Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: fighting
Initial impression – crapola (1/10)
Autumn 2012 to winter 2013 (26 episodes) (Japanese title – JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (2012)) (more info)
Most anime that I give my lowest possible rating usually earn it by being disturbing on some level, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has earned my ire on merit alone. If you wanted to make any kind of work of fiction as bad as possible, it would probably look something like this. The visual design is flat and when it’s not chugging along at what feels like five frames per second, it’s just panning across still scenes that might was well have been lifted right from the pages of a manga for all the effort that went into them. The palette makes Claymore look like a rainbow and the clothes and faces are ugly, misshapen caricatures of 1800s Europe.
Characters are completely unlikeable, being either total jerks or wimpy, gullible idiots. And that’s when they actually have any characterization at all. In the space of two minutes JoJo goes from a weak, sheltered rich kid protecting some random girl from bullies to the undisputed star of the boxing ring, who then not thirty seconds later gets dethroned by his childishly cruel adopted brother. One would think that JoJo’s father would pick up on Dio’s stupidly transparent ploy to discredit his sloppy son if the old man didn’t have the completely clueless observational powers of a starfish.
Most bad writing has the problem of going too slow and dragging things out pointlessly to pad the length to the typically required twelve episodes, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is exactly the opposite. Transitions from one scene to the next happen as smoothly as a building demolition with absolutely no warning or lead in to the events that follow. The pace of the story is so fast and glosses over so many important details that the first episode alone felt like the compressed summary of six episodes—the skeleton of a story without any flesh or skin—made even worse by this series’ unfathomable twenty-six episode run. Lastly, there are the voices. Talk about overacting. I feel like I’ve stepped into the auditorium of a middle-school play where every kid, regardless of skill or will, has some obligatory stage time to appease their parents.
There’s just no excuse for anything being this awful. Seriously, this is a level of excruciating terrible that makes me feel physically ill, because I have to admit that Milky Holmes actually compares favorably to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. In a sickeningly ironic way, for what it’s worth, I find that the new depths this anime is digging to be somewhat impressive. Just hurry up and die, JoJo. The world would be better off if Dio mopped the floor with your sorry ass and put us all out of our misery.
Initial impression – just…what? (2/10)
Spring 2012 (dropped at 1 of 12 episodes) (English title – Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos) (more info)
What do you get when you try to cross a romantic, moe comedy with Lovecraft? The jumbled mess that is Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, that’s what. Seriously, just what were they thinking when they came up with the setting for this show? Were they throwing darts at post-it notes or did they just spin a roulette wheel of possible themes? Perhaps it might have worked if the writers didn’t actually think that they could spin these two mismatched concepts into something with real-world ties—‘cause really, how can anyone think that turning Nyarlathotep into a female, alien-otaku is a good idea? It expends way too much energy trying to legitimize itself as something more than the sum of its subtractive parts and it just doesn’t work. Also, it makes a lot of obscure references to the Cthulhu mythos that only someone deeply familiar with Lovecraft’s work is likely to understand. It’s so full of itself that it can’t see how unfathomably thick it is. I actually find this kind of poorly constructed amalgam to be insulting in the way the viewers are just expected to roll with it and accept something so half-baked. It also doesn’t do a very good job constructing its more romantic side with the male lead seemingly having some kind of bipolar disorder. He knows that his new protector is a crazy, nutzo, wild girl, but one minute he’s dealing out punishment for her transgressions by stabbing her with a fork and the next he’s enraptured by her wiles. Is this proof of the concept that the hotter a girl is the crazier she’s allowed to be? Well whatever…I think I’ve adequately made my point that Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is not worth any more of my time.
Initial impression – more refreshing than expected
Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes) (full title – Eureka Seven Astral Ocean) (more info)
All too often these days I’m seeing sequels to series that don’t really need a follow up story to make them feel complete. Eureka 7 was an epic that I feel did everything it needed to and ended without any indication that a sequel was necessary. But despite this small reservation, I’m optimistic about Eureka AO because it’s different enough from its parent series that I can see very clearly that it’s not attempting to fill the very big shoes of its predecessor. And while it does make a great many references to Eureka 7, it is already using its first episode as an opportunity to step out of the shadow of past successes and do its own thing. How much it’s actually related to the original only time will tell, but I’m already seeing a lot of inconsistencies with the main story that indicate to me that this will be more of a spin-off like the Pocket Full of Rainbows movie than a true, continuous sequel to the original plot. This makes me happy because that’s the sort of direction I’d prefer Bones to take the rich material they have to work with. On that note, the best part that surprised me is how much Eureka AO still manages to feel like Eureka 7. It’s successfully capturing the tone, style and pacing that made its parent series awesome, but is making every effort to seek its own identify and prove that it is capable of standing on its own. That alone is a remarkable quality for a sequel to possess and my optimism on this series is much higher after watching the first episode than it was before.
Initial impression – a difficult premise (3/10)
Spring 2012 (more info)
Where Hetalia is the personification of countries and The Sacred Blacksmith is the personification of swords, Upotte!! is the personification of guns. I want to reinforce this idea that most of the characters in this series are literally guns in human form and their personality types are based on the features of their mechanical references. Being quite knowledgeable about firearms myself I can see what this anime is trying to do, but I’m pretty sure most of the jokes are going to fly right over the heads of most viewers. To compensate for this sort of murky comedy, Upotte!! depicts main character Funko as a sexually excited junior high girl who keeps fantasizing about being “handled,” by her new teacher who happens to be a gun expert. I’m not sure how to adequately convey this new concept of ecchi because I’ve never seen an anime that manages to keep its fetishes limited to its writing while visually maintaining its innocence. Upotte!! is trying to be unique and original, but maybe it’s just trying too hard because I can’t see how its concept is going to be anything more than incomprehensibly goofy.
Initial impression – too niche (4/10)
Spring 2012 (13 episodes) (more info)
Zetman doesn’t seem to have much going for it. It’s already very clear what the story is going to be about and I fear it’s going to stick to such a standard formula it won’t be able to deviate into something more creative. I’m also not fond of the very cliché “Dragonball hair” moment during the climax of episode one, but despite my misgivings there’s some great action and the plot builds on some very formative moments that will clearly shape the characters’ futures in the coming episodes. The art style also isn’t my favorite with a very “Japan hero-show,” design for the appearance of the superhero suits reminiscent of Power Rangers. It’s very unimaginative and childish for something that clearly wants to market itself to a more mature audience. So it seems Zetman is firmly going to be a sort of hyper-shounen anime that isn’t strictly bad. Unfortunately, it has such narrow appeal that the people who like it will really like it, but everyone else is just going to say, “meh.”
Final impression – a triumphant beginning (10/10)
Autumn 2005 to winter 2006 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)
High school has started and Yuji Sakai is already making the most of his youth. But on his way home one day he steps into a sealed zone that is separated from the normal flow of time. In here, he is attacked by monsters intent on devouring this strange human who can move within their trap. But at the last second he is saved by a beautiful girl with flaming red hair; easily overpowering his attackers. But despite protecting him from the monsters, it turns out Yuji Sakai is already dead. His existence was eaten by a denizen of the Crimson World some time ago and all that remains of him is a tiny spark that will soon burn out. He decides to spend his last few days before he disappears in the company of his savior, aiding her in any way that he can before he is gone without a trace. However, a fortunate turn of events may give him an unexpected reprieve from oblivion.
Shakugan no Shana is a spectacular story. It starts with the initial, horrifying concept of the enemies of humanity consuming people’s very existence as energy, leaving nothing behind to remember them by. It’s a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that is dramatically mitigated by Yuji’s ability to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation. He never despairs and is always thinking about how he can best make use of his limited potential. It’s a testament to the tremendous strength of character people can exhibit when cornered by the most trying circumstances. The series expands on its intellectual, action-filled beginning and moves into a more romantic theme as the steely Shana realizes that she’s not an emotionless killing machine and her feelings for Yuji go beyond mere camaraderie. Even the final battle is more than it superficially appears to be because the plot never misses a chance to include a thought-provoking discussion about the characters’ inner motives. And then to top of the amazing writing is the gorgeous art style of Ito Noizi and excellent music courtesy of Mami Kawada, KOTOKO and several other bands and singers who knew just the right style to set the mood for this epic series. In short, the first season of Shakugan no Shana struck a perfect balance between fighting, philosophy, artistic tone and romance to create an amazingly profound first season.
Final impression – not a second wasted (10/10)
Winter 2012 (8 episodes) (TV series)
It’s the first day of junior high school and Mato Kuroi decides she’s going to be friends with the gloomy girl who has a funny name, Yomi Takanashi. The two soon discover they have a shared love of a children’s storybook and it looks like they’re going to get along great. But when Yomi’s spoiled, childhood friend Kagari butts in to push them apart, Mato isn’t going to just give up accept this bleak turn of events. She makes it her mission to liberate Yomi from Kagari’s possessive personality. But doing so will have greater consequences than she knows. In another world, the girls’ voiceless souls are fighting their own, very real battle with life and death on the line. And when the results of their battles become reflected in the real world, it’s going to change the course of their lives in ways they cannot possibly anticipate.
Quality in writing is often not about a story’s content, but about how well that story is told. Sometimes the best plot is the simplest and Black Rock Shooter tells a fabulously creative adventure about the subtleties of relationships and how the most well-meaning intentions can have unexpected, unintended consequences. It’s a wonderful metaphor about allowing ourselves to be close enough to our friends that we can fight with them honestly and without inhibitions. We must accept that we occasionally hurt people and that we are hurt by others; how we deal with that pain shapes our character and the ultimate fate of our relationships. Balancing this emotional drama between real people and their actions mirrored by their duplicate selves locked in gallant combat is a poetic dichotomy flooded deeply with incredible metaphors. Kana Hanazawa is perfect in her role as Mato Kuroi, depicting her exceptional personality and growth from naivety to strong, determined young woman. But what’s most amazing about Black Rock Shooter is that it probably would never have existed if it wasn’t for the Vocaloid song by the same name, popularized by casual anime fans who wanted to know the story behind the music. For something so spectacular to come out of simple fandom and not from a novel, manga or video game is truly remarkable.
Final impression – satisfyingly philosophical (8/10)
Winter 2012 (11 episodes) (title literal translation – Impostor’s Story)
A short time after the events of Bakemonogatari, Koyomi Araragi’s life is beginning to return to normalcy. He’s studying hard for college entrance exams, playing games with friends in his free time, trying to impress his overbearing girlfriend and being a generally annoying, but loving brother for his two younger sisters, Karen (火憐) and Tsukihi (月火). But things are not going so smoothly at the junior high where his sisters go to school. Calling themselves the Fire Sisters because their names both contain the kanji for fire (火) they’ve made it their personal vendetta to find out who has been spreading curses and rumors among their classmates. But ultimately, it’s going to be Koyomi who will have to make sure their mission of justice isn’t something that is beyond their capabilities.
First off, don’t watch Nisemonogatari without first watching Bakemonogatari. The masterpiece’s sequel includes little refresh time to get new viewers up to speed and there’s a few points where you’re going to be lost if you just jump right in. Second, while it follows the gorgeous, intellectual writing style of its parent series, the pacing is not as good as the original. Where Bakemonogatari was focused and Koyomi was always on a mission to help someone, Nisemonogatari is more of a fluid, slice of life story. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a very different tone. But one of the less understandable attributes of the sequel is the degree to which it was touted as the adventures of Karen and Tsukihi and how little emphasis is given to them. All in all, it feels more like an epilogue than a sequel because there’s never a big climax to accentuate the plot and in some ways that’s a very refreshing way to compose a follow-up series. So while Nisemonogatari may not be quite as powerful as its source material, it’s a nice follow-up companion that will satisfy fans of the original series.
Final impression – a magnificent, philosophical escapade (10/10)
Summer 2009 to spring 2010 (15 episodes) (title literal translation – Monster Story, English synonym – Ghostory)
During spring break of his final year of high school, Koyomi Araragi had an encounter with a vampire. Fortunately, he was able to mostly restore his humanity through the aid of the supernatural specialist Meme Oshino, who was able to intervene before things got worse. As part of a way of thanking the man who saved him from becoming a vampire himself, Koyomi has begun helping people he encounters rid themselves of their unnatural afflictions. And it’s a good thing he retains some of his vampiric traits, because most curses are not willing to go down quietly.
Bakemonogatari is an amazing masterpiece of wordplay. I’ll come right out and say that if you don’t like dialogue-heavy anime you’re not going to enjoy this series because its strongest attribute is the way it twists language and and plays with our perceptions of humanity. But if you revel in the intellectual—the sociological—then you’re going to have a hard time finding anything better than this. And the awesomeness doesn’t stop with its writing. It has a great cast of voice actors including Kana Hanazawa and Yui Horie who are masters of their craft and depict their characters’ personalities perfectly down to every nuance. Then, if you thought my praise was over, the music is absolutely spectacular with a fresh opening theme for each of the female protagonists, sung beautifully by their skilled voice actresses. Dealing with such topics as love, hopelessness, responsibility, desire and lust, Bakemonogatari is passionate and insightful. If you let yourself get caught up in its pace, your blood will start to boil with the brilliant energy radiated by this incredible anime.