Thoughts on Little Witch Academia (TV)

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Oh, yeah. I was watching this at one point, huh?

For those who need a little refresher (I did, too), my Early Impressions post will be linked to fill in some context as to what made me put this on-hold for so long in the first place. Well, it’s not entirely the reason, but it casts a shadow much larger than what many would expect.

Its so-called “blandness” is a vast generalization of what the series entails. Its chaotic animation and the subsequent style it presents makes it a bouncy title well worth its fantasy premise. This is not, however, something of a Kill la Kill presentation, where characters are literally breaking the laws of physics and common sense. A “controlled chaos” sort of presentation, carefully picking its moments of whimsical rambunctiousness. More than the common series, it’s underwhelming for a Trigger-animated show. Not that I necessarily hold that against it, but it’s a thought.

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In all honesty, the “Disney-esque” quality of the series—that never goes away—is the primary fuel for my empty entertainment gauge. It feels standard, predictable, formulaic, and the characters are primarily one-note personalities that are only acknowledged as role-takers, save a few major characters. How everything splendidly fits into every detail, every affordable moment… when the moments only ebb sporadically as the writer remembers a character hasn’t been given an episode arc. Sucy’s a pretty cool character, huh? One episode of development. How about Lotte? One episode of development. How about Andrew, the formal son of the pride-obsessed Colin Firth look-a-like? About two episodes of development. He gets little squirts here and there throughout later episodes that accumulate into about two full episodes. Those with more than a glance of development are Diana, Akko, and Chariot; Akko’s the main character.

There was one time where I watched a video of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) explaining the specifics of good storytelling. They mocked the idea of linearity in a story—this happens, then this happens, then this happens, and so on. What they felt was more important in an immersive story was how the behavior of one character affects another, and the situation of the narrative as a whole, while another character goes through various circumstances of their own in the same timeframe (essentially how most South Park episodes are structured). Little Witch Academia, as I’m sure many could assume upon me telling this small aside, falls into the former category of their argument of “This happens, then this happens, then this happens…” In this case, it makes the continual production of Akko’s time as a witch and the misadventures along the way feel too isolated from one another, and wholly too inconsequential as her character barely develops along the way. Not until the last three of four episodes did I feel at all caring towards the ever-passionate characters involved, and even that is vanquished by the final episode’s horribly uncreative example of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

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One could make the guess that at this point in the post, I’m leaning towards a negative score for the series’s overall quality. That is incorrect. Despite how ordinary I find the process, it is a process filled with spirit and strangely humorous tidbits. Chum Lee is in this anime. What the fuck is Chum Lee doing in this anime? Why are there so many random references in this anime? What kind of drugs is the production staff on to think up some of the things that take place in this series? I make it sound insane, don’t I? Unfortunately, most of these are very small in weight, and do little towards the serious aspects of its story or characters. They are, in some respect, little bones placed within the meat of the steak.

At the same time, its technical qualities are fairly good, whether it be animation, vocal performances, or the validity of the events that transpire. True, some leniency is involved with fantasy, but nothing within the series felt too much like the carpet effectively being yanked out from one’s skinny jeans. Only extravagantly ordinary in its execution of high-octane emotional fervor. Giving this series a negative score would require me to almost hate this series, which I don’t by any means. Doing so would imply that this series has any drastic flaws—ones aside from personal preference and occasionally formulaic clauses.

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What can one expect going into Little Witch Academia? The unexpected, when it comes to humor and the manner in which a situation is “resolved” for the structure of a specific episode. Otherwise, a toned-down animation explosion by means of Trigger Studios, with a heavier focus on fulfilling the basic evoking of human passion and dream-chasing. This kind of thing seems up my alley, and yet the series is one I can’t help but find myself disappointed with. When all’s over with, it does little to distinguish itself from others, who similarly provide the same mission of bombarding one with gleeful enthusiasm, though admittedly with half the charm. Trigger can produce some wacky stories, but it may be a while before it can make anything as incoherently amazing as Kill la Kill again.

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

A Halloween Horror: Mayoiga… Isn’t Terrible?

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An average rating of 5.7 out of 10 on MyAnimeList—ranked 7,657th on the site as of writing this. Numerous “Worst of the Season” awards from fellow anibloggers. Each top review on MAL is a 4 or below (not counting the 8/10, as the entire point of that review is to portray it as an intentionally abstract comedy). A friend of mine recommended that I marathon this series as a Halloween joke of sorts, and with all of these expectations placed on it as a surefire unintentional comedy the likes anime has never seen before, I’ve finished the series and am left scratching my head. Why did I enjoy this series more than Yuri!!! on Ice?

Now that is a scary statement, right?

So what’s the deal with Mayoiga, or The Lost Village? Why did it end up being rated so low, so panned by everyone as though it were common knowledge? Why do I feel like I completely missed the point as to why it’s almost universally accepted as tragically underwhelming? I haven’t been this shocked by such a positive (by relative standards) score since Umi Monogatari, another series that’s rated fairly low by most anime databases that I ended up liking. Were my expectations so low that I ended up being impressed, or is there something more to this series that I feel many averted from their gaze because the plotholes were so enormous?

Indeed, I will admit outright that this post isn’t to say Mayoiga is a good series—it’s below average. My point is to say that the series is not one that should be considered the worst of the worst that anime has to offer. There are far more shows that deserve such an “honor.” Koi Koi 7Diabolik LoversDog Days’Green Green (probably), Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, and others just like them have far less value as outlets of entertainment than Mayoiga. For those who have seen all titles listed (God save you, first of all), what is something that they all share, that they all have in common? The fact that they’re all creatively-shot. They do nothing to distinguish themselves from the pandering, market-testing corporate shells that focus exclusively on profit. They are bland, predictable, and will only truly work on someone who has never watched an anime ever before.

Let’s talk about the Star Wars prequels. No, hold on, come back for a second! It’ll be harmless, I swear. What do they have that The Force Awakens doesn’t? If your guess was “George Lucas,” that would be correct, but not quite what I was getting at. My input is “a creative soul.” The Force Awakens feels like Star Wars for the sake of giving people more Star Wars, with no real weight put upon the things that happen without relying entirely on the already-established characters of Star Wars lore to pick up the slack of the mindless new characters and their cookie-cutter motivations. The prequels, for all the shit they get, whether the acting, the writing, or the overuse of special effects, actually feel like they matter. They feel like George Lucas put his numbed-up brain and drug-induced heart into his precious creation and released it into the cruel, uncaring world. Said world is correct in tearing it to shreds, but what I would argue is that they at least felt like they had that sort of gusto that made them enjoyably dumb, instead of efficiently dull. In some cases, this is all one needs to make a “better” product, though the scenarios involved are wildly varying and dependent on numerous different situations and expectations.

Mayoiga is essentially the Star Wars prequels to me. It is dumb, it has plotholes, the characters are really overdramatic and the world they soon discover has logical inconsistencies. Not to mention, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Yet in spite of all of this, I felt its heart beating within me, I was able to empathize with the “message” it tried to convey. I was able to detract the logic in favor of the symbolic imagery and moral coding it embedded into its narrative. In some cases, it’s better to look at the world not through the perception of your own reality, but the reality faced by the characters in fiction. In many ways, logic plays a major part in Mayoiga’s downfalls, with characters being really hyped up for no reason while at the same time cool under pressure when the moment calls for it. In others, the logic within, that states that these characters, who all deal with the backlashes of deep emotional and psychological abuse and trauma, somehow aren’t allowed a little insanity to satisfy the viewer’s idea of realism? I’m willing to adjust, if ever so slightly, for the sake of trying to understand the world within.

In nutshell form, that’s all I really have to argue, at least to an incessant degree. Mayoiga has creativity all around, whether intentional or non-intentional, through the manifestation of its fucked up world, and I think people should be more open to explore how isolating it can be to think that the world is against you. Edgy as it turns out, or consistently inconsistent, I can at least get out of the experience saying, “Holy shit, this one dude had silicone implanted in his head to grow two whole inches and now his inborn psychological scarring takes the form of a giant, malformed pair of tits!” CAN KOI KOI 7 ALLOW ME TO SAY THAT? HOW ABOUT DIABOLIK LOVERS? Of course not. Those series don’t take chances.

So am I hyping it too much? Is the splendor of something new and enticing (and non-traditional in its approach to human emotion) blinding me to what is actually something obscenely bad? Probably. Despite all of this pent-up frustration that I was swindled out of ironic enjoyment for genuine enjoyment, I really do feel this series has worth—if not for the sake of what the message entails, then how it’s presented. Despite all the dumb, I was immersed every second of the experience, constantly trying to pinpoint who was doing what and why and how. A series that both inhibits and encourages thinking. Mayoiga is an absolute mindfuck that I would recommend simply to see how people would interpret it.

Is it just stupidity incarnate, or something more?

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

Thoughts on the Kizumonogatari Trilogy

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I thought of doing this post with each part individually, but I kind of liked the idea of wrapping it all into one story, seeing as that’s what it is in the end. Doing each part would’ve been too much like episodic thoughts, something I don’t care to add to the overinflated amount of anibloggers already doing so. Of course, splitting them into parts could’ve had me post these thoughts a long time ago, but patience is a virtue and I’ll uphold the standards I would expect from anyone else and more.

Kizumonogatari is the “origin” story surrounding the now vampiric loli, Shinobu, from the parent Monogatari series. It details Araragi’s first encounter with her and Hanekawa, the one who only knows what she knows, in a sort of dual-threat of busty female counterparts. Shinobu has had her limbs stolen from her by vampire hunters, and with the help of Araragi, she wishes to retrieve them to obtain her full power as a vampire. At the same time, Araragi tries to cope with Hanekawa being absurdly considerate of him, seeing as he’s branded himself a friendless loser.

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For fans of the parent Monogatari series: Kizumonogatari is commonplace to the world that author Nisio Isin has already created in past works. The only real strange distinction is that Hanekawa acts far more free-spirited and aloof than she does in other stories. She doesn’t even seem like her own character, really. Aside from so, the story and presentation are the mainstay that make the series fresh and inviting. Beautifully intricate in its detail and creepy imagery, Kizumonogatari is a definitive must-watch for the fans, despite how inconsequential this entire side project sounds in hindsight. In reality, it delves into the character of Shinobu and treats her more like a human being, especially in the third part, as ironic as that sounds. That alone should be enough for a glance.

For non-fans of the parent Monogatari series: there is a little hesitation to recommend this piece if one either hasn’t watched the parent series or didn’t care for it. Lots of dialogue still remains, if one didn’t care for that. Sexually-suggestive situations still arise (and part three has a very aggressive sexual situation present). And while I don’t always agree with the notion, a lot of the fun of these side movies is getting better detail behind the characters than presented in the more broadened counterparts. Within this film, Shinobu gets a lot more attention towards her character than shown in a lot of the Monogatari series, which makes me not want to recommend this first. However, Hanekawa doesn’t even act like her actual character here, which is… also confusing enough to have me not want to recommend it. What I can recommend it for is its kooky nature and semi-serious take on the world of the supernatural, in all of its gory glory.

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What’s more impressive (and noticeably different from the parent series) is the emphasis on the technical aspects of the anime. Animation and sound are very poignant in this three-part piece, more so than I ever remember it being otherwise. Araragi has never belted out screams with his entire god damn body as he does here, which helps to create a tragic(ally whimsical) tone that really suits the series and establishes Araragi’s character. And with animation, well, let’s just say dismemberment during battle sequences have never been more amusing.

But it is also the style of presentation that is somewhat different. Gone are the constant blips of random novel excerpts and scene numbers and transitions. Kizumonogatari is more streamlined in its presentation, not really interrupting the flow of conversation or the visual meat of a scene. The dialogue present is still absurd in its monotonous viewpoint of the supernatural and others’ reactions to it (and other uncomfortable topics), though the presentation of such things are more dedicated to simply that: dialogue. In many cases, the parent story will try to shoehorn in random visuals in an effort to distinguish a scene with… something. Here, it’s rather straightforward, with the more cryptic sequences happening in their own spare time, not in the middle of other scenes. Some may miss that traditional habit, but I really didn’t mind either way.

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Without a doubt the most enjoyable part of this series is that there are very rarely dull moments. What I found to be the least encouraging aspects were the fights Araragi had with the members of the Shinobu-limb-stealing squad—two out of the three being blatantly uninteresting, one-dimensional characters. The fights themselves were somewhat blissful due to their weird comedic aura and animated whimsy, but the context behind the fights made them rather dull. By the end, there really isn’t much to be said about the three antagonists other than that they were in the way. Outside of this, the dialogue between characters, expressive art direction, and symbolic curmudgeon made the experience far more invigorating.

It took me nearly a month to even watch the third part, but the time spent away didn’t dull my excitement even a little. Nisio Isin has a way of making anything sound strangely captivating, even if the events onscreen don’t really match the “epic” atmosphere shuffling in the background. Kizumonogatari is an OVA-style project done in the best way it possibly can: distinguish itself as more than fan fodder and do as much as possible to add appreciation and insight into the characters/story shown in a more major work. I can’t say I know many others that can effectively reciprocate these “guidelines,” but this is a prime example of making the inconsequential seem not so important to a work’s quality.

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

Thoughts on Tsurezure Children

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To those with good eyes, there is a distinction with how this series’s name is pronounced. It can either be Tsurezure Children or Tsuredure Children. I’m gonna stick with “z” because that’s what it’s more commonly known by.

This technical anime short has been garnering a lot of praise around the ani-community for its straightforward portrayal of young romance. By golly, two kids almost have sex with one another! Isn’t that just gross? A far cry from the typical behavior surrounding love where characters blush at the thought of even looking each other in the eyes. Tsurezure Children is an experimental production dedicated to true, unfiltered romantic shenanigans between kids who have no idea what to do with it, while at the same time organizing it in a sort of slice-of-life/comedy structure. With context like that, this series seems right up my alley!

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Initially, the series showed a lot of promise, with keen focus on the trials of understanding how to make a relationship work and how absolutely awkward teenagers are despite their bravado. Despite how many characters it showed, I found each couple (or potential couple) to be charming and relatable to some degree, if not for the random bits of comedy that carried into each scenario. The pacing was fairly good and it displayed each couple fairly evenly as the episodes progressed, with some variety to the situations they faced in their everyday lives. Somewhat unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of crossover between these characters until much further on, which would’ve tied the whole school together instead of isolating all of these incidents and characters as though they controlled the universe they inhabited. The charm of the progression these characters have into becoming committed to one another mostly made up for it.

And once the series pairs (almost) everyone up, it decides to slow the pace down to near unbearable levels. For the love of God, one couple was close to having sex in episode four, and then the rest of the series they don’t even kiss (seriously) no matter how hard they try? What kind of logic is that?! It seems that once the couples have been established, it’s smooth sailing to the finish line. Like skinning a potato like lightning, only to flop it right on the pan to heat over a low flame. At least these couples are established, sure. At least these couples progress further than hand-holding (usually), sure. But if that’s the cutoff where writers think that’s all people want, that’s naive.

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You know what would’ve been a really interesting plot to follow? Imagine the couple in episode four really did have sex. What would happen with them afterward? Would they carry on like normal? Would they try to create an image of superiority to hide how awkward it probably was? Or working with another angle, what if one of them (likely the male) really liked it, and they continue to have sex quite a bit, and then the one not enjoying it so much feels as though that’s all the relationship is to their partner. Doesn’t that sound relatable? Like your partner is just in it for the physical benefits? I praise Tsurezure Children for taking a step forward with its progressive take on young romance, but I’m also criticizing it for not continuing their path to trendsetter status. It doesn’t work if you have cold feet halfway through, which is notable with the second half of the series.

I enjoyed most couples, such as Ayaka and Takeru, though a few travel the line of “Waiting for the inevitable” a tad too uniform for my taste. A girl who doesn’t know much about love. A boy who loves her. She’s completely oblivious to his advances. As the series progresses, she begins to understand love, and now the boy who’s too scared to take the initiative (because of course he is) is inhabiting her mind more and more, and she can’t figure out why! I wonder how that’s gonna end… Situations such as this appear sporadically throughout episodes, though are more prevalent in the second half. Even without the clichés of romantic development, many of the couples have their own niché when it comes to their development. One misunderstands the other until they actually make their intentions clear. And… Well… Actually… Yeah, that’s about it. One person misunderstands the other until they make themselves clear, and then they love them more. Okay.

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While I admire the look and presentation of the anime, its animation is actually rather mediocre. Almost every episode has a noticeable frame jump that defies reality, and movement isn’t nearly as smooth as one would see in, say, Shingeki no Kyojin. Some of the more “intimate” details of characters’ bodies are only ever emphasized if they’re focused on, while from far away don’t always match how they look up close. What is praiseworthy is that most characters look actually different, with different styles of eyes, hair, and facial structure to differentiate person to person. It adds more to that whole “universe” of characters that inhabit the school (that I really wish they’d take more advantage of!); revealing differences in physical appearance, yet similarities in morals and values.

Something I would absolutely recommend if only for the eleven-to-twelve-minute runtime per episode, resulting in a much more convenient marathoning experience. The quality of the series, despite the general amount of praise, is mixed for me, as the later portions of the show tend to overinflate the filler instead of actual development of characters or their relationships. I enjoyed it enough, but it starts and finishes in a way that leaves the viewer feeling unfulfilled. Should the series continue with a sequel season, this may not be so much of an issue. Regardless, it’s cute and cuddly, as well as an encouraging foray into the relatable world of romance that most anime series never dwell on.

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

Thoughts on Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal)

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From the creator of the ultra-depressing Narcissu comes Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal), a story that’s nearly as depressing but now with fantasy elements. Life-shortening diseases aren’t good enough? How about alternate dimensions where people never age? Ame no Marginal is an “ambitious” step in the right direction for someone passionate in the art of “feelsy” visual novel creation.

Notice the quotes around key words in the last paragraph. “Feelsy” is a term some may not be familiar with, but one that can be understood without much effort. Essentially, writing with the intention of making you cry. Feel pity. Think Clannad or AnoHana. Such is the niche in mind. “Ambitious” is a somewhat sarcastic choice of term, yet with the context of knowing the production values of Narcissu, it’s understandable. In Narcissu, there was barely anything; some pictures here and there, a few music tracks, and lots of textAme no Marginal takes the necessary steps for a (non)sequel game and provides more for the reader to absorb.

Such comes in the form of more pictures, more music, and (minimal) voice acting. Characters are actually given proper appearances and designs, as well as distinct voices, while background music is noticeably more varied. There still remains lots of text with unmoving images, yet the execution is a lot easier to digest with occasional spurts of variety to go with the walls of words. In a technical sense, Ame no Marginal is by no means marginally better than Narcissu; it’s head and shoulders above it.

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The name of the game of visual novels, however, is storytelling. Faring against thousands of different titles, even with the leniency of its limited capabilities, Ame no Marginal falls between “interestingly dull” and “painfully standard.” Perhaps it is the lack of a distinct focus, as the game has the player weave between two different stories in a single playthrough. Perhaps it is the fantasy aspect which, while its rules are well regarded, seeps into fulfilling the “feelsy” nature of the game just a tad too strongly. Whatever it may be, its narrative felt fairly unimpactful, and left less of an emotional “oomph” with me than its spiritual predecessor. Let me explain it this way: it feels more like reading a harrowing story out of a newspaper than feeding into a tragic novel… with a tragic novel’s level of detail.

Pleasant in-game, the soundtrack isn’t anything special outside of it. Explained dramatically, the pieces of Ame no Marginal’s armor are well-suited for the battle at hand, improving its chances at lasting. Outside of that specific battle, it is useless, only capable of fending off attacks from a specific source. Call it “Fire-resistant armor,” or in this case, “Negative-emotion-stimulating armor.” Harboring the necessities of (hopefully) influencing the tear duct, its choice in music can range from naive peppiness to lamenting life’s cruelty. Some parts catchy, some parts gloomy; while never truly invigorating. This is made up for somewhat by the art direction, which is pleasant for its production value. Cute little girls actually look cute this time around. Even more than that, the alternative dimension has such a wondrous isolation vibe that it makes it intriguing almost by default.

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Yes, the characters. Not only accentuated by text this time around. By its end, most characters were at least likable, though lacking in total development. The POV character, whose name escapes me (if he even had one), began as a very edgy depressed young man with little will to live (it literally starts with him contemplating jumping off a tall building). Afterwards, he’s teleported to a dimension where time stands still and meets a little girl, who explains his current situation. After that… he’s just kind of normal. He starts to care for the girl and feels sorry for her, but that’s pretty much it. I would think someone who starts the game contemplating suicide would be a little more somber throughout. As the player progresses, the little girl ends up becoming the star of the game, as she receives far more backstory into her character than the POV character. This, in turn, makes her the most developed character in the game, and the fact that another story is told along the way feels a little too unfocused to provide that proper “oomph.”

All in all, certainly worth the “Free” tag on Steam. A nice read for anyone who enjoys the “feelsy” nature of certain visual novels, and isn’t scared by a lot of text without any choices.

The ending is bullshit, though.

The rating for this title and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.

Updated Thoughts on Bakemonogatari

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Katanagatari is one of my favorite anime of all time. I was so enthralled by it upon first watch—in the far distant past of December of 2012—that only a day later, I started a journey with Nisio Isin’s most notable work of his career: The Monogatari Series. Fun fact: Bakemonogatari was almost something I watched during the first Summer of Anime, but put it off due to the episode length and rather vague synopsis (on the site I used to watch anime). Turns out I really should’ve watched it then, as the series ended up being more than an agreeable watch. Of course, I was also still on the “Isin high,” so it’s possible my enjoyment of Bake may have been leftover sunlight from the alternative energy source that is, to this day, Nisio Isin’s greatest piece of literature.*

* Statement not up for debate.

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For lack of a desire to build upon the obviously looming question of Bake’s quality, fortune appears to be on my side, as my enjoyment of the series remained almost entirely intact. Though the difference between late December of 2012 and late August of 2017 is that I can now acutely articulate what makes the series so popular. That is, of course, aside from the number of attractive young women and plentiful amounts of sexual fan service.

Something of a difficult quality to ascertain in Bake, and the rest of the series for that matter, is the importance of the sexuality it presents throughout. For humor, for stimulation, absolutely, but is there more to it than what it lets on? It acts as somewhat of a characterization for the male lead, Arararagi, as he’s far more open (occasionally) with his fetishes and sexual curiosity than others in his position. Other female characters either display themselves due to basis of the plot at hand, which makes it harder to defend from the label of indulgent harassment, or to gain a response from the male lead, all of whom are implied to be infatuated with. With Hitagi, who acts as Aragi’s girlfriend about halfway through the series, her sexual antics are an indication of obvious attraction, as is fair in her position to be so promiscuous. Everyone else seems to do so at their own discretion… perhaps as a test or a subtle jab at their own desires.

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In terms of believability, the gauge is cozily settled onto “E.” Characters, plot, manner of events; every piece of the pie is made of acrylic titanium and tastes of a ladybug’s wing. Completely artificial with a sort of atmosphere that reeks of man spitting on the pages of media norms. That ends up being half the fun. Issues that revolve around the characters are completely human, told in the form of supernatural phenomena, yet the downtime between such serious circumstances don’t reflect the normality of everyday life. It’s a planned show, a circus of obscene entertainers who awe the audience with exuberant quirks of unholiness. Hard to take entirely seriously, yet sharp in its ability to keep the viewer’s focus. I think the thing I learned most upon rewatching this is that I can now understand why some people can’t get into this franchise.

Smoothly it integrates this complexity with each passing chapter, and although its pompousness remains ever present, there are signs of its desire to appeal to everyone. Some of this is shown through its entirely human conflicts, such as being unable to relinquish hidden stress or finding peace with a traumatic incident of the past. More so, however, is Bake’s affinity for long, emotionally-draining monologues explaining entirely what’s been going on as the plot builds up. Somewhat on the vein of Shounen anime, except with better presentation and less screaming. With this, it hopes to escape the picture of elitism that tends to follow series that stray from industry standards. Whether or not it truly does is dependent on the viewer’s priorities. I adore it for its absurdity; others may not.

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Among the more common examples of Bake’s distancing from the norm is its style of presentation. This aspect is also likely what most would consider its most snooty trait. Constant close-ups of eyes, faces, hands, feet, tits, what have you; still-shots of blank images with text written all over them, strange mannerisms from characters (head-tilting, sexually-stimulating positions), different interpretations of character design. Should one be in the mood for both well-drawn characters in standard form and symbolic gobbledygook, Bake is sure to suit their fancy tenfold. Even strangeness outside the realm of animation, including pictures of real-life people and objects intermingled with quick cutaways of fast-paced mental strain, are whimsical entertainment coated in tryhard cringe. I didn’t see much in terms of animated flaws (though I did come across some), leaving me to believe that Shaft not only did a wonderful job of meeting the basics, but setting itself apart with extracurricular activity. It improves as it goes along.

Almost by virtue of its desire to be different, Bakemonogatari passes in spite of its somewhat overindulgent story. That’s not to say the story isn’t good or the characters aren’t interesting enough to compensate for Isin essentially putting himself in the story to look at a lot of naked preteen girls… I think I elaborated on that enough, yes? A matter of personal taste and moral boundaries are what will stray those away from giving the series justification. For those who stay, indifferent to the potentially problematic subtext, enjoy a story whose furthermost goal is to entertain and perplex. I know I did.

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

Thoughts on Boku no Hero Academia (Season One) (Spoilers?)

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I am so very tired of superheroes flooding the mainstream. Marvel/D.C. Studios seem to release a film every four months with substantial box office victories. Animated films such as Big Hero 6, the latest Spongebob film, and the upcoming Incredibles 2 are becoming more common. Even anime has gotten the hero fever with the quick green-lighting of One Punch Man and Boku no (or MyHero Academia. First hearing about it, I could only sigh and huddle into my own mindset of “Superheroes are cliché now,” ignoring something that fits the shounen tag to the dot. As the years went by and the hype of the series continued to grow ever bigger through its second season, I ended up succumbing to my curiosity and decided to watch it after completing the latest Summer of Anime. Sitting here, typing this out, I’m both impressed and cautious of what the future may bring.

Long has it been since an anime has pulled me into its world as well as Hero Academia has. Planning to watch two episodes, I would zoom through six straight without skipping a beat. If I really wanted to, I could blaze through the entire anime in one sitting, though not without difficulty, but more on that later. Though I often scoff at the notion, the aspect of one destined for great things is something that’s hard to ignore, especially when done in an endearing way. I was enthralled by Wonder Woman and I was charmed by Deadpool, though both suffer from a similar evil as Hero Academia does, which makes its whole tragically underwhelming. Hero films at their core appeal to the emotional side of a person’s heart, that in which is relegated through the psyche of characters and their ambitions. Here, this is done splendidly.

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Imperfect as it is, the manner in which Deku, as he’s so affectionately referred to, goes about his tragic life as a Quirkless is invigorating for those in a similar position. Yet, as I have said many times in the past, the weak, cowardly character is by far the easiest character in all of fiction to develop. Such was the case for The Good Dinosaur, such was the case for Yuri!!! on Ice, such is the case presently. On top of this, his crybaby persona, along with his peers’ personality quirks, feel a little too hamfisted. One can almost be justified in saying this cast is one-dimensional, as there’s a fine line between having a distinct personality and having a singular personality. Deku cries all the time, is scared all the time, has a lot of monologues with himself trying to dispel doubt, but always displays the most heroic attitude in the most pressing moments. One can easily grow tired of constantly being reminded of who he is and what he’s fighting for. We. Get. It.

What helps is that Deku, while clearly being the main character, is not the only character to receive attention. In a class full of powerful, supernatural kids, many of them receive enough attention to embellish both their powers and their temperaments. There are times when one isn’t aware that Deku is onscreen, as other characters take full control over a scene with their own power (both figuratively and literally). It really aids in making a series feel bigger than one or two characters when despite the main group’s exclusion from the spotlight, the series continues to showcase side characters and their own performance with the trials facing them. I often complain that a cast can be far too big to allow everything and everyone to be developed in a way that makes the group feel whole. Not only is the effort shown in Hero Academia, it uses that effort in the most efficient way imaginable. There aren’t many characters I don’t like.

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Pacing and progress are also good features, as the weight of situations and their accumulation feel natural, aside from a very quick ten-month montage in the third(?) episode. Perhaps I’m too used to slice-of-life flicks where a span of months can go by in only a few episodes (Looking at you, Acchi Kocchi), but Hero Academia has a smooth and consistent timer that knows when to put things to an end. Somewhat formulaic in its structure, admittedly, though I suppose that’s to be expected from a shounen flick. I almost never checked the time in an episode nearly throughout, as the key pieces were enough to hold me over on their own basis, which makes for a satisfying viewing—one I haven’t had since Berserk, and who knows since before then.

But… there is something that drags Hero Academia down to the level of my mortal enemy in anime: the typical shounen. It comes in the form of the last four episodes.

Evil. Out of nowhere. Infiltrates with ease and starts spouting garbage evil jargon for the sake of it. Heroes are caught off-guard and can’t thwart them easily. A large battle ensues. All hope seems lost, when suddenly help arrives! The situation becomes lighter, then darker as circumstances turn for the worst, when suddenly help arrives! The situation becomes lighter, then darker as circumstances turn for the wo—WHEN SUDDENLY HELP ARRIVES! This goes on for four episodes. Constant use of deus ex machinas and the most cliché quick-thinking solutions and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! make it a very irritating experience that quickly grew tiring. Up to this point, I thought the series would only use these tools minimally. Much to my chagrin, they use them as a crutch in the most important of situations. And this isn’t to say these episodes were devoid of good, as a lot of variety in character spotlight makes the situations rich in development, but there’s far too much “Been there, done that” to compensate for the helping of character interaction.

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Perhaps I expected too much from a high-profile shounen series, but the overall animation is only decent here, with series like One Punch Man destroying it in nearly every regard. There was one particular scene in the final episode that was flashy and fun, but aside from that, I can’t recall any particular moment that really “wowed” me. One really shouldn’t complain, however, as the animation and design is clean nearly throughout, so it tops the typical romcom any day. On the topic of design, I really enjoy the way the designs speak from the characters. Bakugo’s spiky, disheveled hair and wide, fanged grin displaying his chaotic nature. Iida’s trim face, thin spectacles, and proper attire showcasing his authoritative demeanor. Ochaco’s blandness showing her no-personality character. There’s something for everyone here.

I can assure anyone that, despite the miscues, I’m excited to indulge in more heroic adventures once the second season wraps up. I’d even go as far as recommending this title to, well, anyone, as I feel the most overused of clichés won’t bother general people as much as it does me. Even with those in place, cynical viewers can latch onto the carefully planned narrative progression and plethora of likable characters. While not necessarily a challenging series, it’s simplicity done almost entirely right, and I for one applaud it.

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