution and animation. I will compare this series to Sword Art Online, but not because of the MMORPG standard; rather, Sword Art Online had a tendency very early on to skip huge amounts of time to easily establish Kirito as an online veteran… which destroys a lot of chances for empathy and relatedness. Net-juu does this same thing, as the female lead makes an avatar on her netoge game, meets the affectionate Lily-chan, then time skips immediately to them being best friends and the female lead being level eighty-something. Great. All the intimate details and building of the relationship are basically moot. We’re now forced to simply take their relationship as great at face value. Only problem is that one doesn’t give a shit.

Not only this, but there are a ton of plot conveniences and a number of times when the anime tells you how the characters are feeling and thinking, instead of showing you. I’ve grown to be very critical of overexplanation from series, especially when it feels as though it believes I cannot figure out basic facial expressions. The female lead is gaga over Lily-chan. Lily-chan says something really sweet. Female lead then proceeds to guffaw and blush severely, prompting her to say, “My heart is beating really fast right now!” YEAH, NO SHIT. I won’t even get into how formulaic the entire series feels, with very little about the characters standing out as more than one-note minds. Everything is so lazily placed in its role that I can never expect anything to be thrown out of its shell.

And then animation. Incredibly uneven, with a large string of outright bad pieces of character movement. Really quick and not-so-subtly large chunks of movement in the span of seconds really takes me out of the experience. What’s almost funny is that the series leads one to believe that the female lead’s netoge character is incredibly “handsome.” He looks like a second-rate background character. Lily-chan is probably the only character in the show with some remarkable cuteness, and I won’t criticize the show for having no talented character design, as the female lead and Sakurai (a male; heavily hinted to be Lily-chan) both look splendidly the part of the roles they play. It’s only in terms of overall animation and sleekness that make the series almost laughable.

When I get in the groove of writing, it’s hard to stop. What was supposed to be a short post turned out somewhat long. I’ll compensate by making the final paragraph fairly short. I expected Net-juu to be absolute trash. It ended up being mostly trash, though not because of heavy fan service but by how standard it all feels. So, in essence, it isn’t what I expected it to be, though it still isn’t any good, despite some merit of heart. Its greatest asset is that I don’t feel dropping it is a necessity.

Early Impressions: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

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Three episodes in, I don’t think I’ll have a scenario where I watch zero anime this season.

To be frank, this was the only standalone (as in no sequels) anime this season that I thought had any sustainable (as in no gut feeling, a la URAHARA) chance of being good. Everything this season looked so… tryhard and exploitative of current trends and like obvious cash-grabs. And here I thought I had become less jaded throughout the year. Perhaps I’ll start Blend S

A world where humanity has died out, an empty world of ruins and silence. Two young girls travel around the world looking for something; perhaps a reason to stay alive. The only premise that made me think, “Oh. This definitely has potential to not be complete shit.” It hasn’t disappointed. With only the two characters (aside from episode three) being shown, they’re the only perspectives we get from the world, slowly filling in the details about their past and why the state of the world is what it is. Light-hearted in its development (and character design), it has the essence of being both sugary sweet and disguising serious emotional trauma/existentialism. Complexity in anime is always nice.

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At first, the design of the two girls somewhat threw me off. They’re actually moe-blobs, with huge, round eyes and heads like mochi. How, or why, did the author believe this to be an adequate choice to represent these characters? My mind cracked from its suddenly jaded state, assuming the worst money-grubbing motivations behind making characters cutesy for no reason. As the series continued, I began to assimilate myself to seeing them as they are, and what was initially cynical became more understanding; perhaps these characters are less about being cute and more about being soft catalysts into this dark and depressing world. It is the contrast that makes it so intriguing to think about, with girls one would typically see in something like Yuyushiki being placed in a setting devoid of anything. Isolation and fear of the unknown, and bits of surviving in a cruel world, through the symbols of assuring optimism.

That isn’t to say both of these girls are just happy-go-lucky planks of wood. Chi and Yuu are—because of course they are—complete opposites. Chi is more booksmart, level-headed, and the mother of the two girls. She attains the duties of survival and responsibility through her quiet determination and spirit. Yuu is more carefree, more open with her desires and motivations, such that it leads her into trouble. The daughter in the mother-daughter relationship the two girls share, but has a number of capabilities necessary to their survival (she’s handy with a gun). As paraphrased, Yuu is “the brawn” to Chi’s “brain.” Once again, this aspect of contrast plays in effect to these characters’ bond and interaction on an episodic basis. They wouldn’t seem like they’d be friends outside of this context, yet they understand each other’s needs and moods as though they’re perfect for one another. Time and isolation is implied as the reason for this, yet there is a tenderness between them that is charming from an outsider’s perspective. Yuu cannot read, so her idea of apologizing is drawing a picture of Chi with an aside saying, “I’m sokky.”

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Look at these big, fat paragraphs. Look at how much detail I’m allowed to spew about this anime, despite how it’s literally just two girls driving around desolated areas all day. The proof is in the (contextual) pudding. Reading between the lines, analyzing things from a more intimate detail, and the extraction of what we take for granted becoming part of what brings out true character. Yuu and Chi are so used to living alone that they now take for granted the reality that they may never see a true civilization again. This gives birth to curiosity; how long has the world been like this? Why are they the only two living (until episode three)? What happened to this world? What do these two girls hope to find? One of the best things about Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou is that it has no tolerance for bullshit. There are no distractions. The world is dead. All that is and can be shown are the two girls and their interaction with the non-moving environment. This level of intimacy is almost unheard of in anime. And I applaud it for it.

I’ll wrap it up here, as this is starting to become lengthier than it should be. Bottom line: a respectable idea with a slow, but effective build. I’m not ready to recommend it fully, as there’s much that can still be shown to ruin it for me, but for now, it’s ripe with potential. It may be the only anime I’m watching this season, but it feels like a journey in and of itself, building the bridge within my mind that leads to many different pathways as a multitude of series would give me.

Early Impressions: URAHARA [Dropped]

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(This series has since been dropped. There will be no entry for it for the foreseeable future.)

Three episodes in, it ended up not meaning anything.

With this gone, I am now down to only one seasonal anime to view on a weekly basis. If anyone has something to recommend that is not complete garbage, please feel free.

With the first episode of URAHARA, I was charmed by its attempts at appearing somewhat off. I had anticipated that it would take this incredibly avant-garde color palette and premise to places that would end up being intriguing to dissect. Through three episodes, I saw no signs of anything of the sort, so as my patience continued to wane, as did my interest in continuing along with the series. Truth be told, I didn’t even watch three whole episodes, only two and about twelve minutes of the third, only to skim through the rest to see if I would miss anything. I wouldn’t.

Three girls are within their own world of Harajuku (I believe it was called) when aliens come out of nowhere and start taking various artifacts of human culture to have for themselves. A talking shrimp puff that doubles as a scarf for a mysterious little girl explains that the aliens cannot think creatively for themselves, so they steal landmarks of creativity from other planets to compensate for it. The three girls are given powers (I genuinely cannot remember how or why) that allow them to combat these thieving aliens and the rest, well, kinda plays out like a villain of the week, Saturday-morning cartoon. All the clichés are present with none of the charm from the characters or consequences of the plot at hand.

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Skipping ahead from my normal structure, art is something that made me both stay at first and leave at the end. It’s very simplistic design, with a lot of rough-around-the-edges style of animation that made it seem incredibly amateurish. Once again, I was suspicious as to whether the series was doing this purposely as a form of parody or satire, which made me question the style they presented (lots of girly, light colors). With no evidence of anything of the sort, I can say with almost certainty that the animation is simply atrocious and the studio behind it takes numerous shortcuts that reek of low budgeting and laziness. Hell, characters don’t even have the same succinctness to their jawlines scene-after-scene.

There are some things I could say about the story of URAHARA, but there’s a deterrent to my further elaboration: what story? Aliens rob Earth of their culture, then a giant bubble surrounds a certain portion of the girls’ town and then… they do stuff. They do normal girl things and hardly worry about it. They talk to each other and develop their friendship. And at the end of each episode, an alien conveniently swoops in and starts shit, only to be defeated without much effort. That’s about as much as I can remember articulate. Simply put, it’s pretty dull, with only the expectation that better things are yet to come leading me along with this nonsensical production.

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It would at least be tolerable if the characters weren’t cardboard cutouts of… anything, really. There is so little differentiation between these three girls that it barely matters what any of them do. One is a blunt, yet shy fashionista (who I liked at first). Another is a soft-spoken and absent-minded accumulation of girliness. And the last, I guess she’s the “main” one, is the main character. Any veterans of the industry can immediately fill in the blanks with only “the main one” as context, sadly. Altruistic, you before me, normal in almost every regard, nothing stands out except their “chosen one” background. These three have little expression to them, nor do they have a lot of intriguing chemistry. Chemistry they have, but it’s nothing one hasn’t seen before. Almost akin to the chemistry one sees between background characters that’s never elaborated on.

I thought I’d picked a sleeper when the synopsis of this anime popped out at me. The burst of color, absurdist premise, and the hunch in my brain made it seem ripe with potential; for the first episode, I still believed it to be there. Time has gone by and nothing has shown for it. It’s dull and empty. Unbelievable that a plot this strange and an environment so colorful and bouncy can be this boring. I almost want to make my own URAHARA and fill it with strange symbolic gobbledygook parodying Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, while also establishing a point of emphasis on the way girls with superpowers in anime are expected to behave in the eyes of the general public. Oh, what could be with enough work.

The Objectively Subjective Objective

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For as long as I’ve been blogging, it’s curious that I never made a post like this before in the past. When people read my reviews and look at my (low) ratings for various series, they may think to themselves, “Well, what exactly does this guy look for in a series?” I understand only about one in a thousand people actually think that, as most are satisfied with simply looking and forgetting, but I figured it’d be nice to keep note of what makes my ratings my ratings. What makes me think a series is good or bad and, most importantly, why my opinion holds more weight to me than others.

Now, that last sentence may seem conceited, which I wouldn’t argue isn’t. Everyone has some sort of pride to them within their work or hobby that allows them to feel more confident in their ability to share their thoughts or opinions with others. Especially noteworthy of critics (or those who aspire to be) is the sense of “Elitism” that is stereotyped into the persona of anyone who doesn’t have a systemic average rating of, say, seven or above. I am no different, as while I’ve never been directly insulted through the term “elitist,” I have often called myself, in jest and seriously, more aligned with the elitist mindset than otherwise. There is a reason to this, and one of the major reasons I decided to write up this post.

I will not deny that every opinion is inherently subjective. I will not deny that the differences in perspectives and priorities for each individual person will affect what they find good or bad about a particular subject.  I will deny that these opinions and theories cannot be objective, especially when dealing with a purely artistic or creative medium such as anime. I’ve dedicated my entire critical life to studying the standard guide to what makes a work good or bad based on the context of the subject. Anyone has seen it in a typical review set-up: Story, characters, art, sound, etc. These things are what I would argue can make an opinion objective in nature, though not concretely. I believe in the objectively subjective, that things can be argued into being more true than not; that, say, Toradora!’s characters are more realistic than unrealistic, or One Punch Man’s story is too comically one-dimensional to be given credible weight to its drama. Not that these become established facts, but become credible enough with substantial evidence to be able to be understood by the general public.

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One of the most irritating phrases I’ve heard in my time online is “Everything is subjective anyway, so why make such a big deal about it?” If everything is subjective, why even bother critiquing? Why even bothering distinguishing what is good and bad? Why even blog? Why even watch? Why even be different? Why not just release a bunch of shit for no reason because it’s all subjective anyway and nothing matters? Please bear with my snarky attitude, but it’s something that I feel is too slippery a slope to be said so easily. It almost sounds nihilistic to me; nothing in life matters and we all die in the end, so why put any effort into anything? The beauty of critiquing is so that we can appreciate what makes things good and bad, what resonates and what should be worth one’s time. We critique so that we can continue to attempt to shape the works of others into something bigger and better for more to be able to enjoy. That’s why being more objective than subjective matters to me. So that I can distinguish what makes a series worth not only my time, but your time.

I can enjoy the living hell out of something and still think it’s shitty on a technical level. Take my review of Custom Robo. I love that game to death, but it’s not great in any sense of the word. The gameplay is fine, but the story is incredibly standard, the characters are beyond cheesy, and the graphics are absolutely putrid. It’s not something I would actively recommend if it weren’t for the off-chance that it could allow people to enjoy the game as I did so many years ago. Basically nostalgia. Despite the fact that I adore it so, I only gave it a six out of ten, and that may be generous of me. I could absolutely rate it higher based on enjoyment, but I don’t think the qualities of the game are good enough to warrant so high a score just because it means a lot to me. That would be unfair of me to reward a game for being special to me, for being overly subjective with a topic on my own bias. That’s another reason why objectivity is a large part of what I try to embody.

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On the opposite spectrum, mother! was an incredibly intriguing and thought-provoking film, with great attention to tone and tension. Yet, by the end, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling, especially knowing that it all had one, all-encompassing meaning. I ended up not really enjoying the experience, aside from the fleeting question of “What does it all mean?” I awarded it a seven out of ten. Something I genuinely love gets a six while something I barely enjoyed gets a seven. That would almost seem blasphemous to some, but it’s something I feel strongly about—it’s the type of integrity I try to apply to myself for the purpose of critique. I want people to know what a film, a game, or an anime is worth on its own, while filling in the little details that make it what it is (through my own lens). That is what it means to me to be objectively subjective: to judge a topic based on its core parts and what it succeeds in doing regardless of personal preference or enjoyment. And I expect those who come to read my posts to know that that is what I strive for. All of my ratings are still my own, and I can rate something higher or lower than what it deserves, but I’ll do what I can to explain myself past a simple number score.

So with my brain fried and my fingers slowly bulging with every clack of my keyboard, I’m hoping this makes enough sense for people to acknowledge what makes my ratings my ratings, and how my religion of objectivity is a means of genuine worth rather than a stubbornness to avert societal norms. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and it’s taken some time for me to really develop as my own mental self has grown. To be more open and inviting of ideas; for a long time, I wouldn’t accept that everything was inherently subjective! While something of a personal case, it’s not something I feel more should do, but I would encourage others to take a more intrinsic approach to series and what they’re worth in terms of general characteristics. Of course, I never really delved deeper into that, as what makes characters good or bad is, again, fairly subjective, but I feel it’s the thought that counts. People should just think more, y’know?