Quick Thoughts on Boku no Hero Academia 2

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Keeping this short and sweet. I mean it today. Genuinely pretty short.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 is a direct continuation of the first, so nothing about it has drastically changed, aside from the placement of the heroes within a school-like environment basically the whole season. What has increased, from my perspective, are two things: scope of characters and number of Shounen clichés.

It is absolutely amazing to me how well this series pays attention to its characters. There are close to twenty student characters alone, without taking into account the number of teachers, villains, and miscellaneous characters, that are established commodities. Ochaco, Mineta, Midoriya, Bakugo, Todoroki, Yaoyorozu, Iida, Tsui, Tokoyami, and others all have their merits as both heroes and characters, and it’s such a heartwarming acknowledgment to know that the series isn’t playing favorites (at least not extensively). I think this is where most of the series’s charm comes from; characters taking the forefront and distinguishing themselves from their peers in terms of personality, powers, or motivations. Amazing as this is to say, I don’t hate any characters in this series. I don’t like all of the characters, but I don’t find any of them useless, irritating, or bland. On top of that, the characters I do like, I really like.

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On the negative side, tropes are abundantly increased as the pressure is poured on. A lot more monologues, stupid resolutions, and sweeping conceptually uninteresting shit under the rug for the sake of moving things along are much more prevalent here than in the first season (outside of the first season’s last three episodes). There’s also more filler, with one example being Tsui getting her own episode seemingly out of nowhere. It’s probably the worst episode in the whole season. Still, it isn’t enough to trample a story that, despite the overuse of superheroes in pop culture now-a-days, is intriguing enough to follow from both a newbie and veteran standpoint. Todoroki gets substantial growth as a character this time around, as does Iida and others in smaller doses. These two names probably wouldn’t have progressed so smoothly if the story was half-assed fanfiction.

Otherwise, second verse, same as the first. Boku no Hero Academia remains a consistently entertaining and endearing series, and one of the first Shounen series I’ve found myself immersed with in a very long time. I only hope the third season continues to build upon the greatest strengths of the second season without destroying itself with overly cliché villain battles and deus ex machinas—or, dare I say, self-sacrifices.

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

Quick Thoughts on Tokyo Godfathers

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You know that feeling when you’re sifting through new anime to watch, and you continue to come across synopses that go something like “Oh, no! Blahblah Blahblah is an average guy, but then Sparklebutt Cutiepatootie invites him to her club and then shenanigans happen”? I have that feeling all the time, and it makes me question why I still watch anime. Imagine my surprise when, out of desperation, I go through some of Satoshi Kon’s library and see a film by him with a synopsis that reads “A transwoman, belligerent hobo, and runaway teen find an abandoned baby in the trash on Christmas, and then shenanigans happen!” What the fuck?! How come anime isn’t this absurd anymore?! It’s so great! Needless to say, I watched it immediately.

It was good, not “so great!”

More than anything, I liked the heart at the center of all the drama… which conveniently slips in and out of view as the film pushes itself along. Despite the stupidity of the realism present, the at-times skimmy animation, and forced happily-ever-after scenarios, I can feel Kon’s love of filmmaking present here. I like the focus on “trash,” the worth of a life thrown away by society. The parallelisms between characters and their situations, despite their situations being so different, all have a common thread that makes their interactions so heartwarming, their banter so sweet. All anyone really wants is to be loved and accepted, even those who don’t look the part.

I’ll say, too, the animation, while choppy in bits, was wonderfully expressive and humorous. Realistic? Only occasionally. The moodiness of characters, their emotions so present, their outbursts so theatrical; it all makes the film more fun than it really is. Lighthearted takes on serious developments that involve kidnapping and murder, it’s not something that hits the viewer’s head at full strength every chance it gets. At times, it doesn’t even try at all! What’s present is an occasionally moving piece of art that goes for entertainment along with some vague message. Corny messages, but impactful nonetheless. Tokyo Godfathers represents the rare positive execution of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!.

I would wholly recommend this for Christmas. Because it takes place around Christmas? Partly—more because it evokes the spirit of Christmas through supporting and loving everyone, not just those within society that are in plain view. Now, this isn’t a vote of confidence that we should all be helping out any hobo on the street for the sake of it, but it’s nice that anime makes this a focal point to build upon, rather than absolutely nothing; sadly, the norm. Yet, as cold cynicism takes over, don’t expect a masterpiece from this recommendation. Tokyo Godfathers is a feel-good piece that occasionally oversteps its bounds in terms of sappiness. It is also a tremendous triumph of distinctive personality and charm, courtesy of a phenomenal director and writer.

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

Quick Thoughts on New Game!!

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I apologize in advance for how short this post (and likely future posts) will be. I simply want to get it out there before more work in my real life piles up and I won’t be able to update my blog efficiently anymore. Please bear with me.

New Game!!, the second season of New Game!, is much of the same as its predecessor, only slightly worse. Semblances of self-critique and intrinsic motivations presented in the first season felt fresh and lively in the face of anime’s typically mechanical approach to the topic. While it harvested moe tendencies and sexual fan service, it all felt as though it were believable within that context, aside from a few lingering fallacies.

If only its second season could keep the boat afloat with a lot of the same thing, except more motivated on divvying up the character development between a large number of characters and adding more sexual fan service to fill in the bland spots. When focusing more on the cast around the once central character of Aoba, especially when there are so many, it tends to lose the focus on presenting Aoba’s challenge to the gaming world, the intended purpose of the original work. Eventually becoming a character drama (though not that dramatic) for those who bounced off of Aoba, which leads into Aoba taking the role again, only to bounce back to someone else, and then even more new characters enter the scene and they take the spotlight. Deary me, this is all getting so complicated and messy. I don’t even know who to root for.

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Y’know who I won’t root for? “Nenecchi.” She’s got the most irritating voice in the existence of everything, and her character is so naively simplistic in its waxed moe aesthetic that it makes me sick. How convenient that she just so happens to like video games enough to join her equally gorgeous female friend at Eagle Jump, where every employee is a gorgeous young woman. At this point, I’m just ranting about the things that I wasn’t fond of this time around. More of the same, I suppose.

There is some essence of dramatic narrative points, such as Aoba’s ascension as lead character designer in the face of the previous (and incredibly famous/established) lead in Yagami Kou. These were perhaps the more enjoyable/impactful moments of the show, seeing these two duke it out to the best of their abilities, which somewhat highlighted the better portions of the first season. Unfortunately, these moments are far between situations where other characters fuck around and do nothing aside from treating half-an-episode-long anxieties that resolve themselves in no time flat. Even the new characters fall victim to this. They all just need to be honest and express themselves, so that they can become comfortable enough to grope one another and suck on the skin of their collarbones. This doesn’t actually happen, but I wouldn’t put it past them with the insinuations constantly presented.

It is worse, though not so much worse that I didn’t find myself ravished by the dazzle in front of me. Less focused and less polished, it still harbored a lot of what made the first season good. Though, above all, there’s a sense of aloofness that this season provides, where most of it doesn’t really matter in the long-term. Without avoiding spoilers, I can only think of two situations that actually made any difference between the end of season one and the end of season two, new characters excluded. I take that back, three, but it was so aloofly handled that I forgot it happened. Did I even like this show?! I seem so harsh with it… At least this post didn’t turn out as short as I thought it would.

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

Quick Thoughts on Neo Yokio

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There’s a bit of a misleading detail about this Netflix original “anime” series that I feel I should clarify before anything else. This is not a “Jaden Smith” anime, and Jaden Smith had nothing to do with the creation or writing behind this anime. He only voices the lead protagonist. This is, by all intents and purposes, an Ezra Koenig anime. Smith is only along for the ride.

The “anime” itself, is horrid. Filled to the brim with technical deficiencies and vocal performances that would sound bad even for a high school production. Smith has absolutely no energy; next to no one sounds anything more than bland or annoying. Animation-wise, Lamune has better production. And that’s sad. For a final product, the result feels more like a blueprint of Koenig’s greater ambitions. More than anything, Neo Yokio dribbles itself absurdly between self-indulgent fanfiction and clever, intentionally-idiotic satire.

Such that this work is so hard to properly define, the one positive affirmation is that it is not completely brainless. There are messages to unpack and symbolic presences lingering throughout the work, most notably ones about being open-minded, challenging the status quo, and individual freedom as opposed to systematic hierarchy. Blunt and atrociously presented as they are, under the cover of one of the most aimless (and borderline obnoxious) plot progressions in all of media, one could reasonably argue that the work is victim of having too little time for such ideas of grandeur. It becomes harder to defend when the product also walks and talks like a 14-year-old with a five-dollar webcam and a Youtube account.

I don’t normally like to rag on production values so much, as I feel there are more integral aspects to visual media that can make up for it, but these issues make Neo Yokio borderline unbearable. Combined with its already simplistic manner of storytelling and unrealistic writing (especially dialogue between characters), the sudden jumps in animation, the sound of bored voice actors, the manner of tone not matching with the characters’ facial expressions, and all else encompassing, it’s among the worst “anime” I’ve seen from a technical viewpoint. They have the design down fine, with a little added flair with the diversity of skin colors and hair colors, yet the movement feels stiff and off, like the entire production itself.

If one is curious, I’d recommend looking at Twitter gifs of the show, as sitting down and watching the whole thing is really not worth it, even for a joke. With only six-episodes of standard anime length (21-23 minutes), it felt like an eternity before I was finished, and in return was rewarded with an ending that was actually decent. Of course, should the series continue, it would jeopardize the ending’s entire point. Regardless of its continuation, I’m in favor of putting the series to rest on even an accidental pinch of positivity, rather than try and legitimize Jaden Smith as an “actor.”

Quick Thoughts on Demi-chan wa Kataritai: Demi-chan no Natsuyasumi

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While most people adored titles such as Kobayashi-sanKonoSuba 2, and Little Witch Academia, the surprise hit of Winter 2017 for me was Demi-chan wa Kataritai. I liked it so much that upon finishing it, its source manga material hit my “Plan to Read” list. For the first time in a long while, an anime had left me absolutely starving for more content, exhibiting the kind of curious spirit that makes anime so inherently different from Western media. Soon after the series wrapped up, a sequel OVA was announced, though with my track record of OVA’s, I wasn’t horribly optimistic—after all, OVA’s tend to be extra fodder that don’t mean anything to the grand scope of a series. Of course, when it came time to watch said sequel OVA, as my adoration for the series is that strong, I sighed to myself at how typically it acknowledged my suspicions.

There truly is no reason for any fan of the series to watch this extra episode. Should one be fasting and need a quick bite to recover, then by all means dig in. More than anything, this Demi-chan OVA is nothing but a distraction, or one last farewell before the looming unknown as its anime continuation hangs in purgatory. What it provides is the same spirit of emotional energy through character interaction and exuberance as the parent series, but little of the intricate details that made it such a fascinating series. This particular piece plays out more like a standard harem romcom than it really needs to.

Still, it gave me such a release to be able to see characters I genuinely enjoyed back onscreen after so long. While Hikari and Satou took most of the spotlight this time around, they made enough of their spotlight to provide a base level of entertainment on a consistent level. Plenty of recurring characters also return as a reminder of their existence to the audience, the audience’s will to remember be damned! If this was a safe, uneventful OVA designed to garner more sales, then it’s within the upper echelon of safe, uneventful OVA designed to garner more sales. That is, it’s not recommendable to anyone other than those who truly enjoyed the series.

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

Entry #30: 07-Ghost (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by 100PostsPerDay, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

Instead of ending the Summer on a long, explosive note, I’ll end it the way I feel it deserves to end: lazily, mirroring my own drive at its last junction. Unfortunately, my motivation to stick with the self-imposed rule system of this year’s festivities left me in a weakened state of misery by the end. It felt like a job—this really shouldn’t feel like a job.

With all due respect to Karandi, who may have recommended this to me with the utmost earnest, my hands are too drained to give this series, which ended up being another dull drag, a proper analysis. Instead, the next few paragraphs will only linger upon what the series has left me to ponder upon.

07-Ghost is a lot like Bungou Stray Dogs. It is also a lot like Pandora Hearts, and a number of other series with the same aura to them. Series that are, at their hearts, very serious pieces that typically revolve around fantasy plots, which occasionally employ over-the-top character quirkiness to combat the ever dark tone and feature a large cast of good-looking male characters—some of which are fairly intimate with one another. Not quite bishies, but semi-bishies—male characters with bishie-like qualities. All the aforementioned titles flirt with these characteristics, creating a vibe that feels somewhat foreign to me. It goes without saying, but these titles simply don’t interest me. That much should be obvious with my overall disinterest with both Bungou Stray Dogs and Pandora Hearts.

What isn’t necessarily set is the type of impact these series can have, as while Stray Dogs has a generally negative view in my mind, Pandora Hearts has a more positive image. 07-Ghost is of a similar vein to the latter, though admittedly in a more dull sense. Things that occur, characters that receive screentime, events that occur… all ring very familiar to others of its kind. Not to say these aren’t good on their own, it simply ends up being a little worn by this point. My interest varied between gradual interest and minimal boredom. It at least held my attention.

As such, I’m going with a safe rating. Its quality is understandable for those who wish to follow through, it’s just nothing extraordinary. Nothing I would willingly recommend, but can see why others would. If there was any true enjoyment I received from watching, it was a single scene that reminded me of a skit from The Whitest Kids U’ Know. Absolutely unintentional on their part, but it gave me a hearty laugh. That doesn’t technically count as “an anime making me laugh.”

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

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

Entry #27: Mai-HiME (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by not-so-plain pasta, completing her recommendation trifecta.)

Thoughts will be quick, mostly because there’s little to say.

Mai-HiME is one of those old-fashioned anime that go by a set of clichés to formulate their story and characters. If comparisons can be made, it reminds me slightly of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, slightly of older JRPG titles, and slightly of Hanbun Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s light-hearted when it wants to be and tremendously overdramatic when it has to be. Anyone not a fan of a lot of forced sex jokes/misunderstandings (like me) need not apply, though if one is willing to push past this, there’s a whole lot of darker themes lying in wait.

However, these dark themes are not presented in an interesting way—rather, much of this series isn’t presented in an interesting way. When not seriously cringing at whatever mood Mai-HiME wanted to convey, I had my head in my hand, fighting off the desire to close my eyes. It’s so, so, so formulaic that any veteran of the industry would rather be watching anything else that has done the shtick better. It ends up becoming the fatal flaw: there is nothing really unique here, only things that have been done before a thousand times in other settings.

Though this remains so, it’s not without spirit. I was slightly surprised by how certain things arose within the plot, as well as how well-handled the last few episodes were (until the retcon halfway through the final episode). My emotional state through most of the series was flatlined, yet the last few episodes had me intrigued in a way that the rest of the series couldn’t achieve, and left me with a generally good impression. Not good enough to recommend the series, but enough to think, “Hrmm. I could watch this again without wanting to scratch my eyes out.”

Painfully overdramatic, woefully unoriginal, forgettable to a fault; all of these describe the experience of Mai-HiME. Its saving graces lie within the very occasional points where the plot becomes appealing enough to override the level of ridiculousness and angst. Characters and art mean little to how gargantuan a presence the plot has on the entire series, such that everything bows to its influence like a religious idol. When that idol is uninteresting, everything else crumbles under the weight of its expectations.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C-

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