The (Rarely) Good, The (Usually) Bad, and Saekano ♭

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Light novel adaptations have a reputation for being disasters waiting to happen. The number of light novel adaptations that come and go each season seems to increase as time goes by, with a number of them being pelted by viewers with verbal insults and sarcastic raspberries. History has shown that many of these novel-to-anime transitions can be fairly successful (Toradora!, Monogatari series, Baccano!, to name a few), but to compare it to all the misses, the scale tends to dip towards a dark and stormy direction. In recent years, the number of these adaptations that have given me a stir has been quite low—try as some might to remain on my good graces—but a certain series has appeared that has reminded me that light novels can be a source of quality entertainment.

It does so by laughing at the clichés light novel stories normally cruise upon.

Saekano’s first season was a rocky trail, full of ups and downs and rough footings. Its biggest fault lie with its inability to stay consistent in both its parody and level of seriousness with its actual story and characters. It paints the image of the typical high school setting with the typical female character archetypes fighting over the typically overbland male lead while working together in the typical environment of a club. However, quite soon into the first episode, viewers will find something off about the dialogue, the situations, and one specific character. It follows the trends perfectly, though not without some subtle inclinations of self-awareness. Self-awareness? Subtlety? Together?

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Gloriously, it found its shtick. It uncovered the power of quiet strength within the ability to gently mock what it’s so keenly identifying with. With this, a path of unpredictability follows, allowing the writer to control exactly how these typically overdone situations play out, and how these typical archetypes are developed as people. Unfortunately, I feel it overindulges in its display of tense, sexual situations involving the male lead for the sake of sexual fan service. Too often it paraded itself as being self-aware while also partaking in everything it seemed to mock without reason. What would be a great way to mock the oversimplified, one-dimensional, and horribly slow pace of developing relationships between teenage characters abundant with sexual tension? Actually developing their relationships. Saekano doesn’t quite seem to understand this.

Hearing that a sequel was announced, I was honestly excited. I found there was enough potential left undone in the first season to warrant more chances in a sequel. To some extent, there are some lingering drawbacks to what Saekano ♭ does that ring familiar when reminiscing about the first season. What ends up becoming different is what it almost drops altogether.

The biggest compliment that one could give to Saekano ♭ is that it feels like a serious story. From beginning to end, the situations presented feel realistic within the context of the characters’ bonds and the weight of their club’s growing popularity. This doesn’t feel tight within its beginning episodes, which is probably the biggest flaw and another level of inconsistency that the story takes in stride. An occasional line about the characters being self-aware exist, but as the series goes on, it disappears. All it does is embody the drama and the emotions that would come with the story at its current position, months past its chronological starting point. As though Saekano as a series had evolved from its caterpillar roots into a butterfly of its own volition, it almost completely abandons its cynical nature and takes it upon itself to sterilize the tone for the sake of maximizing its emotional potency.

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This ends up being the most intriguing factor of Saekano ♭, seeing as it wonderfully transitions from its condescending mimicry to hopeful drama concerning following in one’s decisions and ideals. It does exactly what I felt should have been done more in the first season, even if somewhat sporadically and with many spoonfuls of bitterness. Its final few episodes provide a lot of character insight and how they would react under tense situations; “adversity,” if you will. Even if one character seems to be getting more than the other. There’s something there for people to latch onto, and no longer does the series rely on balancing the act of being serious about not being serious. Should it have taken this seriously from the start, who knows how the series could’ve ended up. As it is now, it at least gains points for being fairly unique.

I suppose the entire point of this post was to both generate buzz for a light novel-adapted anime I find of good quality while also lamenting that light novel-adapted anime can’t take more risks. I understand the business, the desire to make a profit by taking refuge into the clichés that sell and that work. Primarily sex and fantasy flicks that don’t offer much intellectual stimulation. But imagine a world where stories can be free to be as imaginatively weird or stupid or challenging as possible. To cast off the shackles of what the money commands and have people be given the liberty to write what they please. Ah! Please excuse me, I’m getting a little too idealistic. In any case, Saekano ♭ is a decent sequel and a rare example of a light novel-adapted anime that has enough to tickle the noggin to stimulate the internal pump, all while transcending its initial identity to prominent execution of industry standards.

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

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Kakariko Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

It’s been some time since my last post on this subject, but don’t let that imply that I’ve run out of motivation to write about it. I just forget it even exists! …Is that worse?

After acquiring the paraglider, the player is allowed to explore wherever they want. This is where the game finally becomes so engrossing to play, as the feeling of exploration finally kicks in. As stated in the last post, the Isolated Plateau didn’t really feel all that adventurous because it was so limited and restrictive, coming off as an obligatory “Trial Sequence.” I didn’t have a lot of fun with it and began to wonder if the game would even be worth it. After some poor voice acting from the Old Man-turned-King of Hyrule, I was given instructions to find Impa, who conveniently rests within a small, mountainous region called Kakariko Village. My map popped up and showed a shiny yellow dot about 100,000 miles away from me (which made me udder a “Ho-ly…”) as to where I was supposed to go. Naturally, I ignored this for a good while and explored the now completely open world.

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I remember quite vividly exploring a body of water with some small islands scattered within right next to a giant bridge. It was here I found myself face-to-face with Lizalfos for the first time, and to my horror, they were capable of one-shotting me. Now being careful, and exploiting the use of BOMB SPAMMING, I killed all of the Lizalfos around the island, collected their loot, and found a hidden Shrine within the biggest island. I even discovered a wandering Zora as I found myself examining the look of the species in this game. Nothing really came of this, but I remember it for being the first thing I really did outside the main objective.

After some more meaningless exploration, I set out for Kakariko, hitting all the open Shrines and Towers along the way. Something humorous to look back on, I didn’t approach the village by conventional means. I’d assume most would take the straight path that curves around and leads upward, meeting the Korok that expands your inventory along the way. For me, I took a back route and CLIMBED A TON OF MOUNTAINS to get there. Essentially, I arrived backwards, taking the most difficult path possible for absolutely no reason at all, completely out of ignorance. I wasted a lot of time fighting off hordes of Bokoblins, exploring forests, and cooking foodstuff to even notice that there should’ve been a much easier way to reach the village. By the time I got there, I left the village the way I probably should’ve arrived there.

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As for the village itself, Kakariko is something of a special segment for me per my enjoyment of the game. It was the first time I was surrounded by a stable amount of civilization. There were people to talk to, buy from, and do sidequests for. It was also the first time I really paid attention to the soundtrack of the game, as for the most part, it was just calm and atmospheric. Kakariko Village’s themes, both day and night, bring me to a distinctively different place, something that really rubbed off on me and gave me an impression of the culture of the village. One could see it from the villagers and their actions throughout the day, but the music drives it home. It’s nothing short of beautiful, really. This was the place in Breath of the Wild where I felt that sense of wonder others likely felt upon coming out of the Chamber in the beginning. Kakariko Village was where I realized that this game was really something else.

This placement of priority says a lot about what I find important in games and the like. Seeing the vast landscape and scope of what’s to be uncovered? Meh. Battling against a number of different dangers with sticks and rocks and clubs? Meh. Being a part of a small society where characters can express themselves and shape the culture they’re a part of with perfect accompanying music and imagery? I’m oozing. I enjoy characters, character interaction, character quirkiness (to an extent), and the impact they can have on an otherwise bland and typical story and premise (see: Undertale, Custom Robo, Katawa Shoujo). Breath of the Wild, in my mind, is at its best when I can interact with the people within those small pockets of civilization. Exploring and discovering secrets and various environments is nice, but it’s nicer when I have a reason to care about any of it.

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Still, Kakariko Village is somewhat hampered by its commitment to the major plot, which comes off as boring and overexplanatory. Impa herself is rather chatty, though integral within the world as one of few people to live through the calamity that occurred 100 years prior. Her connection to Link is a figment of his uncalled past, causing a disconnect for her character as nothing but… just somebody that you used to know. Aside from that, she has no personality. Her role is to provide information and give Link stuff, and point him in the direction of other people. Her granddaughter is a lot more charming than she is (I may have become infatuated with her). This is more noticeable when I began to fall in love with most of all of the other characters within the village, including her granddaughter, a little girl named Koko, and a recently divorced male villager who is obsessed with his cuckoos. For a long while, I never left the village because I wanted to find out more and more about these characters’ lives and behavior.

The first village is noteworthy for being the first in a long line of places Link must explore throughout his journey. It was also the first time playing the game where I had three hours pass and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to play this again!” I was excited to see what other places had in store for me, and if they would all feel as open and alive as Kakariko did. Spoilers: They don’t. I was more determined than ever to get to the next village and explore even more of the vast world that awaited me. All because one little pocket of civilization made me care about the world I was preparing to save from the ultimate evil.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Commencing ‘Summer of Anime 2017’

It’s that time of year.

First off, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in recommending me anime to watch! You all will aid my Summer in being as diverse and long as possible! This year will be a tad different, so I’ll go over a few things.

In case you weren’t aware, I raised the roof from 25 entries to 30 entries, while also increasing my drop count from 5 to 10. This was because so many people recommended me anime. I underestimated your potential, dear reader! Since this was the case, I threw in some extra loopholes to make the event more memorable.

First of all, the total anime count I received via recommendations was stopped at 39 anime titles. This was because I wanted to introduce a concept that will probably end up not being used. I call it the “Get Out of Jail Free” pick. Basically, with 39 of 40 possible entries, I decided my final anime within my 10 reserved drop list will end up being my own choice. My very last drop will be something I get to choose, as a last resort, as something to look forward to before knowing I can no longer drop any more titles. Again, it’s not likely it’ll get to this point, but who knows?

That being said, all 39 anime titles are accounted for, but only 30 of them will go onto the official Summer of Anime 2017 list. The last nine will go onto a reserve list, which will serve as my go-to list in the case I ever drop any anime from the main list. If I drop, say, Steins;Gate from my main list, I will have to watch the first anime in my reserve list. Once I finish that, I go back to what then proceeded Steins;Gate on the list. If I drop a reserve title, I go on to the next reserve title, and so on and so forth.

The deadline was left somewhat ambiguous in past years, but the deadline for this year (especially due to the giant increase in episode count) will be my birthday, August 20th. Scores will be based upon an A-F rating scale for both personal and critical attributes, and I will give a shout out at the beginning of each post to the person who recommended me the anime of the post.

I am also allowed to watch ongoing anime, as well as OVA’s, films, and specials, during the Summer. For titles that may take me a while to finish, I will prepare various, likely unrelated posts to ensure this blog doesn’t get lonely. For example, I will have a post on Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water tomorrow ready to go before the first entry on the SoA list. I will start first thing tomorrow morning, June 1st.

The full list will be available to see momentarily within my Summer of Anime Archive. With that said, here’s to a successful Summer!

An Ode to Yoshi

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This is a somewhat odd subject to write about, as as strange as it sounds, Yoshi was kind of my identity for a while in my early video game experiences.

Let me explain, Yoshi is a character I related to a lot when I was young. As someone who’s fond of reptiles and the like, his design immediately stuck out. His character is almost never in the limelight, always sitting in the second chair to other more prominent characters such as Mario. I’m the type of person who enjoys being second-in-command; not having to take on all the responsibilities alone, but being confident enough and power hungry to be able to lead on a sparse basis. Yoshi, as Mario’s sidekick, had this similar, strangely psychological connection with me. I can’t help but love the character, despite typically being the world’s best sacrificial character.

What’s most notable within my experience with this green dinosaur is how often I would play as him in Mario spin-off games. If I’m playing Mario Party (particularly the older versions), Mario Golf, or Mario Kart, Yoshi was my character. Always. I played through the game as Yoshi and Yoshi alone. He was my guy.

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I recall playing Mario Party 4, going through the “Story Mode” of the game, getting gifts for Yoshi’s house after defeating each party host in specific, unique mini-games. That meant so much to me, thinking I was getting a more in-depth look at Yoshi’s personality and priorities. I don’t remember anything he got now, but back then, it was my duty as Yoshi’s human counterpart to give him the best little house possible. It remains my favorite Story Mode-esque feature in a Mario Party game to this day.

When Yoshi does get a main series game, it’s always packed with colorful, almost serene artistic exaggeration. There’s a good atmosphere whenever he’s involved, though the easy choice for the best example of this is in Yoshi’s Island. That game is a fantastic example of what Yoshi can do in center stage. Much like the rare occasion where I take charge, Yoshi splendidly holds his own compared to greats such as Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3. I really need to replay Yoshi’s Island. Real soon.

Not too long of a post this time, as there’s not much one can say about a single side-character that doesn’t receive a lot of attention towards his development. He, like most others from the Mario series, serves his role to the best of his abilities. That’s all one can really ask for with Mario characters, until the day comes when Mario becomes an RPG. Hehehe… Oh, wait…

Summer of Anime 2017? You Decide! [Closed]

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Nine days before the 2017 Summer of Anime officially opens, I’ve decided to let the floodgates open.

I want you, the reader of this post, to tell me what I should watch.

Now, this is a bit of a risky move, because I have no idea how many people will actually choose to participate in this and there’s no control over what I could be watching in the end! I could just watch 25 Shounen titles and cry myself to sleep every night!

In all seriousness, there are a few stipulations I’d like to put in place before I give people the key to my anime summer.

  • Limit of three titles per person! I want to fill up my slots, but I don’t want to have to be super choosy by experiment’s end. If it does end up that people recommend me more than 25 slots allotted for the SoA, I’ll pick and choose to my own discretion, but will keep some noted in case I drop anything throughout the event. If you don’t want to recommend three, you’re more than welcome to just recommend one or two!
  • I will be open to rewatching titles! These titles also don’t have to be things I’ve watched from previous SoA’s, they can be anything! If people want me to rewatch Koi Koi 7 or One Punch Man, that’s fair game. I’ll leave a link to MyAnimeList for those who wish to see what I have and haven’t watched before making a recommendation.
  • Rules of previous Summer of Anime’s still apply, so please don’t recommend anything shorter than six episodes of standard-length runtime! Alternatively, please don’t recommend anything with episodes spanning triple-digits! I’m not going to spend my entire Summer marathoning Naruto, Bleach, and Fairy Tail. Also, no currently-airing anime, OVA’s, specials or films!
  • Note that when you’re recommending a series to me, I will watch every season of said show! If you’re going to recommend my rewatching of Zero no Tsukaima, I’m going to watch every season of it. For the sake of clarification, if you want to spare me want me to only watch a certain season of an anime, note in within the recommendation. Otherwise, I’m marathoning the whole series.

As an added touch, I’ll note whoever recommended me a certain anime at the beginning of each post dedicated to their choice. The public should know whoever loves me enough to put me through human torture. Teehee!

I’ll leave this post open for the next nine days for anyone to comment below with recommendations. In that time, I’ll jot down whatever titles I receive and eventually add them to the Summer of Anime Archive in whatever order I choose. Until then, thanks in advance to all who give me something to watch, and have a great summer!

Indiana Jones and the Archives of Inconsistency

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I’ve seen ’em all. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The amount of fan adoration this franchise receives is unlike many in modern Hollywood, rivaling that of the Star Wars franchise or many of Disney’s animated classics. Because of this, many are subject to a very heavy bias when looking at this franchise through an objective lens. While I was made aware of various scenes from Jones’s adventures through parodies and references in other media, never have I actually sat down and watched the films until about a month ago, so there’s no nostalgic bias to be found here (for once). With the occasion of finishing the franchise (until 2020), I felt it’d be interesting to share a fresh perspective as to the weight of these (mostly) ’80s classics. And as the title implies, the theme here is inconsistency.

Referenced somewhat recently here, I did not care much for Temple of Doom. While user ratings for the film are fairly divided, with the more general perspective being positive, I found it to be a fairly insipid viewing. The inclusion of Short Round and Willie completely tampered any potential the film may have had if it didn’t focus so keenly on gross-out humor and silly popcorn theatrics. They ultimately had no place in the film, provided little chemistry with Jones himself, and had as much depth to their personality as characters from Sesame Street. This harshness towards these two characters specifically is due to their influence on the film’s tone, providing more of a comedic approach instead of a serious one. This would be excusable if the comedy was at all funny, but it’s not.

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Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gets a lot more backlash from fans for “ruining” the franchise. Critics gave it decent marks, but user score is typically fairly low, and it was even desecrated on an episode of South Park. Once again, this bunny with no nostalgic bias watched the film with an open mind, and while I think the film is bad, I thought Temple of Doom was worse overall. I thought Temple of Doom’s second act was better than Crystal Skull, but its first act was so horribly misguided that it nearly destroyed the whole experience for me. Crystal Skull has a sort of quality that almost hides behind the greatness of its prequels while trying to be so over-the-top that no one would ever accuse it of being so similar. It’s this absurdness that brings its quality down for many trying to take the film seriously, which it does a decent job at in the first half. Still, with enough references to fill a house, it can’t quite shake the foundations of a soft reboot, catering to newcomers while titillating fans of the franchise.

In my mind, two of the films in a four-film franchise are bad. Two out of four; that’s half the franchise. Not only that, but they’re the second and fourth films, respectively, causing a wave-like effect of turbulent highs and lethargic lows. One is good, one is bad, one is good, one is bad. Without the perspective of a diehard fan that grew up on the films proclaiming Crystal Skull to be the black sheep of the franchise, one can say that the series has always been flawed to some degree, and its consistency is seriously questionable, both in terms of overall quality and the pace of such within each individual film.

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What made the Indiana Jones films so enjoyable was the constant focus of thrilling action, the wonders of adventure and mystery, and the human drama that came with the characters along the way. This is fairly common knowledge to many, but pulling this off effectively is no easy feat. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade have a good number of things in common, including the factors mentioned above. With lots of semi-realistic action, lovable character interaction, and a nose for gritty attitude, they both accomplished a mixed tone of light and dark that boded well for characters to behave as well as they did, with a lot of focus on memorable scenes and noticeable, subtle development. Not to mention, the bond between characters in both pictures, specifically Jones and Marion, as well as Jones and his father, almost single-handedly carry the torch for emotional appeal, seeing as both pairs have some friction between them. There’s a potent humanistic element that makes the adventures feel real and all the more grand for it.

Any more on Temple of Doom would be ad nauseam. Crystal Skull harbors a little character enthusiasm, though struggles to find any balance with the realistic qualms of Jones’s antics. Surviving a nuke by sitting in a fridge. Killer ants with a penchant for human flesh. Aliens. It goes above and beyond to entertain, however, it becomes more of a chore to take any of it to heart when it feels so jadedly superficial. The Indiana Jones movies were always somewhat silly, but Crystal Skull takes it to such levels of ridiculousness that Kali-Ma! seems like a morning stroll in the park. Everything about each scene feels so forced, so maniacally enthusiastic about being able to appeal to everyone that it loses some of its identity. In this sense, I can understand how the latest entry “ruined” the franchise to many. For me, the franchise couldn’t be ruined because it was never a stable library of greatness in the first place.

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Wrapping up, there is an indistinguishable charm that the Indiana Jones franchise manages to capture half the time. Even in the worst of times, there’s enough of a semblance of good merriment to hold over any person not so sternly idolizing of the whole product. I suppose the point of this post made into simplest of explanations is that the franchise isn’t perfect prior to a certain point. It’s important to look at things as single products, then add the outside context later on. How much this context influences one’s opinion is dependent on the individual, but one shouldn’t disregard one or the other entirely. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t great, but neither was Temple of Doom, and some didn’t even care for Last Crusade. Whatever shoots the sword-slinger is for anyone to decide. Just don’t be so picky.

‘It Gets Better’ Is Not Always Better

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A few nights ago, I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the first time in my life. My thoughts on it are not great—in my own words, I described the first hour as “rubbing my face against a boulder.” However, one thing I can appreciate about the film is that it gets better, as the second half of the film provides a lot of the dumb action fluff the first film does to near perfection, which helped alleviate the pain of the first half’s ruefully irritating shenanigans. Even with this, I gave the film a painfully low score of 3/10, as the first half’s lows overtook the limited enjoyment I felt for the second half’s revival, mostly because the end didn’t justify the means in a way that allowed me to give a damn about any of it. It got me thinking of the times when people would recommend various TV shows and anime with the discretion that it “gets better over time.” The more I think about it, the more I believe it’s a nice way of saying, “This series’s highs are better than its lows.”

As a watcher of most things visual media, particularly of the Asian variety, the discretion of “It gets better” is something I’ve come across a number of times, whether directly addressed to me or to others. I’m sure I’ve said the phrase a few times myself, though recently I’ve tried to shy away from it. With the combination of my own belief that anime almost never gets better and the added expectations placed when throwing that phrase around, it creates a conundrum that’s better left for an uncommon few.

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In a more realistic manner, things are supposed to get better over time. To say that a certain series “gets better” is almost redundant, as characters, story, animation, etc. are never fully developed through the first couple of episodes. If a series were to not get better, whether by an objectivist’s sake or a structural sake, then the phrase would make more of a compliment. With as vague as the three-word combo is, this could mean any number of things, including the development of a number of different aspects. From my own experience, it’s usually meant to imply that characters become developed and their actions worth caring for, thus improving the mood and the overall entertainment value. Still, what’s to say it can’t mean anything?

Among the most common type of shows this phrase gets attributed to are the long-running popular shows a la The Walking DeadGame of Thrones, or any of the popular anime adaptations of Shounen Jump manga. True as it may be to insinuate that longer-running shows get better as they go on, the important thing to note is when. When does the series starting getting “good”? How long is a person willing to sit through mediocre or dull slop before pacing themselves for the good to come through? Is the recommendation of One Piece really a recommendation if it doesn’t start getting good until episode 207? Is Naruto a good recommendation if “It gets better” in Shippuden? Time is valuable to certain people, and if the “good” doesn’t compensate for the “bad,” then they’ll leave feeling disappointed, especially if they watched 206 episodes to get to that point. I’d rather not place unneeded expectations on a series when it could backfire harder than it could reward.

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As stated in the first paragraph, there’s a fine line between good and bad, with the balance of the two being the difference between being disappointed and being relieved. For me, The Temple of Doom had far too much bad to make up for it with some trivial good in the end. Allison to Lillia is a series I felt similarly about, except reversed; the first thirteen episodes were charming, if not illogically defined, while the last thirteen episodes undermined all of it and sank it into the depths of mediocrity. The reasons for the two examples are different, but mirror each other with a sudden dip/rise in quality. To say “It gets better,” one should be aware of what the recommendee considers good or bad, what they value, and whether one is confident enough in the show’s good qualities in overshadowing the bad. I also read a blog post recently describing how one show’s good was essentially ruined with one epitomizing episode of pure bad.

In one last argument against it, “It gets better” can be construed as parts of a series being blatantly mediocre. One can understand that a series needs time to develop upon the things it wants to convey, especially those within the genres of drama or psychological thriller, but if it gets better, that might just be saying the genre works, not that the entire product is worth watching. It creates a one-dimensional mentality that if it succeeds in one aspect, the rest can be ignored as non-important. I realize this idea can be far-fetched, but better to cover everything than skim. Perfect Blue is an example of something that I would say “gets better,” as its structure dictates that every detail matters in displaying its messages and intrigue. This doesn’t mean I feel the entire product is perfect, just that it succeeds very well in one thing in particular, and only because the other integral aspects are done well enough to make said one thing succeed. Code Geass’s first season also “gets better,” and unlike Perfect Blue, it’s in spite of its earlier meandering and not because of it.

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People have the freedom to say what they want when they’re recommending things, even if those things don’t necessarily help the recommendation. For me, to say “It gets better” is nothing more than an empty proclamation without the details to ensure its legitimacy. There’s too much at stake with the time available to those who pursue the art of binge watching. Whether it ends up planting the seeds of disappointment or undermining the show’s ability to pace itself, saying “It gets better” is not always better.