Quick Thoughts on Koe no Katachi (Film)

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I decided to make this post quick because upon further consideration, there really isn’t much to say about it, despite how unlikely that seems with this film’s tremendous popularity.

To be blunt, this film is the perfect encapsulation of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! The patience required to finally see this film subbed was one that I don’t normally experience with any specific anime film, but the super-high average rating for this piece on MAL had me very curious. To my non-surprise, it’s highly rated because it involves the most humanistic qualities of altruism I’ve seen outside of anime directed at children. It also deals with subject matter such as bullying, suicide, and putting on a brave front, so it’s probably dubbed “deep” and “relatable” along with its heavy reliance on viewer empathy. With myself isolated from the crowd, I found the film to be a good attempt at trying to tell the story of a boy’s redemption from his cruel past. And like most stories along this concept, its execution was horribly overdramatic and at times inconsistent.

One of my biggest qualms with this film without spoiling anything specific is how long it takes for things to actually begin to tear down for the inevitable, overdramatic climax. I was surprised to see that, after the time skip, the bully and the bullied were “comfortable” being around each other despite the past, and one even has some inborn fondness for the other. What kind of strange case of Stockholm Syndrome is this? It makes the middle portions of the film feel incredibly empty of any real content, seeing as its deliberately setting itself up for some dramatic explosion and that’s the only purpose it serves. This is doubled when a myriad of characters are introduced that serve their role and nothing more. One character serves to support, another to cause friction, and another to be an inside source of information for the male lead. Not many characters feel more than just keys to the major plot.

Even so, these grievances are the only things I found truly wrong with the film, as the rest are either tolerable absurdities or likable strengths. Nothing stands out, except perhaps design and animation, which was nice throughout. I found the relationship between the leads to be strong after the initial confusion with why they were so comfortable with one another before the inevitable climax pushes them apart. More than anything, I suppose, is that it evoked a lot of sympathy from me and pushed its frivolity of life onto my cold soul enough for me to enjoy it. One could say that on a storied structure, it teeters upon mediocrity, but makes up for it somewhat on the basis of pure entertainment. Kind of like, I don’t know, Kimi no Na wa.

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

Quick Updated Thoughts on Ano Natsu de Matteru

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A rather hard rewatch, this was for me. As a title that holds something of an emotional attachment to my younger self, I can’t help but think fondly of the time this anime almost made me cry. This, out of all anime I watched in late 2012, was the one that got me closest to actually shedding tears. Since then, only rewatching Katanagatari has gotten me to reach for a tissue. OCD in full effect, I figured I’d keep the rewatch train rolling and see if Ano Natsu de Matteru held up after nearly five years.

It didn’t.

One can almost feel how hard this anime tried to be its own AnoHana, from the interactions between characters to the love octagon that takes effect as time goes on. Both series also deal with an inevitable fact that the characters try to ignore, but are destined to face. The difference between the two is through execution, which Ano Natsu de Matteru does well only in very specific measures.

What is immediately apparent about halfway through the series is that the writing is very, very dumb. The entire purpose of a single character, Lemon, is to push the plot forward and manipulate the cast to her whim for the sake of fucking with them. And because she has a “more than she knows” background, she knows everything that’s going to happen and how to prepare for it. Don’t you love having a character that can destroy all the tension and seriousness of an otherwise tensile and serious plot by making everything feel a-ok through their Godly knowledge and dexterity? Even more so, she more often than not forces the characters to change, instead of the story giving them the opportunity to either do it themselves or slip into situations of genuine, awkward conflict. It’s a shame that she’s so hamfisted in, because the general character roster is… tolerable, with Mio, and to some extent Tetsurou, being the saving graces of the anime.

Without Lemon, the writing still deals with things that have already been done in plenty of other anime, to a lesser extent. Lots of angst, lots of surprised faces, lots of dramatic outbursts and emotional spurs. While not on the same level as a soap opera, some episodes give a little more heart than necessary. Some don’t even feel like normal characters, rather pieces set up to provide controversy.

Animation is pretty nice, which is one thing about this anime that’s fairly praiseworthy. Not always the most smooth of physical activity, but its bright and distinctive in its approach. I wish Ichika was more like an actual alien than a human being (a lot about her alien persona doesn’t make sense), though that’s more of a nitpick.

In the end, it’s not nearly the anime I used to see it as, with a lot of issues in its writing and how it incorporates its characters. Strange as it might seem, the final episode still left me with a good emotional impression, something that even surprised me considering how cynical I was of it up to that point. I really wish the audience was treated to more of Mio and her active and understandable change halfway through the series, something only a few characters get a snippet of. Lost potential and all that; Ano Natsu de Matteru leaves viewers waiting for the translation of AnoHana: Alien Edition.

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

Early Impressions: Shingeki no Kyojin (Season Two)

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Three episodes in, I’m beginning to wonder what I liked about this series in the first place.

While the comparison may be repetitive at this point, I never found myself fond of viewing Shingeki no Kyojin as an anime version of The Walking Dead, until just this most recent episode. I found myself pondering to myself, “If I were to devise a drinking game for this series, noting every common cliché it shares with The Walking Dead, would I be dead?” The answer ended up becoming “Yes.”

For context, I don’t like The Walking Dead.

Not to turn this post into “Thoughts on The Walking Dead,” but my disdain for the series is a combination of two things: its mood and its writing. I’ve stated on many occasions that I don’t care for shows that are overly moody in its apathetic murkiness—shows that are constantly manipulating subjects of fear, angst, frustration, or an overt seriousness that overwhelms all over aspects. More than this, however, is the writing, which dedicates itself to being shallow, predictable, slow, and too reliant on the threat of zombies to ramp up excitement. Now, if I had replaced “zombies” with “titans,” and cut out the first sentence in this paragraph, would you really have noticed I was talking about The Walking Dead instead of Shingeki no Kyojin?

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Thinking back on it, I liked how the first season started out with showcasing exactly what titans are capable of, then immediately afterwards slowing things down and developing the characters/civilization that made up the remains of a once populated world. I liked that the titans weren’t always the focus of every episode, though they were always a looming subject on everyone’s minds due to their numbers and tenacity. Too often stories will try and go for horror and thrills without making the effort of making the viewer care about whom it’s happening to. Despite the jokes and recurring oddities of its first season, I came out of the experience rather amused.

Its second season is beginning to fester into a trap of making everything about titans. Characters no longer matter, as they’re either marked for death or survival. Titans suddenly are more than meets the eye, with a new threat showing to have a high capacity of intelligence. And those who once served a role through their embellished personalities and charms have resorted to acting out the words of the script like they’re paid to. Years it’s been since I finished the first season of Shingeki no Kyojin, and suddenly they want to open up with developing Potato Girl and Connie? Two characters that hardly mattered? Not only do I not give a shit anymore, but it basically puts giant targets on their head to be eaten. Not that I expect them to be dead within mere episodes (Akame ga Kill), just that it puts it in the back of my mind. On a final note, boy, do I feel so much empathy for two random characters I don’t even know the names to who deepen their bond in the middle of a perilous expedition that could kill them. Really doesn’t kill the mood or heighten transparency.

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Though I wasn’t exactly excited for the second season of Shingeki no Kyojin, it’s still somewhat disappointing to see it follow the line of many other stories like it that try to do too much to have the viewer care. Or maybe I’m full of it because the series is currently within the Top 50 on MAL’s database after three episodes. Regardless, for me, the series is off to a very poor start. Not in the sense that the show is atrocious in a technical sense, but that it screams “Monotonous!” in its execution and constant shoehorning of the various tropes that rent out the genre. Look at these sad people whose lives are devastated by this fatal threat. Let’s split up into groups and devise a plan to face this thing. What about my family?! I need to become stronger to protect the people I love! A dark secret looms within a high-ranking organization of society. What?! How is this possible?! How, indeed, is it possible to become so drawl?

Day Nineteen: The Blind Side (MotM 2017)

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I don’t have an excuse for getting this post out this late tonight. Just ended up being this late.

Sandra Bullock won an award for her role in this film. Her character is caring, traditional-minded, and strong-willed. She has sass, with a number of biting remarks for a number of different characters. She’s likable—about as likable of a character as it sounds. But does this deserve her an award? If the rest of the movie is any indication, she’s the only bright spot in a world of muddy water.

Without sugar-coating it, I don’t think Bullock deserved an award for her performance. I think this was a case of the judges liking her character more than her acting, as there was little here that could justify Bullock’s finest quality of acting. I could put any number of actresses here and very little would change about the film. Some of this is due to her character not having much of a personality outside of her usual demeanor, while some is simply Bullock acting as she should. I suppose 2009 was a thin year for lead actresses.

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Popping the biggest zit on the metaphorical forehead that symbolizes The Blind Side as a whole, let’s continue on with the greasy skin which groomed the zit to substantial size. Bullock’s character is an interesting point to start off with, as she is the only positive one. Despite my claim that she doesn’t deserve the award she received for this film, she did do a decent job. And her character is likable, if not a little too stubbornly within her role. Everything else about this film feels forced, uninspired, and far too safe to impact the viewer with the messages it tries to convey.

For those who kept up with the month, recall my review of Space Cowboys and how I demolished it for its use of one-role/one-joke characters and by-the-books narrative structure. In that film’s case, some interesting characterization and two likable characters save it from being completely derivative. In The Blind Side’s case, Sandra Bullock is the only savior. It’s amazing how watchable Space Cowboys feels in comparison, as The Blind Side seems to have read up on every “How To” book on creating dramatic underdog stories and threw in every detail without developing a single one. It’s to the point where it’s almost insulting; insulting to the viewer and insulting to those who actually have to face the reality that’s only hinted at in this film.

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So self-indulgent in its own masterpiece, the scenes play out and garner all sorts of strange, tonal shifts that go from inspiring to traumatic to… funny? One scene goes as such: the son of the woman who adopts Oher as her own, and Oher himself are driving the family car down the road, goofing off and singing to a song on the radio. Not paying attention, Oher crashes the car into a truck that’s slowly backing out into their lane. It cuts to the woman receiving a phone call notifying her of the accident. Cutting again to the scene of the accident, she rushes to Oher, who’s sitting down on the sidewalk away from the accident, who tells her to check on the kid. Seeing that her son is being tended to, she shoves an officer out of the way and runs to him, asking if he’s okay. To this, he replies: “Mom. Do you think the blood will wash out of my shirt?”

It was at this point I decided not to take the film seriously anymore. Here we have a kid, who’s bloodied from a car accident, being tended to on a stretcher, making one-liners to his mother, who is worried sick about him. On top of that, she smiles and answers his question seriously, only to go back to Oher and tell him that everything’s fine and that it happens to everybody. Not one ounce of anger. Astounding. The film doesn’t have the guts to have a single lingering negative circumstance surround the characters for any extended period. Not only that, but the guts to show any negative event that would shock the viewer into believing the hardships of Oher’s life. All throughout, things are simply stated, and if shown at all, are shown only to the most minimal degree. Nothing truly gets any attention, other than Bullock’s face and Oher’s rise to football stardom (though even that feels lopsided).

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So the story is laughably benign of all tension and personality. Are the characters any better? Unfortunately no, as they all stick firmly within their characters’ roles and nothing more. Oher’s a tragic hero, bullied by life and mistreated by just about everybody. A sad sack who’s good at heart and couldn’t hurt a fly. Bullock’s character is the sweet-hearted angel who takes him in and provides him all he needs to survive and flourish athletically. Her family is there. The teachers and football coaches are there. They receive next to no development as people and hardly provide anything worthwhile to anything. Bullock’s husband and daughter may as well have not been in this movie. Bullock’s son I wish wasn’t in this movie. The more I think about it, the more I realize that nearly every character is only to provide a single driving point: Oher is to be pitied, and Bullock is to be praised.

It doesn’t give a single shit. It doesn’t give a shit about Oher or his real-life struggles. It doesn’t give a shit about the traumatic experiences that happen behind the scenes. It doesn’t give a shit that everything about this film is but a big-budget straight-to-VHS movie. It doesn’t give a shit that its own narcissistic telling of a genuinely interesting story ruined everything about this film for me, and likely others. It doesn’t give a shit how the only real thing they wanted to do was make a flimsy “zero to hero” story without any effort. The Blind Side is blinded by its own grandeur, which may have been the most insulting thing involved, and what makes it so easy to forget.

Final Score: 3/10

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

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Early Impressions: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2

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Three episodes in, KonoSuba 2 is much of the same as its predecessor.

For those unaware, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original series, with its one-joke repetition and its attempts at trying to create drama out of a goofy atmosphere. The sequel season doesn’t stray far from this formula, so one would expect my feelings for the series to remain the same, yes? Not quite.

Something that makes the second season more charming than the first is that it doesn’t try so hard to set up the “Serious situation leading into a punchline” formula, rather it settles for simply making every situation as goofy as possible. I feel it makes the consistency of its tone more appropriate and a lot easier to make the characters’ antics and interaction more enjoyable to watch. That said, the character interaction wasn’t so much of a flaw in the first season as it was underwhelmed by its potential. Here, it’s definitely living up more to the potential.

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Even so, when going for a more goofy atmosphere, while it makes the series easier to watch, if one isn’t completely charmed by the zaniness, there leaves nothing much left to be impressed by. Animation is one other thing that shines, but I’m also not usually entranced by pretty moving pictures. One likely won’t take a lot of the more serious situations with a straight face, while others (like me) will find them dull (see: episode three’s focus on “The evil wizard”). With the first season as context, a lot of the endearing aspects feel fake knowing that the characters are less than serious players. Perhaps that’s the joke.

Still, if one is a fan of goofy faces, incessant screaming (Seiyuus do A+ job, by the way), and a group of adventurers who are inadequate in almost every way, KonoSuba 2 (and 1) will certainly be your cup of tea. Most of the charm (or so they say) is the complete 180 the series takes when dealing with the typical “Transported to a fantasy realm” trope. This is said “One joke” I was referring to earlier, and I question how long they can make this irony fresh and entertaining. If the beginning of the second season is any indication, they still have some tricks up their sleeve, but aren’t exactly writing up any “LMFAO” content.

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Except this.

This piece ended up being much shorter than I anticipated. Here I thought I didn’t have much to say about ACCA and even that ended up being a decent size. Short form: KonoSuba 2 is almost exactly like its debut season, except its focus on the goofy antics is better suited with all of the introductory situations out of the way. Should it continue to focus on the goofiness, it will end up being a fun little show without a lot of impact, as I don’t find the show all that funny. Maybe it’ll surprise me further in the future. Who knows? Some of the intrigue going into each episode is that we never know what to expect, until it reminds us exactly what we’re here for.

Quick Updated Thoughts on GJ-bu

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Short post today, as I’m battling off a cold.

Back in early 2013, I watched GJ-bu. At the time, it was the fastest anime I had ever completed, finishing twelve episodes in the span of about sixteen hours. I was enamored with this new sensation of vivid, candy-colored moe that was taking place in front of me, complete with bubbly, embarrassing situations resulting in playfully vague sexual tension. I’ve made myself known as somewhat of a romanticist in the past, and GJ-bu seemed to hit every sensitive spot for me, which helped thrust it among my favorite slice-of-life shows. This led me to pursue its light novel origin, scouring the web for any sort of extra material to sink my rotting teeth into. These girls had put me under their spell, one I couldn’t escape from for some time.

I broke the spell. It no longer enchants me the way it once did. Even more, the series is actually kind of bad.

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Recall series such as Love Hina, which is notorious for being cruel to the oblivious male lead. For whatever reason, Japan seems to have an understanding that using a beta male lead as a punching bag for a group of girls’ hijinks is “funny.” GJ-bu is little different, only without making it obvious that the group of girls around the male lead are infatuated with him. That’s not to say they aren’t, because they are, but one could confuse teasing him due to being shy with teasing him out of a camaraderie within the same club. Despite this lack of harem tendencies, the series still falls in line with those within the genre, as most characters revolve around the desires of the male lead and directly involve him in just about every scenario. The type of attention he receives is almost self-insert-like, though he isn’t entirely fawned over.

Interestingly enough, there were times when re-watching GJ-bu that I became annoyed with the overly antagonistic demeanor of the group of girls. It’s been quite a while since an anime has made me irritated with the execution of its humor. Typically I’m stone-faced, but furrowing my brow and frowning isn’t a natural response. Most of this comes from how long some of the scenes play out, meticulously placing the girls of the group in line to receive an equal amount of the male lead’s attention. Predictable is one thing, but overdrawn is the poisonous cherry on top. While not always so obvious with its intentions, the humor in GJ-bu has a tendency to become one-dimensional as the series goes on. Involving a new character halfway through the series hardly helps whatsoever, especially when they underutilize her. She’s hardly important at all. Most of these girls hardly matter. This whole series doesn’t matter.

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The biggest slap in the face is the final episode, which is intentionally emotionally poignant. Oh, no! The club members are actually all one big happy family. All the shenanigans, physical assault and baseless accusations, and unimportant club activities were baby steps to developing a bond between the members. Because what makes me close to a group is constantly being bitten, verbally abused, and used as a playtoy for the curiosities of high school girls. It’s okay, though, because I know deep down that they all love me. As long as that keeps the balance of things afloat, I’d happily sacrifice myself for the gr—Pffffft! Not likely.

The series is moe for the sake of moe. As entertaining as that can be, and the aid of pretty visuals to make it all seem casual, it provides little in terms of meaningful character development and interaction. No amount of gleefully sinister foreshadowing of a looming romantic quadrilateral can save a series from being shallowly mean-spirited and devoid of any real emotional value. Should one see GJ-bu as a parody, perhaps these situations can come across as dark, ironic humor. Outside of that mindset, we simply have an empty, albeit pretty and entertaining series of one boy and a million girls surrounding a single club that does jack-shit.

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