Unpopular Opinion – Triple Feature: Keijo vs Kuroko no Basket + Keijo: Anime vs Manga

keijo

VS

kuroko-no-basket

Keijo and Kuroko no Basket are my two favorite sports anime to date.  That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds because I rarely watch sports shows, but at the same time it says a lot about me and what I’m looking for in a sports anime.  Put bluntly the vast majority of sports shows don’t interest me at all.  I have enough high school shows on my plate without adding a bunch more to cover sports.  I also just don’t watch much in the way of sports period, I basically stick to football because it’s so ubiquitous in America that it’s almost harder to not watch football than it is to watch football.  Why then did I enjoy these two shows?  There will be spoilers ahead.

What makes Keijo and Kuroko no Basket interesting to me is how far they deviate from reality.  I’d much rather watch super-power basketball than regular basketball, let alone basketball featuring a bunch of teens learning their talents instead of watching pros.  A lot of sports anime focus on kids who are coming into their talents or otherwise develop talents over the course of the show, complete with valuable senpai who help the team or main characters grow along the way.  That bores me.  Don’t me wrong in a lot of other cases I think watching kids with potential can be more interesting than watching talented adults, take Naruto for instance, the most interesting point in the story was the Chunin Exam because that was when everybody was still growing and they were on fairly equal footing, as opposed to the Fourth Ninja War where everyone’s powers were mostly set in stone and fell into the categories of OP as fuck or useless.  But sports is an exception, I have enough trouble watching pro sports, high school sports bore me to tears.  In Kuroko no Basket most of the main players are basically playing at a pro or better level already despite their age.  They’re young enough to develop some new skills, but it takes a long time because most of the time none of the main characters actually need to get any better to win, they’re already crushing most of the competition.  The main team needs to grow a lot as a team to get to the final round of the main tournament, but individually there’s very little growth going on.  And that’s ok because these kids are talented already and they generally have their own “power,” which can range from simple physical abilities, like super high jumps to basically magic, like copying any move you see or never missing a shot so long as your shooting form is right.

This is actually cool, this is basketball that’s been enhanced by the addition of crazy abilities to make the strategies of each team more interesting.  For example the main team is largely centered around Kuroko’s ninja-like ability to hide his presence and surprise the opposing team, and they in turn have to deal with teams who are centered around crazy good players who make you trip over yourself and bypass you without challenge.  The introduction of crazy plays or shots, made possible only by the various “powers” in play, are especially good for the tension and drama.  Watching someone bust out a nigh game-breaking move to shift the tide of battle or watching the other team overcome the game-breaking move to win the game is a huge thrill and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat as I marathoned all three seasons of Kuroko no Basket.  Basically what I’m trying to say is that Kuroko no Basket is really really good and you should watch it if you haven’t.  The only thing I wasn’t too big a fan of was “The Zone.”  That said I much prefer Keijo to even Kuroko no Basket.

Now I know what you’re all thinking, of course I like Keijo better, it’s full of girls in swimsuits, some of which rip, fighting with their tits and asses, what man couldn’t like Keijo?  And you know what you’re absolutely right, all hail swimsuit buttfights.  However that’s not all there is to my love of Keijo, Keijo is quite possibly the best sports anything ever conceived.  Setting aside the actual combat and the fanservice, I love the idea of how Keijo operates.  This isn’t made clear in the anime, but Keijo is such a ludicrously lucrative sport that professional and Olympic athletes regularly quit their sports to compete in Keijo, there’s just that much money involved.  This is pure genius because it gives a concrete reason for everyone competing in the sport to be crazy good, almost everyone involved has at least competed nationally in their prior sport so of course they’re fucking good.  This is a step up from Kuroko no Basket where the baseline of where everyone’s at is basically set by the author for narrative reasons, most high school basketball teams are nowhere near as good as the teams in Kuroko no Basket.  By comparison, if Keijo as it’s described was a real thing it would mostly play out the same way in our world because it’s a natural extension of the world, super talented people from all kinds of sports backgrounds go to Keijo specifically to compete because of the pay.  Another bonus is that Keijo is for adults only, this plays no role in the anime because everyone acts like high school kids anyway, but everyone in Keijo is done with high school and are competing because that’s their career of choice.  To me this is big even if the anime doesn’t really do anything with it, because college characters are generally more interesting  than their high school counterparts and it even makes sure the nudity is now legal because no one’s underage.

The other huge advantage Keijo has over Kuroko no Basket is flexibility.  In Kuroko no Basket, as in many sports shows, everybody is given their one power and that’s all they have to work with.  The powers can be applied multiple ways, like how all of Kuroko’s moves are passed on his lack of presence and crazy passing, or have varying strengths, like how there’s two guys who can visualize the court from a bird’s eye view but one has better range, but the players are still more limited.  This isn’t a bad thing per se, exploiting and circumventing a player’s a limits is big part of strategy in Kuroko no Basket and limits can be great for the dramatic tension.  That said I think Keijo’s more natural variation is more interesting.  In Keijo players generally fall into of three classes, Infighter, Outfighter and Counter, and these classes have a Rock-Paper-Scissors sort of relationship.  However there’s a huge amount variety within each class, which affects the Rock-Paper-Scissors balance.  For example Miyata is a small, fast girl and therefore an Outfighter, however she’s got a lot more power than most Outfighters because her background is in judo so she has more muscle.  Meanwhile Rin, another Outfighter, has higher speed, stamina and lung capacity because her background appears to be in long distance running.  In addition  to the variety there are also techniques that anyone with the right body type can learn to counter various classes, the Hip Bullet aka Butt Flash is an Infighter move that relies on a butt’s weight and mass to generate a fast but solid jab attack, and it allows Infighters to manage the quicker movements of Outfighters when used correctly.  Then there’s the techniques they get from their previous sport, like Kawai’s huge step-in, which she learned from her softball days, she uses to close the gap and launch deadly Infighter techniques.  All of this is to say that Keijo has a lot more variety in terms of skill sets and by extension potential strategies and I personally find that to be a big bonus.  And the best part, many major characters still have ridiculous powers like the cast of Kuroko no Basket in addition to their other, widely varied skills, so the fights lose none of their tension or insane flavor.

With all of that it’s time to face inevitable question, what’s better the Keijo anime or the Keijo manga?  Most people are already saying the manga’s better and while I think it’s hard to argue against them I’m not totally sold yet.  The way I see it, it depends on whether you think the ending or the beginning is more important.  The Keijo manga has a lot of important details early on which explore the game a  bit more and add a lot of character development, which is why most people argue that the manga is better.  On the other hand my biggest complaint with the manga is that the ending felt anti-climactic and abrupt, and the anime dedicates almost half of the final episode to an epilogue that sees everyone come together after the East-West War and our main duo signing up for their first professional match, which I thought was superb addition to the story, because something the manga neglects is that the characters are basically in Keijo bootcamp (which we could rename bootycamp or boobcamp in this case) for a year before going pro.  The way the manga ends is like Kuroko no Basket, the main tea has won the big tournament, and that’s it.  By comparison the anime gives us a tiny peek at the future, and some of the girls shown in that peek looked like they could awesome rivals later down the road and I for one was excited when the anime should us something on the horizon.  And as someone who very much values a good ending, I think the anime finale was especially good.  That said there is a an awful lot that we miss out on from the manga so it’s hard to say for sure which I like more.

Part of the problem is that despite all the goodness that’s only in the manga, the manga has some problems that aren’t really being discussed so far as I know.  The main issues is that the manga doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go.  That may be a problem from the artistic side or the business side butting in and causing problems, but either way the manga made a bunch of odd decisions and has a bunch of loose threads lying around.  The best examples are Naka and Ooshima but I want to get into them in more detail so a quick example are the Keijo engineers.  The anime mentions them once but they’re never shown, meaning Kotone has to look at clouds that vaguely resemble men embracing each other to get her yaoi fix (personally I thought was funnier than her looking at the actual engineers even if it was more a stretch).  In the manga though there’s a pair of male engineers we see a few times and it looks like one was setup to be a potential romantic interest (read male tsundere) for Kaminashi, keeping in mind that Kaminashi’s childhood friend wanted to fuck her big time, meaning we might have had a potential love triangle going (thank god that never happened), but it never goes anywhere.  This problem is minor when applied to the engineers and the childhood friend but it gets worse when you consider Ooshima and Naka.  The exam arc, especially the second round, spends a lot of time on Naka and Ooshima but more or less resigns them from relevance by the point the anime started at.  I feel that this was a huge mistake.

Keijo’s cast is pretty huge and given how relatively short it is, it hasn’t got time to flesh all that many people out.  So why cut some of the people you actually spent some time developing?  Instead of cutting Ooshima from relevance wouldn’t it make more sense for her to take Vajrass aka Ass of Vajra girl from the Elite Ten’s place?  They’re both big, muscular girls who have more or less the same skill set, and it’s not like Vajrass girl’s all that important or remarkable.  Vajrass girl is mostly a joke anyway the same as Ooshima was treated, why not put Ooshima on the Elite Ten roster and have her fight in the East-West War in place of Vajrass girl?  You could even give her the Vajrass ability because she basically had a weaker version of that already.  That minor change would be a big benefit to the characters, rather than flooding the story with a ton of girls why not keep the cast smaller and give us more time with them.  Ooshima was mostly goofy but at least she had a prior connection to the main duo and could share more strongly in their victories later in the series, and her character design was better than Vajrass girl’s anyway.  Seriously what is the downside to including her and cutting Vajrass girl?  The same goes for Naka but twice as hard.

Naka had the opportunity to be the single most interesting character in the manga and the show.  She was a full-on adult, a mom with a young kid, and a former bike gang leader, she was the only one of her age bracket (late 20s early 30s, it’s not exactly clear when) trying to compete at the same time as the main duo.  The closest girl was Kusaki who was 20 but she doesn’t act any different from a  dominant yuri high school girl. Think about that for a second.  How interesting would it be to follow the story of new but older player who has her family burdens to deal with, a son to impress in her matches and a violent enough past to seriously kick ass or dig in when the going got tough?  I mean for fuck’s sake one of the Elite Ten girls doesn’t even get to do anything in the East-West War and we never see her abilities, why not replace her with Naka?  Or the boob-iaijutsu girl?  Hell you could even keep boob-iaijutsu girl  and put her on a Suruga team and make her a tough opponent while keeping Naka on Seitouchi’s Elite Ten.  Hell make them fight, boob-iaijutsu girl vs Naka, i.e. the woman with the biggest boobs in the series, that fight practically writes itself and you have to know how many dudes would be totally on board watching that.  And like Ooshima, Naka has a longer history with the main duo and could share in their collective triumphs more deeply.  And again she was the most interesting character conceptually by a mile, but she was cut for reasons unknown.  Long story short, while the manga has a lot more character development and a ton of good moments in the exam arcs, it also made what I consider some pretty huge mistakes and included random tangents that never coalesced into anything substantial.

Whatever the manga’s faults though it does have some major advantages in terms of character.  Miyata’s story has a bit more depth, though I think the anime was able to get the gist of her story across.  The one who really got screwed was Kaminashi.  In the anime Kaminashi is a loud idiot with rare flashes of inspiration, like a shounen hero.  In the manga Kaminashi can be a loud idiot but on the whole she’s a lot more perceptive and intelligent than she lets on, often catching onto things that her roommates miss.  In the anime she’s the one missing the things and Kawai who explains in Kaminashi’s stead.  This was mistake to me because part of what makes Kaminashi so interesting is how creative and intelligent, even arrogant in some cases, she is with regards to Keijo.  Hell one of my favorite scenes in the manga is during the exam when uses she overcomes the hardest test, the butt figure eights, by using the lights so she can watch her shadow so she can make accurate figure eights faster than anyone else.  Also the anime doesn’t get across how poor she is, because her family is completely broke, it just lets us know she’s in this for the money as well as how she enjoys the sport.

Getting back to manga problems the ending needs more attention.  The biggest flaw to me about the ending of the manga is not just how abrupt it is, it’s how Houkouin was a better last boss than Maya/Kaya.  In the manga Kaya/Maya made less of an impression, maybe because the split-personality thing was Akashi’s thing in Kuroko no Basket, than Houkouin.  Houkouin was a more stylish and interesting enemy by far and her battle felt more climactic than Kaminashi vs Maya/Kaya.  The anime doesn’t suffer from this problem, Maya/Kaya is still less stylish, but now at least because the hair color changes when the personalities swap Kaya makes more impact than she used.  The sound though was what really did it.  Kaya’s style is very rough and aggressive in comparison to Maya’s defensive style, and having sound to help communicate how heavy and violent her attacks were was major boon to the final battle.  And again having an epilogue to ease the story into a nice finish that hinted at potential future work was so much better than cutting off right after Seitouchi celebrated after they won.  Minor details include some of the fight scenes and attack translations, the anime made some savvy edits to the manga to fit their shorter story like making Kaminashi wear the UTM all the time during her training period (the manga had her out of it frequently) but also screwed up some stuff, the final attack of the Kotone vs Kaminashi battle looked terrible in the anime and didn’t communicate what was actually happening visually at all.  Some of the attack translations where better in the manga, like Vajrass as opposed to Ass of Vajra, while the anime did some that were better as well like Gate of Bootylon (fun fact the “gate” animation in Keijo was better than the Gate of Babylon used in the new Unlimited Blade Works which is ironic as fuck) instead of Hip of Babylon or Butt on Titan instead of Ass Wall.

Ultimately my advice is this, watch Keijo and read the manga too, pick whichever one you like to start with, (for me it was manga then anime) and decide for yourself which is better.  Because personally I think there’s a strong case to be made for both the anime and the manga being the better version and which is your favorite will ultimately boil down to your individual tastes.  Also watch Kuroko no Basket, but do the Keijo stuff first because it’s better.  Yes I seriously mean that.  I think Keijo incorporates more elements of realism and is just more conceptually interesting on the whole than Kuroko no Basket, while still retaining the insane superpowers and crazy techniques Kuroko no Basket employs to great effect.  Also it’s full of hot girls who are frequently half-naked and occasionally full naked, and despite it’s clear fanservice nature, Keijo is surprisingly good at keeping hings sexy but mostly classy, none of the fanservice ever feels insulting or ever takes you out of the experience by feeling forced.   All in all a great time.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you in the next one.

Advertisements

A Lovely Reward from … the D

one-lovely-blog-award

Honestly I’m feeling some deja vu here.  The sudden flurry of awards sending me scurrying back and forth is more or less what happened months ago… In any event I’ve got another award and this time the one I must give thanks to is D, the man who made my Halloween 2016 post happen at all, and generally an all around thoughtful and interesting guy, thanks dude.  Onto the dreaded, rules and regulations.

Rules and Regulations:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
  • Include this set of rules
  • Inform your nominees

Right now that that’s out of the way, let me enlighten you all about the wonders of me, because what else would you expect from a post with a tag like “Blatant Narcissism” right?

1: I can speak in a strong Scottish accent, though I’ve gotten a bit rusty since doing it for years pissed a sibling off, and will switch tot he Scottish accent without midspeech without any reason or warning.

2: One time I drove under a burst water pipe, technically I was the passenger but whatever I experienced it, and it was like driving under a waterfall, for a point of reference the pipe was shooting a substantial amount of water about 50-60 feet in the air when we passed under it.

3: I briefly tried kendo once upon a time (i.e. like 3 years ago) to get some exercise while also building up my otaku cred but I gave it up because it was so limited in terms of the attacks you were allowed to do.

4: I have tried to write up a plan for reworking one of my favorite video games, Gladius, three times now ( I’ve given up midway because writing out all the moves, lore and shit by myself takes forever) and I’m currently starting a fourth attempt.

5: I read prodigiously, and as a result I enjoy using big words most people never say in casual conversation like prodigiously.  If you want any fantasy recommendations my advice is start reading Jim Butcher’s work.

6:  Like many young men, I am obsessed with swords, but unlike many people I prefer finding the weird or most historically interesting weapons instead of more well known weapons like the katana.  Currently my favorite weapon is the falx, a two handed sickle-sword (not a great description but I’ve no other concise term for the damn thing) invented by the Dacians (ancient Romanians) because it was so good breaking at helmets the Romans were forced to redesign their helmets to reduce casualties.  Any weapons that gave the Romans pause has my respect, though the fact that was famous for cutting people in half is a bonus too.

7: I love to quote and reference Monty Python and the Holy Grail all the time no matter how much it confuses people, and to be frank I’m a bit discouraged by how many people just a year or two younger than me have never seen this work of comedic genius, it’s truly a tragedy.

The Chosen of Nurgle:

Fujinsei

Akko Anime

DataportDoll

 

Understanding History: Who’s the Real Samurai, Yoichi or Toyohisa?

 

drifters-nasu_yoichi-anime-girl-night-moon-645-1

VS

toyohisa_shimazu-drifters-samurai-anime-214

The following will assume you’ve seen some of or are currently watching Drifters, and there will be minor spoilers you’ve been warned.  Which of the two main characters of Drifters do you think is the real samurai, Yoichi or Toyohisa?  Undoubtedly the majority of people across the globe would say Toyohisa, after all he’s the one living by the bushido code and fighting with a katana, Yoichi is a girly-looking archer with a more ruthless approach to warfare.  But the answer is undoubtedly Yoichi.

The first part of understanding why the answer is Yoichi, is understanding that samurai as it’s commonly used is a misnomer.  Hollywood, and most anime, have perpetuated the misconception that samurai were the warrior class of Japan, they aren’t though.  What most films and anime call samurai are actually called bushi, hence where the term bushido  (warrior’s way) comes from.  Samurai are specific subset of the bushi, kind of like how squares are rectangles where all sides are equal in length, samurai are bushi who served as a sort imperial guard.  This can be seen in their linguistic roots, as samurai is derived from sabaru, meaning to serve, whereas bushi comes from bu, which is probably best defined as war or martial.  This is important because samurai would’ve commonly wielded swords, spears or polearms, which is part of why katanas are the iconic samurai weapon in today’s depictions, bushi on the other hand spent most of their history as archers.  The only anime I know of off hand that gets this distinction right is Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, because in that show all of the riflemen were called bushi whereas Kurusu was called a samurai and he primarily fought with a sword, he also was clearly an elite guardsmen of the main princess.

The next thing to clear up is bushido.  Bushido was widely popularized in Japan after it was created and it’s been popularized around the globe ever since but it’s a horribly inaccurate representation of Japan’s military history and culture.  Bushido didn’t become a thing until 100 years after the Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period, which took place in the 1500’s.  Which means Toyohisa should have no concept of bushido whatsoever, let alone actually practice it, because it hadn’t been invented by the time he “died” and was transported to the fantasy world.  An especially important thing to note it that Japan had been at peace for those 100 years between the Sengoku Jidai and the creation of bushido, and it would remain a land at peace for quite some time.  When bushido was created, most bushi served as government officials who could carry swords, not as career warriors proving their worth on the battlefield.  Bushido was what caused the katana become treated with near reverence, suddenly the bushi world had all kinds of sword-centric rules of engagement, codes of honor, and dueling norms.  Bushido also introduced the idea of kataki or honorable vengeance, where a lord’s bushi retainers were morally obligated to take vengeance on their lord’s killer even at the cost of their own lives.

Prior to the introduction of bushido, bushi warfare was dominated by a doctrine called kyuba no michi, the path of the horse and bow.  This can be traced back to the creation of the bushi around the year 1000 AD.  At the time much of Japan was ruled by the Heian empire, which was starting to collapse as it could no longer afford to maintain its large armies and banditry was on the rise.  To combat their problems, Heian rulers hired mercenaries from the Emishi, a northern Japanese people who are ethnically closer to Mongols or Russians than the indigenous Japanese.  The Emishi, perhaps by way of their Mongol/Russian roots were a warlike people who fought primarily as horse-archers.  The Emishi were far more effective than Heian troops and when enough of them were rewarded with land, the Emishi gained enough influence to create a place for themselves, and any Heian warriors who chose to copy their style of warfare, in the Heian social hierarchy, the bushi class.  As you might imagine from a class born of mercenaries, bushi tactics did not even slightly resemble the kinds of behavior described in bushido.  To the bushi, winning mattered more than anything.  Night attacks, the taking of hostages and the slaughter of noncombatants were far more commonplace than a stereotypical honorable samurai duel.  In fact bushi duels, when they occurred, were almost always mounted archery contests not sword fights.

The split between bushido and kyuba no michi and early bushi tactics can be partially attributed to military romanticism on the part of bushido’s creator, but mostly to the fact that the former was created in peacetime while the latter was born out of war.  Avoiding danger is crucial to warfare, the root of most military innovations comes from a desire to find ways to kill the enemy while minimizing the risk to one’s self and one’s troops.  And for most of human history the bow was the result of that desire, archers were an essential part of every army across the globe because they could kill from a distance.  Horse-archers were especially tough to deal with, as they had the ability to kill from a distance while also having the mobility of cavalry, and it should come as no surprise that the most successful barbarian invasions of the East and West were spurred by steppe tribes like the Huns and Mongols, because that’s where horse-archers were most widely used.  The victory-first tactics of the early bushi also reflect the desire to avoid harm while harming the enemy.  In light of all this it should be fairly obvious that Yoichi, the archer who favors more ruthless tactics, is the real poster boy of what we call samurai, by which we usually mean bushi.  This really comes as no surprise if you consider that he’s from the Genpei War or Gempei War, the two names are interchangeable and it occurred in the 1100’s, because that war cemented the dominance of the bushi and resulted in the first bakufu, or military government of Japan, which caused Japan to have a sort of dual monarchy system for most of Japan’s medieval history where high society and culture was dominated by the Emperor and the military and policy was controlled by the bakufu, or as most people know it, the Shogunate.

At this point I’ve answered the titular question but I still want to talk about some common, i.e. mainly informed by Hollywood and Orientalism, myths about the bushi.  The myth that probably bothers me most is how the katana is idolized as a super sword that can cut through anything and is the best sword ever made.  This bothers me because the katana is total dogshit when it comes to “cutting through anything.”  The katana cuts exceptionally well against unarmored and lightly armored foes, but most cultures in Asia and Europe have been using armor capable of doing more damage to a katana’s edge than the katana would do to the armor since before the katana was ever even used.  The reason the katana was the main sword of Japan was because it was good at defeating Japanese armor, which in terms of durability was garbage compared to heavy armor all across Europe and Asia.  This mostly stems from Japan’s lack of good iron, most of Japan’s iron is what European smiths called pig iron, and they didn’t use it because it was too high in carbon and swords made from it would shatter.  In fact, early in Japan’s history bronze imported from China was more valuable than iron because local smiths hadn’t figured out how to forge pig iron effectively.  The answer to that question is folding, which is where the myth of blades being folded a thousand times over comes from.  By folding the metal, smiths could iron out the excess carbon and make durable swords, however they didn’t fold them a thousand times because that would flush out all the carbon and the blades would shatter on the first hit.  I seem to recall a blacksmith saying that katanas are generally folded eight times, but I’m not an expert so I can’t say for sure how many times they were folded beyond definitely not a thousand.

The other reason katanas, but mostly bows, did so well in Japan is that in addition light armor, I want to say here that Japanese armor isn’t badly made because it is well designed but Japan just didn’t have the materials needed to make it really heavy, Japanese warfare seems to have totally disregarded the shield (I looked into this some more and it seems shields were used early on but fell out of use before the bushi class became a thing).  If you pay close attention to the fight in Drifters episode one, before Toyohisa is sucked into the fantasy world, all the spearmen who impale him are using two handed pikes called yari, which at this point in Japanese history were about 15 feet long, and have no shields.  I’m not sure exactly why shields seem to have been nonexistent in Japan, but the fact that most Japanese weapons required two hands to wield or are commonly used with two hands speaks to the shield’s absence in Japanese warfare.  The lack of a shield also helps explain why bows were more prominent than swords for most of the bushi’s history.  Spears have a huge reach advantage against swords, especially if we’re talking about the 15 foot yari, and one of the main counters to the reach advantage is the shield.  If a swordsman has a shield, it increases his chances of getting in close without taking damage, and in close is where a swordsman has the advantage over a spearman.  The lack of shield makes getting in a close a risky business, as seen by how Toyohisa was impaled by like fifteen guys when he charged the spearmen, and since risk is bad, the bow becomes a great option, especially since the enemy have no shields to block arrows with.

Basically what I’m trying to say is unless you’ve actually spent a fair amount actually looking into Japan’s military history, forget everything you think you know about samurai.  Popular knowledge of the samurai is grossly inaccurate and for whatever reason, Japan itself rarely seems to try to correct any misconceptions about the bushi in any kind of easily accessible public way, and most anime don’t either.  Also it would be great if the world stopped sucking the katana’s dick and looked at other swords more often, personally I find weapons like the falx and romphaia to be far more fascinating and effective, especially since the katana played a such a minor role in the bushi’s history.  Like I get it, we all have our favorite swords and it’s fine to like katanas, just remember that the awesome samurai you’re picturing in your head usually fought with a bow, or maybe a polearm since those were way more popular than swords before bushido because they had a reach advantage, instead because he were less likely to die that way.  And Yoichi, who just had a drunken manservice scene in the latest episode of Drifters, is definitely more of a real samurai (i.e. bushi) than Toyohisa.  Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in the next one.

A Unique Award From an Inventive Lunchbox

unique

In sudden turn of events I’ve been nominated for another award, after months the dry spell is over, that’s two back to back awards bitches.  I’m being facetious obviously, though I do sincerely extended my gratitude to Yahari Bento (he talks about shows like Magi and Bakemonogatari, which are great and therefore you should check his stuff out), who nominated me for this award.  If you are on of the lucky few who follows me, you should know the drill by now, it’s time for the ceremonial rites of this prestigious award!

Rules and Regulations:

  1. Shamelessly parade the Award on your post about getting the Award.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer the questions three asked of thee.
  4. Nominate 8-13 bloggers and ask them your own questions three.

The Questions Three Asked of Me:

  • 3 favorite anime in your mind are…

Katangatari, Utawarerumono and Kill la Kill.

  • The experience you want to encounter in “Kimi no na wa (Your Name)” anime film, is…

I haven’t actually seen this yet on account of wanting to avoid seeing Chinese subs all over the screen, but given that’s a body swap movie I’d want to switch places with a girl who lives nowhere near me to see if I could adapt to a totally different life.

  • The snack you will buy when watch the movie in the theater is…

Popcorn, and if that doesn’t count as a snack then Red Vines.

Without further ado I nominate the following eight bloggers as a sign of my devotion to the four gods of Chaos, may their darkness reign eternal:

D

Karandi

Anime_Girls_NYC

MOKA

Arria Cross

Delaneysloane

Holysorrows

Random Philosopher

And of these anointed eight I would ask the following questions:

1: What is the weirdest anime you’ve ever really liked?

2: What’s your favorite anime film?  Pick up to 3 if you can’t decide on only 1.

3: Pick an anime power system like Naruto’s ninjutsu, HunterxHunter’s Nen or Magi’s magic and develop your own technique within the limits of your preferred system, feel free to go in as much detail as you like about your move.

Unpopular Opinion: Shokugeki no Souma

Shokugeki no Souma is one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years.  Granted I came to the cooking party a bit late, but off the top of my head the only show that I might like better since it came out was One Punch Man.  This is some seriously top tier shit.  However while Shokugeki no Souma is most famous for it’s foodgasms and general over the top-ness, I think the real key to the show’s success lies in the characters and the central character dynamic more than anything else.  There will be spoilers ahead.

What makes Shokugeki no Souma’s food battles really interesting, assuming you aren’t there for the crazy recipes, fiery shounen attitude and fanservice (all of which are much appreciated by the way), is that most of the battles boil down to the gifted vs the experienced.  Typically, by which I mean in other shounen anime, this kind of rivalry manifests as talent vs hard work, think Rock Lee and Neji/Sasuke way back in the Chuunin Exam for a good reference.  Shokugeki no Souma takes that premise a step further and focuses on the gifted or the fortunate vs the experienced.  The most prominent rivals Souma has to overcome in the anime are Erina and Hayama, people who have been blessed with a gift, in this case hypersensitive senses, which give them a huge edge over any competition.  They didn’t earn these gifts, they were just born with them.  In addition to these gifts, though they still have talent and hard work boosting their cooking skills.  This isn’t some Sharingan copy-skills-you-see-effortlessly-bullshit, these are people who have incredible gifts and talent but also work hard to perfect their craft.  By comparison Souma is described by his own father as someone without talent, but he has more experience than any of his peers, often by huge margins.  Much like Rock Lee, Souma’s only real gift is the ability to just never give up no matter how many times he fails, which is hardly a gift only he can have.

What makes this dynamic interesting though is that most shounen shows would ultimately favor hard work over talent whereas Shokugeki no Souma is less certain in its answer.  People with lots of experience tend to do exceptionally well, but the gifted are nearly insurmountable obstacles and the show constantly goes back and forth as to which of these two arbitrary sides is winning.  For example, Nikumi’s gift is her ability to pinpoint the internal temperature of meat, as well as being filthy rich because that’s it’s own kind of gift, and she loses to Souma.  But on the other hand Souma loses to Hayama in the Autum Elections Final.  Gifts and experience prove their worth throughout the show and they are constantly beating each other.  The gifted are certainly more venerated in-universe but the show spends a lot more time showing us the audience how impressive the experienced are, balancing the two out and making them appear equally valuable.  In addition to gift vs experience, the food battles put a ton of emphasis on tactics, personality, ingredients and equipment.  Especially in the second season, the dishes being served have a lot less to do with being better responses to specific challenges, like for example in the first Shokugeki where Souma makes a beef don that is easy to eat and tastes delicious in comparison to Nikumi’s more expensive but less well-coordinated wagyu don, and becomes a battle of personalities.  The tactics become less widely applicable, like how in the training camp Takumi and Souma pass because one makes a duck dish instead of fish dish while the other gets creative to make the only uniquely textured dish, and more focused on who the specific opponent is.

Once the Autum Elections roll around the cooking and tactics get much more personal.  Kurokiba brings power to the table, Alice brings chemistry, Hayama brings fragrance, Sadatsuka brings stench, etc.  The battles and trials of earlier episodes were already great, the buffet and Megumi vs Shinomiya were especially good, but the intensity gets turned way up as things get personal.  For starters everyone’s dishes tend to get more focused on playing to their signature style, but more importantly, the other parties’ tactics begin to play a bigger role.  Prior to the Autumn Elections, the tactics used are generally only focused on the dish and making it as good as possible without too much thought being on the opponent’s tactics.  It’s not that opponent’s dish is totally irrelevant, the Nikumi vs Souma match is predicated on the idea that she’s bringing the best meat to the table, but they have little influence over the tactics used.  By comparison the battles of the Autumn Elections feature tactics that are very much aimed at specified opponents.  Megumi creates her ramen specifically to go head to head with Kurokiba’s powerful seafood ramen.  Kurokiba uses umami and fragrance bombs against Hayama, and Souma pulls the latter trick as well in his attempt to beat Hayama.  To sum it up, the battles get more intense because both sides are paying a hell of a lot more attention to the competition and making bigger and ballsier moves to take their opponents down.

The final noteworthy ingredient that cements the delicious flavor of the food battles though is the characters themselves and just how good they are.  Almost all of them are a ton of fun to watch in action, even characters like Sadatsuka, who’s only around for like an episode or two.  The character designs are highly memorable and because the cooking styles are so personalized it’s easy to keep track of everyone’s strengths and stories.  These people are very easy to like and watching them succeed, especially when they’re in a pinch, is both hugely satisfying and at times a fun, wild ride.  The show has a bunch of big moments, complete with excellent music of course, and everyone and their dishes are highly memorable.  There is however one character who deserves specific mention, and that’s Tadokoro Megumi.  Megumi is the closest thing I’ve had to a waifu in years, she is far and away my favorite character in the show.  Her position in the story is an interesting one, she has talent and experience but lacks confidence and because of her falling confidence has yet to bloom.  But the day she blooms is one of the most satisfying and emotional scenes ever made, I’m not kidding I borderline cry when I watch my two favorite Megumi scenes and it’s out of pure fucking joy.  No one quite makes the moment of success as endearing and heartfelt as Megumi does.

Out of everyone Megumi’s backstory is the most unique, she doesn’t seem to have tons of experience like Souma or Takumi or Kurokiba, she’s not super wealthy like Erina, Alice or Nikumi and she’s not gifted like Hayama or Erina.  And for a sizable portion of the show Megumi is very much Souma’s hanger-on and appears to be one of the weakest cooks in the school.  Ironically enough though she one of the most talented freshman chefs, even early on she has a strongly specialized cooking style and a well developed personality in her dishes, she is one of the few characters to carefully consider the wants and needs of the consumer in her  cooking tactics from the beginning, and she even has more experience than she lets on to boot.  She has the tools to be one of the strongest contenders among on the freshman and no one, herself most of all, even knows how good she is.  This is all because she lacks confidence and therefore tests poorly, once she rectifies that problem even Erina, who haughtily looks down on most freshman, is surprised that such a good chef went under everyone’s radar.  However her getting that confidence is a huge struggle, no one else in the show seems to have had a tougher time getting good than Megumi.  There’s plenty of scenes of her either in tears or almost in tears, scenes where she’s panicking and even despairing as the pressure of academy gets to her and drives her confidence further down.  In comparison to everyone else Megumi has had to put a lot more of her effort into fighting and eventually overcoming emotional barriers, which lends a lot of drama and emotional impact to her story, much more so than say Souma’s story which is full of memorable, high tension moments but tends to focus on triumph far more than failure.

Last but not least, Megumi’s big moments of success are the kind of thing I love to see.  In my review of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, I mentioned that the early performances were hard to watch because watching people embarrass themselves makes me cringe.  Megumi’s moments of triumphs are the opposite, they are moments which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt her strengths and make me smile while I hold back tears.  Nothing quite gets me as much as seeing the person who used to fail start succeeding, and the fact that her match with Shinomiya is peppered with flashbacks of her failures and emotional low points before cutting to all the professional chefs praising her dish made that scene hit home on a level few scenes ever reach.  This is then built on in the Autum Elections where she has flashbacks to all the work she put in learning to butcher the anchorfish for her family’s restaurant, before she again succeeds and all the fishermen she learned from, in addition to most of the students who used to doubt her, starting applauding.  Whereas Souma’s and Kurokiba’s, my next favorite characters, biggest moments tend to be badass and great at firing me up, Megumi’s are deeply emotional and awe-inspiring.  To me Megumi is the secret ingredient that puts this show heads and shoulders above most others, I love the fun, over the top characters and contests, but I’ve seen and liked similar things in many other shows, almost no shows have scenes with the same level of emotional impact as Megumi’s big moments.

So long story short, Shokugeki no Souma is amazing and if you haven’t watched it yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  It’s fun, highly memorable and at times incredibly emotional.  Also Megumi is a literal goddess and I worship at her altar daily.  Also also there are tons of cute and/or hot girls and plenty of fanservice if you want those things.  Seriously though, do watch it, it’s really fucking good and I can only hope that my words do it some semblance of justice.  Hope you enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.

A Sunshine Award from a Moon Goddess

It’s been many long months but, it’s finally here.  Another award for me to boast about to my small, but slowly growing, virtual audience.  Today I’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by none other than the Greek goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, Artemis.

                            sunshine-blogger-award

Why I’ve received a sun-based reward from Artemis is unknown, perhaps her brother Apollo owed her one, but I’m honored to receive this prestigious award from such a powerful divine being.  All joking aside, thank you Artemis, you’ve been one of the most active and interesting members of my small audience and I should be thanking you award or no.

The Ceremonial Rules regarding this award are as follows:

  • Thank the one who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions of asked of thee by the nominator.
  • Nominate 11 others for the award and ask of them 11 questions.
  • List the rules in your post and be sure to have the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

The questions asked of me are:

Q: What was the first movie you ever saw in a cinema?

A: Probably the first Harry Potter, or maybe Star Wars Episode 1, I don’t remember for sure.

Q: If you could snap your fingers and be super-talented at any one (non-fantastical) thing, what would it be?

A: Coding, because that way I could hopefully have a more marketable job skill while still being a creative.

Q: Is there any food you absolutely can’t stand?

A: Any cooked fruit, I like my fruit crisp and crunchy, not warm and soggy.

Q: Based on your own personality, which Stock Japanese Character would you be?

A: Probably the Ronin, I like the moral attitudes of Samurai and other warrior codes but I prefer to move to the beat of my own drum.

Q: Assuming it was totally safe and you had the time and money, where would you most like to spend a week’s vacation?

A: Egypt and the Middle East’s Mediterranean coast.  I’m a history buff and ancient civilizations are my favorite, if I had the money and knew I’d be safe it would be a crime against myself not to go.

Q: What natural disaster is the most terrifying?

A: Tornadoes, because the best way to survive one coming at you is to hide underground and that sounds very stressful to say the least, also even if you hide it still fucks up your house and stuff.

Q: Have you ever broken any bones and if so, how?

A: Not yet, and I hope not ever.

Q: Even if you’ve only watched a few minutes, what’s the single worst anime you’ve ever seen?

A: I’m so tempted to say Sword Art Online or Tokyo Ghoul, but I think this dishonor goes to Ikki Tousen, which I’m ashamed to saw I’ve seen all four seasons of back when I was an anime noob.

Q:What charity would you donate a million dollars to?

A: This is a tough one because as they grow, charities tend to serve the intended targets less and serve its members more.  So let’s say a newly formed charity group supporting veterans.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

A: My biggest pet peeve is people acting like total assholes to people who don’t think like them and not recognizing how bad their behavior is, let alone owning up to said behavior, because they think the people they are insulting and harassing are all worse than them.  If this sounds like a bizarre pet peeve, you may not be aware of just how much venom is plaguing public spaces in America right now after the recently ended US presidential race, or you may be participating in the venom and not owning up to it.

Q: Did you ever believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy?

A: Yes, probably until I eight at least for Santa and the Easter Bunny, not so sure when I stopped believing in the tooth fairy.

Now that my trial is over, I’d like to nominate these 11 bloggers and put them to the test.  If you’ve already received this award or don’t wish to face the trial, feel free to ignore the nomination.  My nominees are:

D

Karandi

Anime_Girls_NYC

MOKA

Arria Cross

Delaneysloane

Holysorrows

Random Philosopher

Zaktaku

Jiraiyan

InspiroModus

Of these chosen bloggers, I would ask the following questions:

What is your favorite color?

Now take that favorite color and associate it with any feeling, character, noun or concept you like and explain why you associate that color with that thing.

What foreign culture or country, ancient or present day, interests you the most?

What is the capital of Assyria?

What is your favorite Anime OST?  This can be the entire OST for a whole series, an album, a single song, or even a song you don’t know the name of so long as you described what’s it from and the scene it plays during.

If you could use Nen from HunterxHunter, what kind of Nen user would you want to be (Specialist not allowed) and what would your power be?  Feel free to answer with a basic outline or idea, or get as detailed as you want.

What’s your favorite pair of Heroes and Villains?  This can be a romantic pairing, a rival pairing or two characters who just have awesome fights, they must be from the same show.

What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Let’s talk anime babes, name one of your waifus or best girls from any series and include a picture.  If you happen to be a woman, do name a favorite female character and add a photo.

Now let’s talk anime bros, name one of your favorite hot boys from any series and include a picture, if you’re a dude name one of your favorite male characters and post a picture.

What it the trashiest or worst anime that you enjoy anyway?

Unpopular Opinion: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

When I look back at my top two favorite shows and strip them done to the most universally applicable elements of their story and presentation, I find that two things that any show can do which really impress are huge, incredible endings and the ability to get better or stay just as good every time I rewatch it.  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is decidedly not a show that falls into either of these categories.  I won’t go so far to say it’s outright bad because I don’t think that’s true, but it was much worse the second time I watched it and I don’t think it’s ever going to get better.  There will be spoilers ahead you’ve been warned.

After meditating on why it is that Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was such a lesser experience the second time around I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is mainly Kaori and the show’s assumption that you the viewer are invested in her as the main romantic interest.  This works the first time around because it’s not until well after Arima starts really falling for her that we find out she’s horribly sick and will eventually die by the end of the season.  That way we can get invested in the romance and then get hit by the big feels later on.  But if you go in knowing exactly what’s going to happen to Arima and Kaori this dynamic totally falls apart, well if you’re like me at least.  To me there’s something weird and almost underhanded about the way Kaori goes about getting Arima’s affection: So get this, her plan is pretend to date Arima’s best friend (I don’t think it’s ever made clear why she knows those two were best friends or that the best friend is a total player who dates a bunch of girls at once, conveniently allowing her to go on quasi-dates with Arima but whatever I’ll buy it), so that she can hang out with Arima and get him back into piano, and so she can date him without going out with him.  She has to enact this plan because she’s friends with Arima’s childhood friend and that childhood friend is in love with him.

I get that because she knows she’s not in good health she doesn’t want to fight openly with the childhood friend for Arima’s affection and then cause a whole bunch of problems for everyone by potentially winning and then dying on her new boyfriend.  But her approach is hardly better because she stills wins Arima’s affection anyway and then devastates him by dying.  Her plan is only good insofar as it gets Arima back to playing the piano.  Now I know that finale is this big moment where after getting so depressed at Kaori’s rapidly approaching death Arima overcomes his sorrow and plays the best concert of his life with all these romantic and artsy visuals of him playing with Kaori which cements their tragic romance and visualizes for the invested audience the emotional crescendo of the narrative.  And credit where it’s due it was a good final performance and the first time around I think it worked.  But what it made clear to me the second time around was that this was not the scene I got most emotional over, because even that first time around I knew one other scene which rivaled the ending and with a new perspective that scene surpassed the ending.  I’m talking about the duet performance in episode 18.

Shortly after Kaori gets sick and Arima plays at her event by himself and really gets going on his piano, he ends up teaching this middle school girl piano.  The girl is already good at piano but she wants to get better so that she can reignite the passions of her big brother, her big brother being arguably the best pianist of his age group in Japan since Arima had his huge emotional breakdown over his mother’s death before episode one and stopped playing piano.  This brother, Aizawa Takeshi considered Arima a huge rival back when they were younger and with Arima gone for a few years, and without someone else to fill the void he left, Takeshi is losing his passion.  So his little sister trains with Arima and Arima’s coach for like a month, culminating in a duet performance at the school music festival.  This duet performance is beautiful because Arima pushes this girl to her limits during this performance, and because she’s trained with him she rises to the occasion, has the best performance of her life and reignites her brother’s passion just like she wanted to.  It’s an amazing performance that relies on the music and character’s soliloquies to communicate the emotional climax this performance represents, and to me that was so much better than having the crazy artsy visuals of Kaori and Arima playing together in the finale.  To me the duet performance had far emotional impact because I like the little sister more than Kaori, I like how more character’s perspectives were expressed during that performance, and I like that ended on a big moment of hope, instead of one of crushing sadness.

Now the narrative says that Arima really improves his music when exposed to sorrow, so his mother’s death and Kaori’s death are supposed to shoot him forward, which makes Kaori and her death more important.  However it also shows that in the process of teaching the little sister for the duet performance, Arima improves.  To me it would’ve been a much stronger message to have Arima surpass his limits with the duet performance, to throw away the idea that he can only really improve with sadness.  The way I see it this reliance on sorrow as the driving force of his talent limits Arima, which is a huge blunder to me because he’s a teenager, right now he has more potential to change and reshape himself than ever before.  If Arima were older and could only advance via sorrow, like some kind of piano equivalent of Edgar Allen Poe, then this characterization would be stronger.  But given his youth, if Arima can only really grow due to sorrow he’s either going to hit a wall soon or he’ll have to keep having bad things happen to him which honestly might make him suicidal.  That’s a weak narrative to me, especially when the duet performance showed he could grow while still experiencing joy and hope.

Setting aside the narrative there a few other things that bothered me.  I just generally don’t like most of the characters we see the most of.  Arima is fine but the best friend is mostly a waste of time, the childhood friend is annoying, and Kaori doesn’t appeal to me at all for the reasons described above.  I’d also like to note that I think the story is weakened by the fact that Arima basically undergoes the same character arc twice because his mom and Kaori both get him going on the piano and then die, leaving him temporarily heartbroken and unable to play before he grows and can play again, and that was pretty boring.  Similarly the early performances with Kaori were hard for me to watch, I just hate watching people who are supposed to be good fail horribly, it causes me to cringe a lot and want to skip the scene.  By comparison the duet arc showed a lot more potential for character growth.  To me the best characters are the other pianists and Arima’s teacher, because they had better designs, more concretely defined backstories and clear motivations and because all the best scenes revolved around the piano performances.  Also Emi is way way way hotter than Kaori.  And to reiterate one more time the best emotional scene was the duet performance with the little sister, which had a much bigger impact on the other pianists and the teacher than Arima’s school friends.

A few other thing that bother me was how Kaori knew about Arima’s strong emotional connections to Love’s Sorrow (I think that was the song title), the piece he performs at Kaori’s performance that she misses.  It’s hugely important to Arima getting past the ghost of his mother and coming into his own but it’s not explained why she knows that this particular song is so important to him in any satisfactory way.  Also having Kaori literally have and die of the same disease as Arima’s mom is bad move to me.  It traps Arima’s story in the past, when the whole point of the Love’s Sorrow performance was him breaking free of the past to move on and grow, an idea that was built on with the duet performance arc.  But by having Kaori die in same way as his mom and having the same effect on Arima, albeit for a much shorter span of time, robs Arima and his story of their forward momentum.  The final performance is basically a elegy in piano form, and sure it’s a beautiful elegy, but it’s weird to end a high school story on that note, because high school is about growth and becoming the person you will be as an adult.  By entombing the story in Kaori’s death and Arima’s elegy, they’ve created a moment that’s beautiful when frozen in time, but becomes significantly less so when you think about the implications it has for Arima’s future.  Again the duet performance bypasses all of this because it shows that not only has Arima broken free of his past traumas but that he’s actively pursuing his future.

At the end of the day I don’t think Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a bad show, but it’s not a particularly good one either.  I think the ending scene, while strong, is neither the best scene in the show nor the direction the narrative should have taken.  And because so much of this show’s story relies on you being invested in Kaori, when I found Emi far more interesting as a character and far hotter, if you ever stop being invested in Kaori this story loses a ton of it’s emotional impact, which was the primary draw of the show.  If you’ve never seen it before feel free to give it a whirl, but honestly I think this one of those shows that is way overrated because it tries to be really sad and dramatic and artsy, and for most people that’s enough to appear really top tier.  As discussed before, I’m not most people and thanks to my second viewing, I’m not impressed.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.