Anime Trick-or-Treat 2017

This idea has more or less failed for two years straight – but I’m going to do it anyway.  In the past I included rules, let’s forego most of those, they just make it more complicated.  Just think of this as anime-themed AMA and comment about any show, characters, tropes, powers, ideas, and so on to your heart’s content.  Also keep in mind I will totally cap this at 30 questions because I’m going to pump it out in one day.  If you’re interested in participating just leave a comment on this post and check the follow-up released on Halloween.  See you then.

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Character Cache: Ruby Rose

 

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There are a lot of reasons I like RWBY and I’ve spoken of them in more extensive detail here.  And with Volume 5 coming out in a couple days now is as good a time as any to talk about RWBY’s leading lady, Ruby.  There will be spoilers ahead.

In my most recent post I talked about how well lead characters fit the role given to them and this applies to Ruby as well.  This is most clearly shown in Volume 2, when while out on a mission the professor in charge asks the other three members of Team RWBY – which for those not in the loop are her elder half-sister Yang, the Faunus (beastmen and an oppressed group in the in-universe lore) Blake and the heiress to a wealthy company, Weiss – why they wanted to be Huntresses in the first place.  Ruby is conspicuously not asked this question, instead her time alone with the professor is a mini-lesson or words of warning about some of the most powerful Grimm monsters Ruby has ever seen.  The unspoken implication here is that Ruby is a perfect fit for a Huntress and as such asking her why she wants to be one is a pointless question, an implication strengthened by the following scene where the other girls mull over the professor’s question and their reasons for being a Huntress while Ruby subsequently tracks down the covert enemy presence they are here for in the first place.

This scene is hardly the only indicator however.  In fact Ruby herself is a full 2 years younger than the other 8 main characters who make up team RWBY and team JNPR and she’s awarded entry into Beacon academy anyway thanks to the Headmaster’s judgement.  She is also arguably the best fighter in her class – the show does suggest that’s not necessarily the case as Pyrrha is the one most widely recognized as the best in an official capacity and team RWBY has Yang go to the finals during Volume 3’s inter-school battle tournament.  However Ruby is consistently the one who finds the enemy first in various situations, she actually beat all of team JNPR by herself during the Great Food Fight of Volume 2 thanks to strategic use of her surroundings and her Semblance – a power all humans and Faunus have but which manifests itself in a unique form for each individual – which in Ruby’s case is super speed.  I don’t think it’s that hard to explain why super speed is hard to deal with but if any medium really seems to underestimate speed it would be anime.  Ruby’s Semblance makes her almost untouchable unless her enemy is sufficiently skilled enough to predict her movements, has special attacks or equipment of it’s own to counter her speed, or if there are enough enemies in the first place.

This can also be shown by her kill count.  This is a sort of unfair metric since no noteworthy deaths resulted before Volume 3 but thus far the only villains who have died, or even been grievously injured, have done so while fighting Ruby.  I mean technically she didn’t cut them down herself but her efforts paved the way for their deaths, if not for her presence they almost certainly would not have died.  And the fact she was fighting 1v2 against characters who had handily defeated other major characters, Neapolitan especially as she beat Yang so easily in Volume 2, shows that at the very least Ruby is dangerous enough to be one of the biggest thorns in the villains’ sides of the people in her age group.  And she did totally fuck up Cinder, the main villain of the first 3 Volumes, and cut off Tyrian’s stinger.  Likewise she displays excellent tactics during the Initial Beacon exam where her plan allows her future team to kill the strongest Grim in testing grounds.

All that said perhaps perfect is overselling it a little.  Ruby is still in many ways a child, and childishness still tinges her character and actions, albeit to a far lesser degree following the events of Volume 3.  Ruby also has plenty of struggles being a team leader and in retrospect it would not surprise me if Ozpin, the aforementioned Beacon headmaster, assigned her to that role specifically to have her overcome this weakness.  Her strategic ability would probably be enough to earn her the spot but Ozpin is very insightful and the leadership role would force Ruby to confront one of her biggest weaknesses – personal communication.

Ruby is kind of a dork.  When she’s not hunting down villains or cutting down monsters there honestly very little for her to do.  She can be socially awkward to a painful degree and while she is friendly with all 8 of the main characters she doesn’t really connect with anyone else besides Penny, a weirdo herself, because Penny is actually an incredibly advanced robot trying to be a person.  This isn’t to say Ruby can’t talk to anyone or that she doesn’t improve this facet of her character throughout the show, but in the beginning this one of her biggest shortcomings.  And even later on after she opens up she’s notably uncomfortable in larger social settings.  To this very day my favorite line of dialogue in RWBY came from Volume 1 when Ruby explains to Yang that the reason she’s so excited about other people’s weapons is because “seeing new weapons is like meeting new people, only better.”  Which should give you an idea how much she struggles on the social front, though it’s not for lack of trying.

This flaw in her character is necessary though and to me it really helps cement the idea that Ruby is the Huntress equivalent of autistic savant – deficient in many aspects of her life but incredibly good at one thing she’s interested in.  This is also suggested in Volume 1 because of her weapon, a scythe-sniper rile hybrid.  It’s certainly one of the most unusual weapons even by RWBY’s very liberal and open standards of what can be a valid weapon and only one other character we know of is skilled with a scythe.  And she built it herself, which is yet another indicator of her interests.  The weapon aside her clear and consistently demonstrated talent in combat and investigation/tracking make her a great candidate for a Huntress.  Personally I feel like given a few decades Ruby would be very much like her uncle Qrow, minus the alcohol – a lone wolf type perfectly capable of taking down all but the most dangerous foes by herself.  For now though, as good as she is, she does need the team, for personal growth, safety and as the situation turns more dire after the events of Volmune 3, moral support.

Then we reach a new facet of Ruby, one introduced mere seconds after the greatest tragedy of the entire show, Ruby’s eyes have special powers of their own and they are extremely dangerous to Grimm and Maidens alike.  Qrow’s only hints about her powers are that in folk lore silver-eyed Hunters and Huntresses were always considered especially dangerous and that this belief had to come from somewhere, i.e. Ruby’s new power.  Salem, presumably the true arch-villain of the series seems to know more about them but as yet her comments on the matter are cryptic.  I think of this as more of a “chosen one” or “main character” factor than what I described above though.  Does this make her even more suited to be a Huntress?  Yes.  But it’s not something she actively pursued or otherwise gained, it was just a special power given to her.  It has very little to do with who she is and what she wants to be in-universe and everything to do with who she is in the context of RWBY being a story, and presumably her mother as neither Yang, her father nor Qrow has silver eyes.  This is reinforced by the fact she has no control over it and doesn’t even appear to realize she has this power at all nor any desire to use it.

I think what really makes Ruby work is that despite it all she’s a kid and to many a relatable one.  If not for the fact she goes around killing monsters and dueling villains she would just be an adorkable teen.  She has almost all the trappings, and more importantly the shortcomings, of a nerd – even if her preferred hobby is both deadly and an occupation.  This goes a long to grounding the series with all of it’s fantasy and scifi elements, which are many.  It also makes her someone we can easily sympathize with and whose story we can get invested in.  Of course I also think that she’s such a perfect fit for what she wants to be, at the expense of other facets of her personality is a very nice touch and part of what makes her especially interesting.  That’s it really.  I just wanted another excuse to gush about RWBY and Ruby.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Unpopular Opinion: the Garo Franchise

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Garo: Hono no Koukuin (henceforth Garo 1), Garo: Guren no Tsuki (henceforth Garo 2) and Garo: Vanishing Line (henceforth Garo 3).  They all revolve around a golden Makai Knight who goes around destroying Horrors – demons born of negative human emotions which possess the human they originate from and then go and eat other people.  All three have very different settings starting with medieval Europe, to feudal Japan and now a modern urban setting – presumably of Western origin by the few names revealed to us thus far.  However they also have a difference which vastly exceeds the difference in their settings in importance, their protagonists.  And that’s where my focus will be.  Just a heads up, I’m going to basically spoil all of Garo 1 and it’s the best one so you may want to watch it before reading this.

For context I finished and enjoyed Garo 1 and got bored of Garo 2 before the halfway point.  And while that does mean I have less to say about Garo 2 and may be unfit to judge it in the eyes of some,  the fact Garo 1 has a 7.5 on MAL in comparison to Garo 2’s 5.95 – resulting in a ranking difference of almost 6000 – I think me jumping ship was me being on point at the time.  Garo 3 obviously has just released the first episode and this limits the data I have to work with.  Nevertheless all three shows open with very different protagonists and in Garo’s case more so than most shows the protagonist will make or break the show.

The easiest way to explain this is to look at the differences between Garo 1’s Leo and the overall tone of his character arc versus Garo 2’s Raiko.  Countries of origin and hair color aside, the biggest difference between the two is their compatibility with being a Makai Knight.  Despite being the main character and being trained by his father, one of the last remaining Makai Knights, Leo is ill-suited to being a Makai Knight.  This is not because he is weak or stupid or cowardly, if anything he is overly-serious, driven and more than ready to fight.  What makes Leo ill-suited to the task is his emotional instability and overall philosophy.  His job to protect people but he harbors a deep grudge against people because they burnt his mother at the stake for witchcraft as he was being born.  This is because the populace had been tricked into thinking Makai Knights were witches by the main villain, which means Leo has to help people who killed his mom, who in turn spent her life protecting those same people.  Leo does his job but he has a tendency to give into rage and has a much stronger desire to avenge his mother than he does to protect people.  This problem is only compounded by his casual father, the similarly less serious Makai Alchemist Emma and the appearance of the prince, the ideal candidate for the job.

The story of Garo 1 doesn’t fail to punish Leo for his failings either.  Despite being a Makai Knight since way before the prince, the prince rapidly catches up to and exceeds Leo’s talent as a Makai Knight.  Leo even losses control a little after the halfway point of the series – destroying so much of the city he was supposed to save that he loses his armor and is booted from the ranks of the Makai Knights.  Unlike the prince who steps up to rebuild the kingdom, Leo drifts aimlessly until he eventually finds a girl he wants to settle down with, who dies shortly thereafter because of a Horror – which Leo can no longer stop despite his best efforts.  But this final tragedy doesn’t break Leo, it forces him to finally conquer his inner demons and he becomes a Makai Knight once more to fight against the final boss of the series.  He even starts fucking Emma – way to go kid, 15 or 16 year old banging a milf, awww yeah – as he finally gets his life in order and becomes the hero he was always trained to be.  It’s rare path for a hero to take and it made Garo 1 one of the most interesting shows at the time of it’s airing.

By comparison Raiko is the perfect Makai Knight.  He does it purely to help people and his heart never wavers – when I quit the series Raiko learned that his still surviving father had sent him, an infant at the time, and his mother out to die for political reasons – and Raiko had no negative reaction whatsoever.  Which frankly makes Raiko about as interesting as damp paper, he never did anything of note in the time I was watching.  In fact Garo 2 was dominated, in terms of interesting characters, by Raiko’s guardian-companion Seimei, who was basically Emma with a Japanese coat of paint – seriously, they are even played by the same voice actress.  Raiko fought some interesting enemies but the show got stale incredibly fast because it didn’t have anywhere to go.

Garo 1 put a big focus on the mental state of the various characters and that was extremely important for the story, it’s because of this focus that Leo follows the path he does or that a corrupted Makai Knight is a meaningful enemy.  Garo 2 can’t take the same focus, it briefly tries with Seimei but she doesn’t even really waver either during her test of character.  So all that’s left is for the characters to run through various scenarios other forces concoct.  This is a gigantic mistake because the most boring part of Garo 1 was the generic, “special knights fighting demons” portion of the show.  It wasn’t until well into Garo 1 that the show really got interesting because until that point is was largely monster-of-the-week style battles against various demons, which isn’t that much to go on.  And that’s all Garo 2 had, at least for as long as I watched it.  Which is why the huge difference in community rating  between the two shows described above doesn’t surprise me.

So now we look to the future as Garo 3.  And I must say I have mixed feelings.  The new main character, Sword, is such a beast he beat down a minor Horror without his armor.  And if anything he mostly closely resembles Leo’s dad in terms of attitude, he is more openly interested in sex than either Leo or Raiko.  He also seems to be a man big in all ways, big muscles, big ego, big sex drive, big appetite, etc.  However he isn’t as old as Leo’s dad so his character may in fact become a shortcoming in future, for now it’s too early to know.  The fights thus far were a mess.  I think that they were made so frenetic is interesting but how they appear visually is borderline headache-inducing.  For now I’m betting on Garo 3 being bad but I’m willing to go a for few more episodes before I call that with total certainty.

In conclusion I think the problem with Garo franchise is that it’s a franchise.  What made Garo 1 so interesting was how it explored the state of mind of the it’s major characters and how their state of mind clashed with or complemented their roles as Makai Knights or Makai Alchemists.  That approach can be extremely interesting as in Garo 1’s case but it’s also extremely limiting, it would be hard to use the same setup to make another interesting Garo without copying Garo 1.  But by ignoring this setup as seen in Garo 2, the show loses all of it’s potency as a story, because it devolves into generic demon fighting and has no other intrigue.  And like I said this means the odds are stacked against Garo 3 already, I would be very surprised if it turns out to be any good.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next one.

Unpopular Opinion: Netsuzou Trap – What Kuzu no Honkai Should Have Been

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Last season Kuzu no Honkai was a big deal.  It looked pretty, had the main characters get closer to having sex in the first episode than most romance series do in a season, had multiple characters who slept around and had a pair of leads who were self-proclaimed scum that dated each other to fulfill the ache left by their unattainable crushes.  It was also incredibly fucking boring and downright tedious to watch.  The show can be summed up in the phrase “sex and soliloquies” because that is literally all that ever happened.  There were some subplots scattered throughout, like when Mugi and Hanabi decide to start dating other people without telling each other, but none of it goes anywhere – there are no consequences, benefits or even character growth coming from their actions and the whole thing feels so halfhearted.  Likewise the show is bogged down by characters self-analyzing themselves every time they do something because it reveals to them they are more complex than the one-note self they imagined – which I find retarded because no shit you aren’t one note.  Netsuzou Trap cuts through right all that bullshit and literally fixes all the problems I had with Kuzu no Honkai before it even hits the halfway point.

Netsuzou Trap has a few major differences in design which make it surpass Kuzu no Honkai almost immediately.  First off the “scum” in Netsuzou Trap are the second pair of main characters, who immediately contrast their friends who are a newly formed and normal anime couple.  Also the episodes are short and that is a godsend to the show.  Unlike Kuzu no Honkai, which meandered about and didn’t really broadcast where it was going – because save for Akane and “Onii-chan” it didn’t go anywhere – Netsuzou Trap is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, I mean the OP ends with the title fading into NTR (and if you don’t know what that means you aren’t looking at enough hentai).  Netsuzou Trap undoubtedly would have been a boring slog as a full length show because it is threadbare, there isn’t that much going on and what is going on is rather straightforward.  And that’s fine because it delivers on a satisfying story in less than half the time it took for Kuzu no Honkai to drift to it’s conclusion.

Another advantage is the use of sex and sexuality.  Kuzu no Honkai got a lot of attention for featuring lots of sex but as described above that’s half of what it had and it wasn’t enough to keep the show from getting boring.  Netsuzou Trap is not as sexually forward, or at least it doesn’t show it, though it does imply that Hotaru and Fujiwara have both had plenty of sex.  But in Netsuzou Trap’s case there is a huge contrast between Yuma, who is confused by her own feelings and desires which result from Hotaru’s advances, and Hotaru and Fujiwara’s friends with benefits style of dating.  The latter couple is reflective of Kuzu no Honkai’s main pair but both of them do a much better job of being genuinely scummy than Kuzu no Honkai’s main couple, but I’ll get to that later.  The key here though is that the soliloquies come exclusively from Yuma’s perspective and they spend most of their time on Hotaru rather than Yuma.  Yuma is trying to sort out her feelings and various bits of advice she receives but a lot of her time is spent trying to puzzle out Hotaru and her motivations.  I could see this being frustrating to some since Hotaru’s intentions are by no means a mystery to us but it feels genuine and is far more manageable thanks to it’s brevity than the endless and frankly shallow self-reflection of Kuzu no Honkai.

Now onto the scumminess.  Fujiwara is a gigantic asshole who beats Hotaru whenever she refuses to fuck him as per their agreement before they started dating, and while he deserves all the hate thrown his way I admit I find his characterization as a total misanthrope, or at least total misogynist, who only dates anyone at all because he likes sex to be an interesting idea, even if the show doesn’t really explore that in any depth.  Hotaru likewise seemed to date other boys for no real reason at all and the show is never clear on whether she fucked anyone other than Fujiwara (at least not to the best of my memory).  Hotaru’s advances are not just confusing to Yuma, they actually ruin her relationship with her generic nice guy boyfriend Takeda, at least for a while.  Which is want Hotaru wanted and even explained to Yuma when describing love, though she obviously didn’t spell out that she loved Yuma to Yuma.  And towards the end Yuma engages in some reckless behavior and sexual advances of her own in her desire to keep Hotaru close to her before figuring out for certain that she loves Hotaru.

Hell even the fanservice, despite being mostly limited to kissing instead of the bedroom scenes which dominate Kuzu no Honkai, is better in Netsuzou Trap.  Netsuzou Trap’s fanservice comes from a place of burning desires and raw feelings, a hearth of lust and passion, in comparison to Kuzu no Honkai’s fanservice which is largely bereft of passion and emotion as it’s just a way for characters to kill time and fill the voids within them.  While I’m on the subject of fanservice I just want give a quick shout out to Hajimete no Gal for breaking tradition and giving the loli the biggest boobs – 10/10 would fap again.  In retrospect those scenes from Kuzu no Honkai don’t feel all that impressive.  At the time they seemed like a promise that this romance would be different, would be a cut above it’s fellows, and once the show is robbed of such an illusion even the sex scenes feel like filler animation, something that moves and distracts the audience from the endless soliloquies.  Almost none of the sex and other fanservice featured feels like it has any weight or intensity, whereas Netsuzou Trap’s more modest fanservice captures both such sensations with ease.

In summary Kuzu no Honkai is a waste of time and if you saw it and liked some of the ideas in it then watch Netsuzou Trap.  Netsuzou Trap may not be as artsy or subtle but it gets way more done and has more emotional impact than Kuzu no Honkai ever did, and it does so in a much shorter time span.  Netsuzou Trap has better fanservice, a character arc and plot that you know, goes somewhere and concludes in a satisfactory matter, and actions that feel more genuine and have more realistic consequences.  Netsuzou Trap is not a great show but it is an enjoyable one, which is more than I can say for Kuzu no Honkai.  Now then, I do believe it’s time to pull up some more NTR – I hope you enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next.

Unpopular Opinion – Re:Creators

 

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Overall I would say 2017 has been a good year for anime.  KonoSuba season 2, Boku no Hero Academia season 2, Little Witch Academia, Youjo Senki, etc.  Overall a good year so far.  That being said it would be remiss of me not to include Re:Creators as one of the top 5 or so anime of the year.  I’ve already made 3 posts on Re:Creators here, here and here if you want more details before going ahead on this post.  There will be spoilers ahead you’ve been warned.

Let’s start by addressing the show’s biggest weaknesses.  Sota, the male lead, is widely hated.  The mid-section of the show is considerably slower than early and later parts of the show, with only one or two noteworthy action scenes to break up long stretches of exposition.  Altair is OP as fuck and especially in the later episodes this detracts from the show.  I’ve already made a post concerning Sota so I won’t go into detail here but suffice to say he is, I think, unfairly maligned.  Many people called him the new Shinji Ikari and that was a good comparison, Shinji and Sota both have severe weaknesses which are only integral to their actions, or lack thereof.  The biggest difference between the two is the severity of the weaknesses and that Sota does overcome his shortcomings roughly halfway through the show.  Both characters suffer from issues we easily understand and they’ve both been thrown into conflicts they neither have the training to handle or ever wanted to sign up for.  I think Sota is a well written character, however I also find that I sympathized with Shinji and his weakness a lot more than I did with Sota.  Well written or not, Sota is annoying before he grows a pair – but once he does he becomes one of the most important factors in the overall conflict and is not in any way an annoying character.

Concerning the pacing, Re:Creators is mostly good.  Given the amount of set they had to do for the Birdcage Re:Creators could never have kept up the frequent combat and chaos of the early episodes and even during a lot of the “slow episodes” there is a lot going on to keep people engaged.  For example the episode which was dedicated to all the author’s originally collaborating on the Elimination Chamber Festival was a great way to study the Creators’ character more, something which was mostly untouched before that point.  The exposition-heavy episodes were by far the slowest but even they had a modicum of technical skill.  To the best of my memory all of the major exposition dumps took place in settings and contexts which naturally call for exposition – like government briefings or strategy sessions between the main characters.  Likewise the concepts being discussed were fairly complicated and meta and did require quite a bit of explaining.  That doesn’t really keep these episodes from feeling slow but at least I can appreciate they are just doing bullshit exposition in a cafe because the writers weren’t creative enough to weave the details in elsewhere.

Altair is one of the greatest weaknesses of Re:Creators.  She’s okay up through the middle section of the show, though the dichotomy between her utterly childish tantrums when she discussed her goals with Mamika and her usual gloating, cryptic lines was jarring.  But by the time she enters the Birdcage she’s just out of control.  She blocks almost every attack with no effort.  For basic attacks that’s fine but it’s stupid as shit when say Silesia uses a special dimensional cage move – a new power given to her as part of the preparations for the Elimination Chamber Festival – and Altair literally breaks out of it in less time than it took Silesia to cast the spell.  I mean come the fuck on, you have to have some kind of gap to make the move seem meaningful.  I think the problem is that the writers went in counting on Altair’s overwhelming power to provide all the tension for the battles in the Birdcage, and that’s not a bad plan as she is monstrously strong, but in my case it made me stop caring about Altair because she was never in any danger.  I would’ve been far more invested in the final battle  against Altair, if for example, Aliceteria’s final blow left her with a gaping wound but she continued to fight on anyway after killing Aliceteria.  But having Aliceteria have all this build-up and delivering a great hit only for the damage to be sent to Aliceteria was a major disappointment – not the OMG moment I assume it was intended to be.

In fact Altair was so OP both solutions the heroes used to defeat her were extremely meta rather than conventional.  First the included a sort of alternate version of Altair and attempted to have the alternate replace the original and thus remove the threat of Altair.  And when that didn’t work they convinced Altair to leave this world, and possibly universe, to create a new one where Setsuna survives.  Why exactly she is able to do this is not explained though I assume it’s the same reason Altair emerged in our world in the first place and could drag other characters out of their stories as well.  All that being said I do appreciate how much planning and effort the heroes put in to defeating Altair both by more conventional, i.e. buffing the characters on their side, and meta, as discussed above, means.  In fact the only thing I’m surprised they didn’t try was to have someone write an official Altair story in an attempt to limit her ridiculous powers – but then again what do I know about strategy?

Despite the past few paragraphs of mostly whining I think Re:Creators has a lot of strengths to make for it’s few flaws.  The characters are excellent.  As I said above, even though Sota is annoying early on, he’s still well-written, and he does a great job of redeeming himself by standing up to and eventually converting Aliceteria, and recreating Setsuna in the Birdcage to ultimately get Altair out of the picture.  How the Creations evolve by engaging with the world is something I’ve touched on before and I think they did a great job with it.  Taking fairly generic characters drawing stereotypically popular genres and media and then having them grow into more complex characters by confronting them with a more nuanced world was a great idea and one which the series uses to great effect.  Even characters like Hikayu, one of weakest examples of this, get to grow and show interesting sides to their personality and becoming more endearing to the audience.  Which given the importance of audience acceptance in the narrative is not only appropriate but a great example of the story concepts in action in real life – which seems pretty meta to me.

And I love all the details they put into the Creators and the scenes where they talk about being creative people.  Suruga’s rant to Blitz when he’s about to kill her, where’s she going on about the struggles of being a creative are pure fucking gold and I agree with everything she said.  Likewise the set of scenes where Marine sees Suruga bust out a great sketch in like 30 sec and runs out of the room to cry because she takes a long time to do her own artwork and thus losses confidence, and the part of the aforementioned rant where Suruga admits she thinks Marine’s art is way better than her own was one of my favorite moments in the show because it is so reflective of how a lot of creative people I know well and how I think as well.  They seriously nailed the Creators in this show and offered keen insight into the minds and behaviors of creative people.

The action scenes were also mostly fantastic.  They were actually what convinced me to watch the show.  I had originally skipped it but when the AMVs came out and I saw mechs vs magic and Personas fighting magical girls I knew this was worth my time.  Barring the examples I mentioned above the fights were a total blast to watch and some, like Silesia & Kanoya vs Charon were not just good fights but ended with immense dramatic payoffs.  Honestly I’m still amazed they had the balls to kill Silesia off 3 episodes before the finale.

Speaking of the finale, I thought it was a very nice touch.  Having Tanaka and Matsubara have talks about how they were busting their asses like never before because they weren’t sure if their stories were good enough for Aliceteria and Silesia after having met their respective princesses was a nice moment and making Meteroa stay in our world to attempt becoming a Creator herself was an interesting move as well.  The only thing which the finale lacked a scene where Magane, who is totally still in our world, shows up to troll Sota again out of the blue.  I don’t think such a scene would have fit the tone of the episode that much but it would have been a great addition in my book because Magane is Best Girl hands down.

That’s about all I have to say.  Re:Creators has a few notable flaws which hold it back but it was ultimately a very positive viewing experience and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone even mildly interested.  And if you’re a creative type yourself I think seeing this anime is a must.  Seriously that aspect of the show was really well done and I can only think of it as a treat and a tip of the hat to creatives everywhere.  Watch it.  I hope you enjoyed this fairly broad and general review – sorry about that but since I already did 3 more detailed posts I figured more of a general send off of piece would be a good way to go for this one – and I’ll see you in the next one.

Understanding Boruto: How to Save the Naruto Universe – or Kill it for Good

 

Boruto

“The generation below us is.. frankly not up to par.”  I included that in the picture at the top of this post for a reason, I think that quote is phenomenally on point both in the context of Boruto as a story and what I believe about how Boruto should best fit into the Naruto-verse.  This line comes up in a Five Kage Summit behind closed doors from latest episode of Boruto and the context here is that Naruto and Sasuke have discovered that Kaguya and her White Zetsu army are likely not the greatest threat the Ninja World will have to face – but they don’t know when this greater threat will appear.  The worry here is obvious, the current generation – Naruto’s generation – doesn’t think the generation below them is strong enough, with the current Raikage claiming that a lack of real skills among the youth is a concern for every ninja village and that this lack of real skills is the result of the current united, peaceful world.  The current Tsuchikage says it best though with the above quote though her literal words were closer to “Frankly the next generation’s level is too low.”

Now this is followed by Gaara and Naruto arguing that every generation faces the same scrutiny from the generation before them and that the kids may well surpass the current generation.  I agree with them to some extent but I think it would be best for the Naruto-verse for Boruto’s generation to never exceed Naruto’s generation.  This is because Naruto’s biggest problem is that the power levels got out of control and trying to write a story involving those power levels basically took Naruto away from the things which made it initially appealing.  I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of there being an enemy greater than Kaguya but if such an enemy exists Naruto’s generation – not Boruto’s – should be the one to face it.  Based on a few hints from the Manga and the very first scene of the anime it looks like the plan is for Boruto to somehow surpass Naruto even when he’s still a teenager – and that would be a death blow to the Naruto-verse.  Keep in mind that most of the Jinchuriki are gone, there’s no Akatsuki anymore and there is no threat of war or great tragedy driving the kids to get stronger at such a young age.  This is why I agree with the Tsuchikage and Raikage, this era can’t produce the same level of ninja, or at least the same numbers of ninja of a high enough level as the generation before them.

What then can be done to save Boruto?  Because against all odds it’s been decent so far.  There are minor details I would’ve changed but the overall feel is fine and some of the scenes featuring Naruto’s generation as parents have been the most well written Naruto moments in years.  I found Naruto’s warm paternal moments with Sarada, who has lacked a father figure her whole life, to be especially good.  And I loved the new Five Kage Summit and seeing all those kids from Naruto all grown up and handling adult problems – it’s been a blast to see character’s I’d largely gotten tired of become interesting again.  To answer the aforementioned question I see only two solutions. 1 – The greater than Kaguya threat (henceforth GTKT) appears when Boruto’s generation is older.  In this scenario Naruto’s generation would likely do something akin to the very first major arc of Naruto – basically give the kids challenging missions to hone their skills while adults supervise and step in if unexpected developments, like Zabuza showing up on a low ranked mission, occur.

The other option, and in my opinion the better option, is to have Naruto’s generation defeat the GTKT but to destroy themselves in the process.  Basically it would be akin to Sasuke’s situation in Naruto, Sasuke has to deal with Itachi because there are no other Uchiha’s left to hunt him down.  I don’t think Boruto would have to be that extreme but the idea here is for enough of Naruto’s generation to die or suffer crippling wounds when fighting the GTKT that they have no choice but to let Boruto’s generation to step up to the plate in the aftermath.  In this scenario no enemy Boruto’s generation would have to face would be like the GTKT, instead they would have to deal with strong leaders from minor villages seeking to claim power now that threats like Naruto are no longer hanging over their head or something like a huge outbreak in mid-level criminal ninjas.  The point is I don’t think Boruto’s generation should ever fight an opponent above the level of the Akatsuki and even then I think the Akatsuki’s power level might be too high for this generation to handle – but at least it could be done I think.  This way Boruto’s generation could grow and struggle but it wouldn’t break the Naruto-verse the way having these new kids surpass their sometimes stupidly powerful parents would, especially if they did so before they were adults.

Ultimately Boruto’s greatest narrative challenge is in creating foes and scenarios which are tough for Boruto’s generation to deal with but not so dangerous that the parents feel forced to come in and curb stomp the problem.  The Nue was a good example as the nature of the Nue made it something which Naruto couldn’t combat but Boruto could because Boruto was too weak to give the Nue any real power while Naruto would’ve given it more fuel for it’s explosion.  So at the very least the staff is clearly aware of the problem and working on it.  But the longer Boruto runs the trickier this challenge will be, and like I said I can only really see two ways out of the problem.  And I for one, hope that Boruto doesn’t break Naruto for good.

Unpopular Opinion: Kakegurui

 

Kakegurui-01-03

I’m honestly amazed I even made it more than halfway through this show.  There will be spoilers through episode 7 or so, you’ve been warned.

Kakegurui might have lured me, and most people, in with it’s cool OP, hot main girl and interesting visual effects which spiced up the gambling but that just isn’t enough to distract me from all the other bullshit going on in this show.  For starters why does this show even bother having Suzui in it?  He can’t gamble for shit, which is ostensibly what this show is all about, he has no interesting personality traits or skills which make him important in any way and he basically plays the role of shocked spectator and generic nice guy.  Which is to say he doesn’t at all fit this show which is full of bizarre, broken and edgy characters, and I think it’s safe to assume that his role is mainly to serve as an audience stand-in who Umeko can explain the various cheating tactics and counter strategies used by her and other players – not that they actually need a stand-in for that since Umeko confronts people about how they are cheating all the time and sometimes the cheater explains their strategy via soliloquy.

The gambling itself is also boring as shit.  None of the games being played are especially interesting so to me it would make more sense to just play normal games which the audience is more likely to understand and keep up with because less would be hidden.  Every game used in Kakegurui is more or less set up for the express purpose of cheating and sometimes manipulating the flow of money gained and lost outside of what is actually being bet.  The Life or Death sword game is a good example, the Life and Death rule only exists so that players can gain and lose more cash than they are actually betting and this game only works out in the dealer’s favor because the dealers have magnetic piercings to manipulate the placement of the swords.  I find this approach extremely counter-productive because it means we, the audience, have to be kept in the dark until the cheat is revealed.  To me it makes more sense for these characters to play normal games where more information is readily available and which players could actually win via careful strategy and good decision-making instead of just cheating and counter-cheating.  Also by not screwing with the amount of money being gained and lost characters would end up in their positions because of their own decisions and I think would ultimately make the characters more interesting.

Speaking of the characters, that’s where the show well and truly dies.  Umeko is captivating enough because of how hot she is and how crazy she is but she’s the only one who was ever even mildly interesting.  Everyone else, besides boring-as-fuck Suzui and the Student Council President – who is just this calm, cold maniac – is edgy as hell.  The whole house pet system is a giant fucking blight on the characters because it encourages everyone to be an edgy piece of shit who abuses anyone they have leave to abuse.  And the Student Council is a collection of nutjobs like a little girl who tells the blonde girl who was an enemy at first and the sort of becomes friends with Umeko that she better get good at pleasing older men or the straw which broke the camel’s back for me – the Russian roulette girl.  Jesus fucking Christ, I hated that character.  Her gambling episode with Umeko was awful and her screaming dialogue and leaking fluids everywhere drove me up the fucking wall.

And that dear readers is where Kakegurui ended for me.  After 7 episodes of bullshit games, run by bullshit characters, Umeko and the special effects were no longer enough to keep me interested.  The only game I even remotely like was the debt-swapping Indian Poker because not only was the opponent a total piece of shit but it also had the only character story I liked, the one where the girl is abused into a borderline comatose state of mind finally breaks out and tries to take one of her abusers down when she has the chance to do so.

Honestly I’m having trouble understanding why Kakegurui is so popular.  Is it the gambling?  I hope not the gambling wasn’t even good.  Is it the cheating?  I guess that could be interesting but for me personally I actually like it when cheating is juxtaposed with people who play by the rules and are just better at the game, rather than having every match be about how someone is cheating and how the main character overcomes the cheat.  To get an idea of what I mean you can check out this post where I compare No Game No Life and Mondaiji, because one of my biggest complaints with No Game No Life is that cheating was so integral to every match that it was never the twist it supposed to be – because it happened every fucking time.  But seriously where is the appeal of Kakegurui?  Is it just Umeko and maybe the Student Council President being hot?  Because it sure as hell isn’t the characters those were the worst part of the show.  Anyway that’s about all I have to say about Kakegurui.  There just isn’t a whole lot there and what is there is not very interesting.  Umeko and special effects look good enough to hook people in at first but they aren’t good enough to carry the whole show – which at this point, given the overall crap construction of this show, is almost what it seems like that’s what they were intended to do.