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.

Blade Runner 2049 Review

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No bullshit.

Impeccable as it is, this film has none of it. No filler, no filibuster. It moves at paces ranging from a bird flying in the morning sky to a snake slithering in the desert sand, yet it does not stop. Always moving, elegantly presenting events that capture some underlying force or ubiquitous mood which keeps the stew boiling in the darkness. That may very well be what I appreciate most from this picture; that it does not do anything to grope you around through heaps of mindless serendipity and glamour. No distractions from some obvious flaws or cute side swipes to appeal to a wider audience. Blade Runner 2049 does what it desires to do with such automated grace that it implements the stylistic intricacy of John Wick’s action sequences and employs it to every other aspect but that. Absolutely. No. Bullshit.

This is what Disney’s Star Wars could’ve been. Had it not been for all of its profound bullshit.

The original Blade Runner was a film dedicated to asking the questions without relaying any obvious answers. Nearly everything was shown, and not once told (at least not explicitly). This created an isolating effect between the viewer and the film; such that it felt more interested in serving as a cinematic enigma of sci-fi psychology and existentialism. Like being presented with a Rubik’s cube with no colors on any side, and being asked to solve it. Intriguing as it is, there’s no context to care, and little reason to identify with the struggles of its characters, aside from what is innate within humankind to be empathetic of those who only wish to survive—and to live among their own freedom. An island’s worth of style, but substance? Debatable.

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Blade Runner 2049 may have single-handedly convinced me that characters are the greatest asset to film or any other similar medium. As toxic as the term “linear” has become in this day and age, the narrative structure of choice here is undoubtedly so. The choice to employ a more straightforward story is something that will no doubt alienate some from this sequel film’s roots. Yet it is a choice that is one of many choices that I not only find to be a true strength, but one that I would rather not have differently, despite other possibilities. It is so that standard structures can harm the worth of creativity, but it may also compliment all that which surrounds the structure in a more fulfilling fashion.

For it is the characters that make this movie what it is. What makes it so powerful, so transcendent in its mental capacity that one can only hope to collect all that is offered in a single sitting (I needed two sittings to write this review with confidence). For the things that the original wanted to convey, it didn’t have the proper connection between viewer and character to connect that link of ultimate empathy, the key to any true experience of extravagance. “Joe” is not only interesting on his own, but his condition, his context, his origins—everything so clear-cut yet shrouded in delicate mystery—become interesting as both he and the audience discovers more as the story unravels. Deckard in the original already had the benefit of knowing so much, being within a position where it was hard for someone without that context to surmise his thoughts and actions. With “Joe,” he’s far less human, far more empty in both humanistic characteristics and input on the larger aspects of his own “soul” that to build upon his knowledge along with him creates an experience that truly puts one in the midst of the dilemma. Immersion is no issue here; even if it was, the aesthetic presentation will alleviate that by itself.

Though what helps in Joe’s development as a character and source of human connection is Ryan Gosling’s performance, which, in my humble opinion, should garner him every award. All of them. What are replicants supposed to be? How are they supposed to feel? Baseline; no distractions, no bias, no physiological or psychological fluctuations. Ryan Gosling is stone-faced for a good portion of this film, flushed in the embodiment of a character that is not expected to feel desire or passion. Yet it is the subtler movements of his face, the slow accumulation of tears flowing in his eyes, the sudden, one-time burst of ferocity, that really brings “Joe” to life. With more time comes more opportunity for him to question his capabilities and his “humanity,” masterfully performed by Gosling. His mannerisms alone provide a spark of residual intrigue into every scene.

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Thankfully, it is not just “Joe,” but a variety of characters that allow further insight into the plot and basis around the world presented in 2049 to flourish into a sea of conflicting moods and ideas. Joi, Luv, Deckard, and those whose names aren’t even important (as ironic as that sounds given their importance) all help present the importance of character within not just this film, but films in general. There are complexities, multi-faceted personalities to every character, and the way they bounce off of one another creates not just an interesting connection, but a realistic connection. Connections that transcend the standards of machines with human clothing. And the fact that some of these connections even exist says more about the characters than the interactions themselves.

Joi, for example, is the cybernetic encoding system that projects and mimics the personality and mindset of a real female partner—perhaps the “model girlfriend” would be a more accurate description. She, as a character, is worth liking, as she is programmed to be liked and irrevocably loyal to “Joe,” but she isn’t real, and oft-times throughout the film it is shown that she is simply a projection of everything “you” want to see and hear. I’ve seen various critics criticize Joi as a self-indulgent submissive female stereotype, and that through her desire to be real to Joe, the film becomes inherently “creepy.” Through my take, all I can say is THAT’S THE POINT! Joi isn’t real, but Joe wants her to be real, because he wants something real. He’s both submissive to the idea of having someone who loves and supports him while ashamed that he may never have that feeling of genuine connection with anyone aside from a company that manipulates that. It’s. Character. Building! Further acknowledgment that his humanistic desires are beginning to envelop his cerebral duties as a baseline “retiring” machine. Joi is, in a sense, a scapegoat to further build upon the ideas of the plot’s presence and the intricacy of the lead character’s inborn desires.

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I could go on for hundreds of thousand of words about the characters and what they mean to the story, what each line could possibly allude to or how it all connects to the larger summary, but I’ll spare the reader my uncontrolled ramblings. What this means to show, however, is that the world within Blade Runner 2049 is filled with detail and substance, something that isn’t quite as noticeable in the original picture. Every scene, every character, almost every line has some deeper meaning to it. Packed with a keen sense of direction that seems to lead to a multitude of different destinations, finding every piece of the puzzle is as much an experience as the film’s surface messaging. That, I can absolutely believe, can be a hefty and off-putting task for the casual viewer. Not quite as much as with mother!, but enough to warrant those who fear the mounting expectations that become noticeably gargantuan within the first fifteen minutes of the film a passive regard.

Profound characters, a straightforward, yet immersive story. What more can one ask for? Why, captivating visuals and atmosphere, of course! Indeed, the colors are not vibrant as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, nor are they as focused on grabbing one’s attention. The tone of 2049 is intrinsically dark and depressing; a dystopian world full of casual pleasures and leisure, without a shred of empathy or individuality. Everything is, as already said a number of times before, clear-cut, meticulously organized, and gray. Everything is in the state of decay, the death of humanity itself, or its drive, should one prefer. It makes the more focal points of color, whether the red lights of a police cruiser, the purple-pink skin of the projection of a nude female advertisement, or the orange mist of an abandoned city full of radiation, far more instilling. What 2049 manages to do, apart from creating a visual world that shows the capabilities of current-generation special effects, is embellish the more bombastic features by showing patience. When one is accustomed to three hours of special effects, those effects are no longer special, but a norm of the visuals. Here, those pinks and oranges and reds glow with an intermittent fascination that reminds the viewer of what it means for effects to be special.

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Last, but most certainly not least, is the soundtrack that accompanies the film, taking a fairly similar lead as the special effects. It picks its moments of heightened hostility and intensiveness. Silence is not often heard through this film, though it is most certainly very quiet. The action scenes are as far and few between as the music that accompanies them. The most scandalous realizations are accompanied by harrowing, mind-numbing impacts of heavy synthesizers and sheer volume. Not only setting the tone, it sets another course for the story’s direction, and the mood of a character, and the breaking, the recovery, the peace, the frustration, or the reconciliation of a person. So simplistic in its nature, the heaviness of the soundtrack becomes heavily embedded in the already masterfully-woven intricacy of the film’s core parts. Everything plays a part and works beautifully together to not only provide insightful think pieces, but valid entertainment as a whole.

There are things about this film that many can criticize, break apart, or question upon the logical foundations with which it means to present itself. Perhaps the pace is too slow, the violence too prevalent, the diversity too white (Ha!). For me, and the way this film evoked the inner workings of my emotional turmoil is something that cannot—and will not—go unnoticed. Much like my most treasured possessions of the visual medium, in which my memories paint the perfect, picturesque brilliance of a modern masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 is, without any single shred of doubt—two times over—the closest a film could ever be to perfect in my mind. Production values, character intricacy, narrative potency, atmospheric sincerity; everything and more is there for me, for you, and for anyone to indulge in to their utmost pleasure. And I, as one who always clamors to share my wondrous, oft-times contradictory feelings, urge anyone reading to not only watch this film once, but twice or thrice, so that one can experience what it means to truly be in the presence of human passion.

Final Score: 10/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

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?

Thoughts on the Kizumonogatari Trilogy

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I thought of doing this post with each part individually, but I kind of liked the idea of wrapping it all into one story, seeing as that’s what it is in the end. Doing each part would’ve been too much like episodic thoughts, something I don’t care to add to the overinflated amount of anibloggers already doing so. Of course, splitting them into parts could’ve had me post these thoughts a long time ago, but patience is a virtue and I’ll uphold the standards I would expect from anyone else and more.

Kizumonogatari is the “origin” story surrounding the now vampiric loli, Shinobu, from the parent Monogatari series. It details Araragi’s first encounter with her and Hanekawa, the one who only knows what she knows, in a sort of dual-threat of busty female counterparts. Shinobu has had her limbs stolen from her by vampire hunters, and with the help of Araragi, she wishes to retrieve them to obtain her full power as a vampire. At the same time, Araragi tries to cope with Hanekawa being absurdly considerate of him, seeing as he’s branded himself a friendless loser.

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For fans of the parent Monogatari series: Kizumonogatari is commonplace to the world that author Nisio Isin has already created in past works. The only real strange distinction is that Hanekawa acts far more free-spirited and aloof than she does in other stories. She doesn’t even seem like her own character, really. Aside from so, the story and presentation are the mainstay that make the series fresh and inviting. Beautifully intricate in its detail and creepy imagery, Kizumonogatari is a definitive must-watch for the fans, despite how inconsequential this entire side project sounds in hindsight. In reality, it delves into the character of Shinobu and treats her more like a human being, especially in the third part, as ironic as that sounds. That alone should be enough for a glance.

For non-fans of the parent Monogatari series: there is a little hesitation to recommend this piece if one either hasn’t watched the parent series or didn’t care for it. Lots of dialogue still remains, if one didn’t care for that. Sexually-suggestive situations still arise (and part three has a very aggressive sexual situation present). And while I don’t always agree with the notion, a lot of the fun of these side movies is getting better detail behind the characters than presented in the more broadened counterparts. Within this film, Shinobu gets a lot more attention towards her character than shown in a lot of the Monogatari series, which makes me not want to recommend this first. However, Hanekawa doesn’t even act like her actual character here, which is… also confusing enough to have me not want to recommend it. What I can recommend it for is its kooky nature and semi-serious take on the world of the supernatural, in all of its gory glory.

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What’s more impressive (and noticeably different from the parent series) is the emphasis on the technical aspects of the anime. Animation and sound are very poignant in this three-part piece, more so than I ever remember it being otherwise. Araragi has never belted out screams with his entire god damn body as he does here, which helps to create a tragic(ally whimsical) tone that really suits the series and establishes Araragi’s character. And with animation, well, let’s just say dismemberment during battle sequences have never been more amusing.

But it is also the style of presentation that is somewhat different. Gone are the constant blips of random novel excerpts and scene numbers and transitions. Kizumonogatari is more streamlined in its presentation, not really interrupting the flow of conversation or the visual meat of a scene. The dialogue present is still absurd in its monotonous viewpoint of the supernatural and others’ reactions to it (and other uncomfortable topics), though the presentation of such things are more dedicated to simply that: dialogue. In many cases, the parent story will try to shoehorn in random visuals in an effort to distinguish a scene with… something. Here, it’s rather straightforward, with the more cryptic sequences happening in their own spare time, not in the middle of other scenes. Some may miss that traditional habit, but I really didn’t mind either way.

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Without a doubt the most enjoyable part of this series is that there are very rarely dull moments. What I found to be the least encouraging aspects were the fights Araragi had with the members of the Shinobu-limb-stealing squad—two out of the three being blatantly uninteresting, one-dimensional characters. The fights themselves were somewhat blissful due to their weird comedic aura and animated whimsy, but the context behind the fights made them rather dull. By the end, there really isn’t much to be said about the three antagonists other than that they were in the way. Outside of this, the dialogue between characters, expressive art direction, and symbolic curmudgeon made the experience far more invigorating.

It took me nearly a month to even watch the third part, but the time spent away didn’t dull my excitement even a little. Nisio Isin has a way of making anything sound strangely captivating, even if the events onscreen don’t really match the “epic” atmosphere shuffling in the background. Kizumonogatari is an OVA-style project done in the best way it possibly can: distinguish itself as more than fan fodder and do as much as possible to add appreciation and insight into the characters/story shown in a more major work. I can’t say I know many others that can effectively reciprocate these “guidelines,” but this is a prime example of making the inconsequential seem not so important to a work’s quality.

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