Early Impressions: New Game!!

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Four episodes in, I almost miss the first season.

Now, it’s been more than half a year since I watched New Game!!’s debut season, so my collective insight on the ins-and-outs of the series may not be as I remember. All I seem to hold on to is that this second season feels a little more… serviced than its predecessor. Good things may be lying in wait, but was there ever so much fan service in the first season? Not just in conveniently-angled shots that showcase characters’ assets, but the sort of behavior that is considered very, very moe. Thinking about it, all of these characters are moe to some degree, and a third of the way through this season, the series seems determined to flaunt that. Though encouragingly, there is some degree of inner conflict with characters who didn’t receive a ton of development in the first season. Only issue is that some are resolved quickly.

More than anything, the essence of a sequel is something I’ve discussed to varying lengths before, whether in anime, movies, or video games. A sequel should seek to improve upon what came before, or allow a different direction to take place that still holds its own within the context its predecessor designed. New Game!!, so far, feels as though its meandering around its potential for the sake of character cuteness.

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Why is Aoba’s friend suddenly into game design? Why is the Eagle Jump company that the girls work for only taking in young, beautiful women? Why is it that so many young, beautiful women are suddenly within a realm where young, beautiful women design video games and sleep within their office space without pants on and flirt with one another. Why are all of these women conveniently different in personality so to blend with one another in a dysfunctional family-esque environment where they must learn to deal with each other’s quirks? Why am I bringing all of this up? Evidence; there is a disconnect from reality that this series has that makes it feel somewhat artificial. How everything comes together so perfectly, so succinctly exploitable for fan service, makes its attempts at serious development feel too self-indulgent. The best of both worlds is so hard to capitalize, such as with my wavering thoughts on Mahoujin Guruguru.

Even with my stabs at its moe nature, New Game!! offers more than the average Urara Meirochou. At least it’s doing something with its characters past the benign standards of archetype development. At least it’s allowing for the motive of self-improvement to take the forefront when the serviced charm wears thin. While inner conflicts resolve somewhat quickly, they’re there, and to some extent that’s all one can ask for. Thus far, it’s worse than its predecessor for reasons relating to its balance of serious development of characters/plot (whatever it may be) and close-up booty shots—at least I think so. What it all amounts to in the end is an above-average show.

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Though I’ve noticed, perhaps because I’m more actively looking for it, some fluctuations in animation. The overall design, which is still absolutely spectacular for its moe undertones, holds its own yet again. Although, animation can be shaky from time to time. Nothing incredibly noticeable, but aside from highly-detailed booty shots, basic mannerisms come across as too sketchy. Moving in just the perfect amount of delay to make things feel a tinge robotic. Easily ignorable, for those who wish to do so.

If Made in Abyss is current MVP of the season, this show would be LVP—though not by much. Only that the magic contained in the first season that made it so enamoring to watch is fading fast. For the first time, despite looking forward to watching this sequel season, I felt bored going through some episodes. Perhaps it is the artificial nature of the anime’s absurd setting that finally feels too noticeable to ignore; unfortunately, I value realism more than most in realistic settings. Should New Game!! employ a “Why are there so many girls running a video game company? That’s weird!” without making it sound like an obnoxious preaching from the cronies of social justice, I would find the setting more natural to take in. However, even stating that desire opens up a can of worms I’m not about to put my stake into.

Entry #17: Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by a complex rodent.)

Another short one today. It can be summed up simply, and effectively, without much elaboration.

Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 is a testament to anime of old, particularly that of space opera. After all, much of anime’s popularity back before I was ever born spawned from the fascination with transcendent robotics and machinery, a la Astro Boy and Mobile Suit Gundam. With it comes the territory one might expect from a series of yesteryear, only with an updated design.

It’s almost sickening to criticize the series for being true to itself, as it embodies a lot of the heart and spirit that went into the original series, full of love and creativity. It’s a lot like how many people see the new Star Wars films: an ode to the original fun and almost campy appeal of the original trilogy, just with newer stuff. That being said, when comparing it to the technology available and to those with the same narrative themes, there are series that still do it better.

That isn’t a swipe at 2199, as the series on its own is very well done, capable of holding its own against the newest trends and current generation. Its simplicity adorns the structure of the series, which allows for a number of other elements, such as character and story, to make a more weighted role in its quality. In layman’s terms, 2199 tries, and one can definitely see this in its progression.

What brings it down is that it suffers from a lot, and I mean a lot, of little tedious inconsistencies that eventually build up to dull the sensation of full-on enjoyment. One such thing is predictability, as the series is fairly by-the-books and doesn’t like to hide much from the viewer’s expectations. Another is plot armor, which keeps characters alive (both good and bad) for way longer than they should, and through events that really, really, really should kill them. And in a cruel respite almost designed to test my patience, this series also relies quite heavily, especially in the final episodes, on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! For the most part, this is bearable, but when it starts performing miracles that predicate the “necessity” of happy endings, that’s when I start to groan.

There is certainly more good than bad here, and nothing is so glaring that it would hamper the enjoyment of the series’s overall structure. Should one like to employ upon an intergalactic adventure that could also double for a history lesson, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 is a fulfilling experience that I feel lives up to the significance set by its original work. Though, I wouldn’t set hopes sky high, as the number of little trifles that scatter themselves throughout are enough to make not every moment smooth sailing.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B

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

Entry #11: Death Parade (Spoilers) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by 100PostsPerDay.)

Why does it seem like every time a show features some sort of traumatic/weighted scenario, its rating is overinflated to death? Because some characters go through horrible situations or the “deep” plot isn’t all nice and fluffy suddenly it has more merit as a source of entertainment? I only note this because this series is rated rather high on most anime databases, and while it was airing, I could not escape the roar of praise the general community had for this series. As with all others, however, the noise died down and I casually adjusted back to life without seeing this anime cover photo every time I logged in to MyAnimeList. So, what’s all the hub-bub about? Well, I’m probably not a good indicator of such, as in my eyes, Death Parade can be summed up in a single sentence:

Don’t be a dick.

While I find the technical aspects of this show lacking, there is a curious intrigue involved with just how inadequate a lot of the things that are shown mean to the overall picture. Upon finishing the first episode, I groaned to myself and thought, “Oh, joy. Another episodic series about random people’s deaths and how the afterlife judges them accordingly. Guess I can’t expect any character development or a reasoning behind this entire set-up.” Then, I watched the second episode, and it completely pulled the rug from under my feet. Episode two is almost the same as episode one, except it does exactly what I expected it not to. It provides an insider perspective of the events of episode one, and explains why everything is as it is and what the point of the series is. Well, blow me down. I may just like this, after all!

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Thus, the series continued, interspersing episodes involving random, one-off stories and further insight to the inner workings of the afterlife. While there was some repetitiveness to the one-off stories, there was enough to keep the stories fresh by means of the random characters’ actions (that occasionally through off the arbiter’s script). While I didn’t enjoy all of the episodes involving the judgments, I was satisfied with the way they managed to keep the stories of the victims entertaining is somewhat different ways, even if their scenarios are beyond ridiculous. Episode six was the epitome of Death Parade’s potential for making lemonade out of pencil shavings using the MacGyver method.

Now, imagine my surprise when, initially, I was ready to dig my own grave after the first episode, only to be more unimpressed by its efforts to appear complex! Death Parade almost should’ve been one one-off episode after another! It’s really quite amazing how as the final episode credits rolled, the organ that keeps my body functioning felt not a tinge of empathy whatsoever. It felt not an ounce of enlightenment nor a snippet of impact. The biggest issue I have here is that this series feels so unmotivated that it doesn’t even bother to try and create any hostility for its ultimate moral message.

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Don’t be a dick. Yes. Death Parade’s urging throughout the entire series is so. Incredibly simplified, but otherwise correct. By means of judging the “darkness of the soul” of each spirit landing within the afterlife, an arbiter, bereft of all empathy and understanding of human emotions, is instructed to put the newly dead through a test, disguised as normal games one would find almost anywhere. By the end, they are to determine if the souls are worth reincarnating unto the tangible world or sending it to the void, a black hole where spirits are doomed to wander alone forever. All seems fine and dandy after the first episode, but very early on, the festering of foreshadowing rears its head when a normal human is brought to help the arbiter with his tests. As the tests continue, she becomes more and more inclined to help those going through such torture, opposing the intellectual and emotionally-decrepit styles of the arbiter. At some point, the arbiter harbors the desire to acquire these emotions himself in an effort to understand his human helper.

Little do these two know, the arbiter’s “Creator” had the intention of setting him up with the human all along in an attempt to influence his apathetic nature. This is, however, frowned upon by the head guy behind the afterlife’s organization (I guess?), so she does so with all secrecy, alluring the attention of certain discipline. This is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the anime’s deeper tendencies. What is it that she really wants? Does she believe emotions are suitable for judging the complex human soul? Will she be caught eventually?

And she does. She does get caught. The head guy finds out and promptly slaps her on the wrist and tells her he doesn’t agree.

…Is that it? Really?

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Not only that, but the last five episodes or so become very dramatic; so much so that the once occasionally fun scenario of human judging becomes a circus for preachiness. The arbiter is trying to do his job and the human girl keeps getting in his way and yelling about how mean he is. How what he’s doing is torture. How he’s not capable of making rational decisions about whether or not a human soul is good or bad if he can’t understand their grief. This eventually leads to finding out more about the human girl’s past and how the arbiter finally manages to unlock the emotions that were within him all this time. Finally, he can understand her. He can better understand the intricacies of the human psyche. All he had to do was shoot tears out of his eyes. Incredible.

And not a lick of conflict, either. The head guy sits and grumbles about how he doesn’t agree, but does nothing. The entire series ends as though it had accomplished something important, about how the world should be better off knowing that Death Parade isn’t just about torturous bingo games or some structured, apathetic system of Heaven or Hell. No, it is resolute in its sworn motto, one donned by many other series before (and inevitably after) it.

Say it with me, folks:




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How utterly uninteresting.

My apologies for the incredibly heavy spoilers, but I felt the need to justify my low score for this series, and spoiling the plot is the best way to put my thoughts to greater use. There’s just so little new here, and while its presentation of the afterlife and its system can be fun, the ultimate message is horribly cliché and the fact that they don’t even challenge it is just disgustingly self-inflating. Animation and design is lovely, and the effort put into making this show look great is definitely worth praise. Characters are distinct and properly endowed with the look of the otherworldly. It’s just the story, and to some extent the characters, that bring this series down to an Earthly level. Again, perhaps if it had remained an episodic series that showed only subtle hints of a development of emotional understanding with the arbiter, it could’ve turned out to be a decent show along the lines of Bartender. Instead, it overexplained and overdramatized something that didn’t need to be so excessively in-your-face.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

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

Kuzu no Honkai: A Case of Sexual Timidity

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Not to sound unsure of myself, but I would like to briefly note that my opinions and thoughts on this particular criticism of Kuzu no Honkai to be somewhat incomplete. It’s more of a gut feeling that I had watching the anime and having experience with other forms of dark, introspective series. This argument is something I don’t actually have too much evidence for, as some of the things I’ll go more into detail about can be debated against with ease. Consider this a messy opinion piece, something that I feel is present without the sort of solid foundation to legitimize its bearing on the quality of the series.

And I felt I needed to say this before I go on, as I feel it’s important to be honest with my readers about how I feel during such debatable pieces as this one. Too often I wonder if people who make extraordinary claims and back them up with such flimsy details aren’t conscious of how it makes them appear. Call it my own pride, but if a claim I make sounds sketchy even to me, I feel it should be noted before it’s said. It could also be a defensive mechanism because I’m too honest and I’d feel too bad about “deceiving” people.

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Now then, the claim in question is that Kuzu no Honkai is too naive. The manner in which it tells its story and the way it introduces sex as a means of showing the emptiness of the characters is incredibly simplistic and immature. Sex itself is something of a hot topic within the world of anime, but the fact that Kuzu no Honkai has it so prevalent within itself shows some lenience that rarely comes from mainstream anime. Unless, of course, the sex is used for laughs and giddy temptation. Really, one simply need to look at the ocean of harem anime, or anime that simply have characters show sexual attraction to those around them.

One could praise Kuzu no Honkai for portraying sex in an artistic or mature way, however I would disagree. The way it portrays sex is simply a refreshing spin within a medium where sex is taken too lightly. To have one go through a marathon of To Love-ruHigh School DxD, and Sekirei, then watch Kuzu no Honkai, one would definitely appreciate the change of pace. It’s not only limited to these types of anime, either, where sex is a blatant device to entice viewers, but others where even the prospect of holding hands is considered too risqué. A fellow blogger once made an intriguing point about how Kirito from Sword Art Online‘s quick path to OP status was a refreshing spin from the typical Shounen protagonist’s zero to hero approach. While that may be true for certain eyes and times, it’s something that doesn’t always work to make characters or stories better (further referenced for my disdain for SAO), as is the case here.

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Through another perspective, there’s the fact that while sex is led up to and hinted at, sex is never actually shown. Natsu no Zenjitsu shows plenty of sex, and not just the interpretation of it, but the act of it. The sights, sounds, movement of characters’ bodies and faces. Kuzu no Honkai‘s use of sex is little different to me than the way ecchi uses sex; both are used for enticement, only Kuzu no Honkai‘s intentions aren’t to lure viewers to drop their shorts, but to drop their hearts. I found it humorous that, try as the characters might, not a nipple was shown, never anything past foreplay, and the characters, despite how empty they seem to be portrayed, have enough humanity within themselves to cover up at the last moment. This could almost sound like a positive for the show’s characters, though not so much for the argument. This gave an air of the author knowing this would be shown on TV at some point, so they cut their losses and went for what would be most suitable for the general mass, instead of pushing it further.

Something that could be used in association with the previous point is the anime’s penchant for telling, not showing. While not always the case, there’s definitely a lot of telling within the plot, particularly by whoever is the focus of the individual development. Whether it be Hanabi, Mugi, or Akane, (though usually more Hanabi and Akane) the dialogue is definitely something one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by. Whether this overwhelming is good or bad depends on the viewer. For me, it was obviously very bad. Too often I felt what was being told to me was very clear based on their prior actions and train of thought, something I feel the series took too much advantage of. Watching Kuzu no Honkai was like listening to a teenager in high school monotonously overexplain the story of their first Facebook lover. Lots of angst, lots of self-reflection, lots of crying/cringing, and not a break in sight.

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Through the use of sex, this tell-a-thon mixes in with the fact that sex is never actually shown. It combines with the type of storytelling that relies on the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves, taking sex at face value as a symbol of one thing depending on the situation. It would be really nice to see the characters actually react to the sex, rather than the build-up to sex. Many times the characters fantasize about the idea of sex and what it would mean to them to have sex with the one they love or “love,” but fantasizing about sex and having sex are two completely different beasts. Not just foreplay, either. If Hanabi is wincing and in tears at having her genitals fondled, I would like to see her reaction to actually hitting the home run. That sentence sounded incredibly disturbing. Still, it would be intriguing to see if she continues to fight her overwhelming negative emotions or if she’d abandon them and simply let it happen at the expense of comforting pain. If only I had that chance.

On its own, Kuzu no Honkai is a decent series with an intriguing premise that can stand with the best of teen dramas. What the series lacks in subtlety, however, it more than makes up for with dialogue straight from an early Linkin Park album. Its dedication to its craft is admirable, though many (including me) could be easily turned off by how painful the amount of depressing self-deprecation the characters spew at themselves, to the point where they can’t take it seriously. It doesn’t surprise me that the series is so highly-acclaimed, taking into account that the average anime watcher is in their teens and are attuned to sensitive jargon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the series could’ve been if it hadn’t been directed so heavily at only that demographic.

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