Updated Thoughts on Bakemonogatari

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Katanagatari is one of my favorite anime of all time. I was so enthralled by it upon first watch—in the far distant past of December of 2012—that only a day later, I started a journey with Nisio Isin’s most notable work of his career: The Monogatari Series. Fun fact: Bakemonogatari was almost something I watched during the first Summer of Anime, but put it off due to the episode length and rather vague synopsis (on the site I used to watch anime). Turns out I really should’ve watched it then, as the series ended up being more than an agreeable watch. Of course, I was also still on the “Isin high,” so it’s possible my enjoyment of Bake may have been leftover sunlight from the alternative energy source that is, to this day, Nisio Isin’s greatest piece of literature.*

* Statement not up for debate.

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For lack of a desire to build upon the obviously looming question of Bake’s quality, fortune appears to be on my side, as my enjoyment of the series remained almost entirely intact. Though the difference between late December of 2012 and late August of 2017 is that I can now acutely articulate what makes the series so popular. That is, of course, aside from the number of attractive young women and plentiful amounts of sexual fan service.

Something of a difficult quality to ascertain in Bake, and the rest of the series for that matter, is the importance of the sexuality it presents throughout. For humor, for stimulation, absolutely, but is there more to it than what it lets on? It acts as somewhat of a characterization for the male lead, Arararagi, as he’s far more open (occasionally) with his fetishes and sexual curiosity than others in his position. Other female characters either display themselves due to basis of the plot at hand, which makes it harder to defend from the label of indulgent harassment, or to gain a response from the male lead, all of whom are implied to be infatuated with. With Hitagi, who acts as Aragi’s girlfriend about halfway through the series, her sexual antics are an indication of obvious attraction, as is fair in her position to be so promiscuous. Everyone else seems to do so at their own discretion… perhaps as a test or a subtle jab at their own desires.

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In terms of believability, the gauge is cozily settled onto “E.” Characters, plot, manner of events; every piece of the pie is made of acrylic titanium and tastes of a ladybug’s wing. Completely artificial with a sort of atmosphere that reeks of man spitting on the pages of media norms. That ends up being half the fun. Issues that revolve around the characters are completely human, told in the form of supernatural phenomena, yet the downtime between such serious circumstances don’t reflect the normality of everyday life. It’s a planned show, a circus of obscene entertainers who awe the audience with exuberant quirks of unholiness. Hard to take entirely seriously, yet sharp in its ability to keep the viewer’s focus. I think the thing I learned most upon rewatching this is that I can now understand why some people can’t get into this franchise.

Smoothly it integrates this complexity with each passing chapter, and although its pompousness remains ever present, there are signs of its desire to appeal to everyone. Some of this is shown through its entirely human conflicts, such as being unable to relinquish hidden stress or finding peace with a traumatic incident of the past. More so, however, is Bake’s affinity for long, emotionally-draining monologues explaining entirely what’s been going on as the plot builds up. Somewhat on the vein of Shounen anime, except with better presentation and less screaming. With this, it hopes to escape the picture of elitism that tends to follow series that stray from industry standards. Whether or not it truly does is dependent on the viewer’s priorities. I adore it for its absurdity; others may not.

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Among the more common examples of Bake’s distancing from the norm is its style of presentation. This aspect is also likely what most would consider its most snooty trait. Constant close-ups of eyes, faces, hands, feet, tits, what have you; still-shots of blank images with text written all over them, strange mannerisms from characters (head-tilting, sexually-stimulating positions), different interpretations of character design. Should one be in the mood for both well-drawn characters in standard form and symbolic gobbledygook, Bake is sure to suit their fancy tenfold. Even strangeness outside the realm of animation, including pictures of real-life people and objects intermingled with quick cutaways of fast-paced mental strain, are whimsical entertainment coated in tryhard cringe. I didn’t see much in terms of animated flaws (though I did come across some), leaving me to believe that Shaft not only did a wonderful job of meeting the basics, but setting itself apart with extracurricular activity. It improves as it goes along.

Almost by virtue of its desire to be different, Bakemonogatari passes in spite of its somewhat overindulgent story. That’s not to say the story isn’t good or the characters aren’t interesting enough to compensate for Isin essentially putting himself in the story to look at a lot of naked preteen girls… I think I elaborated on that enough, yes? A matter of personal taste and moral boundaries are what will stray those away from giving the series justification. For those who stay, indifferent to the potentially problematic subtext, enjoy a story whose furthermost goal is to entertain and perplex. I know I did.

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

Entry #8: Isshuukan Friends (Rewatch) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by the 101st blog about gaming.)

Watching Isshuukan Friends for the first time, I thought it was a charming display of developing a bond between two people, with some dramatic miscues along the way. I was able to ignore the logical flaws and the ending emphasis on drama for the sake of adhering to the aloofness of the magical aroma of friendship and underlying romantic intentions between two naive fools. Just the kind of thing that makes me short-circuit.

Watching Isshuukan Friends for the second time, I realize that the person I was roughly three years ago may have been suffering from an air of lonely bias. Watching this again, there wasn’t nearly the amount of charm through one-on-one relationship as I originally remembered, and though the naivety of the leads are somewhat alluring, the effort isn’t supported by anything more. Even the side characters, Kiryu and Saki, who I remembered as a cute side couple, have so little chemistry that I scratch my head wondering why I bothered at all. The atmosphere of nothing stressful eventually turned into just nothing.

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Unfortunately, there was some excitement with going back into this series with a fresh perspective. Fond memories rushed back, only to plummet into a realm of insipidity. In the back of my mind, I recall seeing various reviews of it at the time complaining how ordinary and average most aspects of this show were, and how I found myself disagreeing with how harmless the series seemed. If third time’s the charm, the second time’s the harm, as Isshuukan Friends has become “that one average show” that many others dubbed it to be years ago.

Something of a major problem that I didn’t notice the first time is that Isshuukan Friends has no idea what it wants to be. Some part drama, some part romance, some part slice-of-life; it manages to build upon each genre but can’t seem to drive home any of them effectively. Romance is an underlying motivation all throughout, while slice-of-life employs itself in the middle section of the series, with drama populating the first and last quarters. More than anything, however, is the focus on one other genre that employs too many anime… nothing. The “Nothing” genre. There is a disturbing amount of nothing that presents itself in the form of little flags that the male lead “triggers” through little events. Seeing the female lead smile. Having her compliment him. Worrying about her avoiding him for seven seconds. Surprisingly enough, the concept of the female lead’s condition is not really noted outside of the more dramatic episodes, leaving one to forget she even has it.

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Characters are somewhat shy, somewhat coy. Action is something that seems second nature to many of them. Aside from Saki, most are too sensitive to even touch one another. Isshuukan Friends would make for a nice example of the “Actions speak louder than words” argument, an example that would show how necessary the argument is. There is quite a bit of talking, introspection, regret, and wondering. Not a lot of time is spent on characters making heroic proclamations, being honest, or charging into battle without a strategy. With the aspect of teenagers, one would expect more of this, as the characters here seem to have a hesitance to them that undermines their age, which kills even more realism. Even after twelve episodes, not a lot really happens, as a lot more is only implied through the passing of time.

Thus begins the point about the female lead’s condition, which makes the show stand out. Every week, she loses all memory of her friends. It always triggers upon Monday’s arrival. She will not remember anyone she deems close enough to be her friend, as one scene shows a whited-out vision of the male lead the previous week. She seems to remember everything else just fine, it’s just the aspect of friends and the spell lasts a week on the nose without change. Easily, this is all very stupid. The absurd uniformity of this condition is so blatantly fiction that it feels like easy plot convenience. And the fact that it’s shrouded in mystery only allows the author to write whatever conveniences possible to make it more absurd. The final few episodes shed some light as to what caused her condition, but even with that, she still seems to be stricken with the same condition. More than anything though, how is the brain capable of identifying specific people and using white out on them as the planets align every week? Her brain is not a computer.

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Yet, one thing that stuck out was the art direction, as while the animation is fairly standard, the artistic style is somewhat unique. The appearances of characters are somewhat blocky, with lots of long, straight faces and clean, polished eyes. It creates a dream-like state that helps with the carefree atmosphere of the middle sections. Even the sides of the frames feel a little loose with the lighting, making every action seem like a fantasy. And most of all! Hair! There are little strands of hair that stick out from the characters’ heads! Don’t think I don’t notice all of your bed-heads! Comb your hair properly, you sleepy kids! Nice attention to detail, nonetheless.

Average, while somewhat lethargic. Coaxing it with a dash of overdramatic tension creates a series that tries to do something a little different in the guise of overimportance. The moral foundation is rather straightforward, with friends being friends and relationships taking work and the value of caring. Concepts of people resetting every week gives it an almost sci-fi charm, but it ends up hampering what could’ve been a pleasant slice-of-life, or an okay drama. While I personally don’t think the series is forgettable, many could take the female lead’s disability for themselves and forget this whole scenario.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

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.

Updated Thoughts on Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (1st Season)

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In a strange turn of events, instead of going by the usual style of rewatching something and then updating my thoughts on it via blog post, I decided to leave poor Haganai alone. I find this even more curious because this is the only case of it happening, at least within the years where I took my blog seriously enough to update it semi-often. Noting my penchant for waxing nostalgic, it’s an even more confusing sentiment that this anime, which was among the first five anime I ever watched in its entirety, didn’t receive any special treatment. To drive the point home, I even finished a knock-off manga version and read up until the second-to-last volume of the light novel before it was taken off Baka-Tsuki for copyright reasons. Why did I feel the need to let this rewatch wither and die within my MAL archives? Regardless, I’m correcting it here and now after a two-year wait.

“Wow,” you may be thinking. It took me two years to write this post? My only excuse is that it simply slipped my mind again and again, until finally realizing it about a year ago… and then forgetting again until a few days ago. The rewatch took place in early August of 2015, so another thing you may be thinking is, “Are you confident enough to remember what you liked and disliked about it after so long?” Fear not, as fate hath given me future perception, and I wrote myself a very detailed post explaining exactly that back in 2015, so for what I cannot recall now, I will simply resort back to my crude notes.

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The strongest argument I have toward this series’s good worth is the main duo of female leads: Sena and Yozora. Each character is blunt, stuck in their own ideals, and offer a helping of development as the series goes on. Not to mention, their chemistry with each other, and flaccid male lead Kodaka, makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch, especially within the first three episodes or so. Even while at each other’s throats, one can see the distance between the two supposed opposites begin to close with each passing day.

With this trait, Haganai becomes immediately recommendable; not just due to characters bickering with each other in a humorous way, but the set-up that justifies their behavior. Execution aside, this anime is fairly unique in its approach to popularity, hierarchy within the school system, and the concept of friendship. It’s almost like Oregairu before Oregairu, but without the cynical Hikigaya. Unfortunately, a lot of what could’ve been achieved with these themes and the characters that make up the cast are undermined as the series continues to bring in more characters. With these new characters comes more and more of what makes the high school rom-com setting so predictably bland (and popular): implied harem vibes, an aimless pursuit of having fun and nothing more, and one-dimensional personalities for the sake of humor.

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A sequence of bliss and charm surrounded the series as it began, introducing the slightly off-kilter characters and their motivations. The trio of Kodaka, Sena, and Yozora made a wonderful ensemble of fun as each played off of each other in a colorful manner, with Kodaka being the middle-man through it all. Once the series began to attract other specimens, that charm became buried under the weight of outside interference, muddying its core themes and underlying potential for the sake of appealing to the masses. There is a lot of moe present in Haganai, and much of that didn’t start until the trio became a quad, and then a quint, and so on. And these new characters, if not for some subtle growth in the following season, are completely useless. Maria and Kobato should be scrapped altogether or rewritten, while Rika and Yukimura need more than one quirk to move along with—so much so that they all nearly ruined the series for me, at least for this season.

With the mess that was made during the mid-section of this anime, I’m glad I can say that the final episodes make up for it… slightly. Again, the presence of heart and character growth are pursued with full enthusiasm, along with resolving a (horribly executed) secret that loomed in the background throughout the series. It allows some figment of closure before carrying on with the same shenanigans that the series spoils itself with time after time. Not only is it appreciated as a viewer, but the characters (or one of them) become a lot more than what her usual persona portrays.

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At one point, the art style for Haganai was a serious turn-off. Their eyes too vivid and large, with their lips protruding and their heads more like tomatoes than apples. Its expressiveness through character design is fairly strange compared to most, with even minor changes to the perspective of where things are, how they’re shaped, and what’s most highlighted making such an impact on the final product. It was weird, to say the least, but I eventually warmed up to it, and now find it one of the anime’s stronger points. With little twitches of movement better humanizing the characters on-screen and only occasional fidgets of inconsistency, it’s worth praising not just for its effectiveness, but its desire to stay true to the original light novel’s art. The only other anime I can think of with a similar style is Denpa Onna.

It’s a fascinating series to go over, seeing as it holds such nostalgic value to me, as well as having a lot of good underneath a mountain of bad. Cut the cast down to the main three, continue what they did for the first three episodes, and incorporate some more perspective on what they feel friendship should be and how they feel the general mass exploits it, and Haganai could’ve been a really fascinating piece of work. Dealing in “what if’s” does nothing here, as the way it stands, it needs to hold onto the crutch of popular exploits to steady itself in relevancy. With things such as lolis, incest, harems, cross-dressing, poop, and pre-teen angst being thrown around like it’s candy, I can only step back and ponder why I gave the series such high regard in the first place.

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

Updated Thoughts on Another (Through Seven Episodes)

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There are anime that are meant to be re-watched, and those that are not. Another is a case of the latter, as the build-up, the tension, and the mystery behind the curse of a specific class in a small, rural town leaves many of its other aspects out to dry in an inescapable heat. Somewhat like India.

Unfortunate as it may be, the re-watch has brought to light something that wasn’t immediately apparent upon first watch: the anime is fairly dull. What makes this more unfortunate is that I can’t accurately describe how important this is combined with the intrigue of the mystery, as it’s inevitably one of the most entertaining parts of the anime. Knowing everything that’s to happen, why it’s happening, and who (or what) is responsible for it all, the feeling of anticipation that stems from it becomes moot. Similar to that of a nice car without any gas, the structure and design is fairly good, if not standard, but without any gas, it won’t go anywhere. Does this make it a bad car? More or less.

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What sheen is available to behold is immediately apparent by the cover art, which translates almost exactly to the series itself. Another is another (ha) hit by P.A. Works, also responsible for Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari. If this studio has a reputation for anything, it’s being among the most attractive studios in the field. Most, if not all, of their works have a brilliant sheen to their settings and characters, which makes it somewhat difficult to turn away from their projects. Another does look quite illustrious, though the setting and the genre doesn’t give it much opportunity to be anything other than grimy and dark. When given the chances, however, colors are vibrant and attention-grabbing, working into the spectrum of the world’s mystique. Despite being hampered by the setting, many characters have a feigned ordinary appeal that makes them stand out from the crowd, whether it be a girl with long, red pigtails or a boy with disheveled, brown-blonde hair. It also helps those that are meant to be different stand out all the more. Many have likely seen Misaki without even knowing her origin. She’s somewhat hard to miss.

Structure and foundation are key with a horror story made to build unto a horrifying conclusion. For what it’s worth, this might be Another’s strongest point, as the slow, creeping approach has enough gusto to give every decision, every conversation weight towards the approaching bloodshed. One would likely be trying to guess at which points what will happen and who it will happen to, as subtle clues (varingly) litter across episodes in the form of coincidences and off-handed comments/concerns. The explanations behind the decisions of the classmates and the handling of the curse is done maturely (perhaps too maturely for 14-year-olds) and with a good understanding of what’s important to that rural society. It’s world-building as well as continuing to string along the viewer’s interest. This anime would definitely be well-served as a choice for a marathon, as halting the flow with breaks in-between would probably distill a bit of that tension.

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Of course, the issue with knowing what’s to come makes this all the more unnecessary. At the same time, knowing this also brings into focus what exactly the series has outside of it, as one can’t say that a single aspect of a show makes it entirely worth it… right? Foundation and progression of the mystery excluded, the anime doesn’t really have a lot going for it. Design and animation is definitely a plus, though underneath feels a little hollow. The characters are almost entirely defined by their fear of the curse or their supposed involvement in it. Some of my own issues with stories like Another’s is that it doesn’t allow the characters to act like real, likable people. It pressures them to act like serious, surviving animals, running away from a superior threat, which hardly gives them wiggle room for personality. Almost like a Walking Dead-esque atmosphere. Knowing every piece of the puzzle and how it fits doesn’t make a puzzle fun to put together, lest one enjoys the act of building things in itself.

Misaki may be the one exception in terms of character, as she remains an interesting entity nearly all throughout. Still, it’s fairly simple to point out the clearly different individual as the most entertaining, no? Her mannerisms are pragmatic, her interests almost as much. She wears an eyepatch, which invites a lot of criticism for being edgy and intentionally spooky. Her skin is unusually pale, with a bright red eye and jet-black hair. Combined with a quiet voice and an expressionless face, she’s essentially what’s clichély referred to as “doll-like.” It’s even made note of in the anime. Still, when compared to the fairly bleak and unenthusiastic behavior of the rest of the class, it makes her a clear favorite for best character. There’s even some subtle hint at character development as she opens up more to the male lead. Did I forget to mention there’s a male lead? Doesn’t matter anyway.

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Though the characters aren’t much, the story tries what it can to make up for them. Even then, the story has holes, as well. I’ve often written that I’m willing to deal with fantasy in a nonfiction setting should it fall within the rules that it sets for itself within that universe. Another likes to bend this rule quite a bit, and only bends further the closer it gets to the final episode. To avoid any huge spoilers, I’ll simply state that the conclusion is a stretch, and will only satisfy those that are willing to blindly believe everything the story has told to that point. Numerous times are there examples of things being affected by spirits and the looming inevitability of disaster that really shouldn’t be so leniently conveyed. This is most notable with the prospect of a “memory-cleansing device,” combined with magical beings altering reality with false memories and signatures and what-not. To some extent, it plays into the durability of the curse, but it also reeks of lazy writing, relying too often on filling in the blanks with shouts of “It’s magic! Magic cannot be explained!”

Another should serve as a nice treat for anyone interested in a lot of horrifying imagery and bloodshed, as there’s quite a bit of it. Starting from episode three, a character (or twenty) die just about every episode, if not every other episode. And the way they die somewhat bends the line between reality and hilarious insanity. No joke, a few of the deaths within Another made me laugh. I don’t consider myself a sociopath who revels in the misery and trauma of others, but there’s something about the timing and performance of some of these death scenes that get me. They’re almost ridiculous in the way they’re presented, especially when it deals with things within a character’s control. Still, the earlier deaths are genuinely tinged with a disgusting lack of empathy, which makes them all the more ruthless. There are more “mature” anime out there (see: RIN: Daughter of Mnemosyne), but Another serves well as a whimsically bloody parade of death and darkness.

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All in all, the series is probably better than I give it credit for, but I couldn’t even finish the re-watch of it, which must mean something. With all that was noted about the holes within the plot and the standard portrayal of the characters within, Another comes off as a cautious watch for experienced anime-goers. There’s some things to like about it, but there’s not enough to make it a truly compelling watch, especially when watching it for a second time.

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

Updated Thoughts on Highschool of the Dead

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Generally, most anime watchers will see this image and think one of two things:

Tits

or

Zombies.

Highschool of the Dead is infamous for being notoriously lenient with its female cast’s anatomy and non-stop zombie-killing horror. These two things stick out far more than the rest of the anime’s core features, due in part to the quantity of time dedicated to employing different things in just about every episode. Some years ago, when I was still a young’n in the world of anime, this series turned out more entertaining than anything else, and even got some attention as an anime I wish I had viewed earlier than I did. It’s almost a strange case study, as despite the ecchi eruption, Highschool of the Dead is different than about every other alternative.

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The best thing about the series is actually the first four episodes. People like to insinuate that the sexual fan service is non-stop and continuous throughout, but there’s a modest amount between episodes two and four. A good amount of attention is put into developing the phenomenon that is the zombie apocalypse, mixing with the unknown the main characters have to face as it begins to grow out of control. Characters are established via hair color personality and their relationship with others within the main group, and acclimate to the situation well enough that the viewer can see them as a capable bunch of fighters. Some might question the characters’ abilities, particularly Hirano, which is justifiable. Balancing out the action, the sexual fan service (though never really necessary), and the character interaction is done well enough within the “Set-up” phase of the anime that it actually becomes fairly immersive and enjoyable.

Unrealistic or not, the main cast has a charm to it that’s lost on a number of other anime with a rag-tag bunch of opposites. While slightly archetypal, the heroes have a good head on most of them, giving a better realism to these particular individuals being so well-equipped to survive. Interactivity between the six is also fairly enjoyable, particularly whenever Takagi is involved, with her fierce determination and tsundere air about her. One member of the group, the airheaded nurse of the school, is a useless, uninteresting, and magnet for sexual fan service character. I’d rather she get cut from the series altogether.

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As the series continues, the flaws within its writing begin to rear themselves and mold the story into an eye-rolling tirade of zaniness. Though the first few episodes aren’t completely devoid of this, when the group sets off for the city, the insanity begins to take over the pacing. The action begins to pop up out of nowhere, throwing off the progression of the group and any sense of rest. A few (useless) new characters are added, and recurring characters that were seemingly left to be fed to the zombies become important for short spurts, only to be shoved off yet again. If not recurring characters, then complete strangers. Yes, there is a sense of urgency in trying to make the world seem as psychotic as the events transpiring. And it is because of this that the biggest flaw of Highschool of the Dead becomes far too frequent.

Not the sexual fan service, not the random and unrealistic action scenes; the biggest flaw of the anime is its focus on self-insert style writing. Early on, there was chaos, so no one was really sure how to handle or cope with the situation. Cut to days later, with everyone getting “used to” what was happening, a majority of the characters focused on outside of the main group become A) retarded, or B) insane. Quite often, a situation is presented where a stranger comes up and says or does outrageously stupid things, as the camera cuts to the main group’s serious faces, their eyes narrow in obvious disagreement. Yes, the main group is the only one capable of surviving without a moment’s hesitation, being the clear level-headed intellectual superiors to grown adults and everyone else involved. A bunch of angsty teenagers who write depressing monologues at the beginning and end of almost every episode. Yep. Uh huh.

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It makes the scenes hilariously cringy and simplistic. God forbid the series challenges the main group’s line of thinking and lack of experience in the real world in a time where an adult’s wisdom would likely help them tremendously. And the nurse doesn’t count because she’s an idiot. Instead, we have adults chastising these kids because they’re kids and they’re adults and they know everything and the kids know nothing because fuck you. Or we have school teachers who hypnotize a bunch of delirious school students into having orgies inside a school bus (?!?!?!?!?!?). Seriously, the hell is up with this series and its relentless attempts at making the main cast as God-like in every regard as possible? It’s boring, boring and incredibly irritating.

One very positive thing about the series is the focus on art and animation. The series, even for early 2010’s, looks like it could’ve been animated months ago. Everything is very sleek and sharp, accustomed to the current trend of how high-standard anime look. The lighting and atmosphere make the more tense scenes all the more tense… assuming the sexual fan service or stupid characters didn’t ruin it beforehand. The characters are all fairly attractive (even Hirano) and the sexual fan service, as much as people harp on it, works efficiently enough at arousing some members. Not mine, personally, as I’ve become immune to such blatant attempts without any payoff, but it looked very nice. Very nice. Even the animation was pretty consistent, without a lot of shortcuts taken.

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As perfect as the story tries to make them out to be, the main cast varies in excellence. Surprisingly enough, there is some effort into developing these characters, most particularly the relationship between the male lead and his childhood girlfriend. Strangely enough, I feel these two are the weakest characters, mostly because of their bland, purer-than-thou personas. Their development (especially the girl) feels somewhat forced, while also a little bit too pseudo-intellectual. That comment about depressing monologues at the beginning and end of each episode wasn’t a joke. The male lead drones on all the time about “the end of the world” and it gets tiring fast. The rest of the cast (excluding the nurse) are a little bit better in this regard. Hirano being the chubby, silly weakling without a gun, and an ace-shooter “badass” with guns, Takagi as a no-nonsense tsundere with a bad mouth (my personal favorite), and Busujima, the mild-mannered and polite swordsman with a desire for power. These characters have a lot more spunk to them that make conversations all the more lively and believable, which is important for a character-driven story. I would almost recommend the anime simply for these three characters, but they don’t match up against the force of mediocrity in the writing.

The rating went down quite a bit, but I had a decent time with this series, at least for a little while. By series’ end, I was ready to be done with it, as the last three episodes are a complete drag, full of the issues I made note of. Should the anime (miraculously) get a second season, I’d be more than willing to watch it with meandering expectations. It has a nice amount of bloodshed and fun that makes for a mindless brainfizzler, along with some above-average characters. If only the series tried to be a little more like The Walking Dead than Zombeavers.

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

Updated Thoughts on Myself; Yourself

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Sooner or later, all of these posts are going to start with a personal story about my past experience with anime! Myself; Yourself was one of the earliest anime I’d seen after my anime renaissance back in mid-2012. At the time, I thought the show had a very dull progression and forgettable cast, but managed to build strength with a dramatic second-half. Four years later, both of these points remain poignant, though there are some good things to the bad, and bad things to the good.

The anime has somewhat of a reputation for being boring, especially in the first few episodes. I recall a number of anime critics and reviewers chastising Myself; Yourself for being so dry and bland with its themes and color palette. While I don’t think the characters themselves are bland (albeit moderately clichéd), I feel the writing is incredibly simple. Think of the most unenergetic, cookie-cutter conversations you could possibly have with someone. “Hello.” “How are you?” “Fine. How about you?” “Pretty good.” “How’s the family?” “Good, good.” “Weather’s been great.” “Yeah, totally.” A lot of the conversations play out similarly to this, and should the conversations evolve into something a little more memorable, the stiffened straight-man responses come in full force to brunt that enthusiasm. Very few characters escape from this monotony of normalcy, and whether or not they become archetypes because of it is no matter to the story at-hand. Either one is boringly normal, or entertainingly one-dimensional.

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At the same time, the anime can brag about having normal characters. The premise is of a normal, quiet small town where people aren’t meant to be upbeat or enthusiastic. Bland as it may be, the series has a very comfortable mood that is rarely perturbed by any unnecessary wackiness or bombast. Suiting the atmosphere, the characters become more believable in their situations and camaraderie, more so than other anime where groups of friends oftentimes butt heads with one another. One could argue that the twins fight all the time, but they’re siblings, so it doesn’t count. I can speak on their behalf. I am a sibling.

The twins in mind, Shuusuke and Shuri are probably my favorite characters of the bunch. While they’re slightly one-dimensional, they provide a spark to the group that makes them more tolerable to watch, and have great chemistry. I also like that they aren’t polar opposites, which siblings in anime tend to be for shits n’ giggles. Both physically and in personality, the twins are pretty similar to one another, which makes their “connection” to one another feel more than just a ploy to use that against them later on. If only Shuusuke didn’t become soberingly serious near the end of the series, almost as if someone flipped on a switch. This in of itself becomes somewhat of a problem later on in the series.

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Even now, the drama present near the end of the series was engrossing enough to keep me entertained through the mind-numbing mediocrity of the robotic writing. However, a lot of it felt somewhat out of nowhere; keyword: somewhat. Myself; Yourself does a decent job of foreshadowing (if not a little too bluntly) things that will become of importance later on, and the severity of the things it foreshadows appeals to those hoping for something remarkably grim. Myself; Yourself does a very good job at maintaining the calm before the storm, with sirens blaring in the distance that the viewer can hear at all times. Only issue is that while the build-up is good, the execution tends to fall flat, and falls further once the climax has passed. Things popping up out of nowhere, characters committing foul acts and then never being mentioned again. It feels all the more robotic—much in tune with the character dialogue.

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What better way to emphasize and realistic premise and town than with a gray overtone? Even the artistic style of Myself; Yourself is boring. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s most similar to School Days, except a tad less glossy. There’s a darkness present that makes the series feel both gloomy and diluted, with not a lot of emphasis on animation. There are times when animation improves, with characters’ faces becoming more clean-cut and easy to look at, placed between cheap animation tactics and far-away shots to lessen the workload. At least it prioritizes making the characters look different, with a lot of differentiating characters such as… hair color/style, eye color, and breast size. Perhaps not the most creative of distinguishing traits, but I enjoy the detail present in the personalities reflected with their appearances. The twins have light, short hair to emphasize their spunkiness. Nanako has long, dark hair and red eyes to attain a nature of grace and tragedy. Aoi has a super high-pitch voice and giant tits to serve as the moe character. Even more uncharacteristic of anime, the male lead has a reason to be bland and forgettable. Good work, anime.

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Properly paced and optimistically dramatic makes Myself; Yourself worth watching regardless of its benign approach. The blunders it makes along the way definitely wear it down, though not enough to make it hazardous to the touch. There’s a simple effectiveness to the characters and the storyline that make it all in good fun, despite how dark it gets at times. Still, it tends to take some leaps in logic on occasion, or make characters horribly antagonistic to ramp up the popcorn machine. The ending is one that made me want to squeeze the bridge of my nose, though that’s more of a personal conundrum, as it’s not exactly of poor quality. Just a little abrupt. And a tad too “Happily Ever After.” While not entirely sure of my rating for it then, my current rating reflects the effort put forth to make an immersive and interesting tale of a group of friends and the struggles they have to (or had to) deal with. It just could’ve tried harder to make it feel real.

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