Understanding the Medium: RWBY and Avatar

So not too long ago I did a post about the anime medium and common conceptions of source adaptations versus original works, linked here  for your convenience.  And so I figured it was time to talk about some of the shows that are at more of the fringes of the medium.  RWBY and Avatar are two very contentious shows for the anime community.  On the one hand many “purists” (which I mean to describe both good, sincere people and narrow-minded assholes who share a similar opinion) believe anime can only come from Japan, and that no matter the similarities these shows share with anime as opposed to western cartoons they aren’t anime.  The other side (sadly I lack a single umbrella term with which to name them) argues that the shows are distinctly anime-influenced and separate from western cartoons, and as such should be considered anime.  So who’s right?  Nobody is right.  I know I bet some of you are disappointed with that answer, some of you want me to grant you and your side of the argument validity, or you don’t care and just want to see my answer.  The answer is that it is up to each person to decide for themselves whether they count these shows as anime or not, there is no great anime authority which dictates what shows count as anime and which don’t.  There is community consensus, which can set guidelines on the topic, but as you can see the community is split on the issue.  Now that we’ve settled that, let me explain why I think RWBY and Avatar should be considered anime, even if my opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s.

Let’s start with Avatar as it’s the less messy of the two.  Avatar was made by Americans, in America, for Americans and hosted on an American TV channel.  So it can be easy to see why people are quick to claim it’s not anime, which comes almost entirely from Japan (or entirely from Japan if you’re a purist).  But there are marked differences between Avatar and more typical western cartoons.  The art style is distinctly more detailed when compared to many of the classic cartoons of the west, and in turn the animation is more complicated than is usual for western cartoons.  In fact most western cartoons most closely resemble original anime shows, since both feature character designs that are easier to animate when showing motion.  Avatar looks more like a manga or light novel adaptation by comparison, with loads of detail in everything from settings, to clothing, to character design.  The episode set-up is also very different.  It may have changed now, I’m not sure I haven’t watched cartoons in years, but typically cartoon episodes were split into 2 half-episode stories, much like SpongeBob still is today, and these episodes and half-episodes generally had no continuity.  They were episodic, with no over-arching story and no definite chronological progression most of the time. With Avatar we see a different approach, Avatar follows a strict chronological progression from episode to episode and a massive, singularly focused narrative that spanned four seasons, which is full of story episodes and more slow paced episodic adventures which pad out the series.  That is much more typical of anime though very few anime get four seasons to work with.  The comparisons don’t stop there either, much of the lore and details of the setting, like city names and styles of dress and so on, are more Oriental in nature, not western.  But most importantly, the culmination of all of these aspects of Avatar lead to a story, setting and characters which are far more compelling in everything they do than any other cartoon.  You see most cartoon characters are based around simple concepts and punchlines, Patrick Star for example is an idiot who makes us laugh by giving stupid solutions to simple problems.  This simplicity is not a bad thing, it just illustrates the difference between western approaches to cartoons as mostly simple entertainment as opposed to the Japanese approach to anime, which it treats more as an artform.  Are there anime that is simple and/or made solely to sell merchandise or dvds?  Sure.  But is anime as a medium treated the same way culturally that cartoons are treated here in America?  No.  And Avatar looks to me like it follows in more anime’s footsteps of being an artform than cartoons’ footsteps of being more focused on entertainment alone.   It has as much craft and soul as many of the great anime classics, and given that and all of the above reasons, I think it’s fair to consider Avatar an anime, you don’t have to see it as an anime but I think it is fair for anyone to see it as an anime, as I do.

Which brings us to RWBY, the messier of the two series.  On the one hand RWBY had more validity as an anime from the outset because it was directed by Mounty Oum, a Japanese man may he rest in peace, who characterized it as anime project.  The bit that sort of threw a wrench in the scheme was that RWBY was being made by Rooster Teeth, whose members are decidedly not Japanese.  To make things even worse Monty Oum died after the second season ended and now the third season is being handled entirely by Rooster Teeth, presumably with whatever storyline Monty was working on before he passed away.  With all this mess and RWBY’s original starting point in a sort of gray area, as it was a collaboration of east and west, I can see why some people consider it easier, and maybe more correct, to deny RWBY as an anime.  I of course beg to differ.  The reasons I think RWBY is an anime stems mostly from how experimental it is.  Even in Japan full on CG animation is rare and while it often doesn’t produce great results, it is still cutting edge as far animation techniques go.  RWBY takes that formula even further, by making the project one without a single country of origin but a group project between individuals of differing nationalities.  RWBY is more of an art project relative to most cartoons not because it has all the polish and nuance that Avatar did, because it definitely doesn’t although it has generally improved as time goes on.  It’s more of an artform because it is trying to push the medium and even the very conception of how anime can be made in a whole new direction.  That’s something rare, so rare in fact, some people consider it foreign to anime entirely.  And even if you don’t what to call RWBY an anime, can you really call it a cartoon?  It’s characters are more cartoonish and simplistic but the narrative structure is more like Avatar’s and by extension more reflective of an anime.  And the visual style is anything but cartoon, that may change someday but until Cartoon network starts making CG cartoons I’d say RWBY is definitely closer to anime in the visual department.  Now with all that said I have no more validity than anyone else who wants to argue if RWBY is an anime or not, but I think for the reasons laid out above that it is an anime and that it should not be a sin in the community to think of it as such.  In closing all I can say is that I’m glad to see RWBY continue, Monty’s death is major blow to the series in many ways but I’m glad it was not RWBY’s deathblow, and if he were able to communicate from beyond the grave I think he would say the same thing.  You don’t try to make a crazy experimental show without a real passion for the art and trying to expand it, and for that as much as anything else I think plants RWBY firmly in the anime camp.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you all enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

 

 

Advertisements

Revisionist Renaissance: SAO Part 1

So on Youtube there’s this guy who goes by Digibro and he has some great videos where he absolutely wrecked SAO.  These videos actually had a big influence on both my reviews of the show and my decision to start blogging in the first place.  Anyway in one of his videos on GGO he briefly took some time away from shitting on the show to talk about how it could have been good.  And interestingly enough I had done the same thing with the other arcs of SAO in my first 28 page single-space review which I later scrapped for being too damn long.  So I figured I would resurrect a small portion of that sleeping giant of a review.  Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you my retroactively improved versions of SAO.  Much like SAO reviews each post will only cover one arc at a time, this post will only cover part one aka the Aincrad arc.

The problems with SAO are many and most of them in the Aincrad arc are so fundamental that the entire story does not work, if you want to know more about why, the review which explains these problems can be found here, I will assume going forward that you have seen the series and are at least somewhat familiar with the show’s problems or have read the linked post and know the problems in detail.  Because SAO is so thoroughly broken at such a basic level it’s difficult to even figure out what is worth keeping and where to start reworking the story.  So I actually have two different versions of the story I think could work because they include different elements of the original story and thus would work very differently.

The first version would start by scrapping everything except the first episode because that at least explained the situation very clearly.  Then the series would start by following Kirito who goes off on his own at first as he searches for the first floor boss.  Then he would run into other players who had the same idea he did like Agil or Asuna or even Diabel.  Then he would either hear of someone who had found the boss’ location and attend a conference like he did in episode of the actual show or if he had found Diabel beforehand he could have been one the people working with Diabel to help recruit people so they could fight the boss and win. And blah blah blah… long story short I would turn SAO into a long running shounen series.  I can already hear your groans and see the eyes being rolled but stay with me here.  SAO was never great because it had interesting characters, good storytelling or basically anything else.  It was popular because it’s characters and setting looked nice, people liked the premise and it was power fantasy targeted towards young boys.  Long shounen series target the same audience but reinforce the power fantasy by including more action, which for a show with sword in the title SAO doesn’t actually have a lot of.  Sure it has some but most of the action is concentrated into three fights, the first boss battle, Kirito versus Gleam Eyes and Kirito vs Heathecliffe.  Outside of those battles the action was sporadic and generally kept very short.  Another thing to note is despite the fact SAO has nice character and setting designs the animation actually isn’t very good except for a few key moments.  This would actually work pretty well for a long running shounen, it go HunterxHunter style and keep the pretty designs during low key scenes the whole run of the show and then they could cut costs with regards to the animation during minor action scenes kind of like they did in the scene where Asuna fights Kuradeel, where no one actually moves her attacks are just lines that flash across a panning shot. Yes that would still be lame but it’s better than some of the frames from the Naruto vs Pain fight.

Anyway why do I think a long running shounen version of SAO would work?  Well if there was anything I did want more of from SAO it was battles and seeing the time where Kirito levels up.  That was one of the biggest dropped balls in the show for me, not showing us how Kirito got so powerful in-between episodes.  These episodes wouldn’t even have to be very creative and the SAO fanboys would eat them up because they could see their lord and savior Jesus-kun, woops I mean Kirito-sama, fight and crush more monsters or bad guys.  Also turning SAO into a long running shounen would make the creation Kirito’s harem a bit less annoying.  Instead of dedicating a major chunk of the show’s run time to back-to-back episodes of Kirito saving girls who then fall for him the show could have spread out Kirito’s female conquests so that it wouldn’t be as distracting, the same way Naruto gradually gains more friends and supporters throughout his journey instead of getting them all at once.  Another thing to consider is that the Aincrad story actually took place over two years, in order to cram all of that into just a little over a normal anime season they had to resort to tons of major time skips and boy did those fuck with the story.  By turning the story into a long running shounen they wouldn’t have to make major time skips, at least not very often.  This would keep us more invested in everything going on because it would stop the problems that resulted from all the time skips that made many of the episodes feel disconnected from each other.  Another major benefit to a long shounen is that while the main character always ends up OP as fuck at least their important friends get some scenes and battles along the way.  It would be great to see Asuna, Klein and Agil fight their own battles without Kirito’s shadow looming over them and damning them to irrelevance in any given action scene.  If you turned SAO into a long running shounen you could leave what we had almost entirely unchanged, though I’d recommend dropping the beta-tester hate, and just pad out the story with in-between episodes ranging from simple character development episodes, random one-off battle episodes akin to many of the early episodes of Inuyasha and entire arcs where they have to find and then beat a floor boss.  The final benefit to this setup is that because they could shows the full two years of the story in detail there would be no need to set up the Alfheim arc, because we wouldn’t need more SAO right away, they could just end the Aincrad series and then take a big break before working on any more of the books.

The second solution would keep everything from the first two episodes except with one major change.  In this version Kirito would not come up with his “beater” solution and a genuine rift would form between the small group of beta-testers, here I’m assuming not all of them came back for the final game, and the rest of the community.  The overall effect of this change would be to make the show more like Nanatsu no Taizai.  In my review of that show, I said part of what made it refreshing was that we were following the powerful and the outcasts, and as such could avoid a lot of the baggage attached to the battle shounen genre.  The same idea would apply here and it would reinforce the dark edge found in SAO’s death game premise.  Instead of the show focusing on just Kirito dicking around after the boss fight, the show would be about Kirito, Klein, Asuna and Agil working together to find other beta-testers so that they could band together and survive the world while still advancing through the game.  The idea here being that beta-testers would be forcibly exiled from the community if they were found out and forced to survive out in the world or fall victim to sleeping PKs, which for those don’t remember are when players challenged sleeping players to duels and killed them that way.  This means most beta-testers either be forced to not level-up and lead unassuming lives or join bands of elite players like Kirito, Klein, Asuna and Agil to stay alive.  This situation would also create a reasonable set of circumstances from which Laughing Coffin would arise.  That was one thing that bothered me in the original.  I mean having a guild of player killers is cool dramatic idea but the practical sides of making one are skull-fuckingly stupid in Kawahara’s SAO.  See in order for Laughing Coffin to work it would have to be a band of like-minded crazy people with maybe a few morons like Rosalia who didn’t believe they were actually killing the people in real life added in.  But if you put a bunch of homicidal sociopaths together and make their few sane companions morons what’s to stop them from murdering the shit out of each other?  A strong enough leader might be able to impose some order but not enough to make Laughing Coffin so large and powerful that at least three frontline guilds needed to team up on them to imprison them as Kirito described in GGO.  But think about how that would change if instead of being made up of morons and madmen Laughing Coffin was made up of bitter outcasts who wanted vengeance on the “normal players” who forced them out and made them live off scraps in the wild.  That could easily lead to a large and dangerous organization, a group of vengeful and experienced gamers ostracized by their peers for faults not of their own, that scenario practically writes itself.

So why do I think this version would work? Well it would work at first because the biggest flaw Kirito has is his communication skills, he is a dick to everyone most of the time and doesn’t like to reveal much about himself to other people.  This causes him to lie a lot or hide information even to the detriment of those around him, traits which could lead to a fatal misunderstanding in the tense room after the first boss fight, especially if one of the noobs figured out that Diabel and Kirito were going after the last hit bonus for personal gain.  That’s a scenario that could spark a genuine prejudice against beta-testers instead of the artificial one Kawahara created to make Kirito into a loner.  But as far as they story goes the best part would be seeing Kirito and friends all be competent players forced to band together rather than a bunch of people hanging onto the best player in the game.  It would also explore some of the human conditions of being the outcast in hostile territory and the divisions within MMO communities in a manner more similar to Log Horizon.  In fact that’s probably a good way to encapsulate what I’m going for with this idea: Nanatsu no Taizai set in Log Horizon, but with SAO’s characters and setting obviously.   This could still be a power fantasy in the same way watching Shiroe manipulate entire cities and kingdoms with a few deft tricks is, or the way seeing Meliodas crush Holy Knights is, but it would also encourage a story that focuses much more on character development and character interaction not juvenile harem making and Kirito being a lone badass in a MMO.  It would be a bit more mature, maybe a blend between shounen and seinen in genre and certainly darker than Kawahara’s SAO.  Also time skips and more episodic plot structure would work in a story like this because they could switch off between character development episodes, major battle episodes and comrade gathering episodes with relative ease without too much need for episodes to happen close to each other chronologically, hell watching the characters struggle with being outcasts over a gradual period of time would be amazing so this version might even encourage the time skips.  The point is this story would stay much more true to SAO’s death game premise and dark edge, two things the original more or less abandons.  And in both versions I came up with, we would shift away from Kirito being a lone badass and give his friends some depth and character instead of just having them fulfill a harem fetish check list or having them be non-entities so Kirito can look even better (I mean look other dudes can’t even match up to him).  This is a terrible blight on any show and especially one set in an MMO where the community is the interesting because of all its nuance, chaos and complexity.  Anyway I think it’s time to wake up from this pipe dream and wrap up this post.  It was fun to write and hopefully you all enjoyed it, see you in the next one.

Understanding the Medium: Anime vs its Source Material

You know what makes me sad?  Well a lot of things, so let’s just limit it to anime related stuff.  I hate seeing good action scenes wasted, like seeing what should be an epic dragon on dragon fight end up mediocre due a drastic downgrade in visual quality with regards to both dragons’ designs and having the dragons fight like humans instead of dragons.  I hate seeing potential newcomers to the community get turned off by some overly crude fanservice that mistakes sexiness with cup size.  And most of all I hate seeing people treat the anime version of any story like it can’t live up to its original source material, be it VN, Light Novel or Manga.  Because frankly that’s bullshit.  Granted there are some famously terrible examples of anime shows that tried to stray too far from their source material flopping, hello Fate Stay Night, but that doesn’t mean that the anime version is always going to be inferior and god is it frustrating to have to deal with people who can’t seem to accept that.  There will be scattered spoilers from here on out, you have been warned.

Before I really start digging myself into this let’s lay out a few of my golden rules out on the table.  Rule 1: The anime must be able to stand on its own, it should not only survive by the goodwill earned by its source material.  For example I think the Blazblue games are really fun, but the Blazblue anime was painfully mediocre and I would never defend it just because I like the games.  But you see people do this sort of thing all the time.  You can criticize almost anything and someone, somewhere will correct you by arguing that the manga/light novel/game did it differently or was better as though this makes the anime, which is its own separate thing, more acceptable somehow.  And it’s bullshit.  Rule 2:  The source material is just as fallible as the anime.  I admit I don’t see this brought up often but it really pisses me off when I do see it.  There are some people who seem to believe that the source material is sacrosanct and that any criticisms of the anime do not affect the source material.  And sure that’s true when the anime and the source material diverge but when the source material becomes a mess in arc 3 and the anime becomes a mess by adapting arc 3 faithfully, I hate to say it but the source material is just as flawed as its anime adaptation in this regard.  Rule 3: Just because something in the anime followed the source material faithfully does not make it automatically good.  Take for example Gray vs Rufus from Fairy Tail 2014.  It was one of the worst fights in the entire series, but when I and others criticized it, some people lept to it’s defense and said “well the fight happened that way in the manga so it’s ok”, even though the fight lacks good pacing, dialogue, dramatic timing or even a proper build up to a climax.  Sorry chumps shit is shit no matter how you spin it, who the fuck cares how it happened in the manga.  Rule 4:  Anime-only material in a non-original anime is not terrible by default.  A lot of people treat anime only stuff as bad or at least worse than the source material’s stuff regardless of the actual quality of either stuff.  Granted there have been a lot of shitty filler in many of the biggest and most popular anime shows so anime-only arcs have garnered a very negative reputation.  But that doesn’t mean that they are inherently of inferior quality.  Of the rules I mentioned this one is the one I’m going to spend most of my time on in this post because the others are either self-explanatory or I have touched on them before in various other posts.

There’s a guy on Youtube called Arkada and as far anime Youtubers go he’s a pretty well known one, must be the Canadian uniform jacket.  Anyway he recently did a video where he explored what he called “The Brotherhood Problem”, wherein the original Fullmetal Alchemist gets overlooked or scorned by fans of the manga who then go onto recommend FMAB to everyone and skip the original.  Now I have watched both and I do agree with the community in that FMAB is objectively better and I enjoyed it more.  However I also agree with Arkada in that some of the ideas the original series brought to the table in order to make their own story are both cool and have serious merit.  For those who don’t know, the original Fullmetal Alchemist aired before the manga was finished so it had to basically make up its own story part way through the show, FMAB meanwhile was made after the manga was done and it adapted the manga very faithfully save for a few chapters that had been adapted in original like Yoki’s introductory episode.  And given what FMA had to work with, I thought their original take on the story with the Homunculi actually being born during human transmutation, was both more interesting and more ambitious than the way the Homunculi where handled in FMAB.  It’s only during the final few episodes that I thought the original FMA just fell apart, aside from that it had an engaging story in an internally consistent (to the best of my memory) world.  Unfortunately FMA vs FMAB makes for a mixed example because in this case FMAB, which is closer to the source material is definitely the better of the two, however FMA also showcases that anime-only work can be quiet good, it’s not just limited to the boring filler and trainwrecks like Fate Stay Night that so many people seem to equate it with.  Next up, examples that I think are even better.

It’s hard to say which of these two examples is more controversial so let’s just take this alphabetically.  Example 1: Akame ga Kill.  I’ve already reviewed Akame ga Kill, the post is here for those who want to read it, and during that review I said was mostly happy with anime-only part because it meant the anime fans could have a real ending to the story instead of a “read the manga” ending where the show just stops because the manga isn’t done.  But in retrospect it’s more than just that.  Now to be fair I have not actually read the Akame ga Kill manga so I may not be entirely accurate in saying this but, based on what I’ve heard I’m glad the anime ended the way it did.  Back when the anime first split from the manga, episode 19 or so, a couple people I knew were all riled up that they didn’t adapt the next arc where Night Raid fought a group called the Wild Hunt.  They also told me that Lubbock was supposed to die in that arc in some very brutal torture scene.  At the time I didn’t really care one way or the other but now my thoughts have changed.  Based on what I was told the Wild Hunt arc just sounded like more of the same edgy bullshit that turned off a large section of the anime community to Akame ga Kill in the first place.  Also I just want to say that I really liked the way Lubbock goes out in the anime, it feels much more fitting and, god this will make me sound so nerdy, more respectful to the character himself.  It was better to see him go toe to toe with a crazy bad guy and take the bastard with him than it would have been to see him get tortured to death.  Likewise I thought how they handled almost everyone’s deaths in the anime-only conclusion to Akame ga Kill was good and fitting.  Kurome vs Akame, well done.  Mine using the stupid loves triumphs cliché to beat Budo and actually making it work without seeming corny, well done.  Akame vs Esdeath, very well done.  Even Tatsumi’s death before the final episode which a bunch of fans complained about was well done because the final episode was just sort of an epilogue, Tatsumi had already achieved his goal of bringing down the corrupt empire when he broke the huge mecha, his part in the story was done and for him to go out saving civilians like he did was just so in character for him that I was pretty impressed by how it all came together.  For the record I do not have all the information and I might be wrong, but I think based in what I’ve heard, the anime’s story towards the end is better than the Akame ga Kill manga and I will stand by that, because the end of Akame ga Kill is what really made me rate the show as highly as I do.  Anyway onto example 2.

Example 2: Naruto.  First a bit of context.  I actually like Naruto, or at least I liked it before we got to the 4th Ninja War.  The Akatsuki and Five Kage Summit arcs were both quite enjoyable.  But as the 4th Ninja War has dragged on and on with the broken mess that is Madara just flaunting all the serious flaws of the show in my face, I’ve come to hate where the show is at now, mind you that was before we started the fucking Infinite Tsukiyomi dream filler bullshit.  So prior to the Infinite Tsukiyomi filler the show took a break from the main story to pursue another filler arc.  The groans of “not more fillers” were many, but then something strange happened.  I watched the filler arc and found myself enjoying it way more than the main storyline.  That was because this particular filler arc was the Second Chunin Exam, and it reminded me of what really drew me into Naruto in the first place.  Now I know what some of you must be thinking, “good Naruto filler, what’s that?”  Or maybe it’s, “filler that’s better than the main story, yeah right.”  But bear with me here.  The Second Chunin Exam had everything I wanted from Naruto, the Akatsuki and Kages made cameos, Rock Lee had a good Taijutsu battle and people other than Naruto and Sasuke got the fucking limelight for the first time in forever.  I mean freaking Tenten got development, I don’t even like Tenten but goddamn was it nice to see her character and jutsu actually being given attention and exposition.  We also got to see Ino learn the mental communication jutsu, saw a visualization of how Sakura learned Tsunade’s chakra storage.  And best of all we saw other jutsu’s from other villages that were just as good as anything Konoha had.  One of the things that bothered me more and more as the Naruto story went on was how virtually every important jutsu or bloodline limit came from Konoha, it made the rest of world much more bland by comparison.  But in the Second Chunin Exam everyone’s on more equal footing, plus it was just nice to see some new kinds of jutsu’s or how other villages used justus we had seen before, like how one chick used Water style to heal.  Now to be clear this filler arc was not perfect, it had its low spots too, but by and large it was just so refreshing to see the return of things like battles decided by tactics instead of meteors, to see battles between a bunch of people all at roughly the same level instead of a few who were all stupidly overpowered compared to everyone else.  It was better than the part of anime that was following the manga because that part was trapped in the utterly ridiculous and unwieldy story that the Naruto manga had become by that point.  It was something that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that people with good ideas could make the anime better than the anime could be by just following the source material.  It’s something that I wish more people would recognize and that I would love to encourage more anime directors to do, to not be afraid to use their artistic license and talent to make their anime come to life the way they want to instead of how someone else would have done it.  Anyway, this is a long enough post already and I don’t wish to belabor the point any further.  Hopefully you all enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next one.

Unpopular Opinion: Nanatsu no Taizai

Warning this review will spoil the shit out of this show, if you haven’t seen it yet, you might not want to read this post.

I think the reason Nanatsu no Taizai succeeds, and if its popularity is anything to go by I’d say it has succeeded, is because it has found balance in the areas where the vast majority of shounen-battle shows either never had any balance to begin with or slowly lose it as the story continues.  Shounen as a genre, and the shounen-battle subgenre in particular, has acquired some annoying baggage and a childish reputation.  Typically everyone coming into a shounen show is expecting bullshit power-ups, a focus on willpower and friendship, and teenage protagonists.   Nanatsu no Taizai is not really any of the above.  Most of its major characters are not even human and their lifespans are fucking enormous, you know when they aren’t outright immortals.  Adding to that the characters have some variety in terms of how old they look.  Merlin, Ban and Diane look like they are in their 20s or early 30s, while King and Meliodas look more like the typical teenage protagonist, and Gowther can pass as a teen or young adult.  In battles characters rarely power-up and as far as I can tell, when they do power-up, friendship and willpower are not the deciding factors.  Instead it usually involves Meliodas’s demon powers or the introduction of a Jingi, the relic weapons used by all major Holy Knights.  In particular I liked how King explained that the Jingis didn’t actually make anyone stronger, they just allowed the user to draw out more of their magic power, the way a mage’s staff would help focus a mage’s energy in most fantasy universes.

The other major place Nanatsu no Taizai found balance was in its light and dark bits.  Typically shounen shows overly favor the light part of their stories and just handle darkness by adding a tragic backstory or the death of a friend or something, which then gets swept aside later.  Take Naruto for example.  One the darkest parts of that show was Gaara and his backstory, it had tragedy and gore, and it was totally paved over when Naruto brought Gaara back into the light.  The same goes for Itachi, he was the coolest motherfucker in the show when he was the dark, brooding villain, then his story got overdosed by an injection of brotherly love and his dark side lost a lot of its weight.  Nanatsu no Taizai has found a better balance.  It has lots of light scenes, with plenty of comedy and a more childish atmosphere.  It also has some surprisingly dark shit that doesn’t get swept under the rug.  King and Helbram in particular have to deal with some traumatic events, but rather than just overcoming said them as is normal, both characters adjust to them and they form some other aspect of their character.  And I think this part of what makes Nanatsu no Taizai stand apart from so many of its shounen contemporaries, it handles the darkness in its story much more skillfully than other shounen series and they don’t smother it with friendship until it disappears, instead our characters learn how to move on, changed as they are by the darkness they have witnessed or experienced.  These of course are not the only reason Nanatsu no Taiai kicked ass though.

Nanatsu no Taizai shook up the old shounen formula by making almost every major character a badass in their world before we even meet them.  It would be like if Naruto’s main characters had been the Akatsuki, and we watched them get hunted down by ninja villages from their perspective.  This was a fantastic decision for a number of reasons.  One, it did help mitigate the bullshit power-ups because our heroes were already fucking strong and didn’t need them.  Two it made the show more over the top, but in a fun way, kind of like Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill and the currently airing One Punch Man (which is amazing by the way).  Another major selling point is the characters.  They don’t fall into the typical roles I’ve seen so many of, they show a level of craft and care that marks them out as a cut above.  King in particular is really fucking strong on the character development front, though my personal favorite is Diane’s backstory because I better relate to her loneliness and subsequent tendencies to be clingy.  Also Diane is just my favorite of the Sins for a number of reasons.  But to sum this whole character thing up, I think what makes the Sins so appealing is that all of them are as equally different from each other as they are from normal people, and that they are also monsters among monsters, overwhelmingly powerful even by the standards of the powerful Holy Knights.  It’s not a position your main characters are in very often and surely not at the start of the story, and it really opens up new possibilities for the mostly stale and formulaic battle-shounen genre.

The last thing I want to touch on is the magic.  I am a huge fantasy fan and magic is my favorite part of fantasy.  I like the way Nanatus no Taizai handles its magic, with everyone more or less having a different type of magic.  It reminds of back when Fairy Tail was still really good, because I liked the variety of magics available and how they had to get creative with their attacks when people had such a limited magic skill set.  Nanatsu no Taizai did a good job of making the magic decently flashy and impressive enough in scale to keep up with the show’s over the top nature of the show without sacrificing animation quality too often.  Which brings me to my final point, Diane and her Earth magic.  Earth magic is probably the single most undervalued and underused type of magic.  Most of the time Earth Magic is just used to make walls, or shoot rocks or maybe split the ground and drop boulders or something.  In the vast majority of magic shows Earth magic is the same uninspired, and not visually impressive, selection of rock walls.  Most of the time an earth golem is about the coolest thing you can expect from Earth magic.  Which is why Diane’s magic is so awesome.  Not only does she have the single biggest attack in the show, I’m not kidding the main villain only flips out twice in the show, once when Meliodas uses Revenge Counter and once when Diane uses Mother Catastrophe, and Mother Catastrophe was way bigger in scale and a more impressive spectacle than Revenge Counter.  Diane also uses Earth magic really creatively to do all kinds things, it is to the best of my knowledge the most dynamic and interesting Earth magic in anime to date, with the only possible exception being Nickelodeon’s Avatar if you consider that an anime.  So yea… just watch the show, its a really good example of what battle-shounen done right can look like.  Hopefully y’all enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.