mother! “Review”

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Indeed, your eyes do not deceive you. There are quotations around the word “Review” in the title. That is because this will not be quite like the traditional style of review, but also not quite my own version of putting down my thoughts. Instead, I will treat this post as a hybrid creation, something that can both pass off as an official review and personal diary. And for those aware, I did also do this with my “review” of La La Land.

So then, what do you call a film you consider good, yet cannot help but not enjoy?

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mother! is symbolic to its very core. Everything that is shown onscreen is an allegory to some bigger picture that the audience is pressed to figure out. Now, a number of theories creeped into my head with every scene, with issues such as female empowerment, idol worship, abusive relationships, rape culture, patriarchal dominance, and the toxicity of humankind giving weight to the things being shown to me. Little did I know, there is an answer to this film, a key to understanding the puzzle of mother!. After learning of it, I’m left with only regret. Something of this magnitude, so delicately precise and foreboding in its imagery and atmosphere, to all come into one simple answer.

This isn’t a fault of the film itself, but rather the intentions behind it. I believe ambiguity could’ve served to make this film all the more interesting, without the need to pin it all down on a single aspect which generalizes the film’s potential. This also isn’t a disagreement with mother!’s ultimate message, as I feel it makes (enough) sense to have the scenes collide the way they do. Strange as it sounds, I can’t find myself enjoying the film after knowing the answer; I found the film a lot more inviting when I hadn’t a clue.

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It ended up being more fantastical than what it appears, especially in the beginning. I found out a lot about myself when all the theories I concocted for myself, things that shroud themselves in today’s society by the screeching mouths of dozens, ended up being of a practical sense. I considered nothing of the fantastic, of how or why the bizarre things occurring could be happening. Assuming it would all explain itself in the end, the final minutes only strengthened my previous theories. It seems I do not enjoy giving up without a fight.

Should this review seem obnoxiously vague, that’s because it is intentionally. Much like mother! itself. Critiquing the film is more akin to the Chinese finger trap, where one can only pull and struggle with the solution when, in reality, the answer lies through unexpected perspectives. An open mind is critical when viewing, as the film certainly doesn’t pull any punches (or kicks or insults). It’s no surprise to me that mother! is such a polarizing experience for many. In the end, how one feels about it may very well say more about the person than the film. This sounds like common knowledge, but I think there’s more to it than that. Either you enjoy a cryptically chaotic experience or you prefer the simple strategies of good vs. evil. In this case, there’s very little in-between.

Final Score: 7/10

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

Entry #21: Witchblade (SoA 2016)

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If there’s one thing this series has over most others, it’s the importance of motherhood. Every character that seems to become of any importance has some motivation driven through their mother, or because of their mother, or in spite of their mother. There is a very distinct importance on incorporating mothers into the series, so much so that I wonder if there was any sort of symbolic nature to it. That mothers are directly responsible for the nurturing the personalities of their children? That even without that nurturing, children will instinctively be drawn to their mother? That the term “mother” is what any individual makes of it? The possibilities are endless while also intrinsically debatable. It would serve as a nice discussion piece… if that wasn’t only a small tidbit of the series’ bulk.

Many might stop by this series’ cover and think to themselves, “Wow. Look at that half-naked lady. This series must have a lot of fan service to make up for an awful story.” Many would be half-right, but the story isn’t exactly as self-indulging as the cover may make it out to be. There is fan service in this series, and there are certain scenes and still-shots that take advantage of the female lead’s (unnecessarily) busty appearance. However, I can assure everyone reading that this series is entirely serious, or at least tries to be while also incorporating, as I’m sure some would come to expect, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS. I was honestly surprised by how seriously the series took itself, as I had the same “ecchi garbage” vibe as I humorously described above. It’s tremendously dark, and if not for the horrible, endless amounts of clichés, the story would be able to captivate a majority of audiences. Said majority would also have to not be thinking about it, either.

While dark and serious, the story is also something I would describe as “Typical Japanese writing.” It explains the what and the why, but not the why that makes the what capable in the first place. More specifically, it explains the conflict and why the conflict is bad, but not why the conflict is happening in the first place. Take Witchblade‘s plot for example. An early-twenties woman with a six-year-old daughter has a bracelet called a “Witchblade” that allows her to transform into a powerful being of glowing lights and revealing skin. The witchblade itself is described to be “an ancient tool of power” that can only seem to be compatible with women and cannot be removed whatsoever. The “what” is the witchblade and the “why” is the vague origin story that goes along with it. Where’s the “why” that explains why any of this is possible? How hasn’t it been an established, public thing since it was discovered? If it’s an ancient tool, why is the public not aware? It can turn people into destructive monsters that partake in destroying things for the sake of destroying things. That doesn’t seem like something people would just forget.

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It’s not only with the witchblade, either. There are numerous plot devices used within the story that don’t make any sense. The amount of bullshit present within the story is enough to drive any educated person mad. I guess this would be considered a “turn off your brain” kind of series, where basic instinct and emotions drive one to enjoy the series. I hate those kinds of series.

I don’t hate Witchblade, however. Despite the nonsense the story spouts and the amount of emotional clichés it parades around, the story at least goes through with its dark tones and doesn’t sugarcoat itself. The most I can give the story credit for is that it is fairly entertaining, and can even be thought-provoking in various cases. It has a certain charm to its credit that’s also improved by use of the secondary characters. While the major characters aren’t necessarily bad, I feel the minor characters have a more cheerful attitude as ignorant bystanders that make the show more entertaining. They’re cliché, go figure, but that doesn’t make them any less genuine in how affectionate they are as a secondary family to the female lead’s daughter. This anime has a lot of heart. I can appreciate how much effort they try to put into a deflated story with likable characters… on the surface.

Characters are a bit of a mixed bag to me. A lot of the “antagonists” are written off as misunderstood or justifiably insane. The rest of them are stupid. It’s also unfortunate to see certain antagonists killed off in a mild way, as if the author was bored of them and wanted to move on to something else. There was some potential, especially with one “Maria-sama” to develop a character worth respecting, but even she comes off as simplistic. Hell, they add a character just to say that she’s simplistic out loud! The good-moral characters are typically more developed. I actually really like the female lead’s daughter, despite her being way too mature for her age. They act reasonably (except the female lead, who’s stupid) within every situation, both in good and bad ways. It’s easy to empathize with these characters on the surface, but knowing that most of their motivations are connected through motherhood might make it a tad silly. It’s a roster that benefits from being goofy in light times and dramatic in dark times. It’s the underneath that leaves a little more to be desired.

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I think this was a big ticket item back in 2006, because some scenes look really good for the time. However, Witchblade is also horribly inconsistent with its animation and design. The biggest indicator of this? The female lead’s tits. I swear, those things change shape like a buffet changes food. Sometimes they’re huge, sometimes they’re moderate. They’re supposed to be huge, along with her ass, because busty female heroes for the win, but sometimes they come off as modest. Sometimes they’re lopsided, sometimes they’re pointy, and sometimes the flop like water-starved fish. It’s incredibly distracting, because I don’t want to always look at her tits, but her tits are begging me by changing shape and invoking my curiosity. Aside from that, scenes are of similar fashion. Some are great, while others look dated. Close-ups of characters are noticeably vivid, but scenes with far-shots with a lot of characters are bland and sketchy. The designs of transformed women are cool, but after a while it becomes more of a lightshow. Who has brighter colors in weirder places? I almost expected a disco ball between someone’s legs, but to no avail.

It’s a so-so series of entertaining spectacle, but mindless action and consequence. I forgot to mention earlier, but the action scenes in this series are also rather dull. Fight scenes don’t typically last very long and are settled abruptly more often than not. Fans of well choreographed fights won’t be satisfied here, and not a lot of others will be, either. If I had to recommend this to any kind of audience, I would go with those who enjoy fantasy and drama, as those are the two aspects of Witchblade that work best with what’s presented. It’s a shame that it wasn’t better, but such is the style of “Traditional Japanese writing.”

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C-

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