Shokugeki no Social Justice: Food Woke

 

food wars

Communist cooking.

Jesus I never thought I would have to put those two words together.  I’m not going to lie this whole post is going to be extremely petty and not particularly important.  But after seeing how the latest episode of Shokugeki no Soma played out and having seen how both My Little Pony and Power Puff Girls put out anti-social justice episodes years ago, I can only believe that this was done on purpose to attack social justice.  And that’s fucking hilarious.

In case you’re not caught up on things, the recent events are as follows.  Six members of the Elite Ten have voted to oust Erina’s grandpa as the principal and replace him with Erina’s dad, Azami- who it turn’s out is a psychotic, manipulative asshole aiming for a gourmet utopia using Erina’s God Tongue as a the centerpiece of this utopia.  I have a handful of problems about the setup of the whole arc but I’ll do that at the end.  Right now we have funnier shit to address.

So the first thing Azami does, besides insult all kind of industry heavyweights in first appearance, is call for the dissolution of all clubs and “autonomous groups.”  This ends up including the Polar Star Dorm because it’s totally self sufficient thanks to the efforts of prior generations.  In addition to destroying all independent groups, Azami also creates a group called Central which will decide the cooking curriculum for the entire school, by which I mean not only what people HAVE to cook but also how the HAVE to cook it.  Individual flair and experimentation are not welcome in Azami’s communist Totsuki Academy.  This obviously pisses off a huge section of the student body and of course the audience, and I’ll go ahead say that was the point.

The only seemingly redeeming feature of the Azami administration is that Totsuki will abandon it’s hilariously over the top meritocratic system that would see 90% of the students fail so that the best 10% can reach their maximum power level.  Azami calls this unfair (which it is but so is life) because people learn at different speeds, so under his new system everyone will graduate so long as they follow Central’s rules.  The flaws in this system are immediately apparent when it drags down Ibusaki, one the Polar Star members, because he performs one step of cooking a dish differently than instructed.  It’s amazing how quickly and how thoroughly they make Azami’s reign look bad and that’s before Eizan allows people to challenge him Shokugeki’s to avoid having their clubs disbanded, but buys out the judges and proves to the whole school the contest will be blatantly unfair.

This is fucking hilarious.  I love the fact that a cooking show of all things immediately demonstrates the problems with communism and social justice attitudes of equality and fairness.  Central deprives the students of their freedom, individual expression and most importantly for their careers, their merit.  The only people who benefit from Central are the leadership and Central itself, as well as the students who aren’t in any clubs and/or are most likely to fail.  The equality Azami speaks of doesn’t make anyone better it just drags everyone who was already better down.  Also the system shows how corrupt it is right off the bat by allowing Eizan to do away with fair challenges.  He even explains that he’s doing it to crush everyone’s spirit into following the new way of things.  They even make note of the fact that 3 of the 4 members not involved with Azami have been missing since all the chaos began.  You could hardly paint a more accurate comparison of communism in the context of a culinary school.  Seriously all that’s missing are the mass executions and famines, i.e. expulsions and lose of industry support.

Which is of course what would absolutely happen.  If Central was not challenged and beaten, which it will have to be for self-evident reasons I’m about to get to, Totsuki would die.  Azami has this vision of a gourmet utopia but not only is it incredibly limited in scope of meal choices in comparison to the wider market it’s also suicidally limited in who it will serve.  Keep in mind that Azami believes even industry heavyweights aren’t all good enough and that Erina, and by extension Central, will have to select from a tiny customer base.  The market would kill this shit off in an instant which is why, manga spoilers, Azami sets his sights on wiping out all restaurants in Japan which don’t follow his credo, because if he didn’t his utopia would be bankrupt in a week.  Does that sound dystopian enough for you yet?  Because, more spoilers, he even has professors who go out of their way to sabotage people who reject Central’s teaching, in much the same way we have professors who join Antifa to hit people on the head with bikelocks for disagreeing with them.

Moreover with such a sizable percentage of students, some of them among the best in the academy, up in arms it’s hard to see how this could even be remotely viable.  Given that Azami pissed off all the industry heavyweights whom he thinks aren’t good enough and all the students who want to focus on their individual cooking style, the previous principal could legit just start a new school and destroy Azami’s Totsuki.  The old man already has all the connections he needs and if he gave them the option of another great cooking school all the students opposing Azami’s rules cold just up and leave.  In addition Azami’s style could ruin Totsuki’s reputation all on it’s own, reducing the allure of the academy by default and thus giving anyone fed up with his style no reason to stay.

Naturally none of this happens because that would be a buzzkill for the characters in the story even if people like me would find it deeply satisfying.  There is however a fly in the ointment, a bone I have to pick the with creators – Rindou.  In comparison to most of the other Elite Ten members Rindou has by far the most exotic and chaotic cooking style, most of the other Elite Ten are masters of a certain traditional dish or genre, Rindou’s only real competition with regards to bizarre dishes is Soma, his dad, and one of my favorite side characters Sadatsuka.  It would not entirely be out of character for Rindou to get Azami in control to shake things up, but his vision is utterly incompatible with her style and she shows no signs of compromising her style for anyone.  It would make more sense if she got Azami in power and then immediately turned on him for the sake of battling the other Elite Ten – probably just for the fun of it.

That’s all I had to say really.  I can’t confirm that the creators of Shokugeki no Soma are in fact anti-social justice.  But even if they aren’t they did a hell of a job illustrating what the problems of communism and social justice attitudes about being fair are.  And that alone is well worth watching season 3 for, it definitely helped spice up a season that is much slower than it’s predecessors because of how close it is to catching up to the manga.  I hope you enjoyed this inane babble and I of course hope you enjoy the show.  Shadilay my dudes.

Advertisements

Halloween Special – Japan Wins at Zombies

1_4

I remember reading once that on the whole the Japanese think zombies are just ridiculous because of differences regarding burial practices, they do cremations most if not all the time, so the dead would never rise up.  That being said zombies rising from the dead has gradually shifted from being the standard in the West to the realm of more hardcore fantasy stuff while more mainstream zombie works typically use a more scientific explanation like a virus to bring about the zombie apocalypse.  Why then does Japan win the international zombie contest I just made up?  Because they made a couple of zombie shows which outclass anything I seen come out over here and I think I have a handle on why, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  In the meantime the shows I’ll use to justify this position are, in the order I saw them, High School of the Dead (oh come on you knew that had to be on this list), Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and Gakkou Gurashi.  There will be spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.

If I had to list just one reason why the Japanese seem to do zombies so well it would be that the zombies themselves are not the focus of any zombie story – the best example of that I’ve come across is the manga I Am a Hero, but in that case the zombies are especially fucking weird.  Maybe that’s too generic a way to put it as it’s not like zombies are the main focus of a movie like Zombieland but it nonetheless rings true.  Based on the zombie movies I’ve seen, it seems like the modern American style is to focus heavily on either floods of zombies overrunning an area like in World War Z or to put a lot of emphasis on seeing a small band of survivors gun down zombie hordes Left 4 Dead style (i.e. the finale of Zombieland).  By comparison the Japanese approach seems to put much more emphasis on the confusion caused by a zombie outbreak and especially how the survivors, well survive.  That last bit is especially important because it not just about how characters fight off zombies and forage for food, the strain surviving the initial outbreak or prolonged survival periods puts on the survivors and how this strain manifests is a huge part of Japanese zombie shows.

Another major difference seems to be the relative differences in human agency in a zombie apocalypse.  Japan gives the humans a much greater share of agency and influence than the zombie menace.  This isn’t to say human enclaves aren’t overrun by zombie hordes from time to time or that human society doesn’t collapse due to the zombie outbreak as is the case in Western zombie movies, however the survivors don’t need to rely on intense firepower to survive the way they do in western movies.  In Gakkou Gurashi the primary deadly weapon the four cute girls had access to was a goddamn shovel, and even in HOTD which had more guns a lot of the time a boktou, a mop haft, a nail gun and baseball bat were all the characters needed to get by.  Koutetsujou no Kabaneri did require more firepower but in that specific case the zombies were made exponentially harder to kill unless you took big risks and got up close to say cut their heads off and even so, as I’ve discussed before the most destructive force in the show are humans – the ones with ill intent – not the Kabane.

As I mentioned above one of the major aspects of Japanese zombie shows is the psychological effects the zombie outbreak has on the survivors, and where applicable the world at large.  Of the three shows I mentioned Gakkou Gurashi hits this particular nail most firmly on the head with it’s main character Yuki though all the cute girls struggle with this issue.  Yuki was so traumatized by the zombie outbreak and in particular the loss of the only remaining authority figure in her life that her mind just straight up broke.  She doesn’t perceive the world properly and is basically a Chuunibyou character except her Chuunibyou is clearly a coping mechanism instead of teenage kids being retards.  Biba, despite all the criticism thrown his way is also a great example of the psychological strain of survival.  His circumstances were extreme even by zombie apocalypse standards but his worldview has dramatically shifted not just because of his time out spent commanding the fight against the Kabane but because he’s seen how others behave because they’ve been consumed by their fear of the Kabane.  Ikoma is similar in that regard, part of his drive comes from his disgust of everyone else’s fear and his own past failings with fear.

Part of the reason this focus on psychology is so effective is because the stories themselves are paradoxically less concerned with the zombies than the character stories which arise from the zombie outbreak and yet put more detail into the zombies than most of their western counterparts.  The shows don’t overly concern themselves with the spread of the zombie outbreak the way say World War Z, the movie not the novel, did.  Like even in HOTD where the outbreak happens when the story starts the zombies overrun the school and surrounding city in like maybe an hour and the rest of show from that point is focused on how the characters will get from the school to each of their various objectives while getting past zombie hoards which are usually too large to fight, and how the strain of that journey affects them – and also fanservice.

On the other hand all three shows also invest at least some time making the zombies extra special or unique somehow.  Takagi spends the early episodes of HOTD trying to figure out the characteristics of the zombies and the Busujima makes sure to point out that relying on established biology, like how fast the corpses would rot, is not something they should take for granted.  In Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, the Kabane are terrifying because they are fast, aggressive and display a moderate amount of intelligence like being able to operate trains or set up an ambush, but what makes them special are their durable hearts and the more advanced forms they can take like the Wazatori and the fused colony.  Even Gakkou Gurashi were the zombies were the most in line with conventional ideas about zombies, they had a nasty surprise by making the teacher all the girls loved be the “final boss” of sorts for the series and the fact she maintained enough of herself to continue her patrols and even attempt to write in her diary despite being a zombie was fucking awesome – seriously the first time they teased that she was around by showing the hidden room and her diary with the crude zombie writing mixed in with the teacher’s was some of most hair-raising shit I’ve ever seen, the build-up was fucking amazing.

Another edge zombie anime have over Western zombie films are the fact they can be so wildly different.  Of the Western movies I think of there are really just two forms, serious zombie movies and comic zombie movies, both of which still rely on a lot of the same scenarios and action scenes.  By comparison HOTD, Gakkou Gurashi and Koutetsujou no Kabaneri are all very different.  While three shows have a certain amount of overlap they ultimately have very different hooks, art styles and narrative arcs – and all of them are very different to what Western films, at least those I’ve or am aware of offer.  And they are all worth a watch in the event you’ve not seem them either.

HOTD is about boobs, tits, oppai, “the plot” and BOOBS.  I mean it’s also about the journey of the main cast as they try to navigate the zombie infested area around them, and that journey is surprisingly engaging, but we’ve all seen matrix boobs – after that I thinks it’s hard to argue that fanservice isn’t what HOTD is really all about.  It has a nice mix of action, suspense and drama mixed in for good measure but overall it’s just a good time and it knows when to take itself seriously – and when to take Gainaxing to the next level.

Gakkou Gurashi really goes all in on the psychological aspects of surviving the zombie apocalypse, with Yuki and her broken mind being the standard bearer of that idea.  There is also an intruging mystery aspect to the show as later episodes imply that the zombie outbreak may been known about in advance and might have even been an experiment. What really sets Gakkou Gurashi apart though is just how powerless the cast is relative to most zombie-braving bands.  Even taking Kurumi’s high physical capabilities into account, the group’s best weapon is a shovel – not exactly much of an arsenal.  And Kurumi is still quite vulnerable to emotional reactions which can stop her in her tracks, like when she’s forced to kill the zombie of a former friend.

And Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is an awesome steampunk action show which really makes a point of highlighting how, even when they are surrounded by super zombies, incredibly dangerous the humans are.  The show takes a thorough approach to this as well, showing how high people can rise in the face of adversity through Ikoma and the main group and also the depths they can sink to via Biba and his troops.  And while Biba is clearly the villain his actions are not the actions of someone who’s just turned feral as is frequently the case in zombie works, where minor characters take advantage of the loss of society to create their own group wherein they have all the power and take advantage of those around them.  Biba’s actions are those of someone driven mad by his own struggle against the Kabane and the actions of the other people around him, which in his case was to generally leave him to die and hide behind their walls.  Also I want to stress how the Koutestujou no Kabaneri was able to make the Kabane consistently terrifying throughout the show, something many zombie-fests struggle with.

In conclusion, if you wanted a couple of Halloween anime recommendations, you have them now.  And I made up for the fact that Anime Trick or Treat totally failed – so we are all good here.  Go get your zombie on and I’ll see you in the next one.

 

Raging Rant: Games and Cheating

kaiji-featured

I have a problem with anime that are all about games.  Be it those with terrible games to begin with like Kakegurui, those whose games vary from good to bad like No Game No Life or even the greats like Kaiji – I invariably find myself annoyed at some point while watching these shows.  And it’s all because of the cheating.  There will be spoilers ahead.

In all of the anime named above there is no such thing as a pure contest of skill, unless you consider the creativity of the players cheats to be a skill.  The games in these shows are practically defined by cheating – the only one I can think of offhand where that isn’t the case is during No Game No Life’s best game, Materialization Shiritori (I think that name is off a little but whatever it’s the shiritori game against Jibril).  Now in Kakegurui and Kaiji the cheating is more understandable since all of the games they play, at least of all the games I saw for Kakegurui, would be largely based on luck – so if you add cheating into the mix you not only give people more agency you also give then a greater chance to show their wit as they uncover and beat the opponents cheat.  And sometimes this works out to great effect.  However I also don’t think it’s necessary because the Poker scene from the James Bond movie Casino Royale was still a great scene with no cheating involved at all – there was nothing there but intuition, guesswork and drama and yet it still turned out great.

Moreover what I’ve been describing thus far with regards to cheating is the “good stuff” there’s plenty of cheating which actively makes me hate a game/contest more than if it had been absent.  Both No Game No Life and Kaiji have scenes where the cheating is stupidly blatant but the game goes on anyway and it just makes me want to tear my hair out.  Take for example the magical chess game in No Game No Life.  Keeping in mind that this game has a third party judge I think it’s weird that the opponent even got away being able to move her pawns an extra space forward because that’s against the rules of chess – but she hand-waved it by bullshitting everyone about one’s ability to command so they let slide.  That’s not terrible even if it doesn’t make sense.  But when the opponent is on the back foot, because Blank are objectively better than her at Chess, and uses magic to start turning Blank’s white pieces which touch her own pieces into more black pieces I call BULLSHIT.  That’s so blatant she should lose by default, especially in No Game No Life where you say look this is clearly magic, and we – Blank – can’t use magic ergo she’s cheating.

The same goes for Kaiji during the his bloated battle against the pachinko machine called the Bog.  When the casino manager Ichijou turns on the blocker and blocks two hundred straight balls, of which 6 or 7 should have gone through, and everyone watching the game knows he’s cheating, HE SHOULD LOSE.  But he doesn’t because Kaiji keeps playing and busts the blocker anyway.  And since there was some setup and Kaiji’s workaround was predictable at least in the broad strokes, fine, I’m still annoyed but whatever it was cool to see how he broke it.  But then comes the vents, when Kaiji reaches a point in the game where he literally can’t lose, Ichijou activates air vents to block the jackpot even though he said they were too obvious in the past.  Again it’s fishy as fuck even the first time it happens when it knocks away two balls but when the plate is overrun by balls and none can drop in the only open hole it becomes obvious that he’s cheating – and he should lose be default.  He doesn’t because he’s a mafia run illegal casino but to me he should have lost by that point and not having him do so seems like little more than a way to lengthen a game which is already taking too fucking long.

All of that said it’s not like I hate all cheating.  Ironically enough Kakegurui has the best consistent cheating because the games and characters themselves are of such a lower caliber in comparison to the other shows that they are generally made subtle enough not to totally break my suspension of disbelief like the cheats of the last two paragraphs did.  And when Kaiji cuts his own ear off and covers it up to beat Tonegawa in E-Card, that shit was badass.  Again though, these cheats are more manageable because they are subtle or hidden in some way and it’s not obvious to everyone watching exactly what’s going on.  The only time I can of where blatant cheating was good is my favorite episode of Kaiji when he reveals how Ootsuki is cheating at chinchiro and then with everyone’s approval uses a better cheat of his own devising to rob Ootsuki of all his money.  This works because it’s satisfying as fuck to watch and also because after Ootsuki’s cheat is revealed the in-universe audience are on his side, the opposite of how they reacted to Ichijou’s cheating with the Bog.  That said I do think it’s telling that my favorite games in No Game No Life and Kaiji are the games with no cheating and crowd-sanctioned cheating respectively.

And that’s because I would rather see a contest of wit and skill go unaltered by cheating.  Which incidentally is why my favorite game-centric anime is Mondaiji (sorry Kaiji you were great but Mondaiji never made me angry the way the Bog did).  Mondaiji is practically devoid of cheating and all of the contests are overcome by skill, strength, wit and teamwork when required.  In fact the only real cheating is before the game when an enemy team might do something to sabotage the good guys or stack the odds in their favor going in – and even that is rare – but even in those cases the games themselves are not based around the cheating, they largely play out as intended so long as the protagonists get gud and over the cheat without using cheats of their own.  Does that make the games more basic?  Sure, nothing in Mondaiji comes close to the complex twists and turns which turn of games into the convoluted trials which Kaiji has to overcome.  But that doesn’t mean Mondaiji can’t have complex and challenging games of it’s own, it uses mythology and stories to excellent effect when crafting some of it’s more complex contests – even if strength is the ultimate deciding factor.

Ultimately I have a strong attachment to fair play and most of the well known and/or well regarded game-centric anime are all about the cheating.  And like I said above, while this does work out great sometimes it also can bust big time and drag me out of the action and actively piss me off.  Not to pick on Kaiji because overall I did enjoy it but during the last few episodes of the Bog arc I wanted to scream obscenities at anyone who would listen – and my neighbors and roommate were lucky in that I’m not rude enough to wake them up to do that.  By comparison fair play is always solid in my book, even subtle cheating that is clever and not something which drags me out of the experience will generally lose to decent contests of fair play.  Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.

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.

Character Cache: Ruby Rose

 

artsfon.com-71443

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

Lost_Soul_Beast_(anime)

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

5

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.