Entry #7: Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended from somewhere over the rainbow.)

What an atrocious pile of uninspired slop.

Word of mouth implied that this show was somewhat middle-of-the-road, but its intriguing premise made it somewhat appealing as an experimental watch. I came out very, very disappointed. Words alone doesn’t do its tremendously low quality due justice, as to the experienced eye, this anime is little more than the same old story with pieces of multi-colored gum stuck to each side for some variety. Does that make the story any different, though? Actually, it makes it more of a sticky mess.

On further inspection, there is nothing particularly glaring about how poor this series is. There are no absurdly stupid characters, blatantly inconsistent story elements, or shaky animation. What makes the series so unbearable is just how unappealing it is, despite some slight intrigue caused by the focus on osteology. Everything, aside from the art, admittedly, is below par on its own, blending in with the monotonous infrastructure of an author playing by clichés’ sake without an ounce of creativity. Watching Sakurako-san, which may as well be any other anime ever with a wad of “Mystery” gum stuck to one side and “Bones” stuck to another—resulting in a very bored and very frustrated little bearded bunny.

Bones aren’t even that much of a focus to the series! They’re featured in, like, four episodes! It’s basically just “Sakurako is a super genius and solves all the mysteries and makes everyone look on in awe of her superior intellect as if they’re in an episode of Dragon Ball Z” the series. Some characters receive some attention outside of her, but their blandness as characters and relative importance compared to Sakurako fails to rupture any defense in the viewer’s mind. And for whatever reason, whenever Sakurako isn’t in the picture, characters become randomly philosophical and overdramatic.

It would make some sense if, say, these characters had something to do with the mysteries at stake, but one episode features a girl trying desperately to find a woman in black because she fears she’s suicidal. Her homeroom teacher then berates her for carrying on and trying to convince the woman that life is worth living because one is responsible for their own actions. This led me to believe that the teacher was involved with the woman somehow, only to have things resolve without any interference from him… So… Why? What was the reason for his random belligerence towards his student’s morality? It didn’t mean anything in the end, as neither the teacher or the student really grew from the experience, at least not from future episodes. They reference it again once, but that’s hardly any evidence for some sort of importance.

These little strange sequences that mean nothing, on top of the repetitive episodic formula and overdramatic intensity of the insanity of others, it’s a basic ride of epicly boring proportions. It could’ve been something more with a little more effort into delving into individual characters and giving Sakurako some challenge. Ultimately, a disappointing excuse for something so different on the surface.

Personal Score: D

Critical Score: D

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

Entry #5: Overlord (Season One) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by D.)

If MyAnimeList is any indication, western anime fans adore one thing: wish-fulfillment. No Game No LifeProblem ChildrenSword Art Online, and others within the realm of “Being set to a different world where your otherwise useless skills suddenly make you top dog” are all very well received, while also incredibly divisive. Overlord is yet another entry into this specific, increasingly popular niche, and much like the titles mentioned before (all of which I’ve seen), I didn’t particularly care for it.

Not all entries within this subset are subjected to the same variety of working parts, but Overlord does absolutely nothing different with them. The closest comparison I could make is with No Game No Life, as both follow one overpowered character who never has to face a challenge throughout the span of their parent anime while garnering the attention of everyone around them. Overlord is an interesting case, as while the set-up is little different, the execution is wildly unapologetic. I thought No Game No Life was stuffed to high heaven with atrociously self-inflating writing… this series takes the cake and the factory it was made in.

The series features the main character, Ains, or Momon, or Momonga—whatever you decide to call him. Originally, the world he inhabited for most of his life was a huge MMORPG, where he built the foundation of the strongest fortress in the game with his guildmates. He’s reached the level cap in the game and has attained every ounce of world-class items and spells and abilities, showing a level of determination that would make his parents groan for his future. Over time, all of his guildmates leave for other things, leaving Ains as the only member left within his all-powerful fortress. However, he is accompanied by his (majority female) collection of underlings, whose designs and personalities were created by the guildies themselves. When the MMORPG announces it will shut down its servers, Ains reflects on his adventures, only to be greeted by something peculiar: when the servers shut down, he is still within the game, and cannot access any game menus or GM’s. Even more, his underlings begin to interact with him as though he was his character, fully capable of interacting with him as any real person/creature would.

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So with this context set, what can one expect from the series? Ains will try to figure out why the world of the MMORPG became real while dominating everything and everyone in his path because he’s level 100 and has all the tools necessary to be God of the realm. Along the way, everyone (especially his underlings) continually shower him with praise as he flicks every bug off his shoulder like they’re nothing as he gloats about how weak everyone else is. Don’t fret, however, as some “magical force” prevents him from going overboard with his emotions, as any level of emotional exertion, including excitedness, embarrassment, and “libido” (Really?) is reduced to moot within a second. I suppose the purpose is to have him retain his undead, all-powerful image? Why does the universe care, though? I get that the anime wants to make him look cool for the sake of furthering wish-fulfillment, as well as letting those little slips be meant for comic relief, but how does any of this make sense at all? What is this “magical force” controlling him? Why does it exist? What are its limits?

Because Ains is all-powerful, every situation loses all sense of tension because he’s that much more powerful than everyone around him. He has everything completely under control because the “magical force” keeps him in check and he’s already at the level cap. The series would be far more interesting if the “magical force” went away and he had to deal with his conflicting emotions and relative unease with being a leader of many expectations. Instead, it’s a long spurt of Ains interacting with his underlings, who can’t go two seconds without kissing his feet, and going on fun fantasy quests and putting his God-like power on display for everyone else to kiss his feet. This type of blatant fan service is disgusting to me, and it made me hold a festered disdain for series like No Game No Life and Problem Children, despite how fun they are to watch.

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There’s no denying it, either. Overlord is entertaining. That is its biggest draw. It’s likely why its rating is so high on most anime databases. It is incredibly easy to watch, as it’s filled with fun fantasy fluff and situations that are pathetically easy to immerse oneself in, whether in Ains’s shoes or if one were in the minor characters’ situations. There’s no real tension and a level of intrigue of what’s to come next that anyone can speed through it without blinking. A very easy-going series. Overlord‘s writing leaves so many holes and blatant attempts at holding the main character’s hand that it sickens me, but it’d be very easy for someone who doesn’t care about that to find a wonderland of enjoyment, especially those into the “Trapped in a video game” niche.

Anyone can tell by reading this that I didn’t like how the series was handled. I am also incredibly cynical. It’s an easy recommendation for those who can easily “turn off their brains” and enjoy flashy moments and peppy character interaction. That is the type of audience it wishes to appeal to, anyway. It’d be easy for me to disregard it and say the series just isn’t for me, but the genre is so damn popular that more and more anime/manga/novels like it keep getting green-lighted every year. That annoys me, especially seeing as that leaves less room for more intellectually-involved series to come to light. That’s a complaint for another day.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: D+

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

Day Six: The Informant! (MotM 2017)

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There’s a thing with stories dependent on a single character to drive it forward that seems flimsy. It’s almost like putting a toothpick vertically underneath a brick. Should that single character succeed, it keeps the brick steady. One should know the alternative. The Informant! is an example of this “genre” of films, one that rides on the back of a single character (or actor) and having everyone else rely on or react to their performance. It takes a powerful performance to keep the interest consistent and the dedicated resources to ensure that the lead doesn’t flail with the supporting cast. To some extent, there is a method to the film’s madness, but it does not start early.

No words minced: it was an absolute chore to sit through the first half hour of this film. Things didn’t make sense, it was hard to follow, and characters outside of Matt Damon’s seemed invisible. Even as the conflict began to evolve, it never flowed naturally, as though things were jointed together in a spitball fashion around a dining room table. There were some strange inconsistencies with the lead character and the events that followed when given instructions from others. His behavior seemed erratic and hasty, despite seeming like a calm and intelligent fellow. The constant mental monologues were really jarring, seemingly there for no reason than to make the character seem charmingly quirky. Hardly humorous and disjointed, I was almost tempted to drop the film altogether.

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Here’s where the interest lies. As the film continues, things begin to flow bit by bit in a consistent manner which makes it easier to follow. Characters begin to show some of their “true” colors. The strange events that took place in the beginning now suddenly hold a deeper meaning. In the form of a “Aha!” moment, The Informant! begins to show its hand, revealing the intention behind the things that had been shown prior. It makes the film a lot more engrossing, as well as interesting to be able to surprise the audience with differing arrays of twists and surprises. The longer the film goes on, the better it gets, slowly growing into the flower it wishes to become. Almost.

Even with the strong second-half, there still lies the issue of excusing the first half for being abysmally dull. Should one simply forget feeling exhausted by the attempts the film makes at placing incoherent pieces together in order to set the scene for later, even if it turns out to be well done? I am not one of those forgiving people. I will harp on the film for the forty minutes of my time trying to pry my eyes open to pay attention. And should that be forgiven, the payoff must be extraordinary, something that astounds the mind more than one could imagine. M. Night Shyamalan-style brain explosions. Not only is that not the case, but the film ends on a bit of a purr.

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Given some credit, despite being short of laughs, there is a wacky atmosphere that makes it all seem silly in hindsight. Upbeat music playing during times of diversion, the constant monologues spouting random trivia and questioning the logic behind it. The Informant! has a diversion of mirth which hides the serious events that transpire during it. There is a bit of a question as to whether this was a good mixture or not, as the nature of the film reveals a lot of darker subtext into the minds of certain people. To combine that with a hearty attitude seems a little too cynical, but I applaud the effort attached. It gives the film a distinct flavor, something that makes it stand out compared to others. Some creativity is attached that makes it almost bizarrely entertaining, but only after the plot begins to roll.

Serving as the toothpick, Matt Damon has a fairly good performance as Mark Whitacre. His act is believable and does a nice job of playing a character who isn’t entirely all there. One can see it on his face in the cover photo for this film; it’s immediately apparent Mr. Whitacre is going to be a little loopy. Part of his charm comes from being off-the-wall, along with constantly playing the victim. If not for the events that transpire, it would be easy to believe everything he said based on how much enthusiasm he puts into every word, every claim. Damon himself proves to be a fairly sturdy toothpick, but again, only after the plot begins to roll. His lonely self couldn’t carry the film for the first half, though he made for a quizzical start, which is something, at least.

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Now, the rest of the cast leaves much to be desired. There are some better performances, such as Scott Bakula as Agent Shepard, though others aren’t exactly A-listers. They do the bare minimum required of their part and, though the screentime isn’t distributed fairly, don’t shine when the spotlight is on them. Most of the time other characters aren’t given the opportunity to express anything aside from serious tones or flabbergast. Damon is the star here, and it very much shows by his character being the only one to show an emotional range—not to mention, any sort of vulnerability. One could argue that the premise doesn’t give opportunity for others to shine, which is true, but they could implement more than scenes directly involving Whitacre or his antics. Astounding as it may be, he’s not the most interesting man in the world.

There isn’t anything particularly wrong with the way the story is told, though I wonder if there was a better way to implement real facts. The Informant! is based on a true story, though heavily dramatized for the sake of fiction. They let the audience know within the first minute. I feel the movie could’ve benefited from using some of the charming monologues to incorporate some meta humor or something, keying in on some real life facts that occurred aside from when they happened (Dates appear occasionally). Some of this could be a little jarring with the aforementioned imbalance of comedy and drama; if only they could give more of a boost without making things any more dryly random.

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Informing the informee about The Informant! is a task best suited for those “in-the-know.” Agents dedicated to the art of informing only the most top secret information an informee could acquire, free of charge. Still, one doesn’t have to be highly knowledgeable of business and scandals to be able to enjoy The Informant!, simply patient, and somewhat open-minded. It’s a work that flaunts the skills of Matt Damon’s craft, along with embellishing a story that’s hardly worth believing. Though, the only real recommendation is Damon himself, as one can read up on the story online without sitting through forty minutes of set-up. Any Matt Damon fans out there, this is a must-watch to further satisfy your Matt Damon needs.

Final Score: 5.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Creating My Perfect Waifu

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WARNING

This post is going to be dumb.

It’s Valentine’s Day, people. The day to express one’s appreciation, and on occasion rampant sexual desire, for their loved ones. This is in response to Valentine’s Day’s origins: the massacre of St. Valentine. What better way than to disperse violence and ill-will than with love and tolerance for all? And chocolate? And sex? And commercialism? All truly romantic.

Because I enjoy making a big deal out of holidays, I decided to write up a dumb post chronicling what it would take to create my perfect “waifu.” Of course, I technically already have a waifu, but it’s fun to fantasize about all the qualities of a woman I enjoy with characters (and real people). These are the qualities of a lovely waifu candidate that speak to me on a level that transcends my cynical mechanism.

Independent

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Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on, now. Independence? Is that sexy? Is that moe? Anything is moe, but really? Independence? Yes. Independence.

The norm is that men are strong and women are weak, with the latter depending on the former for protection. There are exceptions to this, but generally this is how things carry on, especially in anime. Studio giants a la Disney are trying to “correct” this by continuing to cast strong female leads in their films, however the long-standing tradition will take a lot of time to be seen as anything other than “pandering” or “progressive.” I’ve always had a weak spot for girls who can take care of themselves—not so much that they act masculine to compensate for their lack of femininity, but are capable of doing as much (or more) than anyone around them, not just men. I find the aspect of being able to handle any situation with grace or level-headedness to be a very appealing strength. I’m often bothered by useless people, whether girls or boys, which plague a number of shows or, let’s face it, real life areas.

As odd as this may sound, I’m a pretty competitive guy, and being able to stand toe-to-toe with a woman on a subject I’m proficient in is as attractive as physical beauty. And I’m not perfect. Sometimes I need someone to rely on, as well. Having a woman be able to compensate for my weaknesses is a security both practically and emotionally therapeutic. I liken myself to being the man of a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.

Characters that fit this mold: Revy (pictured above), from Black Lagoon. Yoko Littner, from Gurren Lagann. Ryuuko Matoi, from Kill la Kill. Michiko Malandro, from Michiko to Hatchin.

Playful/Sense of humor

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Again, I’m a competitive guy. I like having little, useless debates with people that involve wit and quick thinking. Of course, I’m never serious with it, and to have a woman play along with me is an incredibly satisfying feeling. Someone who can trump me gets my blood boiling, too. In a good way.

I try my very hardest to be funny. Perhaps followers of my Twitter have noticed. Some don’t get my humor, but those who do are instantly on my good side.Women who employ this same humor are often doubly so. It gives me a sense of open-mindedness and creativity and intelligence flowing within. Y’know how often I find this in anime? The answer is much closer to never than often.

It’s the rarity of this that makes it more appealing to me. I suppose when one is depraved of something they enjoy, the appearance of such a thing becomes more memorable and impactful. Like drugs. One can also note this by my Favorite Characters list on MAL, which has a number of women who exhibit this quality.

Characters that fit this mold: Togame (pictured above), from Katanagatari. Holo, from Ookami to Koushinryou. Takagi, from Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san.

Affectionate

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This goes double for tsunderes, as a certain someone made me quite fond of them.

Along with being goofy and amusing, I’m also a very affectionate person. Indeed, the guy who complains and criticizes everything he feels is beneath him is actually a teddy bear at heart. Thanks, Mom. So to have someone be just as affectionate as I am, whether through their words, actions, or otherwise, is a quick way into my heart. I enjoy praise and I enjoy the mushy, sweet stuff that comes with this holiday and any other holiday. I’m a self-proclaimed romanticist, after all.

Some may be a tad confused to see Taiga as the poster of this trait, as she’s most often referred to as “Bitch” or “TsunTsun” or “The worst character.” I, however, like to look between the lines and judge her based on her actions. And her actions include sticking with the characters she grows to love and going through with improving herself for the sake of others. She’s often roped into doing things she doesn’t want to do, but if she didn’t really want to do them, she wouldn’t. Instead, she has that loyalty to her friends to help them out any way she can. In actuality, she’s very caring, and very affectionate, but in her own way. This aspect (and more) is what makes her my favorite anime character ever.

Sometimes it’s not just about saying “I love you,” but showing that love for someone.

Characters that fit this mold: Taiga Aisaka (pictured above), from Toradora!. Eris, from Asobi ni Iku yo!. Marin, from Umi Monogatari. Papika, from Flip Flappers.

Opinionated

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Yes.

I almost thought about putting “Cynical” here, but that isn’t quite right. I’d prefer if someone were pungent enough intellectually to see through the vapid attempts from the world to use them for their will, but not a constant debbie-downer. That’s not to say cynical people are always like so, but that’s the generalization. In a nutshell, I like people who aren’t easily pleased, people who aren’t going to walk into anything and everything wanting to enjoy it. People are a lot more interesting when they have some complexity. Having opinions makes them infinitely more complex, especially if they have justifications for said opinions.

I don’t know a lot of opinionated women, personally. And I certainly don’t know many opinionated female characters in anime or otherwise. Hikigaya really is the perfect choice for this trait, though he’s the more generalized aspect. Always spitting poison and wanting to be away from all the fake people around him. This is exaggerated for the sake of appealing to a certain demographic, but I feel a balance between this cynicism and his potential for growth could make him ripe with waifu material.

This plays a little into my interest in people and their opinions, as I enjoy talking to people about what makes things good or bad or otherwise. Having a partner to discuss these things at length for long spurts is incredibly attractive, and gives me a scope of their personality and tastes. In a sense, it almost feels apathetic of me to want to learn of people from a scientific viewpoint, but I’m also listing qualities of what I would want in a “Waifu.”

Characters that fit this mold: Hachiman Hikigaya (Pictured above), from Oregairu. Haruhi Suzumiya (Maybe?), from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu.

And that’s what it takes to create my perfect waifu. If anybody would like to make a recommendation of who fits this mold closest is free to comment. Have a safe and happy Valentine’s Day, and I hope this post didn’t make you want to throw up.

Updated Thoughts on Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

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I remember high school. It was pretty good. Not a lot of drama. Met my first girlfriend. Made a few friends. Got along with my teachers. A quiet, normal, if not dull high school life. A fine time to laze my days away worrying little about my future. Looking back, I’d actually change quite a bit, but it’s not something I dwell on often as I’m not a fan of “what-if’s.” Something I didn’t do in high school was watch anime, and seeing Daily Lives of High School Boys took me back to those days when I would sit back and stare at the classmates around me as they enjoyed the youth they were destined to soil. What? I watch people. It’s fun.

It’s been five years since then. A lot has changed for me since then. I’ve developed a lot of characteristics I hope to carry with me until death, and my craft as a critic has progressed further than I could’ve imagined coming out of high school. I’ve seen over three-hundred anime titles, ranging from a variety of genres and lengths, and in that span I’ve learned a few things about what I expect out of shows and what typically makes me enjoy the experience. I’ve said many times in the past that I don’t really find anime funny, compensating for the worth of entertainment when it comes to comedy anime. Daily Lives, as it turns out, is different… at first.

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One of the key issues I have with comedy anime is consistency, something that most very well lack. It’s not like I’ve never laughed at anime; I’ve laughed at quite a few. With as little as I laugh overall, it’s hard to label any anime in particular as “funny.” I like variety, wordplay, slapstick, exaggerated expressions, and a spice of cleverness that makes me surprised by the outcome of a scenario. Daily Lives is a refreshing dose of something different, but as different as it is, it becomes common when the same is shown with every passing scene. There is variety here, with a number of different expressions and platforms for comedy, but there is a consistent theme that makes the jokes easy to decipher. It doesn’t help when they play with ongoing jokes with little difference between them.

The only exclusion to this is with Yassan, the “Literary Girl,” as I feel her meek behavior is ripe for comedic value.

A friend of mine mentioned to me that he didn’t care for this sort of “self-insert, awkward” style of comedy that Daily Lives employs. Re-watching it again, I can definitely see this perspective. Many of the jokes within the series is that of an uncomfortable silence or reaction from characters involved in a misunderstanding. Some find this funny, I find it funny in the most extreme cases. I laughed a few times within the first couple episodes of this series. As the episodes piled on, I began to slowly tilt my head onto my palm and count the seconds before each boring skit was over, so that I may find potential in the next. Whether coincidental of not, the second half of the series felt a lot more blended in its brand of comedy than the first half. There’s a scene where Tadakuni, one of three characters among the main group, makes a comment about how he’s appearing less and less as the series goes on. Almost ironically, the best scenes in the show involve him.

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Tadakuni is an interesting character in the sense that he’s the most “normal” among the boys of the show. Very rarely does he show himself to be random or idiotic, usually handling the straight man duties. Still, he has enough character to distinguish himself as someone not just “normal.” Many of the others, whether occasionally or primarily, service the comedy by being incredibly self-aware or totally loony. Without the balance that a Tadakuni character has, there’s nothing to really stop the constant assault of random, kooky, bizarre humor that either doesn’t make sense or comes across as awkwardly obnoxious. This may very well be why I didn’t care for the second half of the series… at all.

There’s also this relatable highlighting of girls constantly stereotyping boys for being rough, uncivilized animals only to have them act more so than said boys. Unfortunately, I feel this is hammered on far too thick to be seen as anything other than antagonistic. There’s a short skit at the end of each episode after the first few called “High School Girls Are Funky,” where female versions of the main male trio do things that contradict the stereotype that girls are soft, princess-like, and intelligent. It would be one thing if they simply acted unlike their gender, but instead they behave like entitled harpies, pestering anyone and anything that fell within their sight. I get the joke, they’re acting absurdly, but this is pushing the boundaries of why the third girl of the group, the one most like Tadakuni, would even willingly hang out with them. They’re unlikable characters hiding behind the guise of parody in unfunny segments that are focused on far too often.

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Many would compare this series to Nichijou, as both have a focus on defying expectations and being far more goofy than need-be. While I feel Nichijou is, overall, funnier, I also feel its a better series due to the chemistry of the characters. Daily Lives has a nice chemistry among certain groups of characters, however the line between genuine bonds and comedic partnership shrinks with time. By series’ end, one who wasn’t entranced by the comedy will likely hold a feeling of listlessness that makes them question whether the series was truly worth investing in. Some of this could play into something I’ve begun to (perhaps unfairly) expect out of comedy anime: character development. I don’t want Clannad types of character development. Just somethingDaily Lives has very, very little, oftentimes foregoing character individuality for the sake of bombarding the viewer with the same randomness that makes the characters feel less real. Nichijou had a little. Plenty of other comedy anime have some. Developing characters based on what kind of joke they’re normally associated with doesn’t really cut it.

Something I will praise is the insurmountable dedication to animation. Many of the jokes at play here would not come close to working should it not have splendid timing dedicated to the reactions. Character gags implementing a serious(ly stupid) aura are highlighted by darkness surrounding the eyes of the characters, usually signifying emotional trauma. Bodily fluids have a surprising amount of screentime, as spit and snot are occasionally jokes to break the mood. There’s a nice normality to the expressions combined with the ridiculousness of the mindset. I suppose those who enjoy absurdity being taken seriously will get a strong kick out of its humor, though I hope they enjoy it for long spurts. Characters are (intentionally) distinguishable based on hair and various accessories to their person, which are made for laughs on occasion. Everything feels very intentional, like a minefield of different ways to explore the craft of awkward/random comedy. The one complaint I have is that a lot of characters look exactly the same. Face-wise, that is. Boys look like girls, girls look like boys. Similar eyes, similar facial structure. It all kind of blends in unnecessarily.

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If the success of a re-watch were measured in beneficial difference in rating, Daily Lives would be a tremendous flop. I didn’t enjoy the series nearly as much as I did the first time, and now even has a sandy texture to the creamy surface. There’s a lot to improve on in the series that I don’t believe the mangaka cared to change—most of which involved in the favoritism of their characters. Zany trumps normal, or so one could infer by the ending half of the anime adaptation. It leaves a lot to be desired from the potential of the cast as human beings rather than caricatures. If only it offered a semblance of wit to the themes presented along with the characters to make this daily life of high school boys all the more fulfilling.

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

Thoughts on Yama no Susume (Season One) and Why I’ll Never Give Shorts High Marks

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As odd as it may be to bring this up here, but I’m very much looking forward to the release of Oshiete! Galko-chan’s standalone OVA in the coming days. I found myself charmed by the refreshingly realistic (albeit still cliché) banter among the teenage female cast. Despite this, one may be confused to see the relatively low rating I gave to the parent series—a measly five out of ten. If I enjoyed the series so much, why not rate it higher? It all has to do with the way I formulate my ratings.

Good stories take time. There are some that require less time than others, depending on the type of narrative being presented, but for the most part, I feel there’s a necessary amount of focus necessary to fully develop an enthralling and immersive experience. Take Shelter, for example, which is highly regarded for the depth of the story it presents in a puny six-minute music video. I, however, didn’t care for this as I felt it wasn’t enough to make me believe and trust the story as real, or real enough to empathize with. Such is the issue with anime shorts and those who aren’t given ample time to showcase all that it could while juggling other priorities such as entertainment value. Yama no Susume is yet another example, with twelve episodes spanning only three and a half minutes per piece.

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Many would think that seeing a four out of ten would give the indication that I didn’t care for this series. This is both true and false, as I could very well do without the experience of seeing it, but that’s not to say I didn’t like it. At best, I feel Yama no Susume’s debut season to be a harmless bundle of fun, full of cute girls deciding various things related to mountain climbing. There isn’t much that the series does to really try and flesh out the characters aside from their base personalities and precursor conflicts. The female lead, Aoi, is scared of heights due to a traumatic accident on the playground that left her with a broken arm. Her childhood friend, Hinata, made a promise with her that they would climb mountains together in the future. With this ironic contrast, how does the series decide to have Aoi get over her fears? By climbing a mountain in the third episode. Very little hesitation, very little struggle along the way. A clumsy foundation that leads to a simple slice-of-life flick with some bouts of moe to pave the way to the finish line.

A solid foundation isn’t necessary to a show’s success, sure. This feeling plays more into another reason I never rate shorts above a five or so: they feel more like a distraction than an experience; a snack instead of a meal; a bottle rocket instead of super shells. I’ve yet to experience an anime with episodes under ten minutes or so that I feel give me everything I’m looking for in objective entertainment. Perhaps this is unfair, as I’m trying to compare shows with longer runtimes and (likely) better effort to showcase something more. However, the cycle of quality based on my own interpretation of it rings true for whatever is put forth in front of me, compromising by highlighting the things that are important in making a particular work “good.” After all, were I to objectively criticize porn, a key factor would be whether or not I, ahem, become engrossed in it. I would still focus on other aspects nonetheless, but why try to criticize a horse for being a goat, eh?

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With this rises the question of whether or not Yama no Susume does well with what it tries to accomplish. What exactly does it accomplish, though? Cute girls are mountain climbing. There’s that. Aoi, however, is given a little insight into her situation and has key faults in her character highlighted as the story goes along. She’s socially awkward, hesitant in her decisions, and not confident in her own abilities. By series’ end, she does experience an ounce of growth in her resolve, resulting in a more peaceful atmosphere of events to transpire. For this, the series is worth watching, though only for those expecting the bare minimum in development. As I’ve said many times, making a character go from weak to strong is among the easiest of blueprints to execute. Anything else? Well… it’s easy-going, I suppose. I feel it makes the series more dull with only Aoi going through what most humans can relate to. Other characters simply fill space or provide to the… humor(?) of the anime. There isn’t a whole lot of comedy present. Or drama. Or romance. Or anything aside from acute tranquility.

So despite the low score, Yama no Susume as an anime short isn’t necessarily a bad watch. It just doesn’t do much different from those within its own classification, such as Oshiete! Galko-chan or Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken, both of which I feel are better shorts overall. With its second season being bumped up to a two-cour series with eleven-minute runtimes, perhaps it can do better with what it couldn’t do with its first batch. That, however, doesn’t make Yama no Susume’s first season any less forgettable, though not without some enthusiasm.

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

Ruining SE (System Engineer)

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(Note, as always, that “ruining” is akin to “spoiling in a mocking way.”)

It’s humorous to me when a manga goes so far to tease every sexual urge of its demographic while also trying to maintain an air of sincerity. Of course, going into a manga with a premise like SE‘s, one shouldn’t be surprised by the abundantly ecchi atmosphere that is to arise from almost every situation. A college boy who’s very competent in computer programming decides to talk to a girl who often rides the same train as him, only to accidentally knock over her bag and reveal that she has something referred to as a “sex sleeve.” Well, sex was mentioned in the manga, may as well make it the driving force behind everything that happens.

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Much to the boy’s surprise, the girl is conveniently a genius, responsible for an aspiring company focusing on the construction of the perfect… sex sleeve. Her hopes and dreams lie on the ultimate sexual pleasure of the male kind. Yes, of all things a young, attractive, docile woman can go crazy for, it’s masturbation tools. And crazy she goes, leading to an overdrawn, tensile display of getting the reader up just enough, only to delay the finish to another time. This is no Super Mario Bros., either. The journey there isn’t exactly memorable or fun.

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SE is a manga that pleases its audience through use of both sexual fan service and narrative fan service. Sexual fan service needs no explanation, but narrative fan service may need some elaboration. When reading a story, one might notice some odd events transpiring without any sort of build-up, commitment, or any contextual continuity. Something along the lines of a hero saving a princess, only to end up with a random cohort they met along the way, with an added ending scene where the couple live peacefully with children and all their hopes and dreams fulfilled. The sort of fairy tale “Happily Ever After” fill-in that occasionally feels shoe-horned in to appease the major audience. While I understand the peace that comes with revealing a satisfying ending and giving every character a “good end,” there are moments when I feel the intentions behind it feel arbitrary, leading to a metaphorical blow to the jaw rather than a warm hug from Heaven.

What most dissatisfies me with the execution of SE is that everything feels so two-faced. To appease the audience, to appeal to those primal urges. To give the smug sense of the author knowing what the common reader wants and doing so without doing enough to conflict with the impact of the story. The main couple almost had sex. They’ll be embarrassed about it tomorrow at work, hahaha! Let’s repeat the process about eight times before having them actually do anything substantial! That’ll fill the chapters up! It’s so convenient that the female lead was in love with the male lead on first sight because he looked in her general direction like a stalker. It’s common sense that women are attracted to potential sexual predators because they’re secretly super horny!

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The carefree nature of the manga only adds to the narrative fan service I’ve previously alluded to. Nothing is at stake, and whatever is will obviously come to fruition because everything has to be accomplished for the sake of a good ending. That’s assuming anything is at stake, as despite the fact that the female lead’s company sports a whopping five employees, including herself, who single-handedly develops most of the shit she thinks of because she’s a “genius,” nothing ever really gets done. There is a false assumption that something may get done during the opening chapters when everything is being explained to the male lead, but is quickly derailed once the power couple finds an interest in railing each other. Whenever something is getting done, then faces a problem, it’s usually the fault of the female lead, who’s too occupied with thinking about sucking dick (Not exaggerating) to use her “genius” abilities to get said thing done. The manga in its entirety feels like a show, a raunchy, empty show about a girl who wants to fuck until she’s ripped in half playing Bill Gates with her “supreme intellect” and a boy who happens to wander inside and become the object of the female lead’s sexual urges. It’s okay, though. It’s totally consensual. She’s super hot, why wouldn’t it be? Icing on the cake, nothing ever goes wrong long-term. Everything is resolved and the company becomes successful and every conceivable couple becomes a couple and everyone is happy. Fuck me.

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There is a glimmer of satisfaction, however, to those hoping for any sort of positive feature to SE. Despite the story and characters being gobs of gleefully sexual goop, there is a single character who is, to some extent, tolerable. He joins the cast late and is implied to have a sort of romantic connection to another established character who is actually two-faced. Non-affectionately referred to as the “Silver Bullet,” this old man has a tendency to insult the ever-shitting fuck out of the little puny-pussies in the office, similarly to the way I’m phrasing his introduction in this post. Call it my cynicism identifying with a character who has zero-tolerance for others and takes their job seriously, but despite him being an obvious pain in the ass and only slightly useful to the tasks assigned of him, he makes the pages go by with more enthusiasm. This character is probably the only good I can really say about SE as a whole, as its attempts at comedy, romance, and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS! are all putrid. The art isn’t too bad, though compared to more chic titles that have come out in the last few years, it doesn’t much hold up. Need any more indication? Look at the cover image of this post and look how s-k-i-n-n-y the female lead is.

A long, hard, and stiff story short, SE would be good as a mindless, sexual guilty read. Something along the lines of Yomeiro Choice, but more grounded in reality (in some ways). It doesn’t challenge itself and only gives the reader the most mundane of narrative and character foundations. The intrigue presented by the premise baited me into a victim. Don’t let it get you, too.

Oh, and the female lead has some sort of disease that is possibly fatal but she lives in the end anyway so whatever.

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