Entry #11: Death Parade (Spoilers) (SoA 2017)

death parade 4

(Recommended by 100PostsPerDay.)

Why does it seem like every time a show features some sort of traumatic/weighted scenario, its rating is overinflated to death? Because some characters go through horrible situations or the “deep” plot isn’t all nice and fluffy suddenly it has more merit as a source of entertainment? I only note this because this series is rated rather high on most anime databases, and while it was airing, I could not escape the roar of praise the general community had for this series. As with all others, however, the noise died down and I casually adjusted back to life without seeing this anime cover photo every time I logged in to MyAnimeList. So, what’s all the hub-bub about? Well, I’m probably not a good indicator of such, as in my eyes, Death Parade can be summed up in a single sentence:

Don’t be a dick.

While I find the technical aspects of this show lacking, there is a curious intrigue involved with just how inadequate a lot of the things that are shown mean to the overall picture. Upon finishing the first episode, I groaned to myself and thought, “Oh, joy. Another episodic series about random people’s deaths and how the afterlife judges them accordingly. Guess I can’t expect any character development or a reasoning behind this entire set-up.” Then, I watched the second episode, and it completely pulled the rug from under my feet. Episode two is almost the same as episode one, except it does exactly what I expected it not to. It provides an insider perspective of the events of episode one, and explains why everything is as it is and what the point of the series is. Well, blow me down. I may just like this, after all!

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Thus, the series continued, interspersing episodes involving random, one-off stories and further insight to the inner workings of the afterlife. While there was some repetitiveness to the one-off stories, there was enough to keep the stories fresh by means of the random characters’ actions (that occasionally through off the arbiter’s script). While I didn’t enjoy all of the episodes involving the judgments, I was satisfied with the way they managed to keep the stories of the victims entertaining is somewhat different ways, even if their scenarios are beyond ridiculous. Episode six was the epitome of Death Parade’s potential for making lemonade out of pencil shavings using the MacGyver method.

Now, imagine my surprise when, initially, I was ready to dig my own grave after the first episode, only to be more unimpressed by its efforts to appear complex! Death Parade almost should’ve been one one-off episode after another! It’s really quite amazing how as the final episode credits rolled, the organ that keeps my body functioning felt not a tinge of empathy whatsoever. It felt not an ounce of enlightenment nor a snippet of impact. The biggest issue I have here is that this series feels so unmotivated that it doesn’t even bother to try and create any hostility for its ultimate moral message.

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Don’t be a dick. Yes. Death Parade’s urging throughout the entire series is so. Incredibly simplified, but otherwise correct. By means of judging the “darkness of the soul” of each spirit landing within the afterlife, an arbiter, bereft of all empathy and understanding of human emotions, is instructed to put the newly dead through a test, disguised as normal games one would find almost anywhere. By the end, they are to determine if the souls are worth reincarnating unto the tangible world or sending it to the void, a black hole where spirits are doomed to wander alone forever. All seems fine and dandy after the first episode, but very early on, the festering of foreshadowing rears its head when a normal human is brought to help the arbiter with his tests. As the tests continue, she becomes more and more inclined to help those going through such torture, opposing the intellectual and emotionally-decrepit styles of the arbiter. At some point, the arbiter harbors the desire to acquire these emotions himself in an effort to understand his human helper.

Little do these two know, the arbiter’s “Creator” had the intention of setting him up with the human all along in an attempt to influence his apathetic nature. This is, however, frowned upon by the head guy behind the afterlife’s organization (I guess?), so she does so with all secrecy, alluring the attention of certain discipline. This is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the anime’s deeper tendencies. What is it that she really wants? Does she believe emotions are suitable for judging the complex human soul? Will she be caught eventually?

And she does. She does get caught. The head guy finds out and promptly slaps her on the wrist and tells her he doesn’t agree.

…Is that it? Really?

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Not only that, but the last five episodes or so become very dramatic; so much so that the once occasionally fun scenario of human judging becomes a circus for preachiness. The arbiter is trying to do his job and the human girl keeps getting in his way and yelling about how mean he is. How what he’s doing is torture. How he’s not capable of making rational decisions about whether or not a human soul is good or bad if he can’t understand their grief. This eventually leads to finding out more about the human girl’s past and how the arbiter finally manages to unlock the emotions that were within him all this time. Finally, he can understand her. He can better understand the intricacies of the human psyche. All he had to do was shoot tears out of his eyes. Incredible.

And not a lick of conflict, either. The head guy sits and grumbles about how he doesn’t agree, but does nothing. The entire series ends as though it had accomplished something important, about how the world should be better off knowing that Death Parade isn’t just about torturous bingo games or some structured, apathetic system of Heaven or Hell. No, it is resolute in its sworn motto, one donned by many other series before (and inevitably after) it.

Say it with me, folks:

THE POWER

OF

E-MO-TIONS!!!!!!!

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How utterly uninteresting.

My apologies for the incredibly heavy spoilers, but I felt the need to justify my low score for this series, and spoiling the plot is the best way to put my thoughts to greater use. There’s just so little new here, and while its presentation of the afterlife and its system can be fun, the ultimate message is horribly cliché and the fact that they don’t even challenge it is just disgustingly self-inflating. Animation and design is lovely, and the effort put into making this show look great is definitely worth praise. Characters are distinct and properly endowed with the look of the otherworldly. It’s just the story, and to some extent the characters, that bring this series down to an Earthly level. Again, perhaps if it had remained an episodic series that showed only subtle hints of a development of emotional understanding with the arbiter, it could’ve turned out to be a decent show along the lines of Bartender. Instead, it overexplained and overdramatized something that didn’t need to be so excessively in-your-face.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

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

Entry #10: The ‘Aria’ Series (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by Sango.)

This post will feature the series Aria the Animation, Aria the Natural, and Aria the Origination, and none of the OVAs or specials that go along with them. While I will not go over each of them individually, I will cover all three in a somewhat chronological order. The order I placed them above is the correct chronological order of events.

Longtime readers of my blog are very aware of how little I tend to care for slice-of-life series. While I find nothing wrong with them generally, they’re usually shrugged aside as inconsequential entertainment that doesn’t hold a lot of objective merit. Among my favorite titles within the genre include K-ON! and Kobayashi-chan, and neither surpass a 7/10 on the rating scale. Both are also not “pure” slice-of-life titles, employing a number of different genre clichés in both (moe and comedy, especially). “Pure” slice-of-life titles are even more inconsequential to me, as I’m not one fond of going through the normal struggles of life at a reasonable pace with nothing to go on but that. The idea itself sounds tediously dull. To this day, I don’t think there’s been a single “pure” slice-of-life title I’ve seen that made me think, “Gee, I’m really glad I watched this.”

Cue Aria.

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I’ve been defeated. After all these years of thinking the genre was an overrated niche for only a small subset of fans, I have been shown the light, the beautiful, tranquil brightness that glows within the soul of a truly wonderful series. I had heard good things about the series beforehand, but I really wasn’t expecting to be this overwhelmed, especially with a slice-of-life! A group of cute girls giving gondola rides to people on a Venice-inspired plain of Mars three-hundred years in the future that offers such riveting plotlines as “Delivering mail for mailmen,” “Visiting Grandma,” and “Reminiscing about the past” ends up with a higher rating in my list than Steins;GateCode Geass (Season One), and Kimi no Na wa. Amazing.

However, this torrid love affair didn’t start quickly, as Animation was bit more dull than anything else. It served to lay out the foundations of character relationships and the importance of future events in a single cour, but not much else. Rather, a lot of the characters within the debut season seemed more one-dimensional in hindsight, with not a lot of attention to the more tender methods of developing the main cast as it probably should, instead settling more for the world around them. Perhaps this was a necessary evil for the events to come, but it certainly didn’t help the overall charter of amusement on my part.

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Indeed, what was, at first, a pleasant but unfulfilling series of viewing a world both like and unlike our own in a different light would eventually become something of a surprise underdog. I left Animation with the promise (from Sango) that Natural would flourish into something beautiful to behold. At first, it didn’t come to fruition, but as the episodes passed by, I grew more fond of the characters, their interactions, their little quirks, and the way the series highlighted their individual efforts in the realm of their environment. All that was built in Animation was not for naught, as Natural picks up on both the strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor to make something assuredly sublime.

Origination then takes what Natural threw down, lifts it with one strong heave, and slams it upon the chamber that holds my heart and demolishes my expectations for what a slice-of-life series can accomplish. On top of receiving a nice touch-up on sleekness of design and animation, Origination becomes the most emotionally-poignant and satisfying entry in the series, and is, though somewhat rushed, among the best finishes to a series I’ve seen within the anime medium. All that these girls worked towards, all that they experienced, all that they cherished and feared and believed, finally becomes a reality—in all of its bittersweet brilliance. While no tears were shed, the rockets of empathy soared onward, as high than few others were able to achieve.

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It’s truly satisfying to see these little episodes, which mean nothing on the surface, come back to become a splendorous part of the characters daily lives. The problem with series like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo is that while their episodic adventures with different characters help develop the main characters, they seem like simple memories that leave little for the viewer to care about outside of those leads’ developments. One doesn’t care for those that helped them get there. Circumstances prevent from showing more of these one-off characters, as I understand, though in Aria, they return and, at times, play semi-important parts in other situations. They becomes a recurring part of the leads’ worlds, people who care about them and give them a semblance of unity that is so, so rarely executed well. The feeling is the closest to “tranquil” as I’ve ever experienced, and Aria’s atmosphere is nothing but.

However, Aria does suffer from one very fragile (and debatable) flaw: it’s dull. It’s not always dull, but it has this very thin layer of entertainment that makes it fairly hard to fully pay attention with outside distractions. Some episodes, I’m in a quiet room with little movement and the episodes (depending on the scenario) are easy to immerse myself in. Others, someone is playing Super Smash Bros. in the background and it becomes really hard to pay attention. The slow, methodical approach to building these underlying feelings and motivations is charming, but to go from one episode to another with practically no change gives my inner desire for something exuberant, bouncy, and colorful room to complain. To have basically anything occur during, the focus becomes a challenge, and no matter how good the series is, that remains an unfortunate fact. Its slow pace can be a buzzkill for plenty.

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Other little nitpicks could apply to some serious criticism, though none feel worth really nagging about. For the sake of analysis, I’ll display them briefly:

  • Alicia is incredibly bland for all of Animation and most of Natural. Improves in Origination. Her “My, my” shtick is super irritating.
  • Aika’s infatuation with Al seems unwarranted. I don’t understand what makes him so attractive to her. His sexy shortness?
  • If Athena’s clumsiness is supposedly controllable (Amnesia episode), why does she not control it more often? Wouldn’t that be more productive for her? Was the series afraid she wouldn’t be herself without that one shtick?
  • The series could’ve used more focus on Woody and Pony Man.

All in all, a surprisingly impactful series that launched itself to my current favorite for the Summer so far. My scores for this series overall likely would’ve been higher if Animation wasn’t so middle-of-the-road. As it is, the series does a wonderful job of developing its characters, and giving their words and actions meaning to the grand scheme of things. It’s slow, unenthusiastic (relatively), and doesn’t pop outside of the leads’ hair colors. Aria does what it wants to do the way it wants to do it. Because it sticks to this plan, it ends up becoming something really special.

Personal Score: B

Critical Score: B+

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

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

teekyuu

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

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

It’s short.

It’s fast.

It’s random.

It’s absurd.

It’s energetic.

It’s explosive.

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

Charming through sheer force of will.

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

Scenes fly by at the speed of sound.

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

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

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

It could also make your head hurt.

(I’m still recovering.)

Typically basic entertainment, though sometimes very witty.

Each season is basically the same.

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

If only for its absurdity.

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

Holy hell.

Personal Score: D+

Critical Score: C-

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

Entry #8: Isshuukan Friends (Rewatch) (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by the 101st blog about gaming.)

Watching Isshuukan Friends for the first time, I thought it was a charming display of developing a bond between two people, with some dramatic miscues along the way. I was able to ignore the logical flaws and the ending emphasis on drama for the sake of adhering to the aloofness of the magical aroma of friendship and underlying romantic intentions between two naive fools. Just the kind of thing that makes me short-circuit.

Watching Isshuukan Friends for the second time, I realize that the person I was roughly three years ago may have been suffering from an air of lonely bias. Watching this again, there wasn’t nearly the amount of charm through one-on-one relationship as I originally remembered, and though the naivety of the leads are somewhat alluring, the effort isn’t supported by anything more. Even the side characters, Kiryu and Saki, who I remembered as a cute side couple, have so little chemistry that I scratch my head wondering why I bothered at all. The atmosphere of nothing stressful eventually turned into just nothing.

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Unfortunately, there was some excitement with going back into this series with a fresh perspective. Fond memories rushed back, only to plummet into a realm of insipidity. In the back of my mind, I recall seeing various reviews of it at the time complaining how ordinary and average most aspects of this show were, and how I found myself disagreeing with how harmless the series seemed. If third time’s the charm, the second time’s the harm, as Isshuukan Friends has become “that one average show” that many others dubbed it to be years ago.

Something of a major problem that I didn’t notice the first time is that Isshuukan Friends has no idea what it wants to be. Some part drama, some part romance, some part slice-of-life; it manages to build upon each genre but can’t seem to drive home any of them effectively. Romance is an underlying motivation all throughout, while slice-of-life employs itself in the middle section of the series, with drama populating the first and last quarters. More than anything, however, is the focus on one other genre that employs too many anime… nothing. The “Nothing” genre. There is a disturbing amount of nothing that presents itself in the form of little flags that the male lead “triggers” through little events. Seeing the female lead smile. Having her compliment him. Worrying about her avoiding him for seven seconds. Surprisingly enough, the concept of the female lead’s condition is not really noted outside of the more dramatic episodes, leaving one to forget she even has it.

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Characters are somewhat shy, somewhat coy. Action is something that seems second nature to many of them. Aside from Saki, most are too sensitive to even touch one another. Isshuukan Friends would make for a nice example of the “Actions speak louder than words” argument, an example that would show how necessary the argument is. There is quite a bit of talking, introspection, regret, and wondering. Not a lot of time is spent on characters making heroic proclamations, being honest, or charging into battle without a strategy. With the aspect of teenagers, one would expect more of this, as the characters here seem to have a hesitance to them that undermines their age, which kills even more realism. Even after twelve episodes, not a lot really happens, as a lot more is only implied through the passing of time.

Thus begins the point about the female lead’s condition, which makes the show stand out. Every week, she loses all memory of her friends. It always triggers upon Monday’s arrival. She will not remember anyone she deems close enough to be her friend, as one scene shows a whited-out vision of the male lead the previous week. She seems to remember everything else just fine, it’s just the aspect of friends and the spell lasts a week on the nose without change. Easily, this is all very stupid. The absurd uniformity of this condition is so blatantly fiction that it feels like easy plot convenience. And the fact that it’s shrouded in mystery only allows the author to write whatever conveniences possible to make it more absurd. The final few episodes shed some light as to what caused her condition, but even with that, she still seems to be stricken with the same condition. More than anything though, how is the brain capable of identifying specific people and using white out on them as the planets align every week? Her brain is not a computer.

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Yet, one thing that stuck out was the art direction, as while the animation is fairly standard, the artistic style is somewhat unique. The appearances of characters are somewhat blocky, with lots of long, straight faces and clean, polished eyes. It creates a dream-like state that helps with the carefree atmosphere of the middle sections. Even the sides of the frames feel a little loose with the lighting, making every action seem like a fantasy. And most of all! Hair! There are little strands of hair that stick out from the characters’ heads! Don’t think I don’t notice all of your bed-heads! Comb your hair properly, you sleepy kids! Nice attention to detail, nonetheless.

Average, while somewhat lethargic. Coaxing it with a dash of overdramatic tension creates a series that tries to do something a little different in the guise of overimportance. The moral foundation is rather straightforward, with friends being friends and relationships taking work and the value of caring. Concepts of people resetting every week gives it an almost sci-fi charm, but it ends up hampering what could’ve been a pleasant slice-of-life, or an okay drama. While I personally don’t think the series is forgettable, many could take the female lead’s disability for themselves and forget this whole scenario.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C

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

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

sakurako-san

(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 #6: Steins;Gate (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended, once again, by a pretty humble guy.)

Fun fact: before completing this today, I had watched one episode of this series in the past. It had been left sitting, alone and afraid, in my “on-hold” category for, no joke, nearly five years. I was intrigued by it, especially it’s #4 overall rating on MyAnimeList in terms of average user score, but I could never find myself properly motivated to delve into something with such mountainous expectations. I’d like to thank Mr. Humble Guy again for giving me an excuse to pick it back up after all of these years.

After completing it, I only have this to ask: why is this series rated so high? I mean it. I am scratching my head wondering why, specifically, this series has an average rating of 9/10 on most anime databases and is heralded by many as a modern masterpiece. Is it the time travel aspect? The kooky characters? The presentation of never being able to escape fate? Is it because it somewhat resembles Doctor Who???

By no means is Steins;Gate a bad anime. Before throwing every insult at me for shaming such a flawless series as this, let me present my overall, general feelings immediately by saying I think the anime is… good. It is good. Not great, but good. By traditional anime standards (I am very cynical), it’s leagues better than the standard high school rom-com, but #4 ever? The Magnum Opus, the Mona Lisa, the Statue of David, of anime? I… I can’t lie and say it even compares. The series is good—perfectly, solidly good.

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A part of my feelings towards the show is the result of how little emotional attachment I had for it. I see a lot of members put Kurisu and Okabe among their favorite anime characters. This only further confuses me. The characters of Steins;Gate are likable and definitely solid within the performance of their one-shot personalities. I question, however, their development and the relationship they have with one another, specifically Okabe and Kurisu, seeing as the concept of time as a play thing resets the progression certain characters could have with one another, yet goes forth as if everything somehow retains itself because magic. Characters are rather important in a series that relies so much on drama and a heavy-narrative foundation, so if they are not examined and executed perfectly, one likely won’t be along for the emotional ride (I’m likely within a small minority).

Another thing of note I almost never see when people discuss this anime is its roots as a visual novel. And its anime adaptation doesn’t really transition all that well. One can simply feel the way they position the characters in the second-half, one by one without any interruption with one another, as they are “saved” by Okabe. More than repetitive, it comes off as formulaic, something that contradicts the first-half’s somewhat varied approach at telling a story and creating a quirky family bond between the many characters that tag along the “mad scientist’s” eccentric exploits. While I understand the context of Okabe’s feelings within the second-half, as he tries his hardest to prevent tragedy upon his loved ones due to fate’s cruel hand, he loses a lot of the charm he originally had as a character as he becomes more in line with “Standard Male OC #4,502.” It feels as though the anime flipped a switch that was marked “Serious Mode,” with characters being toys for the plot to do whatever with and suffocating their more charming characteristics.

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A lot of this seems completely out of context, but I think this is a series best served with as little detail as possible. Still, it’s difficult to properly rely what I found wrong with the series without ruining everything, seeing as it is so wordy. I guess the best way I could properly wrap it up is with a neat little bullet point chart.

  • Second-half undermines the first-half’s attempt at making the characters’ personalities seem natural, and slowly transitions into making said characters chess pieces for a grand scheme of dramatic overindulgence.
  • Pacing is generally acceptable, but comes to a screeching halt around the halfway point, then crawls its way through every minute until the final episode.
  • Okabe and Kurisu’s relationship has the illusion of being deep and profound, but the reality is that they only experienced one another for a short time and a lot of that was introductory stages and technical experimentation. Very few scenes of (realistic) progression of a romantic attachment.
  • Okabe goes from mad scientist with visions of grandeur to Male Lead in an Anime.
  • Many side characters don’t get developed in a way that presents them as people who matter. Daru is a pervert otaku. Mayuri is a bubbly airhead. Etc.
  • Many attempts at defying fate barely seem as though they’re trying. Get a bunker or something. C’mon.

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With this avalanche of negative aspects, don’t let this muddy the waters for an otherwise very intriguing and entertaining experience. Steins;Gate is not among the greatest anime I’ve ever seen, but it is definitely worth a watch if one hasn’t seen it already. There could definitely have been more to the characters, but the story was pretty compact and air-sealed in terms of (non-nitpicky) plot holes. Consistently entertaining, splendid art and animation, and a nice change of pace with a sci-fi setting that actually makes sense. There’s no guarantee this series will become one’s all time favorite (or maybe it will), but I can absolutely recommend it as an overall pleasant viewing experience.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B-

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.