Entry #20: Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm (SoA 2017)

four rhythm

(Recommended, once again, by D.)

I would write a thought-out post on this anime, but I forgot I even watched it about ten minutes after I finished.

Just kidding. Sort of.

A long time ago—back in late 2012—I watched a series called Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi. Even back in my early days of anime-perusing, it was especially notable for being horribly dull and uneventful. Tack on five years to present time, and I watched Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm. It’s especially notable for being horribly dull and uneventful.

One could almost copy/paste a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of Hoshizora and put them here under a different name. The two series share a number of similarities, such as both being adapted from visual novels and involve competitive sports (though Four Rhythm has a larger emphasis on it). Their biggest differences being Hoshizora involves lots of romance and Four Rhythm has sci-fi stuff. On a technical aspect, neither series has any particular flaw… other than being incredibly simplistic in its presentation.

It’s no secret I prefer subtlety over bluntness, however in the case of realistic(ish) settings, I’d prefer a boost of energy or enthusiasm, some way or another. Four Rhythm has a nice introduction, filling in the minor details and introducing the characters and hinting at their inner insecurities. At some point, they begin to develop a formula to go by, mostly involving the primarily female cast practicing and competing in the sport the anime makes up: Flying Circus. The details go like this: it involves people using anti-gravity boots to fly around and touch airborne buoys or slap each other’s backs to score points within a time limit. Sounds cool. It isn’t.

What makes Four Rhythm so dull is that its focal point, Flying Circus, isn’t entertaining. The rules are too simplistic and the strategies put into it are almost never complex. One could literally just zoom around and touch buoys or slam on their opponent’s back for the whole time and that’d be it. Admittedly, the “dogfights” are more entertaining than touching buoys. Rather, I think without the buoys, it could pass off as an intriguing form of aerial wrestling. Unfortunately, this is what we get and it’s pretty bland. Not only with the game, but how the game is shown. Cliché is a nice word to describe the drama attached to Four Rhythm. One could also use phrases such as “Lazy shounen ripoff” or “Typical sports stuff.”

I acknowledge that a lot of what I’m criticizing isn’t really bad on its own. It’s just that there’s really nothing new here, nothing that hasn’t been done before better by other series. And while applause is granted for Four Rhythm’s creativity with its shtick, it just has no… “oomph.” No spark. No pizzazz. Nothing out of the ordinary. Floating around in meaningless existence.

Oh, I guess the animation’s pretty okay. Yeah, I got nothing.

Personal Score: D

Critical Score: C-

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

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

yamato 2199

(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.

Quick Thoughts on Renai Boukun

renai boukon 3

It’s one of those shows. You know it the moment you see the cover. One of those shows where you look and immediately think, “This is gonna be pretty dumb.” That is the only context you need going in, because it will not leave you disappointed. Renai Boukun is pretty dumb.

That is its only merit. It is stupid fun for the sake of it. Should it have been that way all throughout, perhaps I would’ve liked it more. Much to my dismay, Renai Boukun gets ahead of itself and tries to take itself… seriously… by its final two episodes. Lord, have mercy on my soul, for thou hath given me a sumptuous pillar of sin.

It’s dumb fun, and that’s all it will ever be. So to try and incorporate serious dramatics into a series devoid of all seriousness, the series is effectively ruined. Love, bonding, character development; all that is a foreign concept that shouldn’t be trifled with. Should one throw fish on land? Should one try and put pigs in the sky? These things, these concepts, just do not exist. They do not happen. Without proper balance, neither does the dumb insanity, riddled in fan service, work with what Renai Boukun’s serious questions on love and commitment by its final episodes. The viewer couldn’t possibly take it seriously, and I would argue the series wouldn’t either.

The biggest asset to the anime’s arsenal is its almost parody-like aloofness. Harems are not normally subtle, but Renai Boukun takes every cliché and makes it seem necessary to its “plot.” It’s fairly intoxicating to see a series so willing to dine in on every meal on the menu without hesitation. Its expressiveness and enthusiasm isn’t entirely rare, but it serves itself well when it plays itself off as a play on its genre. But to then change course and have its cake and eat it, too, it effectively sabotages its chances of being, how should I say, ironically wonderful. Almost in a Cat Planet Cuties or Ladies vs. Butlers! kind of way.

There’s a lot to be said about how little can be said. Any more and I run the risk of overexplaining the obvious—that being that Renai Boukun screwed itself into being something almost transcendingly pleasurable. In a guilty way, of course. Initially, it almost seemed like one of those dumb series I could look back on fondly and reminisce about its wackiness. Now, it’ll be lucky to not fall within the category of “Oh, yeah. I watched that once.”

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

Entry #14: Ghost Stories (English Dub) (SoA 2017)

ghost stories

(Recommended, once again, by this cheeky bastard.)

The story is infamous, but I’ll go over it for anyone unaware. In 2005, ADV Films acquired the rights to make an English dub of Ghost Stories, a harmless, episodic anime involving kids encountering ghosts in their daily lives. Instead of taking what was already there and translating it, ADV decided to write a completely different script, only retaining basic storylines and the characters’ names. The end result became something of a tall tale, as nothing has ever been done like it since, despite positive impressions from “fans.” In the end, the Ghost Stories English dub became known for its abrupt vulgarity, offensiveness, and constant references to pop culture. Allow me to share some lines one can expect when diving in:

“Imagine a black guy chasing you!”

“[Talking to a young boy] You shouldn’t be worried about drag queens. Watch out for priests.”

“When a girl bunny and a boy bunny love each other, the boy bunny sticks his penis into the girl bunny’s vagina. Then the girl bunny acts like she owns the penis.”

“[Incoherent screaming]”

Admittedly, Ghost Stories has made me laugh more and harder than any anime I have ever seen. It is precisely because the humor is by no means “anime” that it has managed to do so. That’s actually pretty sad. At the same time, it becomes difficult to really rate this when the original form has been changed so drastically, but still has some semblance of his former self sticking through. On one hand, I could rate this as a comedy, but then what about the anime’s serious attempts at family bonding and the threat of each episode’s ghost(s)? I can’t take that seriously. I could rate it as an episodic series, but the comedy ends up taking out all the context and one can only use established clichés to fill in the void. With my hands tied, I can only go with what I feel is stronger of the two, which is obviously the comedy, while still stringing along what it shows outside of it.

ghost stories 2

As stated above, this is the funniest anime I’ve ever seen. My preference for humor is a controlled chaos/dark hybrid that’s really hard to find, but Ghost Stories does it fairly well. Never was there a dull moment (outside of the serious moments) when each character were allowed lines to vocalize. They also did a phenomenal job of making clever inputs about what was originally shown and how they had to sacrifice the translation for the sake of making sense. Almost as though the English translation really were the true form, but in an amateur-ish style that’s campy fun. Though, when the anime turns to its darker scenes, the comedy runs dry and the audience has no reason to care anymore. Some episodes have less of these scenes than others, with the humor feeling a little repetitive in bits, bringing various episodes down to forgettable parody.

Another great is vocal performance. Indeed, one of the few anime I can praise the voice acting is when the voices are English. Irony is funny. Each of the main characters, and even one-off characters, have a great control of their vocal roles and what they wish to convey within the context of their character’s stereotype. A whiny, high-pitched Jewish stereotype, a calm, soft-spoken Christian stereotype, the rowdy, aloof playboy, and the ordinary tomboy. Oh, and of course, the shrieking terror of the five-year-old crybaby. These voices will forever be embedded into my soul, and not just for what they say, but how they say it.

Everything else is forgettable. And that’s the major issue with the work. The comedy is typically good, if not great, and the vocal performances are just as well. Everything else, however, is mediocre, or not even taken into consideration. Characters are whatever, art is whatever, plot is whatever—lots of whatever. The only thing that sticks is the presentation of comedy. And if one can adore this series simply from that, so be it. For me, I need something a little more, something that’ll tie it all together, so that by the end, I feel as though I worked off some calories rather than held my breath for three hours. A worthwhile experience one, maybe two times around, but nothing more.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: C-

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

Entry #13: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (SoA 2017)

code geass 1

(Recommended by a pretty humble guy, completing his recommendation trifecta.)

Will make this entry quick. Want to get a move on.

I would encourage anyone interested in my semi-quick thoughts on the first season to check here, as this post will deal primarily with the second season, the one I hadn’t seen coming into this. I will note that upon rewatch, my impressions of the first season were more positive than before, but only slightly.

The second season is a MASSIVE OVERLOAD OF FUCKERY. While it deals with a lot of the same conflicts and characters as the first season, R2 has a tendency to not only alter one’s expectations, but completely overloads them with mindfucks and retcons. It’s too abrupt, too glossy for its own good. To some extent, it’s hard to watch because it’s so horribly overdramatic, but one must admit that it’s by no means unentertaining.

There was a nice potency to the emotional value in R2 that, while somewhat better handled in the first season, was spectacularly used to create one of the most intriguing and twisted endings I’ve seen in all of anime. People whom I would have never expected to die are ripped from the world cruelly and coldly. If only the series did that more often. With the first season going more for intellectual set-up and strategy, the second season kind of just throws logic into the afterlife and employs all sorts of different strange scenarios, some I feel could ultimately have been avoided.

To some extent, it becomes a soap opera. One that is not handled in the best manner and cannot seem to find that same balance as once before. Its ambition is admirable, but their effort is wasted on trying to make it all seem true and real. And the manifestation of everything into a single line of thinking for the ending to indulge in is just insulting. It made for a bitter taste. Certainly not as good as it could be, but better than most that would rather go for clichés.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: C+

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

Entry #12: ‘Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya’ series (SoA 2017)

fate kaleid

(Recommended by an unnamed lurker.)

I cannot take this anime seriously with ten-year-olds. I cannot take the drama seriously with ten-years-olds. I cannot take the drama seriously when the episode before featured ten-year-old girls making out with one another in their underwear. I cannot take this anime’s constant back-and-forth tone of silly and overdramatic seriously with ten-year-olds who are clearly written to be “clever.” Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is a spin-off designated to sexualize children and shoehorn the popularity of magical girls in a serious light due to the rampant success of Madoka Magica.  The fact that this series got three sequel seasons and countless specials, when many much more deserving titles pray to get even a sequel OVA, makes me sick.

What I say is what I mean, too. This series is destroyed upon the fact that ten-year-olds are running around facing concepts such as sacrificing one for many or the finality of death. Angsty teenagers? Fine. Children? C’mon. Stop it. They’re clearly not developed enough mentally to fully grasp half the shit that’s highlighted in this series… both from the serious and the silly situations. What ten-year-olds are closet fujoshi? What ten-year-olds are hinting at sexual innuendos when opposite (or same) genders are paired? What ten-year-olds can properly react as a straight man to others’ rambunctious antics? I’ve seen ten-year-old behavior. I live with a twelve-year-old. He does not act like the little shits in this series. In the slightest. And he’s twelve.

Many will likely accuse me of being too harsh. I won’t deny that, as I’m being a little too overcynical about a series that probably shouldn’t be taken seriously, as it’s a soulless cash-in spin-off with a familiar (and also popular) franchise stuck to it. Doesn’t help that when the series drowns the viewer in writing that one would expect to see in the main parent series here, where ten-year-old girls are shown naked every other episode and touching themselves to the thought of their onii-chans. It does not blend. It does not match. It destroys any sense of seriousness when a product is trying to parade itself as a self-aware knockoff (lots of meta humor present) and continues to indulge in what it’s supposedly mocking, then trying to be serious anyway. It doesn’t work. It almost never works. The fact that it has “Fate/” attached to it probably makes it more damning.

I didn’t like it. I’m sure you couldn’t get that from reading this to this point. Jokes aside, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya has very few redeeming features, including nice art and spirited voice acting. Y’know what else has those two perks? Most other anime. Enjoyment is shot, and the fact that this is a fine example of Shounen I cannot help but groan at, this was a match made in Hell from the very beginning. But if one enjoys seeing kids being sexualized to death, give this series a shot. It will not disappoint you in that regard.

Personal Score: D-

Critical Score: D+

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

Entry #9: Teekyuu (Seasons 1-8) (SoA 2017)

teekyuu

(Recommended, once again, by not-so-plain pasta.)

As many different ways as one can tackle this series, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: Teekyuu is pretty eccentric.

It’s short.

It’s fast.

It’s random.

It’s absurd.

It’s energetic.

It’s explosive.

With only two-minute episodes, this rambunctious short anime series is dedicated to cramming events that would normally take half an episode into bite-size portions.

Charming through sheer force of will.

Anime on crack; there’s little else to say about it.

Scenes fly by at the speed of sound.

Characters are little different from one another, but have little quirks that differentiate them aside from hair color.

Almost as though the series was inspired by WarioWare or Elite Beat Agents.

The series is like candy: small, sweet, and not very filling.

It could also make your head hurt.

(I’m still recovering.)

Typically basic entertainment, though sometimes very witty.

Each season is basically the same.

Marathoning this is a bad idea, but with short spurts, this short series is almost recommendable.

If only for its absurdity.

Seriously, the shit that’s shown in this series.

Holy hell.

Personal Score: D+

Critical Score: C-

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