Thoughts on Shinsekai yori (Spoilers)

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(All images were obtained via Google search.)

I had heard many good things about this series, but the full impact of just how good it was didn’t hit until I actually looked into my friends’ ratings for it. Three people, whose opinions I respect tremendously, gave this a 9, 10, and 10, with two placing it among their favorites. Some time after I started the series, the one who gave it a 9 confided in me and admitted that she didn’t know why she doesn’t just bump it up to a 10 and put it on her favorites. With that in mind, all three essentially gave the series a perfect score. As a curious critic, this is something I cannot ignore. So, after finishing my recent rewatch of Ano Natsu de Matteru, I placed this series as a first-priority watch.

It’s really quite ironic that I viewed this so soon after posting a piece on the phrase “It gets better,” because Shinsekai yori is a perfect specimen of its concept. Along with the vague “good things” I had heard about the series, I had also heard that it doesn’t “get good” until about episode 12 or so. Conveniently enough, this is true, as the first half of this series is muddled in inconsistent handling of both matters of intrigue and emotional empathy. Truth be told, I almost dropped this series around the ninth episode, as I felt all that they had shown felt forced and immensely abrasive, with little to show any sort of reasoning behind it. It’s a series that remains fairly intriguing throughout, but all the technical talk and fantastic mumbo-jumbo makes it a chore to take all of it in if there’s nothing worth truly listening for.

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One of the things argued in the linked piece above is that the payoff to spending so much time building up to something has to be worth it, or else one would feel let down by the time wasted. Shinsekai yori not only makes up for the time wasted, but by series’ end, it completely envelops any and all expectations it had set up for itself and unveils the portrait of a cunning and beautiful mosaic of creativity. Indeed, the first half of the series can be a difficult hurdle to jump across, as the foreshadowing and intricate lacing of seemingly meaningless ideas come up empty for long periods. Should one do that and persevere, they’ll manage to find that not only is the payoff wonderful, but the realization that every minute detail from before was absolutely, 100% necessary for the impending emotional climax of the series. Again, as said in the linked article, a series worth the wait needs to show that the wait isn’t something they set up to provide filler; Shinsekai yori is a powerful series because of the wait, and not in spite of it.

Oh, how captivating this series truly is! Ambitious isn’t even close to the type of praise this series deserves. Not only does it shy away from 99% of the clichés that make up modern anime, but it feels as though it creates every facet of its world and characters, leaving no detail untouched, no history underdeveloped. Almost similarly to A Monster Calls, its almost mechanical ability to control every twist and turn of the story and its characters reaction to them is like that of watching a mathematician write complex calculations in front of a whole country with speed and precision. Unlike the former, Shinsekai yori manages to remain almost entirely human (in the second half) due to an established understanding of how to sculpt the characters to appear predominantly genuine.

Characters are, however, one of the tricky aspects of the series. It was because of these characters that I almost dropped the series in the first place. One of the things I typically criticize of Gen Urobuchi’s writing (who wasn’t involved with this series) is that his characters better serve the plot than distinguish their independence through their personality. Series such as Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero are anime with near-universal praise, but are series I find severely flawed due to a lack of organic characters. Shinsekai yori faces this issue as well, especially within the episodes where they’re shown as teenagers. The prevalence of homosexual relations in the series is a topic that’s been debated to death ever since the series first aired, but it’s something I feel should be taken seriously. Not because it’s homosexual, but because it feels incredibly out of nowhere. The pairing of Satoru and Shun specifically is one I find to be incredibly random. Saki and Maria, fine. They seemed to be fairly close from the beginning, but Satoru seemed a much closer match for Saki, seeing as he went through the first queerat campaign with her and makes a good opposite of her serious hesitation. Seeing this all play out upon the eighth episode almost gave me an excuse to save myself the effort of going any further. The few episodes afterwards gave even more opportunity, as as controversial as this may seem, I was never a huge fan of Shun’s character.

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Shun is not a bad character, though he is the probably the worst character among the five in “Group 1.” His only purpose throughout the series seemed to serve as Saki’s main love interest. And when he eventually disappears from the group, his only appearances return via nightmares and psychotic visions, only to go full Jedi Master and is able to speak to Saki near the end. While I praise a good portion of the actions that are taken from a psychological viewpoint, Shun’s sudden appearance near the end is among the most illogical aspects of the anime. The one thing in my mind that could be considered a cheap deus ex machina. It is also my one true criticism of the series’s story, as while the subjective monotony felt during the build-up scenes is calculated into my overall impressions, it is ultimately justified.

One of the most enjoyable spans in this series was simply the first few episodes. Seeing the cast as children—playing, laughing, interacting, showing off their quirks—was great in establishing who they were and where their place was in the story. They felt like real kids and real people. Once the queerats became involved around episode six or so, it adjusted to this tense, darkened view that typically accompanies grittier popular Netflix shows. To see the characters react so readily prepared, hardly scared, and so stiffly wooden made it boring to watch. Satoru in particular felt he went from 12 to 24 in an instant, despite his laid-back, adventurous nature. This continued through until episode eleven or so, as characters simply filled in the blanks of what characters in their situation would do in general. It lacked so much dramatic tension outside of what the story was kneading in wait that I watched with the idea that betters things were to come, even if I had to suffer within the present. It wasn’t until the appearance of Tomiko, Satoru’s grandmother, that I began to see the series as something of a pleasant viewing.

And then I became horribly addicted around episode sixteen.

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It may be naive to even suggest this comparison, seeing as the series are so fundamentally different, but Shinsekai yori almost reminds me of Suzanne Collin’s Gregor the Overlander series. Both deal with political structure within a certain society, one dealing with more than just humankind. Both portray the humans to be absurdly cautious in their customs, and vain in their outlook of superiority to other species. Both teeter the lines between portraying humankind as a symbol of purity and a symbol of selfish hostility. Both have different species refer to humans as murderers (“Killers” in Gregor; “Death Gods” in Shinsekai). Both (at some point) deal with an opposing force combating humankind with a sort of “Messiah-like” instrument of destruction (“The Fiend” in Shinsekai; “The Bane” in Gregor). Death is a prevalent part of both series. And both deal with prophecies or visions of an untimely future. The Underland Chronicles is technically (I wonder sometimes) for kids, so it doesn’t have the same privilege of pushing the boundaries as far as Shinsekai yori does. Still, there’s a lot of intriguing similarities between the two, and whether that’s more of an insult to Shinsekai yori or a compliment to Gregor the Overlander, I’m unsure. I enjoy both immensely.

Looking at Shinsekai yori through the lens of a cautionary tale, the presence of the queerats and humanity’s treatment of them is so excellently handled that, despite everything that happened, I ended up siding with the queerats. Squealer is among my favorite characters in the series simply for being so astute and forthcoming in his ideals. He makes for a very intriguing antagonist, and a very convincing protagonist. His ability to command and speak his way through trouble is one of the most powerful aspects of the series, as it highlights the irony of where it implies he gathers most of his knowledge from and how strongly humanity ignores it. Even more so, it’s implied from his first meeting with Satoru and Saki that he had his own agenda, betraying them for the sake of his people, only to quickly apologize later and get back on their good side to give himself more chances in the future. The social commentary involved with his high intellect speaks volumes for the comparison between him and all of humanity, as many different people would be willing to side with either one, giving meaning to queerats and humans being one in the same.

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In a short note, animation was incredibly appealing and artistically fascinating, with a wide array of different psychological sequences and elaborate interpretations to keep the series more intriguingly compact. Fluidity, however, was somewhat of an issue. I saw a number of different scenes where characters’ movements were rushed and static, along with some overall bizarre physical manipulation. These were in normal scenes, mind you, not when the series can get away with being absurd within the context of the series’s fantasy genre. It made the opening episodes feel a little more off-brand, and that the crusade of creativity was only in terms of writing than visual splendor.

In conclusion… watch the series. Much in the way that I would actively and immediately recommend anime such as Katanagatari, Toradora!, Dennou Coil, and Spice & Wolf, Shinsekai yori has become a must-watch placement in my carefully structured and 100% objectively accurate chart of great anime. It beautifully blends both mental fascination and emotional stimulation in a way many others could only dream of doing, with every finer detail being used to pursue the conquest of complete quality. Shinsekai yori is as gripping an investment for me since Dennou Coil, a series I watched nearly a year ago. There is no reason not to watch it, so do yourself a favor and watch what may become your next favorite anime.

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

Ruining Denpa teki na Kanojo

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

(Disclaimer: All images were obtained via Google.)

Do you enjoy Kara no Kyoukai but hate the fact that the main characters aren’t in high school? Did you find the gratuitous nature of Another’s dramatic atmosphere almost too fitting for a bunch of middle schoolers? Don’t you adore the method of placing two polar opposites together that eventually become an inseparable pair (Sexual tension included!)? Denpa teki na Kanojo is a series built around your tastes, young one! Be thrilled that this was created specifically for you and only you!

Take heart, for trouble is afoot! A crazed psycho-maniac is killing people of the small town of Whogivesadamn! But before that, it flashes a number of images and words that are meaningless… for now. OoOoOoOoOoOoOo! A young man with blonde hair and an affinity for yankees is approached by a kawaii little sucker whose eyes are covered to make her stand out. She claims he was a king in his past life, and that she was his royal servant. Blondie, because he has a brain, promptly tells her to GTFO and tries to stay far away from her. But then, the next night, someone who was being pissy with Blondie is murdered! Could the psycho-maniac be… the strange girl he met before?

Nope. It’s some random fuck.

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What does matter is that the random fuck is related to a cutie in Blondie’s class who he’d like to give a good thumping. Turns out, the cutie’s actually a bigger psycho-maniac than her psycho-maniac brother. One can tell because she goes on a giant spiel about her tragic past and her angsty motivations, a la Kara no Kyoukai, while trying to murder Blondie. Fortunately, Strange Girl has magic sensing powers and comes in at just the right time to sav—ACTUALLY Blondie gets stabbed and then the psycho-cutie starts going crazy all over again because she didn’t actually want to kill him because Blondie held her for six seconds before he collapsed from the stab wound. The moral of the story is that people who have traumatic pasts just want to be held by delinquent anime boys and be told that their existence matters and they’re okey-dokey. Blondie survives and everything goes back to normal. WAIT, WAIT! DON’T LEAVE! WE HAVE ANOTHER EPISODE!

Our journey continues with the two becoming closer than ever, with sprinkles of lust ever present between the two. Sound interesting? I hope not, because it’s only hinted at and made into humor about twice. Fuck off, romanticists. Blondie is accused of digging for booty on an express train when Strange Girl’s sister comes and saves him by pretending they’re dating, leading for a very forced kiss between the two. The incident becomes a thing at Blondie’s school and he almost gets in trouble with the student council, but the president tells the vice president to STFU because it was never proven. Strange little incidents start happening all around, like people getting tripped, pies in the face, and bombs going off in libraries. Do any of these actually happen in the show? Maybe! How much do you trust me?

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The events start becoming more and more dangerous, prompting Strange Girl to investigate into the matter personally. She discovers a club dedicated to acquiring “Happiness points” or some shit and deduces that the events are happening due to the head of the club, who runs under a pen name. This doesn’t mean anything because she’s found almost immediately. Blondie, Strange Girl, and the president go to a run-down building where the vice president ends up being the bitch behind the pranks. An incredibly long and convoluted explanation reveals that the vice president is retarded and believes in karma to an absurd degree. She’s causing people misery because she thinks that’ll make her happy, such that if no one is happy, she may become happier in relation. Remember that line in The Incredibles where Syndrome says something like, “When everyone’s super, no one is”? Kind of like that. That’s a damn good movie.

Anyway, they go back to the vice president’s house before all that is explained and find out she lived a horrible life just like the psycho-cutie in the last episode. It also turns out her brother was dating the president at one point, but she broke up with him, so he killed himself in front of her. Those crazy kids and their fragile hearts! Ever since then, the vice president’s life began to progressively get worse, so she wants the president to make up for it by being mutilated or something. This weirdo also keeps the corpse of her mother in her house. As it turns out, Strange Girl was watching a lot of Naruto that day and exhibited—

THE POWER OF TALKING!!!

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—and told the vice president that she’s dumb and her brother took the happiness away from the family and not the president. She promptly goes (more) insane and starts crying like a bitch baby. Everything then goes back to normal. Zippity-doo-dah. Wait. Wait, hold on. Something else happened. Oh! That’s right! Blondie is standing next to a street and the president walks up behind him and looks super dirty and starts talking crazy. She laments how horrible of a person she is that she broke up with the brother for her own gain (Because breaking up with someone is always for the other person), so she decides to follow the vice president’s same mindset and pushes Blondie out into the street while a truck zooms by. He dies! JK! She dies! Indeed, at the last moment (Which is not shown), the truck swerves away from Blondie and straight into the president! Because the driver CLEARLY HAD AN AGENDA AGAINST PRESIDENTS OF STUDENT COUNCILS. Strange Girl shows up because she can still sense Blondie for some reason and cries because he almost died and promptly starts undressing him in the middle of the road. JK! She just cries, but man, wouldn’t that be hilarious? Blondie already got her sister to strip down to her panties in this episode… Oh, did I not mention that part? Well, y’see—

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

Thoughts on Infinite Stratos 2 (Explicit, Spoilers)

Fuck.

Well, uh, yeah. This is an anime where everything about it stabs me in the throat with how ridiculously disgusting everything about it is. The mere existence of this waste of a one-cour series goes out of its way to destroy every fiber of logic hidden under lock in key inside my head. This is not only one of the worst anime of the year (if not the worst), it’s one of the worst anime I’ve ever seen in my life. And why am I so harsh on this particular anime? Because it’s a sequel. And because it’s a sequel, I expect the sequel to fix some of the things that the original series had done wrong. It took everything the first season did right and took them in the opposite direction. Off an airplane. Onto a spiky mountain. On fire. In Hell.

First off, the plot. Oh, the fucking plot. Here’s the plot: Ichika has five women swooning after him. All of their personalities are either stupid or never explored because what is character development? In addition to these garbage characters are two new characters whom are subsequently added to his harem later on in the show, though one of them seems more like a harem pimp than a harem participant. While this anime is an utter waste, I will give credit to the minimal attention and development that is given to one of the new characters. She’s shy, she’s lonely, and most of all, she feels inferior to her older sister, who is way, way more bizarre and suggestively minded. I’m not sure why you would feel inferior to that behavior. Regardless, the whole arc surrounding her actually casued me to care. Me? Care? Fuck. That’s impressive. It lasted two episodes, then it was back to fucking drooling over a mindless, unlikable monkey of a main character.

And the worst thing about the plot? IT’S THE SAME FUCKING PLOT AS THE FIRST. IT IS! I HAVE PROOF! Let me explain: The first season introduced Ichika and what’s her tits, his childhood friend. It told about how Ichika is mysteriously the only person who can pilot an IS. By the way, that’s looked into for a whopping eight seconds, then no one ever questions it ever again. Anyway, throughout the first season, it’s a combination of building Ichika’s harem, while throwing in fan service and harem bait in between, while sprinkling it with actual plot as each new character is introduced. Then it ends with some BIG plot that seems EARTH SHATTERINGLY IMPORTANT, when in reality, it’s just the creator of the IS being a piece of shit to society. It ends with a (somewhat) touching moment between Ichika and his childhood tits. The end.

The second season drives right in as if everything was hunky dory. Seeing as Ichika’s harem is already large enough, the series figured it was time to slow down the harem building and pump-up the unneeded fan service and harem bait. This is essentially 75% of the series, while the other 20% is the introduction of Blue Bitch and Blue Bitch’s Imouto and the remaining 5% is based on actual plot. This continues on until the final one and a half episodes (JUST LIKE THE FIRST SEASON) when some unnamed bad guys come on the scene and fuck shit up. Ichika almost dies (JUST LIKE IN THE FIRST SEASON) and sees a vision of his sister or something and then he comes back to life (This time, though, it’s shown off-screen; but regardless, JUST LIKE IN THE FIRST SEASON) and beats the bad guys (or whatever). It’s then revealed that the whole point behind these bad guys is because the creator of IS likes fucking shit up (JUST LIKE IN THE FIRST SEASON). With two minutes to spare, unlike the first season (finally), instead of giving some alone time between Ichika and one of his harem squad, the anime decides to show a high-larious hot springs scene where they conveniently get everybody naked in the same pool. Cute screams ensue and all of my tears are rapidly washing down my face for ever giving this show a chance. Hooray.

Characters? Pfft. No. I’ll describe ’em to you in a cool way.

Ichika: Fuck you.

Childhood Friend #One: No attention necessary as she’s not completely brainless.

Childhood Friend #Dos: Looks Hispanic, yet claims she’s Chinese. Don’t believe her. She’s brainless, so lots of harem bait for her.

British EH, WOT: Perhaps the most brainless. Sucks at cooking. Gets a plot device because of her uselessness.

Charlotte: A character who seems to be a fan favorite. She doesn’t seem brainless, but she’s generic. I don’t see why she’s a fan favorite.

Gray-Haired German Pirate: My favorite character when she was introduced in the first season. She turned into Fuck you, England at the end of the first season and all throughout the second. Fuck her.

Blue Bitch: She has blue hair. She also likes to molest Ichika for no God damn reason. She seems to be infatuated with him… because she’s a girl and he’s a boy. Fuck logic.

Blue Bitch’s Imouto: Best character in the series. If a third season comes out, they will probably destroy her, so I told myself not to become fond of her. Weird fuckin’ hairstyle, though.

All the Bad Guys: No background, so lolnoonecares.

Everyone else: Was there any other characters?

The art has improved from the first season. Of course it has. The first season was 2011; this is 2013. Why the fuck wouldn’t it be better? I will say this, though, the CGI for the IS armor is still clunky and awkward at points, so I feel as though the animators were like “HEY, LET’S FOCUS ON BREASTSTSTSTS INSTEAD OF ACTION, OKAY? K. COOL.” The character designs were memorable. Of course they’re memorable, this is a harem. Everybody gotta look-a different, buddy. There’s samurai and loli and kind girl and hueless pirate and two blue action figures and… uh… British barbie? Everything about this art is typical of the times. Typical stellar animation because fan service always gotta be top form. Typical attractive character design because harems always gotta be purty. Typical crappy CGI because no one cares. However, I will say one thing: there was a particular scene where Ichika and Childhood friend #1 were walking together down a dark street and her fucking hair was twitching like it wanted to get off of her head. It was hysterical. Truly emmy-worthy.

Sound? Yeah, that.

I would say what I think of this anime, but I think my overall tone makes it fairly clear. This anime is awful. Not only does it give nothing to the anime whatsoever, but it actually regresses into a worse anime. The plot is almost identical, the characters act the same (or all revert to a typical harem-y fashion), the comedy isn’t funny (DEAR GOD IS IT NOT FUNNY), and when a plot actually arises, no one cares, because there was so little build-up, so little background, so little foreshadowing. It just seems like a ploy to get the anime to the next episode. Either that, or it tries to pass itself off as not a “complete waste of time.” I know better. I’ve seen the first season and the first season actually gave more to its characters than the second season ever cared to give them. So, if you like seeing anime characters in animal outfits, you should look forward to episode all of them.