Entry #21: Eureka Seven (SoA 2017)


(Recommended, once again, by a complex rodent.)

Should I ever do a [REDUX] version of my Top 10 Anime That Crashed and Burned article, this series would definitely make the list.

I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a series that outstays its welcome quite like Eureka Seven. Not that others don’t, but this is a case where its welcome stretches on far longer than most. The last fifteen episodes of its fifty-episode runtime felt like an everlasting gobstopper of suffering. I cannot stress enough how horribly this anime ends, and even its lackluster, happy-go-lucky ending feels like a spit in the face with all the good it had done prior. By itself, there isn’t too much to complain about. The real issue is that it devolves from its former state to satisfy the ultimate clichés of a world-bearing adventure flick full of action, complexity, and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

Simplifying it to its core essentials, the last fifteen episodes does what three or four episodes could’ve done if it had ever just gotten to the point. Eureka Seven is filled to the brim (not just in the last fifteen episodes) with filler, episodes that pass off as something substantial in terms of character development or plot progression, but mean next to nothing to the big picture. The way it’s done is also fairly contrived, courtesy of characters never being honest with each other or themselves and lots of random side-character shenanigans. It feels like, and I type this with as much dismaying irony as possible, shounen. Because it is, very much so, a shounen. Just not the worst kind.

What makes the disaster of the finale so unbearable is that the series has good qualities to it—many good qualities to it. I would recommend this series in a heartbeat if it were, say, cut in half. Trim the series of its unnecessary fat and it could satisfy even the pickiest of consumers. The series plays favorites, unfortunately, but those who are favored certainly get the full front of development, including Renton, Eureka, Holland, and Talho (best girl). Still, many characters aren’t ever truly ignored, sharing screentime every so often if only to showcase their one-note personalities. And the animation! Oh, the animation is splendid, especially for something made in the mid-2000’s. I find the designs fascinating and fairly fresh, especially with Eureka, who looks more than meets the eye. There’s also a diversity of different characters that give something for everyone, even if all of them don’t flourish.

Again, Eureka Seven almost gained a quick recommendation from me, if not for a wavering and cliché-filled ending bunch of episodes. They take an episode to play soccer for no discernible reason, right before a hugely important showdown with the main antagonist… who appears only episodes before. Basically, this series is pretty good until it eventually becomes trash. The end. Too abrupt? I wish this series could be.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C+

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

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 #19: Higashi no Eden (SoA 2017)

eden of the east 3

(Recommended by a coasting chatter.)

They may as well have translated this title as Eden of the Least. Here is yet another example of a series not taking itself to its full potential, but due in part to there not being enough time to get everything fully fulfilled. In the first few episodes, characters are established, their personalities are bursting, and their interactions are perfectly realistic within the confusing introduction. Everything within the shadows reveals itself at a nice pace and the manner in which things are brought up are entertaining to see. The combo of a strange boy with unknown origins and a girl whose trying to become something in society are a charming pair, with even more intrigue involved with knowing the “mysteries” behind each character. What’s provided to the viewer early on is a promising masterpiece in waiting—only if one is willing to wait, as this series isn’t.

Something of the same vein as KiznaiverHigashi no Eden suffers from a very rushed and incredibly unfulfilling finale. The weight of the plot that is to be revealed is far greater than what the series can develop in a mere eleven episodes. Part Mirai Nikki, part Ghost in the Shell, the atmosphere of the overall conflict affects the world, and the participants are trapped within a game that they cannot escape from. However, the emphasis of the game is to change the world for the better. So, what makes it better? The series hardly seems interested in answering that, such for the sake of trying to tie everything together as well as they could under the time allotted. The ending suffers for it, and if not for the two sequel films, it would become a story filled with an underwhelming sense of bravado, brushed under the rug without the tools to help it grow.

eden of the east 1

Almost ironically, the longer the series goes on, the more it crams itself with things to develop. Much like a shounen hero bearing the weight of everyone’s grief on his shoulders, Higashi no Eden continues to pile on thing after thing until it’s crawling towards the finish line. (Many) More characters, more plot developments, more moral graying, and more things to add to the already enormously lenient plot that needs to be filled to make sense. It already doesn’t, as the very foundation of why the game exists in the first place and the capabilities of the players’ powers is far too vague to take seriously, but why not try and establish a little security? By the final moments, everything’s so cluttered that one forgets why they even cared in the first place.

But there is a lot of good here. It’s just unrealized good that can’t find any solace within the junkyard of unnecessary slop. The main couple are, to some extent, developed and have wonderful chemistry. The humor isn’t bad, the pacing is good up until the final episodes, and without the easy plotholes formed around the power of the players of the game, the intrigue behind Eden’s mystery is well-established. It constantly keeps one’s attention through baiting more clarity on the male lead’s origins and his relationships with those around him. The payoff is lousy, though the build-up is fairly consistent in its allure.

eden of the east 2

On the topic of “consistency,” animation is of the same caliber. While not glossy or particularly unique, the animation in Higashi no Eden allows a lot of the humor and the realistic situations to feel more real. Not without zany overreactions, which I would argue is a positive, the comedy aspect is underused, but sprinkled just enough to liven up certain scenarios that may otherwise qualify as dull. Standard as it may be, I quite liked the designs of the characters, particularly the main couple. They fit their characters’ quirks perfectly; the normal, hopeful female and the mysterious, quick-witted male. Their faces remind me a tad of modern-day Digimon character designs, with a touch of Studio Ghibli. There were never any noticeable fluctuations in animation, though some shortcuts were taken every once in a while.

It’s an easy watch, but an unfulfilling one on top of it. I would almost feel more comfortable telling people to shy away from the series due to its rushed ending, but without seeing the sequel films, I can’t make that call. It’s entirely possible those films can justify what the series wanted to do in its limited time table. Until that point, the series itself is somewhat of a time-waster, promising a number of interesting details only to have the final product be pretty ordinary. All that once seemed to be a reason to keep going is basically abandoned by the end in favor of the major plotline. The same applied to my tolerance.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

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

Entry #18: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (SoA 2017)

shigatsu 4

(Recommended, once again, from somewhere over the rainbow.)

Imagine, if you will, a stone. This stone has been sitting, completely motionless, on the untainted soil of a far-off rural place for decades. No fear of nature or mankind can deter the stone from moving from its spot upon the isolated plain. Resolute in its stature, it occupies the space it feels true to embody, comfortable in its blissful state of hibernation. Such time has passed and the stone never wavers—no wind so strong or bouts of irrigation too severe could stir the rock from its rightful place. Forever holding, always withstanding. The stone carries on wordlessly, motionless.

Now let me ask you a question: after imagining that short snippet, full of pseudo-intellectual musings and blunt determination, do you care at all about that stone? No, of course you don’t. Because it’s a fucking stone.

Shigatsu no Kimi no Uso is a lot like that stone, carrying forth in its stationary state. With it comes the most prominent flaw that, perhaps excusable, effectively destroys everything this anime hopes to accomplish: it’s artificial. It’s fake. It’s not real. It’s a mirage, an illusion, a decoy, insufficient in its authenticity. Like the stone, it is not worth caring for; and like the stone, it carries on regardless.

These characters, this story that they’re placed in. Their thoughts, their motivations, their actions, the way symbolic things seem to just happen out of circumstance. Everything feels so forcibly overindulgent, so egotistically self-serving that it damn near insults me that it tries to parade itself as this David among anime. Its atmosphere is repugnant, devoid of the soft touch necessary to really provoke the harrowing themes presented in a relatable and realistic tone. Very few times does it succeed in allowing what it tries too hard to evoke truly unravel in an un-condescending fashion.

shigatsu 2

In short, the characters do not feel real. The setting does not feel real. Shigatsu in its entirety feels like a carefully constructed ruse to manipulate the audience into caring about puppets in human clothing. A lot of this is attributed to the writing, which is atrocious. Constantly whispering the most overdramatic cues, things that the viewer can perfectly see without the use of words—oh, how this anime adores to listen to itself speak. There’s too much jabbering, too much emphasis on telling the viewer exactly what to think and how to feel, instead of letting the imagery speak for itself. Like the author was scared that a moment without obvious self-reflection through monologue would tear down the foundation of their beautiful sanctuary of a drama. If these characters could go a single moment without thinking about how pitiful their existence is, perhaps it wouldn’t be so obvious that everything will be okay by the end.

This hostile nature shows through even more about halfway through the series, when the arc of the male lead in a sense “concludes” and focuses more on the side-characters, none of whom I care about. The exploration of the childhood friend’s attraction to the male lead is so boring, so unfulfilling that I almost wonder if I’m watching a completely different series. On its own, I wouldn’t complain nearly as much, but these characters… they’re all so mirrored by their ideals and/or character archetypes that they may as well not even try. Being that they’re a part of this series, with this writing and this atmosphere, makes their development doomed to fail—in the most melodramatic and self-introspective way possible.

shigatsu 3

But then there are outliers: the rival pianists opposite the male lead. Initially, they’re the same manner of puppetry as everyone else, but as the series progresses and the three begin to see the way in which they improve one another as musicians, it becomes… actually worthwhile. The scene in which the three sit down and enjoy egg sandwiches together (IF NOT FOR THE WRITING MAKING THEM SPOUT UNNECESSARY SHIT THAT IS PERFECTLY OBVIOUS TO THE EYE) is actually heartwarming, and made me somewhat wonder how the series would’ve fared if they cut out the romance aspects (as in cutting blondie and childhood friend out completely) and focused on pure competition arcs. After all, the competitions were the points where the anime became… not-as-obnoxious-but-still-somewhat-obnoxious.

Despite all that I complained about previously and the still withstanding hostility present with the series, the writing and the atmosphere are the only things that really drag this series down. Large aspects as they are, they’re the only things that can be seen as major flaws with the series. Not to mention, these aspects are almost frustratingly controversial, as what I see as overdramatic, others could see as necessary. What I see as puppets for characters, others could see as characters with genuine heart and complexity. These aspects are the only things I feel can be combated with this series, at least from a technical aspect. Everything else ranges from “alright” to truly spectacular.

Most prominently, and perhaps most important to this series’s success (from a cynic’s viewpoint) is the wonderful animation. Shigatsu is a gorgeous anime, one cannot deny that. The designs are a great blend of realistic and typical anime, highlighting facial features such as lips and cheeks and what-not. Even more so, animation is fairly consistent in being top-of-the-line. When the series wants to convey the feelings of the characters, it can absolutely do so. Some of the most beautiful representations of emotions can be found here, if not trying to compete against the writing. If the series would just stop talking, a lot of these moments could become fantastically immersive.

shigatsu 1

Here’s a controversial statement: I liked the comedy in this series. Well, that statement isn’t entirely accurate. It’s not that the comedy is particularly funny, but it’s spirited and animated with such energy that I can’t help but find it charming. It reminds me a lot of Miman Renai and a little of Kill la Kill‘s bouncy exuberance. Obviously the mood is different here, but it features much of the same over-the-top absurdity that makes it fun despite it. This also made me wonder how the series would’ve fared if it decided to be a slice-of-life comedy instead of a hyper-mega-force drama. Is it a bad sign that I keep imagining what a series would be like if it wasn’t the series it already was?

Essentially, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a stone that tries to become the most pitiful and moving stone to ever grace the earth. Except it’s a stone, an inanimate object, that only the biggest treehuggers would care for. Obviously, the accolades and popularity surrounding this anime makes my opinion on it within the minority, but that’s the cost of being within a demographic so keen on empathy. I guess you could say it’s THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! at work, performing overtime, on Thanksgiving, on every planet in the solar system.

Personal Score: C-

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.

Entry #16: Drifters (SoA 2017)

drifters 3

(Recommended, once again, by Cake-o’s Bakery.)

It’s ironic that I ended up watching this directly after Arslan Senki (and that it was recommended by the same person), as both series share many of the same flaws. Whereas Arslan Senki managed to make something out of its story through political intrigue and clearly focusing on such, Drifters is more of an anarchist tribute to Mortal Kombat’s early years. Its story is established and little more, leading the way to boundless amounts of blood, gore, and profanity. This is not a series you’d want your kids to learn from.

Here lies the million-dollar question: What does it all mean? The blood shed, the slurs spouted, the input of historical figures parading the battlegrounds of another world. How does Drifters manage to turn this into a coherent and immersive experience for the viewer? By employing the most safe and inoffensive plot in all of anime. A fantasy world after death is in a power struggle between two people, and both are collecting recruits to fight for their side. One is the good side (despite the “non-good” people) and one is the bad side. The good side wins (with no effort) because they are the good guys. But alas, the season ends with an open ending, so that the second season can come through and leave people clamoring for more. How can I ever live without knowing if the good guys win or not? It’s almost like I haven’t seen this story approximately 258 times in the past few years.

drifters 1

Obvious sarcasm aside, the way the story is presented and how its development is essentially abandoned due to the focus on the series’s characters leaves me to believe that it is something I like to call a “Placeholder setting.” A setting that is only there to justify why characters are there or why certain events happen so that everything else becomes free game. Think of old Super Mario games. Mario runs from left to right, dodging Goombas and Koopas to get to the castle at the end of the path. Why? Because he’s on a quest to save the Princess. Nothing more needs to be established. The rest is explored through Mario’s adventures. Placeholder setting. Drifters is the same way. Characters are transported to a fantasy world to fight for a cause they may not even believe in against an opposing force. Nothing more; the rest is established by their conquest. Placeholder setting. With this context, I can only assume that the story cannot be taken seriously or cannot hold a lot of weight toward the anime’s quality. That, in turn, leaves me with one thing to critique: characters.

The main stars here are incredibly famous figures in the world’s history—most notably people within wars or skirmishes. There’s Oda Nobunaga, because when is he ever not in one of these? Joan of Arc is in here, Rasputin is in here, Adolf Hitler is mentioned at one point, and so on. Adding all of these characters together is evident that this is going to be an all-out war of egos and power, and to some extent it is. What it also is is really boring, and at its lowest points, unbearable. No character really establishes themselves as more than a one-track minded pawn. Nobunaga is what you would expect him to be. The actual lead is a typical shounen lead except he kills a lot. And the archer is, well, not really important. None have the charisma to make one care nor do they interact well with one another consistently enough to make one crave more of it. The humor is on par with Bungou Stray Dogs—some may enjoy that, but to me it’s a death sentence, on top of being incredibly distracting.

drifters 2

One of the most prominent things about Drifters, at least to me, is its attitude. Its vulgar, in-your-face attitude like a prick with a ten-inch dick, flaunting his girth like it gives him worth. It rubbed me the wrong way, and I had to plead with myself not to drop this after episode three. The gall this anime has to essentially praise how little story it has and how blatantly insipid its cast of characters are for the sake of decapitating every unimportant background cast member made me borderline sick. It’s one of those rare cases when an anime actually offends me with how proud of its emptiness it is. It certainly didn’t help with enjoyment, and should it even try to make a case for why I should care for anything, I wouldn’t complain about it. But at the end of the day, Drifters is an empty husk of a product that prioritizes yelling and violence over anything else.

Art is the only thing worth praising here, as it’s crisp, clean, and uniquely within its own that it can at least hold over as eye candy. My one personal nitpick is that I loathe the way these characters over-smile. It looks dumb, and evokes that same “Lookie here! Ten-inch dick!” attitude that makes me want to break this series’s teeth. Characters all look very distinguishable and the amount of variety shows off the animator’s touch for detail. After all, who would expect a dark anime like this one to have an emboldened transgender leading an army towards the final battle? That’s certainly not something one sees everyday in anime.

drifters 4

Without the obvious disdain I hold for Drifters‘s cockiness, I can praise its attempt at broadcasting something a little different. Historical figures duking it out with one another in a parallel world full of elves and dwarves in an ultra-violent exhibition of total conquest? On its own, it sounds awesome. The first episode left me intrigued enough, so I can’t say definitively that this series couldn’t be saved. However, the way it ultimately ended up leaves me without hope for the second season, which I wholeheartedly plan to skip. It’s a love of blood and gore that, stripped of that distinction, is a below-average fantasy adventure with little to care about in the end. Won’t stop people from handing it good scores for cool action scenes, regardless!

Personal Score: D-

Critical Score: C-

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

Entry #15: Arslan Senki (SoA 2017)

arslan senki 4

(Recommended by Cake-o’s Bakery.)

Officially halfway through the Summer! Ensue whistle-blowing and party poppers.

However, the halfway point was plagued by a long and unfulfilling series written by the man who penned Legend of the Galactic Heroes, a common choice (especially by elitists) for the GOAT anime. One has to wonder how faithful this recent anime adaptation is to the original novel, which was written nearly thirty years before. Perhaps it’s entirely faithful and the story is just oversaturated drivel pretending to be an “epic.” Harsh as it is, Arslan Senki is an anime full of not only holes, but missed opportunities.

I’ve discussed to some degree the argument that anime can never improve from its inception, and while I don’t normally disagree with it, Arslan Senki is a case of a series that hinders itself the longer it charges forward. Initially, the series introduces a number of done-before plot developments that, while nothing extraordinary, were easy to follow and executed in an entertaining way. These events set the stage for a long and arduous journey for the crown prince, Arslan, whose demeanor is quite unlike his royal peers, to grow within his role as inevitable king and his own identity. Things occur afterwards that isolates him from his kingdom, giving him the freedom to assemble his party of “friends” to tame his untested ability as a leader. At this point, the series really begins, though to some extent, it doesn’t, and already had. And then suddenly Arslan’s growth isn’t important for the sake of the kingdom’s safety, only for the focus to venture forth to other kingdoms and… are you beginning to sense something?

arslan senki 2

Arslan Senki is a story that reaches ambitiously for every unscrubbed corner in the fictional realm of fantasy. The spectrum through which it tries to detail is so wide, so vast that 33 episodes will simply not cut it. Legend of the Galactic Heroes had the benefit of having over a hundred episodes to elaborate on the things it wanted to do. Arslan Senki gets 33 episodes, and eight of those episodes are basically simplified build-up and no payoff. Because of the much shorter allotted space, much of what was initially hinted at in the beginning are shoved aside to get the plot moving along. Things such as genuine character development and interaction only reach a minimum of what they could be, as the emphasis is more on political relations between kingdoms and the main characters completely decimating opposing armies with their ACME plot armor. On the subject of plot armor, that is likely the series’s most prominent issue.

The major characters are immune to death because, despite constant threats of danger, no one ever dies. Some get stabbed, cut, or bruised, but quickly recover without a care in the world or any hesitation going into battle the next chance they get. This destroys tension because one knows they’ll survive and be successful, because nothing is proven otherwise. A character may be on the verge of defeat, only to have one of two things happen: A. Someone steps in and saves them at the last second (This occurs A LOT), or B. They suddenly find the strength or the strategy to topple the immediate adversity. Through most of the series’s second half, I fought against boredom as the anime decided to follow the same formula every episode, filled to the brim with what had happened just one or two episodes before.

arslan senki 1

At first, characters gave a lot of spirit with their personalities—again, nothing great, but spirited. Their “shticks” are presented well and could’ve been used for some clever interaction and tonal shifts, but to no avail. The once art-minded strategist simply became “The strategist.” On a bit of an off-topic quip, the strategist knows everything and justifies it with “As I suspected.” You can’t just “suspect” everything without valid evidence and expect viewers to take you seriously! You’re just OP! Anyway, only one character comes to mind who exudes some of their established personality all the way through: the “traveling musician” who fancies women and tangible pleasures. There’s also the strategist’s so-called “wife,” but her only identity is that she claims to be his wife and nothing more, which hardly counts as a personality. Every character eventually swirls into the pool of blandness that wouldn’t quench the thirst of a desert wanderer.

Everything after a certain point feels so forcibly “for the plot” that the audience really has no reason to care anymore. With the introduction of every new character, new development, and new twist in the motivations of pre-existing characters, one has to wonder what it really means within the context that the anime will not be even close to finishing its story, and how basic all the characters and their moral compasses are. Arslan Senki is pretty blatant in its use of a black-and-white moral system, with good people being good because it’s good and evil people being evil because they’re evil. On occasion, people will be given time to gray out their motivations, but by that point, it’s all for naught, as they either retcon themselves soon after or no one cares because they’ve already been told off by the good guys.

arslan senki 3

For an anime made in 2015, design and animation are pretty standard for the times. Crisp and within the setting, and nothing more. Not often did I spot any shortcuts in animation or lazy bouts of fluidity. Some designs are nice-looking, while others are simply standard. The most of what I can state is that it’s standard. Rather, a lot of what I can say about the series overall is standard, at least for a while. I found myself mentally awarding it a six, then a 5.5, then a five, then a 4.5, then a five again. It has the right tools to become something immersive and worth following, but it doesn’t seem to emphasize the things that make a truly enriching experience, most notably the characters.

Essentially, a lost cause, which is more prominently shown by its half-assed, eight-episode sequel season. There are things about it to like, especially when given such a diverse main cast and a world both like and unlike our own. Throw in some implied wizardry and it immediately sets itself up to be entertaining, at least. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. It’s a standard series at best, with a lot of baggage dragging it to bargain-bin levels of mediocrity. More time, more freedom; whatever the issue may have been, its current state isn’t recommendable.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

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.