Season’s Greetings: Summer 2016 Follow-up

This season follow up is going to be a bit different than normal.  Rather than talk about everything I’m watching in brief and say this show is good, like Mob Psycho 100, or this show is ok, or this show has been dropped, I want to talk in more detail about a couple of shows which I feel mostly strongly about for this season.  There will be spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.

Arslan Senki:  This is a fantastic sequel, which makes me very sad because it’s already half way over.  I still don’t know why the show is stuck with only eight episodes but damn has it made each episode count.  We’ve had some good battles of the small and large variety, major political developments like Andragoras’ escape and subsequent banishment of Arslan.  The setting has drastically changed as the focus has shifted to the coast, a welcome scenery change and more importantly a place where Farangis’ skimpy outfits look much more appropriate as many people in the region are indeed wearing less clothing.  Perhaps most importantly though, the show has given Hermes some surprising depth as a character.

Now Hermes worked fine as someone solely consumed by revenge, and to some extent he still is that guy, but now we have much more insight into his background and character.  How it took multiple betrayals for him to truly turn to hatred, how the masked sorcerers have been intent on using him since the beginning and have egged him onto his path of destruction.  Best of all though was the reveal that he had a woman he truly cared about and in his own way appears to still care very much about.  Hermes’ revenge has become more justified than ever, though his actions have still gone too far to be considered just, and the man himself has become more nuanced and human than he was before.  In season one he was just the raging anti-hero-turned-villain who had nothing but cruelty and rage to his character, now he has much more.  Love exists in him somewhere, his rage has multiple sources from which to boil.  Hermes has become a far more interesting character with a single episode of backstory to flesh him out.  Well done Arslan Senki, well done indeed.  Also Andragoras has become even more hate-able and I’m all for his eventual downfall.

Hitori no Shita: The Outsider:  I’m not going to lie I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  It is not visually impressive though I don’t think it looks bad either.  Most of the characters are a mess thus far, some are edgy, some naive, some so blatantly fake you’d have to be dumb, deaf and blind to miss it and some who orgasm while sitting atop a corpse, not fucking a corpse mind you, just sitting on it.  That said there are few things I find interesting.  Everyone of note in the show has superpowers but instead of the superpowers being generic or inventive and having all kinds of variety, all of the powers revealed thus far have some connection to Chinese lore and mysticism, a welcome change for me as a guy who’s into lore and mysticism himself.  But what truly saves the show is the main girl Baobao/Houhou.  Baobao looks like the girl from the ring, has a great deadpan voice even if her reactions aren’t always deadpan, and she fights incredibly well with her knife.  In the first episode she reminded me a lot of Shiki from the Kara no Kyoukai films, which I like, as she mowed down a horde of zombies with her knife alone.  And episode two showcased her fighting prowess again but also hinted that she is far stronger than what we’ve seen already as her final attack on the main guy, powered up by his special kung fu, happens off-screen.  I can’t say this show has a lot of promise but it does promise a lot of action and I’m down for that, especially watching if I’m watching Baobao fight.

Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin:  This is a show I’m guessing has been badly overlooked.  The title alone is a headache to read and none of the characters or locations have memorable names because all their names are shit.  That said the show looks decent both visually and in terms of plot and characters.  The setting in particular shows tons of potential as pre-WWI tech is fused with magical spirits to add some flair to the combat.  Likewise the politics of the show seem notably more interesting than normal even though the show hasn’t really done anything with them yet.  Most importantly though I wanted to talk about the male and female leads.  The leading lady is not all that interesting as an individual but I definitely like how she is much stronger on a physical level than the main guy and can use her skills to either save his ass or beat his ass whatever the situation.  The main duo draws inspiration from the relationship between Ferris and Ryner Lute from Legend of Legendary Heroes when it comes to their chemistry, and they improve on that formula by not having the main girl beat the main guy pointlessly for laughs.  The main guy is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Ryner Lute clone though he’s still very different.

Now I was lukewarm towards the main guy in episodes one and two but episode three seals the deal for me.  The whole time he acts like a playful dick, save for a few moments when he gets serious and almost kills the princess, who’s very forward towards women.  That last bit mostly seemed to be played as joke but in episode three the squad he ends up being assigned is controlled by it’s sergeant, the daughter of a woman the main guy slept with before the show started.  This is what sold me, because it means his forwardness wasn’t just for laughs and stupid light novel dialogue, this guy has actually got some action and with a milf no less.  This is pretty rare for anime and I find myself impressed that they went this route, it added a lot to my investment in the main guy.  I don’t think this show will ever be great, but I do feel like it’s being overlooked and underrated by many.

orange:  Orange is the show that I feel is doing the best job of wasting it’s potential.  It’s hard to say where this show starts fucking up but if I had to pick a starting point I’d say it fails at a conceptual level.  See the thing about orange is that you could take a lot of what it already has and tweak it to make a much more interesting show.  Before I get to that let me explain why I feel the premise is wasted on what is essentially a shoujo romantic drama.  For one thing I’m not a shoujo man, I can’t stand seeing people freeze up and get flustered over the most insignificant shit.  I remember what it was like to be an awkward teenager but shoujo characters amplify that by an order of magnitude beyond my own experience, and I wasn’t even a confident outgoing guy.  This is especially true when the premise of this show gets involved.  See the problem with shoujo genre and the premise of the show, sending a letter back in time to clear your regrets and save your friend, is that they don’t mix very well.  For example it’s very hard to see how Naho playing the final round of a softball game and getting her team to win helps save Kakeru from dying or clears any meaningful regret.  Look I get that people have stupid regrets that stick with them, every now and then my brain loves to remind me of this one screw up I made during a middle school basketball game, but that screw up has no bearing on my life and I don’t really regret it anymore, I just laugh at my stupid mistake from the past.  So how the fuck did Naho not playing that one round of softball stick with her after she had a life, a marriage and kids?  It just seems so stupid.

Some tips from her future letter are more obviously helpful like getting Kakeru to play soccer but still it seems like Naho is undoing minor shit thus far and it seems altogether to childish and shoujo-y for lack of a better term to have any impact on me.  And the only time this is subverted and real dramatic stakes are in play is held together by pure contrivance.  See the dramatic twist was that Kakeru’s mom committed suicide when he was hanging out with the group in episode one, and to the show’s credit that was a dramatic event and shows that this show can go beyond shoujo bullshit.  However what many fail to realize is that the whole thing was contrived bullshit.  See future Naho knew about the consequences of Kakeru hanging out with the group but she didn’t write them in the letter so they could have the dramatic suicide reveal later.  But the thing is, Naho would never have done that, if she behaved in character future Naho would have told present Naho about the suicide and how to prevent it and present Naho would have made sure it didn’t happen.  But future Naho doesn’t do that, so that the writers can have their dramatic reveal.  This is bullshit, you should never have to make your characters act out of character to make something happen, it’s bad form.  Moreover you don’t have to, it would have been so easy to make this show far more dramatic without resorting to contrivance.

What they should have done was make orange a drama thriller with some romance on the side.  In this orange, which for ease of use will be dubbed Bloodorange, you introduce drama not by failing to tell consequences but by having consequences future Naho doesn’t predict.  See in Bloodorange, the idea would be the letter works perfectly a few times, so it seems reliable, but then new scenarios it doesn’t predict pop up, or actions that didn’t lead to consequences before lead to worse consequences now because of the changes made to this timeline.  The point is that Naho should be able to find security in the letter’s advice only to have that security ripped away when changes to the timeline render it less helpful and possibly useless.  You could even subvert the letter early on by having minor changes to the predicted scenario occur, say maybe on the third regret the event was a bowling event instead of a softball game, but where the outcome is not affected by the prediction so it still works out, making the letter seem reliable while planting the seeds of the idea that it can be flawed for later use.

Because the thing with orange is that it has one great idea going for it, namely that what causes Naho and Kakeru the most pain is Naho’s inaction or hesitation to act.  It’s a great idea and one which would fit perfectly into Bloodorange, where Naho is forced to choose between following the letter’s advice, failing to act at all or ignoring the advice but acting on her own instincts because the consequences of each action is no longer known.  By the end of either show, Naho should grow up and become more assertive, gain confidence and put more faith in herself so that she can save herself and save Kakeru.  This would be even better if in the future she was single and a wreck, or had married Kakeru only to lose him and become a wreck.  That way future Naho wouldn’t be undoing regrets by advising her past self but instead attempting to save herself and her friend/boyfriend/husband in the process.  Bloodorange, needless to say, would be a fucking awesome drama thriller and I’d love to see it. Unfortunately orange is not Bloodorange nor will it ever be Bloodorange.  Instead we have a romantic drama, with heavy shoujo influences which just bores me to tears.  I dropped this show after episode three because it was such a slog to watch and because it’s best moment came from a contrivance.  And it makes me mad because in Bloodorange I see how you take most of what this show is already doing and change it up a little bit to make a much more interesting show, one I’ll likely never get to see.

Qualidea Code: Let me be clear here, Qualidea Code is not very good.  The visuals are unimpressive and possibly substandard.  The premise is generic and boring.  The enemies look terrible.  But here’s the thing, I already knew that from before the show aired, because in the synopsis it said the alien invaders were called UNKNOWN, and I thought “damn if you can’t even come up with a name for the enemy this show will not be creative at all.”  However I think there is something here worth celebrating and that’s the characters.  Not the characters as the actual individuals, those aren’t that good as of yet, it’s more of what they represent.  Qualidea Code has taken a bunch of light novel character tropes and put a new spin on them.  Most importantly the main guy is not the strongest and is unlikely to ever be the strongest.  This is especially good when you consider that the main guy is a dick whose obsessed with his spot on the school ranking system.  This guy wants to be number one and will do all sorts of reckless shit to get there.  He gets some additional depth in episode three but I think the most important thing to take away from his character at the moment is how he is the one obsessed with ranks and isn’t the strongest one, as that kind of role typically falls to the leading lady of light novel shows.  Speaking of the leading lady, I do think it’s a good thing that she’s highly ranked despite having no offensive power because her support is so good, but otherwise she’s not too interesting.  The main other characters of not are the main guy’s rival and the strongest girl.

The rival character borrows the archetype seen in shows like Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, Rakudai Kishi no Calvary and Shokugeki no Souma, wherein he is a dangerous and powerful character but is unrecognized as such because of how the ranking system works.  However unlike the protagonists of those shows, who typically go out to challenge the current ranking system and prove it wrong, this rival guy doesn’t give a shit about the rankings at all.  He’s totally unbothered by his low and continuously dropping rank because it doesn’t hinder or interest him in the slightest.   It’s nothing spectacular but it is a nice touch and works well as foil to the main guy, who is obsessed with rank and thrives in the current system.  But best of all is Hime.  Hime is basically a girl version of Naruto at the end of his journey, she’s a total idiot, very good natured, and unstoppably powerful.  Hime is particularly interesting to me because a, she is far and away the strongest character in the show, b, gives no shits about rank while being ranked number one thus proving another good foil to the main guy, and c, is these things while being a total idiot and a girl.  Anime has a lot of strong women but in most shows with them the women aren’t usually the most powerful character in their show and I’ve never seen any show with a woman who acted so much like shounen protagonist before especially not when most people around her act more like jaded light novel characters.  Regardless of the coming execution of these characters I do think Qualidea Code is interesting for it’s willingness to try and put a whole new spin on some well established character archetypes.

And that about wraps this up.  If you made it this far thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one.

Understanding Me: Why I’m Constantly Disagreeing With Most People

You know after writing two decently sized posts about Koutetsujou no Kabaneri almost back to back, I figured I was finally done talking about the show.  Then I saw anime Youtuber Gigguk’s review of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and found myself needing to speak out again.  But rather just than go on and on about Koutetsujou no Kabaneri for another post, I think I need to address why it is I’m fighting for the show so much and why I butt heads with popular consensus opinions on a very frequent basis.  There will be scattered spoilers throughout, you’ve been warned.

Let’s start with me, because even though I’m not important, getting into my head is sort of necessary to keep this from looking arrogant, which is not my intent.  I’m a pretty smart guy, I mean I did make through the UC system without ever using tutors or other helpful resources and I still did fine.  More importantly though I have a very specific intellectual skill set, mostly centered around critical thinking, because that’s what a liberal arts major is supposed to take away from their expensive education that didn’t give them any career-specific knowledge like programming.  I’m also a long time student of history and to a lesser extent politics, which means I have to know a lot about a lot if I want to make informed decisions or papers about anything.  Because history and politics are a. complicated and b. cover a wide range of additional subjects.  Part of the reason most people don’t keep up with politics is because you need so much additional knowledge of whatever issue is being discussed to contribute anything useful to a political discussion, and thousands of issues covering every subject imaginable come up regularly in politics.  I work at a political research firm full time and I still don’t have a fraction of the knowledge needed to keep up with the vast majority of politics, and I have way more knowledge about and insight into politics and specific issues than the average Joe.  Likewise I know  way more about history than the average Joe because history education before college is history for babies, it’s so oversimplified and generalized that I consider it almost functionally useless if you want to make any kind of serious argument trying to use history as an example.  And history is about everything, language, religion, social institutions, technology, agriculture, entertainment and and so on because human civilization has never been anything short of complex as fuck.

Anyway to make a long self-aggrandizing narrative short I know a lot of random shit and I’m trained to analyze everything, to observe things and look for patterns and tie those observations into something more coherent.  I also write a lot at my job and as a hobby so at the very least I’ve been given the tools and experience to write well (you may disagree but I like to think I’m at least a competent writer).  Incidentally this is why I have a hard time reading and writing anime blogs that are nothing but short paragraphs broken up by pictures and gifs, they give me a headache and look like the visualization of someone doing a high school presentation while also having a seizure, regardless of how good the actual content is.  So I generally put a lot of thought into whatever media I consume, because that’s what I’ve been trained to do.  This comes between me and many people.  A lot of people don’t look at things critically, which causes them to either miss problems, like how many SAO fans genuinely have no idea of how poorly it’s written, or see a problem where one doesn’t necessarily exist, like people complaining that Kotetsujou no Kabaneri gets dumb later into the series even though it was always dumb.  This brings me to what might be the first barrier between me and most people, observation.

One of the common complaints against Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was that Biba’s actions didn’t make any sense and he was just a psychopath.  I strongly disagree, because while he is a psychopath I see a root cause and clear chain of logic behind his actions, namely that his own father threw him into a suicide mission, which he somehow started succeeding at, before his dad cut off the supplies and left him and his men to die.  I understand what drove him insane and why he acts the way he does.  I understand why he and his men might be bitter and vengeful because of that, I understand why he would never share knowledge with outsiders even if it gave humanity at large a better chance of fighting, I understand why he thinks only the strong survive.  What I can’t understand is how the fuck anyone else missed this, how it was unclear to anyone where Biba was coming from.  Like in some cold, logical place far removed  from the passionate core of my being, I academically understand that someone who wasn’t as observant as me might not have caught all the information or didn’t put it all together and thus was left confused.  But I still don’t really get it, because I don’t feel that way, to me Biba’s motivations were obvious by the time he destroyed Iwato and made even clearer during the speech he made after the destroying the city.  This is where I get most confused by other people, because I have a hard time trying to reconcile the idea that something which I found so obvious was apparently missed by a large percentage of people.

The next major barrier between me an community consensus opinions is that I’m a hardcore anime fan, an otaku.  A lot of people are not as into anime as I am, especially here in America.  Even the other nerdiest people I know in my area know less about anime than me because they watch anime less than they play video games.  This of course creates what I like to call the experience divide, the gap between a noob’s ability to perceive skilled craftsmanship or lackthereof in a thing and an experienced person’s ability to do the same.  The experience divide can be applied to anything, for example I don’t know shit about cars so when my friends talk about cars and get into detail about he specs of different cars or car parts I have no idea what they are talking about beyond x car is faster or y part is more efficient.  In anime I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, and that makes it harder for people who aren’t as into it to relate to me. For example, I was at a nerds only party a few weeks ago, it was fantastic, and one of the people there started talking about anime , so I joined in.  At some point in the conversation this person said the best anime ever was Mirai Nikki… and that’s where the conversation died for me, because I didn’t want to talk about how Mirai Nikki is pleb tier anime and ruin the mood, and I recognized a gap in experience between this person and myself.  And I feel the experience gap had an especially large role to play in the consensus that Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was bad.

One of the biggest problems with popular anime, regardless of how good or bad you find any given popular show to be, is that it attracts a lot of newcomers or at least more casual fans.  This in and of itself is not a bad thing, but casual fans and hardcore fans tend to view shows very differently thanks to the experience gap.  It sounds like a lot of people saw how good the first few episodes of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri were and assumed it could only get better.  Which I find weird, because as someone with more experience, I’ve seen plenty of shows that started strong and fell flat on their asses later.  I’m also more familiar with Araki’s style and was expecting problems with the pacing.  So while others saw how good Koutetsujou was early on and, as Gigguk put it, expected it to end up with well rounded characters and a well rounded story, I saw a show that I was worried would get bad the entire time.  I also think being overly positive, as many people are, compounds the problem further.  When I go into a show and worry constantly that it’ll start sucking and then it never does, I’m pretty fucking impressed and I’m having a good time.  By comparison anyone expecting Koutetsujou no Kabaneri to be some kind masterpiece, which as I’ve previously discussed was a stupid thing to do, was let down because it doesn’t live up to their inflated expectations.  Onto the next barrier, criticism.

A lot of people on the internet confuse criticism of something with hatred of something.  This is the case sometimes, I hate SAO and I criticized SAO, but most of the time this idea is totally wrong, I thought UBW was good and I criticized UBW.  The vast majority of my criticisms of anything come from a place of love, because I want them or anything following in their footsteps to be better.  I bitched about how badly UBW mishandles the Berserker vs Gilgamesh fight because the show was good but the scene was terrible and I didn’t want to see a similar scene happen again in a similarly good show.  To make matters worse people identify with the things we like, we’re all guilty of this.  I know for a fact I would instinctively be more defensive when someone criticized Katanagatari, my favorite show, than I would be when someone criticized say Kono Subarashi ni Shukufuku wo, a show I really like.  So naturally when you criticize a lot of stuff, like me, you get a lot of backlash from people who don’t aren’t thinking critically and want you to shut up and/or love the show and hate seeing you bash it.  This is further compounded by positivity.  A lot of people just want to be positive, to be agreed with, to be optimistic, and that’s fine.  But some of us like to be cynical and negative too, and many positive people don’t want to see our negativity.  I addressed this in more detail in my D Gray Man Hallow rant, but when people are really looking forward to something they can be pretty aggressive about crushing dissenting, negative opinions.  So critics are guaranteed a certain level of backlash, and some of us, myself included, fight like mad against the backlash, often amplifying it in the process, because I refuse to let anyone I can reach not understand why I think they’re wrong.  This finally brings me to Gigguk and his review of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.

For the record I’ve never found Gigguk to be a particularly good reviewer.  He’s a funny guy and when he does thought experiments videos like the Golden Age of Anime or Hype: Is it Good or Bad?, I think he does a fine job.  But his reviews are kind of boring and I’ve never found them to be helpful.  This stems from two main factors, one, Gigguk’s opinions are much closer to the consensus opinions than mine, and two, he doesn’t make long analytical points explaining why he feels a certain way, he just says what he’s feeling.  Anyway his Koutetsujou no Kabaneri review was particularly frustrating because I think he went about it all wrong, as well as making points I just didn’t agree with.  The biggest issue is that Gigguk, at least in the video, is invested in the idea of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri as an AoT/SnK clone, which I feel is misguided.  In his review he said Koutetsujou no Kabaneri couldn’t step out of the shadow of it’s predecessor (Shingeki no Kyojin); but I have to ask why he thinks Koutetsujou no Kabaneri had a predecessor at all?  Sure Koutetsujo no Kabaneri shares many similar elements with Shingeki no Kyojin and it’s made by most of the same people, but it has plenty of original elements as well and it’s missing one very important creator from Shingeki no Kyojin, the fucking manga author.  This is the crucial bit for me, because the only way I think you could only reasonably describe Shingeki no Kyojin as Koutetsujou no Kabaneri’s predecessor would be if they were made with the same intent, as they aren’t prequel and sequel, and I don’t think they are.

The most crucial difference between the two shows is that one is an adaptation and the other is original.  This means Shingeki no Kyojin will reflect the author’s intent even if Araki can add his own spin on the work.  By contrast Koutetsujou no Kabaneri reflects the intent of Araki and his team.  This is important because while I can’t say what the author of Shingeki no Kyojin’s intent is, I’m guessing it’s not “lets just make something super cool and hype and wow the audience with big dramatic moments and flashy animation.”  Shingeki no Kyojin has a more concrete narrative, and if that’s what you want then it makes sense that you might like it more than Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.  But Araki has, based on my observations of his work, always been about shows that were fun, full of big dramatic moments, had a huge impact and, mostly importantly, would stand out to the audience forever.  I consider him to a have a very different intent than the writer of Shingeki no Kyojin, so this whole narrative of Koutetsujou no Kanaberi as an AoT/SnK clone is null and void so far as I’m concerned.

Moreover all of the things Gigguk points to as to why the two shows are the same are tangible details, like humanity cowering behind walls from monsters or hot-blooded protagonists.  This approach is useless, it’s the infantile stage of analysis, and worse it’s deceptive to anyone not thinking critically.  Stories from all over the world since the dawn of civilization to the present day share tangible fucking details.  If we considered every story the same because it had similar tangible elements then reviews and analysis would be pointless because you could categorize things by archetype and call it a day.  This is not how analysis works though.  Consider if you will Log Horizon versus SAO.  They share many tangible details, people getting sent to a video game world, a dark haired protagonist whose skill at the game makes the most important dude around, multiple girls all falling for the same guy, swords and fantasy monsters, etc.  Looking at the tangible details alone they look like almost the same show, but as anyone whose seen both will tell you, they aren’t the same show at all.  What makes a story unique is rarely any tangible detail, just about everything you can think of has been done before, instead it’s how someone uses the tangible details to weave together the narrative or experience they want to make.  SAO is shit because it’s a juvenile power fantasy show catering to 15 year old boys by telling the tale of strongest teenage boy in video game history, Log Horizon is great because it’s a thought provoking and complex look at how individuals and large groups react and adapt in a video game world.  How a storyteller uses the tangible details is infinitely more important than the tangible details themselves, which is why calling Koutetsujou no Kabaneri an AoT/SnK clone is absurd.

In fact an even better example of how useless tangible details are for analyzing a set of shows would be the Asterisk War’s relation to SAO versus it’s relation to Rakudai Kishi no Calvary.  Rakudai and Asterisk War share a ton of tangible details, way more than Asterisk War does with SAO, to the point where they even have almost the same story arcs and people made fun of them at first for literally being the same show.  However, ironically enough Asterisk War is more like SAO than it is like Rakudai and the main reason why is their spirit and intent.  SAO and Asterisk War are all about fulfilling that juvenile power fantasy, and they both do it by having OP as fuck protagonists who have harems.  Now you might be wondering how this proves my point since these are tangible details they share, but the point is that both shows are using the tangible details in almost the exact same way to reach the same audience.  By comparison Rakudai is a story about struggle with a dedicated romance despite having multiple girls who want the main guy, who is overpowered.  Rakudai takes the same tangible details and tells a totally different kind of story by taking a different approach as to how to use the details, for example Ikki is OP as fuck but not because he just wills himself to win or pulls more power out of his ass, it’s because he’s worked super hard, has mad skills and can go superhuman for one minute a day.  Ikki is OP because he makes the most of what he’s got, Ayato and Kirito are OP because they just have more power than anyone else.  The point is, all three shows feature an OP sword wielding teenage boy who is the center of female attention and they all fight a lot, yet despite these shared tangible details, Rakudai turned out very different and much better because of how it uses the details to tell a different kind of story from SAO and Asterisk War.

Getting back to Koutetsujou no Kabaneri being incorrectly construed as an AoT/SnK clone, even if you ignore the fact both shows are made with different intents and just look at the narratives they present, there are a number of important differences.  For starters the main characters are actually very different.  Sure both dudes want to kill the monsters and they both lash out others for being afraid to fight, but there are key nuances separating Eren Jaeger and Ikoma.  Eren wants humanity to be free but he never tries to improve things for humanity, his main goal is that HE wants to kill as many titans as he can.  By contrast Ikoma wants to kill a bunch of Kabane and free humanity but he was making better weapons so that everyone could kill Kabane well before the story even takes place, as he finally completes his weapon in episode 1.  Moreover Eren just lashes out at people for being cowards and charges into battle, while Ikoma tries to battle everyone’s fear by shaming cowards, charging into battle and giving others the weapons they need to win the fight, thus giving them the confidence they need to continue fighting.  You can see the results of these different approaches in the body count of noteworthy allies.  In Shingeki no Kyojin almost anyone Eren teams up with in human form is killed, like the people in episode five and Levi’s team.  By comparison the only major character working with Ikoma that dies is Takumi the fat guy, and he wasn’t even killed by the Kabane, which brings me to my next point.

If you wanted to make the case that Shingeki no Kyojin and Koutetsujou no Kabaneri were indeed the same show, then episode one is probably the best example.  In episode one the focus is mostly on the monsters, humanity’s fear of the monsters, and the main guy not being ok with status quo, also walls are breached and tons of people die.  There are still noteworthy differences, for example the walls being breached in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was a human fuck-up not the result of the largest titan ever seen before, but more importantly the focus of both shifts going forward and the differences in these shifts is telling.  One of the things Gigguk mentioned in his review as a mark against Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was, that while the Kabane always seemed terrifying, most of the deaths resulted from stupid human actions, while humanity seemed  hopelessly outclassed by the titans in Shingeki no Kyojin.  In addition he said that because it seemed like stupid humans were the real danger it took a lot of tension out the show because he know it was going to move the plot along by people being stupid. I question that assertion because the titans may have been terrifying at first but soon just became huge retards that weren’t scary at all, they also lost a lot of their power when we saw the Levi and Survey Corps cutting plenty of titans down.  In addition human stupidity as the driver of a story’s plot is not just realistic, but far more interesting than Gigguk gives it credit for.

Despite noticing that stupid people pose a bigger danger in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri than the Kabane, Gigguk’s point somehow misses the point, which was that Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was always focused on human actions and agency.  Even in episode one, humans fucking up was what Ikoma was mostly fighting against and what caused the disastrous fall of the city.  This is built on constantly in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri as human politics and actions create the psychopath that is Biba, and Biba and his human followers wreak more havoc on humanity in a week than the Kabane would have in years or even decades.  Human fear, human stupidity, and human rage are the most destructive forces in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri’s world, not the Kabane plaguing it.  By contrast in Shingeki no Kyojin, the focus is always on the monsters, even if the monsters in focus swap between the titans and humans who can become titans.  Very few humans in the show, even the strong ones like Levi and Mikasa, can do anything that radically changes the course of the conflict.  Even Erwin who seems to have the leadership, brains and mindset to bring about radical changes is reliant on Eren’s powers and the implication of hostile forces with Eren’s power hiding inside the walls to see his dreams of change realized.  If you aren’t literally capable of becoming larger than human, you don’t matter too much in Shingeki no Kyojin.  That’s a subtle but important difference and it speaks to why the shows ended up so different, they take almost polar opposite views on human agency in the face of monsters.  And Gigguk seems to have missed all of that in his review, mainly because he was invested in the idea that the monsters should drive the plot forward because that’s how Shingeki no Kyojin works and since Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is just an AoT/SnK clone it should work the same way as Shingeki no Kyojin.

Even setting aside the fact that Gigguk’s review is fundamentally misguided on three levels, which is more than enough for me to bash his review as a terrible one as is, I disagree with the statements he had regarding Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.  For example when talking about how stupid people forced the Koutetsujou into the dangerous mountain pass, he wrote it off as people being stupid.  Now he isn’t wrong but he has not told the whole story.  The reason they took the train into the dangerous mountain pass was so the stupid people (some of the conservative officials and people who hated the Kabaneri) could detach the Kabaneri’s car from the train and leave them to die.  It’s stupid and it predictably results in disaster, but it’s also rational and there’s clearly a chain of logic supporting the actions.  Likewise Gigguk talks about how Mumei running off on her own to kill Kabane instead of working with the group and sticking to Ikoma’s plan is stupid.  It is, but again there’s a lot more to it.  The reason Mumei runs off like that is because she’s been spooked that she is weaker than she thought when the former Ear of Biba gets the drop on her and could’ve killed her while calmly telling her Biba will discard her if she’s too weak.  This is reinforced in later episodes as we understand how Mumei’s mother died, how Biba instilled his beliefs in Mumei and so on.  But even if we just go by the information we had when she runs out like an idiot in episode 5 or 6, there’s still a clear chain of logic behind her actions.  Granted, her logic looks insane and irrational to us calm third party observers, but it’s still a logical process and fear happens to be great at making people behave irrationally.  So what the fuck is the problem?  To be honest I could probably nitpick the review for another few paragraphs but the main thrust of each response remains the same, Gigguk’s points never go into any depth, they’re incomplete and because of this they are wrong.

Now despite having ranted against Gigguk for some time I don’t want to paint him in a bad light, because the man himself has done some good and interesting stuff.  But his review of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is basically the perfect storm of all the things that could go wrong and piss me off in a review.

1.  He traps himself into thinking of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri as an AoT/SnK clone.

2. He looks at all the tangible details which confirm his pre-established opinion and refuses to consider Koutetsujou no Kabaneri as it’s own thing.

3. Because he has trapped himself into this way of thinking, he see thematic differences between the two shows as a weakness on Koutetsujou no Kabaneri’s part rather than trying to determine their value in a standalone work.

4. Because he seems to be looking only at the similarities and differences between the two shows, he appears to be missing a ton of information specific to Koutetsujou no Kabaneri which is dragging the show down even further in his opinion.

5. None of his points have any depth, and are just opinions with no reasoning backing them up.

What well and truly bothers me though is not Gigguk’s review itself, it’s the fact that his review reflects the common consensus opinions about Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, because that fucking terrifies me.  The idea that so many people could be so locked into a similar way of thinking, of classifying anything that looks like Shingeki no Kyojin as an AoT/SnK clone and writing them all off as just lesser versions of Shingeki no Kyojin scares me.  It scares me because I used to do it, so this time I well and truly understand how it happens, but with my now broader experience I understand why it’s a horrible idea.  I mean I did write a post about the appeal of some AoT/SnK clones, about in what ways they are different and possibly better than Shingeki no Kyojin.  Moreover it scares me because it’s so mindlessly uncritical, so thoughtless and shallow.  And the idea that so many people can be so unthinking and unobservant blows my fucking mind.  I want more anime fans to think like me, I want more people to see the value in the things I value, and above all I want more good anime to be appreciated by more people.  That’s a big part of why I’m fighting for the show, because where many people see disappointment and failure, I see quality and improvement.

I think Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is better than Shingeki no Kyojin.  The pacing is much tighter, where Shingeki no Kyojin wallows in slow, boring episodes laden with loads of exposition, stupid Levi cleaning scenes and petty political shows in between major battles, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri constantly builds on what it has.  With each new episode we see more details about the world and it’s inhabitants, more information about the characters or the Kabane, more information about a political plot that has actual relevance to the plot.  In Koutetsujou no Kabaneri even the “slow” episodes are packed with valuable information and none of them feel slow to watch at all.  This is a huge bonus for me coming from an Araki show because my biggest beef with Araki is that his shows always seem off on the pacing, except for HOTD.  If anything Koutetsujou no Kabaneri’s greatest weakness is that it’s incredibly predictable and some people probably find that boring.  I don’t because not everything needs a clever twist and I’d rather have a simple story told with greater skill and clarity than a more complex story told without those things.  Most of what kept Shingeki no Kyojin interesting to me, beyond the fight scenes, was the mystery of where the titans came from and what they are exactly.  But the show took it’s fucking time answering those questions and what happens in between major events and battles is fucking boring.  By contrast Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is constantly introducing new ideas, new tech, new Kabane, new factions to be wary of, new ideologies, new characters and it’s all relevant.

That Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is regarded as a worse version of Shingeki no Kyojin makes me want to scream and damn humanity to die.  Because anyone who thinks that is wrong.  It’s one thing to say you liked Koutetsujou no Kabaneri less than Shingeki no Kyojin.  Or to say that, to you Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is a worse show than Shingeki no Kyojin.  Both of those statements are valid.  What’s not ok is for you to call Koutetsujou no Kabaeri an inferior AoT/SnK clone, because that means you’ve totally skewed your views on the show based on a misunderstanding you have about the show that you came to by being shallow and stupid, and are therefore FUCKING WRONG.  I mean I clearly think you’re wrong by thinking Shingeki no Kyojin is the better show anyway, but so long as you have decent reasons why and don’t stick to the idea that Koutetsujou no Kabaneri should have been an AoT/SnK clone, I can respect your opinion.  The thing with opinions is that everyone is entitled to their own but that doesn’t mean all opinions are equally valid or interesting.  If you just tell me a show made you feel a certain way with no proper justification I’m not all that impressed, explain why it made you feel that way and you have my attention and respect even if I disagree.  And if you think Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is an AoT/SnK clone then you don’t even get my respect and henceforth I will ridicule you for being stupid and infantile and wrong.

That wraps this one up.  If you made it this far thank you for reading and I do hope you enjoyed it.  My intent here was not so much to bash Gigguk or be a negative bastard, what I really hope I communicated was how and why the approach Gigguk took is stupid, bad and wrong so that you fine readers never fall victim to the same thing.  Also Koutetsuju no Kabaneri is really worth defending to me.  It was an absolute blast to watch, it mostly makes sense where people claim it didn’t, it has good details despite being conceptually dumb in the most awesome kind of way, and I think it’s Araki’s best work so far.  And it should celebrated for being all of these things, as opposed to being ragged on for not being something it never was nor was ever going to be.  Thanks again for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

Hidden Gems: Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu

You know I’m a big fan of shows that are stupid and aware of how stupid they are.  It’s get even better when I see a show that fully commits itself to it’s stupidity, like Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill.  And Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu is fucking stupid, and I loved every minute of it.  In fact I’m especially glad I watched this because I almost skipped over it entirely.

The premise is as follows, our main guy has a big fetish for twin tails.  Suddenly some aliens invade and they are stripping women of their “twin tail attribute” rendering them unable to have or remember having twin tails.  The main guy finds this intolerable and with some help from a very forward, hot alien girl who wants him, transforms into a twin tail based magical girl called Tail Red and fights the aliens.  Eventually main guy’s allies will also become twin tail based magical girls and continue to fight increasingly powerful aliens.

What makes Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu so great is, that aside from it’s premise being totally silly, is all the silly stupid characters who make up the show.  All of the aliens are based on random animals and monsters and each of them has their own bizzarely specific fetish.  For example the first alien Tail Red fights is a lizardman who basically creams himself at the sight of cute little girls holding dolls.  That came out a bit more pedophilic and sexual than intended, it’s not so much that any of the aliens have a sexual interest in their fetish it’s more that they just obsessed with it, and feed off the energy from it, and it usually influences their powers.  For example there’s a crab monster who has a fetish for the back of the neck, so his ability is that he’s super fast and sneaky so he can get behind people to get a look at their necks from behind.  All of the aliens are like this, they have fetishes that range from stereotypical otaku stuff, like big boobs vs flat chest, to more bizarre and unique stuff like I’ve already mentioned.  Also all of the aliens feed off the psychic energy of attributes, like twin tails, or other distinctive character traits like glasses, which is why they invaded in the first place.

But if you thought the bad guys were the only ones stuck with ridiculous traits and personalities, you haven’t been paying attention.  For starters the main guy has a twin tail fetish which isn’t super weird I guess, but I’ve never had a hairstyle-related fetish so I don’t really get either, more to the point though he is constantly switching genders in the show because Tail Red is a girl and he spends a lot of time fighting as Tail Red, and occasionally fondling his own twin tails because that just the kind of guy he is.  The alien girl is very forward about what she wants and the main guy’s mom seems pretty open-minded about it and just about anything else regarding her son and girls.  Also one of the main characters has a masochistic/exhibitionist fetish and her attacks literally activate by removing parts of her outfit and usually launching said parts at her enemies as weapons, it’s fucking hilarious.  In a similar vein a lot of the dialogue is great because of how ludicrous everything in the show is.  The aliens will constantly get into fights and random contests trying to prove that their fetish is the best fetish, and this sometimes spill over and affect the humans too.  For example a pair of aliens argues about big boobs and flat chests and this totally sets off the main character’s best friend Tail Blue, because she has a flat chest, and she beats them to death with her bare hands.  Actually the action, silly though it is, is surprisingly satisfying and fun to watch, a much appreciated bonus to the show.

I don’t really have the words to describe this show in any greater depth without literally spoiling every scene because the story and characters are incredibly simple, while being equally ridiculous and silly.  This is not a weakness though because Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu never needs much of a story or involved characters.  More so than most shows Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu is all about having a good time.  It’s stupid, it knows that it’s stupid, it doesn’t care that it’s stupid and it’s going to have as much fun as it wants.  This isn’t like Kill la Kill or Gurren Lagann which have deeper meaning hidden among the stupid shit, Ore no Twintails is just a dumbass parody of a magical girl show.  But that’s exactly what makes it the best magical girl show I’ve ever seen outside of Madoka Magicka.  Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu basically takes a magical girls show, a season of power rangers and Kaempfer and mixes them all together into one of the best conglomerates of pure fun-loving stupidity I’ve ever seen.

In conclusion, Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu will not wow you with a great story, lovable characters or gigantic battles, but if you fail to be impressed by the dedication to being ridiculous and fun in this show then I weep for your poor lost soul.  In all seriousness though, this show was a total blast to watch.  I know it probably sounds too dumb or too weird for many, but if this post post gets you interested in the show at all, I implore you to try it out.  I almost passed this by because I thought this looked like stupid bullshit, but I tried it anyway and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  This show is so much fun, and there’s so much heart poured into making it as stupid as it is.  And we need more of that I feel, shows where we can just forget about all the complex problems we have to deal with, where we can just shut off our brains and enjoy something whose only goal is to have fun, to make us laugh, and maybe to sell figures.  There is something deeply satisfying about shows that are pure fun, and Ore no Twintails ni Narimasu definitely falls into that category.  I encourage everyone to give it a try whether you think you’ll like it or not.  I hope you enjoyed the post and I will see you in the next one.

Understanding Fiction Standards: Koutetsujou no Kabaneri Was Never a FMAB

So anime Youtuber Digibro just put out a video about how Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was always dumb but cool.  In it he added an additional bit to the argument, which I think is very important and needs addressing, namely the idea that some people are walking in with too high of expectations, expecting Koutetsujou no Kabaneri to be the next FMAB and match the imagined standard FMAB set as an epic adventure anime, and lashing out at the show for failing to meet that standard.  I don’t spend anywhere near enough time on anime forums or doing research so I can’t say for sure if this is true, but I do think it’s pretty accurate, after all my biggest complaint with FMAB is that it’s so perfect by conventional standards that it is inherently less interesting to me.  Obviously there will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.

For starters let’s not beat around the bush, the idea any show which is not FMBA should be like FMAB is ridiculous.  Not to say that you can’t take inspiration from FMAB or borrow elements that you feel are cool and incorporate them into another show, but if you take it much further than that you have fucked up.  Trying to be a big success by copying someone else’s success is pretty much a formula for failure, at least from an artistic standpoint, in any creative medium.  In video games Battlefield tried to beat Call of Duty in sales for years even though the games were very similar, and it’s not until now, when the new Battlefield has decided to break away from Call of Duty and became a totally different game that it has enjoyed acclaim beyond Call of Duty.  Likewise the closest copy to Tolkien in fantasy novels I’m aware of is Terry Brooks, whose very first book was almost a one-for-one copy of Lord of the Rings.  And that book is by far his worst book, Terry Brooks got much better when he had his own original ideas and wrote his own story.  Similarly I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Game of Thrones books are super successful and very different from Tolkien’s work as well.  In order to be a big success in a creative medium, you must be CREATIVE.  You can copy other people’s work but that will only get you so far, I mean look at how negative the term AoT/SnK clone is in the anime community.  If you want to be a FMAB level success, you can’t do it by being FMAB.

Moreover standards are constantly changing because we make them up.  A standard only appears when enough people agree that something is good, so as more techniques or storytelling elements are recognized as good, standards shift and change.  This is why the idea that something is bad because it’s not like FMAB is ludicrous, just because a show doesn’t meet previous standards doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just has yet to be recognized as good.  Not that there aren’t bad shows of course, but shows which are legitimately bad fall into consensus standards for what makes something bad, and believe me as a species we are way better are figuring out and agreeing upon what sucks than what’s good.  Look ,if you want to hold Koutetsujou no Kabaneri to the FMAB standard, go right ahead, you can do that.  I just think you’re an idiot for doing so, for quite a few reasons, but I’ll get into the specifics of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri vs FMAB later.  For now I think it’s more important to understand why the general approach of comparing shows like this is dumb.

Look it’s fun to compare shows, to argue about which shows you like more and why, and how something new might measure up to something you know and love.  I get the appeal, and as a fun thought exercise that’s fine to do.  But when you start seriously basing your criticism of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, or indeed any show you think could be the next FMAB, on the fact it’s not enough like FMAB I think you’re doing criticism wrong.  If you have problems with a show and those problems stop from enjoying it that’s fair game, but attacking a show on the basis that you think it should be more like a different show is just dumb.  I’ve talked about wasted potential before, which is about as close as I’ve ever gotten to saying a show should be like something else, but in those cases I’m not criticizing the shows for not being something else so much as I’m criticizing the shows’ writing for being boring or bland or predictable or stupid.  Yes I’m saying the show could have been better when I talk about wasted potential, but my root complaint is was that what we got actually sucked, because if it was good I wouldn’t talk about the show’s wasted potential.  For example in my review of UBW I talked about how badly the Gilgamesh vs Hercules fight/ Illya deaths scene episode was handled and how a different show handled a similar situation better, but I didn’t want that scene of UBW to become more like the other show, I just wanted it to not suck and gave a relevant example.  In my review of Koutetsujo no Kabaneri I acknowledge the problems I have with the show and said it could’ve been better if it had more time to flesh itself out in more detail, but I’m not saying the show is bad because it’s fucking not.  If I really wanted Koutetsujou no Kabaneri to have been FMAB, I would have dropped it because it was never going to be FMAB.  And why the fuck are looking for anything else to be FMAB?  If we had a bunch of shows just like FMAB then wouldn’t FMAB lose some of it’s appeal?  That said if you do want more shows that look like FMAB I would suggest the new Arslan Senki, it’s quite good.

But here’s the thing about Arslan Senki, it isn’t good because it’s being worked on by some of the people who did FMAB, it’s not  good because it has some of the same traits as FMAB.  Arslan Senki is good because it’s telling its own goddamn story, and it’s an interesting story.  It just so happens that it does share some similar features as FMAB, like an ever expanding cast, a big involved storyline, multiple countries and factions and so on.  But again, those aren’t what make Arslan Senki good, it’s the original parts of Arslan Senki that make it interesting, the design features it shares with FMAB are only really appealing if you like want more of those things specifically, and if you do then fair enough.  But dog-piling on Koutetsujou no Kabaneri for not having those features is asinine.  No work of art should have to be tailored to your wants, and just to make it clear if you don’t like Koutestujou no Kabaneri for not having some of the same traits as FMAb that’s fine, but it makes no sense to call the show bad for that.  You can say, “Koutetsujou no Kabaneri doesn’t appeal to me because it’s missing an ever expanding cast and deep, involving narrative” but that’s not the same thing as it being a bad show and attacking the show as  bad just for not appealing to you is pretty misguided and juvenile.  Now’s let get onto the specifics of why Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was never going to be like FMAB.

When you look at all the basic differences between Koutetsujou no Kabaneri and FMAB, it should be obvious that these two shows were never going to be alike.  Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is 12 episodes long, FMAB is 64 episodes long.  That right there is enough to damn any chance that these shows would be alike.  Because one of the main reasons FMAB has a such huge cast that we get to know so well, such a large scale and such an involved plot is because it had the time to flesh all of those things and more out.  Koutetsujou no Kabaneri didn’t have anywhere near the same amount of time to tell it’s story, so it stands to reason that it was always going to get less done.  The only way it could have reached a similar scale was if it had either started at a larger scale to begin, like if Ikoma or Ayame controlled a sizable portion of Japan’s entire army to begin with, or if it had been more over the top and ridiculous and Ikoma had a way to slaughter Kabane hordes wholesale without any effort.  Both of those scenarios, I feel, are weaker than what we got, given the tone and setting of the series.  Additionally FMAB was adapted from a completed manga while Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was an original work, meaning the studio did everything from scratch.  It would still take plenty of work for the staff making FMAB to nail the characters of the show and master the chemistry and for the animation to look good and match the tone of the manga and so on, but compared to a totally original show a lot of the leg work for FMAB was already done for the animation studio.  So not only did Koutetsujou no Kabaneri have way less episodes to work with, it also started at a disadvantage, if you will, compared to FMAB, which already had the groundwork done from the start.  Again when you look at the most basic differences between the two shows it’s mindboggling that anyone thought Koutetsujou no Kabaneri could have been like FMAB in the first place.

Now I’m going to say something that’s really going to piss some people off, well it would if more people read these anyway: I like Koutetsujou no Kabaneri more than FMAB.  Now look, FMAB is a blast to watch, I have tons of fun with it and I respect it greatly for being what many people envision as the perfect adventure anime.  However because I’m a weird asshole who gleefully delights in not conforming to the same standards as the consensus there is something a little boring about FMAB to me.  It doesn’t bother me when I watch the show, but something about how FMAB is so perfect by conventional standards, or I suppose you could say set conventional standards, just makes it boring and sterile to me and my critical little mind whenever I’m not actively watching it.  Rather than something which raises the bar on conventional standards I find shows which shy away from convention, which forge their own look, their own style to be the shows I really want to talk about.  I love Katanagatari so much in part because the art style is weird and unique and that adds to the show for me.  Alternatively because FMAB is such a perfect whole I struggle to find something interesting to separate from the whole package to analyze and praise on it’s own.  For an opposing example I love everything about Utawarerumono, but what makes it so impressive to me is just how unbelievably well paced it is, no other anime I know of is paced as well as Utawaerumono, no other show packs as much story, character development, action scenes and world building into a 26 episode space as Utawarerumono.  I don’t have anything like that for FMAB, there is no one element I can praise as being stunningly good in comparison to the other parts of the show because they’re all “perfect.”

By comparison Koutetsujou no Kabaneri has flaws, it has things that makes me ask questions, it stimulates my little critical mind.  But even with the flaws there, occasionally distracting me for a second here and there, everything else was good enough to make me love this show.  You know I watched the first episode and the first time I saw it, I wondered if I could put up another high tension Araki anime, especially since I’m not as into his biggest stuff as the majority of the community.  But after watching episode one and two back to back, I instantly had a ton of fun with the show and I continued to have fun with it even after it “got bad” or “got dumb.”  First off, Digibro correctly argues that Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was always dumb and if you didn’t get that you weren’t paying attention.  Second, to me it never got bad.  I had fun the whole time, most episodes pumped me up like nuts, for instance I remember how furious I was at Biba and his men at the end of episode 10, how it made me want to enter the story and be a badass fighting them, and then when Ikoma hulks up at the end episode 11 I felt so vindicated, it was awesome.   And as I talked about in my review of the show, I appreciate how much of an improvement this show is over Araki’s other work and that alone makes the experience better for me, because I know how much worse it could have been.

Now most people aren’t me, in fact I pride myself on how many people aren’t me and don’t think like me.  So I understand why most people will not agree with me or may not understand where I’m coming from and that’s ok.  What’s not ok though is acting like Koutetsujou no Kabaneri let you down for not being FMAB.  It was never going to be FMAB, and if you thought it could have been FMAB I sincerely cannot understand how you think that.  Incidentally if anyone reading this does feel that way or feels something similar please comment, I would like to try and understand where you’re coming from, just as I’m trying to get you to understand where I come from.  In any event I enjoyed the festival of gore, zombies and steampunk tech that is Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, and at this point I think I’ve made me feelings and thoughts clear on the matter.  I hope you enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next one.

Season’s Greetings: Summer of Shit

Jesus Christ… I’m at a loss for words.  I knew that not too many shows looked interesting to me this summer season, but I can’t believe how even among those few many of the ones I was interested in are turning into total crap right away.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, in other seasonal first impressions posts that “this is the worst season ever” or “this is worst season I’ve seen in a while,”  but this legitimately is the least appealing season I have ever come across.  Those other “worst” seasons looked terrible at the time, this one I feel will remain terrible for some time, unless the upcoming seasons see an even further dip in creativity and quality shows, and I hope that doesn’t happen.  Anyway like normal, I’m going to bitch and moan about what I’m definitely not watching and then go into a bit more detail on what I’ve seen.

This summer is looking so pro-BL it’s kind of mind boggling.  I remember when Free kicked up a storm a few years back but that summer season had nothing on this one.  Off the top of my head I can think of two boys idol groups anime, one show about a guy who’s into BL manga, one show about male cheerleaders, the sequel to what is essentially a magical girl show but with pretty boys instead of girls, and the reverse harem Hatsukoi Monster. There’s also Sacred Rider XechS or whatever which isn’t explicitly BL but has a bunch pretty boys in action roles.  Oh and Fukigen no Mononokean which also isn’t explicitly BL but stars a pair of pretty boys with opposing personalities as the lead roles.  And Servamp, (how the hell did forget that one?) which has a main guy that looks like he walked out of Kaichou wa Maid and stars only pretty boys as far as I can tell.  By comparison I think there’s only two or three shows that look like trashy fanservice romps for dudes, most notably Masou Gakuen HxH which was at least very upfront about it’s intent, the description even says it’s about a dude going to a special school with busty girls in skimpy flight suits.

In addition to man and fanservice shows we have a bunch of sequels, all of which are looking increasingly suspect or were just never wanted in the first place, like Active Raid season 2.  Berserk 2016 is another great example as the all CG art has gotten a lot of fans worried, though in my case I’ve yet to really get into Berserk and don’t care either way beyond my usual dislike of CG in comparison to traditional animation.  What makes me more worried though is that some of the sequels that look good to me are either under-performing in a big way or are being made unusually short for reasons I don’t understand.  Anyway, onto the shows I’ve actually watched.

91 Days: The first episode of this was actually pretty good.  After being burned big time by Gangsta and Joker Game I was beginning to worry when I saw another story involving gangsters and/or the 1930’s.  However while I can’t say 91 Days has totally won my approval with just episode one, it is looking much more like a Baccano than a Joker Game or Gangsta, and I love Baccano.  So I’ll hold out some hope for this one.

Arslan Senki Season 2: This is by far the best show of the season, which pisses me off because I know it’s only eight episodes.  I’ve never heard of anything airing weekly getting less than ten episodes, and now the best show of the season as of yet gets only eight… I swear this season was designed to piss me off.  On the plus side Arslan Senki season 2 had far and away the best start of the season.  There have already been some big battles, major political events, and the re-emergence of certain factions from season 1.  Best of all though episode one immediately forced me to reassess my complaint that season 1 should have been the end of the main conflict, because it gave a clear reason why Arslan didn’t go forward and take back Ecbatana, he had to go defend the border from a new wave of invaders.  In doing so, the show has proven itself to be more nuanced and complex, a better reflection of the chaotic malestrom of the ancient world.  This is both intriguing and impressive, and from a purely artistic standpoint I applaud Arslan Senki for being willing to get more complex while still being very clear and easy to understand, not many anime do that very well.  That said I am also a bit worried.  The eight episode season alone is cause for concern as it means Arslan Senki season 2 is already currently a quarter of the way through it’s run.  But more importantly I’m concerned that the more complex and nuanced Arslan Seni gets, the longer it will take for the conflict to end, and the lower the chances are that I get to see it all put to animation.  Other than that far off concern, this was a huge relief in a season I was being let down by, well done Arslan Senki, well done indeed.

D Gray Man Hallow:  In case you missed my awesome rant about this show I’ll spell out my opinion in brief, this is a piece of shit.  For some reason D Gray Man Hallow is trying to a reboot and continuation at the same time, the story is continuing but they literally redid everything else, new voice actors, new outfits, and new tone, and it’s all shit.  I’m actually blown away by how thoroughly they fucked up the first episode.  I’ll probably keep watching but only to see how badly they continue to mangle the show, because this shit is not the real D Gray Man and I will dedicate myself to proving it to all the people looking forward to this show.  Episode two was a bit better but it was still pretty bad and all changes still bothered me.

Fukigen no Mononokean:  This was a bit less interesting than I anticipated.  I’m pretty big into mythical creatures and lore and decided to give this show a shot based on that, but I have a feeling the focus is mostly going to be on teasing a yaoi relationship between the mostly cold and mean exorcist and the happy,warmer pretty boy who can see demons.  I could be wrong and hope I’m wrong, but honestly episode one just wasn’t all that appealing.  And episode two didn’t do much to improve my opinion.

Hitora no Shita:  As of episode one, this is looking to be one of the better shows of the season.  Apparently it’s from China and the characters have Chinese names even though the show is dubbed in Japanese.  In any event episode one kicks off with a some supernatural events, zombies and a deadpan girl who kicks ass with a knife.  In fact said girl gets into a fight scene with said zombies and it really reminded of a similar scene from the Kara no Kyoukai films, which I’m a pretty big fan of.  Definitely piques my interest amid all the shows that have let me down thus far.

Nanatsu no Taizai: Seisen no Shirushi:  This is isn’t out yet and according to Anichart won’t be for sometime.  I assume, since it’s only four episodes, that all the episodes will be released in one go, like Hanamonogatari, and it’ll function more as Nanatsu no Taizai spin-off movie more so than any kind of meaningful sequel.  I don’t really mind assuming that’s the case, though I wish we a got full sequel instead.

Nejimaki Seirei Senki:  This could honestly go either way.  It has an unbelievably bad naming sense, with character and country names that look like someone mashed he keyboard with their eyes closed and said ‘aw fuck it, good enough.’  The setting thus far has been bland and unexplained, though their is the possibility for loads of potential here as both steampunk tech and tiny spirit creatures are involved, meaning we might get some good tech vs magic or tech-magic combat.  The only thing that’s really good thus far is the main guy, who’s a bit of an ass and is upfront about everything, but does borrow elements of Ryner Lute’s character from Legend of the Legendary Heroes, and I dig Ryner so maybe this will turn out alright.

orange:  This could be very hit or miss.  The premise is that a girl writes a letter to herself ten years in the past with a list of instructions to get her past self to correct her mistakes.  If the characters get developed well enough and the drama and tension are there, I think this will work out pretty good.  That said episode one didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, the main girl undid an inconsequential mistake, and if the other mistakes she has to correct are like that, then the show will probably suck.  Also the girl whose parents run a bakery was like over-animated in her movements, it was bizarre to look at.  That said the back-and-forth dialogue and character interactions were pretty good so it’s totally possible this show gets really good.  Episode two likewise did not inspire much confidence but wasn’t bad either.

Psycho Mob 100: This looks decent, maybe it’s the hype or high expectations getting to me but episode was just decent.  I dig the super expressive art style and flashy psychic powers, but the characters aren’t really doing it for me as of yet.  Given a bit more time I think this has a good chance of getting really good, but episode one was just wasn’t a particularly good start.

Qualidea Code: This looks ok.  To be honest A-1 Pictures has been putting put a lot of trashy shows and corporate cash grabs recently so it’s nice to them putting a show that looks a cut above shitty light novel adaptations.  That said episode one wasn’t great, it was just decent.  But it looks like there will some cool superpowers in play and it’s possible the story could go somewhere.  I would not bet on this being any better than entertaining in the long run but entertaining is fine most of the time, so I suppose there’s no harm no foul.

Rewrite:  This was a mess.  I know some people are excited because this by the people who did Clannad and Angel Beats but personally I was wondering the hell was going on most of the episode.  It has some very tropy characters, none of whom were interesting as of yet.  The setting is an interesting take on a modern city, with this being a super pro-green city that functions as an experiment (I think), so that’s good.  But there’s a bunch of supernatural stuff going on and it was a nightmare of weird shit, it has minimal cohesion and none of it has been explained yet.  Like there’s a girl who controls these ribbons of cloth who kills the main guy in a dream (or maybe alternate timeline) and then sneaks into his room to bite him vampire-style (I think, they didn’t really show what she was doing) and then she fights a giant CG octopus.  There’s also these sort of plant based fairy things, a couple of strange people at school who probably have super powers and… I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is all of the most insane bullshit that was in both Clannad and Angel Beats, mixed together and then cranked up to eleven.  I’m not saying this can’t be good, but my gut reaction is that this will fall apart like Angel beats did in later episodes.

Sacred Rider XechS:  This was honestly pretty shit.  It had a bunch of generic monsters and pretty boys in fighting suits with superpowers.  I’ll give it another episode or two because there is so little else I’m eager to see but my guess is that I will drop it.  The only thing I liked was the girl who apparently has unique powers saying I want to die, she was ok.

Taboo Tattoo: Taboo Tattoo is just weird.  Very little happens in the first episode besides a pair of flashy fights, which I’ll get into a second.  The characters are not interesting yet and I’m not a fan of the character designs.  Likewise the cityscapes are full of terrible looking CG buildings and the other backgrounds are flat and boring.  Then there’s the fights, they are a mixed bag.  The second fight was very basic but it was very easy to understand and it looked decent.  The first fight is super weird.  It starts really good, it’s comprehensible, we see the ground, we understand the sense of space, and so on.  However as the fight progress the “camera” moves all over the fucking place and we stop understanding the sense of space, the fight stops being fluid too.  Like at first we see the steps, and wind ups to a punch but later the fight is constantly cutting straight to the hits without show us how the hit got there because the camera flys away from the fight for a second in between all the hits, it’s just bizarre.  The impact of the hits is handled really well throughout though.  Honestly this show feels like it was pumped out on the cheap, the script is boring thus far, the powers are not interesting yet, the backgrounds are awful, and it has this trope I’ve come hate over the years where “X fictional country from [insert third world region] somehow becomes a superpower thanks to random natural resource.”  I keep seeing this trope (it’s in Black Ops 2, the Avengers and Dimension W as a few examples) and I personally fucking hate it because I think it’s dumb, especially in a modern or near future setting, this isn’t the days of yore when Assyria invented iron forged weapons and armor and totally crushed the bronze armed and armored world, even if an African country today or in the near future got rich off a natural resource nothing would change the power balance of the world, because it hasn’t happened in the Middle East which currently has the most of one of the most valuable resources in the world.  And if it ever looked like it could happen the current top dogs would crush the nation and take resources anyway, it’s called preemptive warfare.  And episode two was just some trashy, boring high school scenes and introductions for some of the edgiest characters in anime since Akame ga Kill.  Also if you’re going to set the evil kingdom in Africa, make it’s inhabitants look African, not just like any other anime characters, even Dimension W paid more attention to detail than this show.

Tales of Zestria the X:  Maybe this would be ok if you’ve played the game, I haven’t so I don’t know, but episode one was a total clusterfuck.  So much happened without any explanation, the chronology was weird and it was just a bunch of nonsense and eye candy with no coherent flow of information.  I’ll probably keep going to see if it goes anywhere put I won’t be surprised if this isn’t great because to be honest I have never been all that big a fan of Ufotable’s work after Kara no Kyoukai and Fate Zero, and the God Eater anime felt much the same in episode 1, which I admit was all I saw because of how chaotic it was, though even God Eater was not quite incoherent as Zestria the X has been so far.  And then episode two rolled around and nothing improved, we’ve been introduced to even more characters and weird shit and none of it has any explanation beyond “old legend,” also there was a hideous CG mountainside the main guys where running around in and they can’t fucking pronounce the main guy’s name.  It’s spelled Sorey, with two syllables but what everyone says sounds more “slay” with just one syllable.  I’m dropping this one and unless you’re a fan of the game I don’t recommend it.

Unpopular Opinion: Koutestujou no Kabaneri

You know I usually I don’t do longer analytical posts of newly finished show but I saw a video a few days ago talking about why Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was a good time despite how a ton of people on the internet said it went way downhill, and I feel the need to speak up as well. If you haven’t seen the show and want spoiler free recommendation to watch or not watch, my answer is yes, you should absolutely watch it, now let’s dig into the show in more detail.  There will be spoilers ahead.

So the argument presented in the video that got me to write this post was as follows: Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was never about making a great story is was about showing you a bunch of awesome shit and making sure you had a good time, so it seems weird to complain about the weak story elements.  I’m grossly oversimplifying and cutting the argument down of course but that was the main thrust of the video.  And I have mixed feelings about this.  Because I don’t this video’s argument is wrong per se, I just have a different perspective.  Because in the video part of the argument is that all the plot elements that come into play in the second half of the show, which is what most people seem to be ragging on, are present early on and are predictable as fuck.  I agree with this part of the argument but I don’t a lot of the things people are complaining about were ever bad nor do I think the story doesn’t really matter.  This brings me to the director of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Tetsuro Araki.

Araki has worked on some of the biggest shows in the anime industry, he directed Death Note, Shingeki no Kyojin, High School of the Dead and now Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.  However despite his rather impressive resume I’m not much a fan of Araki.  My impression of Araki is that he is phenomenal at crafting big hype moments, at making mind-blowing action scenes or building up tension so high that eating a chip can become hype as fuck, this is Araki’s strong suit and it’s a great strong suit to have, in my opinion him being good at big dramatic hype moments is what has made his biggest hits so damn popular.  However, I also feel like Araki is pretty bad at telling stories.  In Shingeki no Kyojin and Death Note in particular I felt like Araki mangled the pacing of the show by throwing us into the action right away and then being forced to get slow as fuck to get all the setting and plot details to catch up to the big action scenes.  This could just be a fault of the source material as well, I don’t know, but Araki’s shows tend to get a lot weaker when slower, plot driven episodes take center stage.  This presents a problem for me because I am a story guy, like don’t get wrong I dig the hype moments and I’ll take a good hype moment over a mediocre story any day, my favorite scene in Shingeki no Kyojin was when giant Eren threw giant Annie over a huge building and then crashed through the building to keep the fight going for instance, but ultimately stories are more interesting to me than just big moments.

This is why I think High School of the Dead might be Araki’s best work, because it doesn’t need a story at all, it’s basic zombie fare with better action and hilariously over the top fanservice.  To some people that makes High School of the Dead low hanging fruit, but I always loved High School of the Dead though because it has great, memorable moments as it moves from one action set piece to the next with story that is simple and easily understood, really it’s more of placeholder than anything.  High School of the Dead is a show where the big ridiculous moments and drama (and of course fanservice) are king, and in my mind that what Araki is great at and the show never suffers from slow, plot driven episodes, which is what he’s not so great at.  This is why I understand why so many people think the second half of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is bad, regardless of their actual reasoning, what details they take issue with and so on, Araki has always been weaker when it comes to plot to me and it’s not at all unreasonable to expect the same of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri.  Even the guy who made the video I’ve been mentioning thought it went downhill in the second half even though it was still a good time.

But this is where I disagree, because I don’t think anything went downhill.  In fact my main complaint is that the show wasn’t given enough time to properly flesh itself out.  Because while the show had plenty of hype moments it also had excellent story elements which, if further explored, could have made for a really impressive story.  For example one thing I found myself questioning was why did the pregnant woman from episode three take so long to turn into a Kabane when Ikoma was going to be turned super fast.  But then I remembered that Ikoma’s sister took a long time to turn, and then they brought up that only female Kabaneri can become Fused Colonies and it got me thinking about how the show has what it takes to make total sense of the Kabane virus.  See because men and women can have different symptoms or be affected differently by the same disease or condition all the time in the real world, you easily apply the same logic to the Kabane virus and if given the time work out how it functions exactly it could be very interesting.  Likewise Ikoma’s and Biba’s technology makes sense, while also being awesome steampunk shit.  In the video the guy making the argument I’ve been referencing was saying that all kinds of aspects of the show was just about making it cooler, and I don’t disagree so much as I think he’s not giving the show enough credit.  Sure coating swords in the metal of Kabane heart cages to make the blade stronger is there so we can watch someone sword fight with uber zombies, but it also makes sense as a scientific-technology concept and it could potentially be applied to other shit the same way that Ikoma’s jet bullets could be fired from his steampunk pressure gun or the more traditional steam rifles all the bushi used.  Speaking of Ikoma’s gun, in retrospect it reminds a lot of the fat nerd from High School of the Dead and his improvised nail gun, like they have the exact same shorter, snub-nosed look and the fat guy and Ikoma take the same stance when using them, no joke, go compare them it’s awesome.

Likewise I feel that Biba and his group were a lot more compelling than most people give them credit for.  Sure what he did is fucked up and is by normal standards crazy, but to me he had a very clear logic behind him and I totally get why his men followed in in his insanity.  See Biba both literally and figuratively gets backstabbed by the Shogun, his father.  This is the inciting incident for him turning into a madman and it makes perfect sense.  So get this, you’re twelve and your dad sends you to command a crazy dangerous mission, and against all odds you are doing a good job, then he cuts off the supplies and leaves you to die.  I’d be more surprised by someone who didn’t crack at all in those circumstances or who didn’t want revenge.  And it’s why it makes sense that Biba and his men would go so overboard in the show, they’ve all been left to die and they all feel betrayed and bitter, get a group of people like that together and you have a recipe for disaster.  Not to mention I get why they think differently from everyone else, most people are cowering behind the walls actively avoiding Kabane, Biba and his men are dedicating everything they have to fighting Kabane, their lives are utterly consumed by violence in a dog-eat-dog world where the weak inevitably die off, that it’s all they know.  This is why one of Biba’s men can cut a dude’s arm off and not be at all troubled by it, this is why Biba and his men can level cities and wipe out hordes of helpless innocents and not bat an eye, they no longer have any concept of social norms or peace because those things are meaningless to them and their everyday lives.  Likewise they have been numbed to violence so where everyone else see tragedy when Biba wrecks a city, he and his men see another day at the proverbial office and are not troubled.

Biba and his men have even more weight lent to their actions by their ideals.  Because Biba and Ikoma have almost exactly the same ideals save that Ikoma doesn’t think the strong survive and the weak die.  Both of them want the bushi to stop cowering in fear and fight, to stop killing other people in their fright, like what happened in episode one, to man up and take the fight to the Kabane.  However Ikoma sees the value of the cities as a way to keep the weak safe, Biba sees the cities as what’s holding humanity back and encouraging fear and weakness among the bushi so he’s setting out to destroy them, and get back at the Shogun while he’s at it. Basically the main point I want to make is that I find Koutetsujou no Kabaneri very impressive because it has Araki’s signature hype moments but also has competent storytelling and excellent story elements even if it doesn’t have enough time to flesh them all out in the level of detail I would like and thus do not live up to their full potential for me.  This isn’t to say the show has no problems or has elements that don’t make sense.  Like how come Ikoma and Horobi get blueish-purple psychic powers when they take the black blood, how does that have anything to do with the Kabane?  But Koutetsujou no Kabaneri leaps over the these problems in a heartbeat both by being one of the best examples of storytelling on Araki’s apart, the slower episodes were actually decent in Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, and having some of the best hype moments and music of anything I’ve seen in some time.  And for the record this show shits all over Shingeki no Koyjin, so that’s worth some points in my book.

In my opinion this is a must watch show, it’s not the savior of anime, one of the greatest things of all time or even one of may top ten favorites, but all the same I think it something everyone has to see at least once, if for no other reason than to form your own opinion.  For me, I see the work where Araki improved his directing and compensated for his usual weaknesses which is impressive, and I dug the show the entire way through.  Like I said my biggest complaint against the show is that there wasn’t enough of it, which is really just another way of me saying what we had was so good I want more of it, which I feel is high praise.  Anyway I hope you enjoyed the read, if you’re feeling up to it I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show, and I’ll see you in the next one.

PS If you want more content about Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, you can find more posts here and here because I’m very much into this show.

Raging Rant: Fuck Positivity (And D Gray Man Hallow)

The following will contain spoilers for D Gray Man and the first episode of D Gray Man Hallow but mostly this is going to be about me, blasting the show, the community and fans of D Gray Man Hallow for being too positive and lashing out at me for being negative.  You have been warned.

Before I really get going I want to set the stage for anyone who might not understand why I railing against the community and positivity.  I’m a big fan of D Gray Man, I mean I already wrote a decent sized review of D Gray Man, but in case you didn’t read it here’s a summary.  D Gray Man is a great show because while it can be lighthearted and funny and power of friendship like a normal shounen show, it generally has a much darker tone and more fucked up shit is going down on a near constant basis whenever someone isn’t laughing.  The lore is pretty interesting and I feel that D Gray is more capable of subtlety and nuance than most of it’s shounen counterparts.  Allen Walker is a great main character because he’s the stereotypical main shounen hero but he’s also an outcast in his own group because he has a totally different mindset and the powers he gains in the later episodes separate  him even further from the rest of the group.  Moreover the introduction of, I think his name is Chouji, he gets his Innocence during the Raid on the Ark aka very late in the show, added a new dynamic because he didn’t know Allen very well and absolutely exploded in anger when Allen said he was going to save the Noah Clan by killing their Noah and not the actual body, quite reasonably so because all of his friends were killed by Akuma.  And Road and Allen make such a great pair that not only do I proudly ship them with all my being but the concept of one of the main heroes and one of the main villains being attracted to each other and hitting it off at all has become one of the hottest relationship archetypes to me.  I’m a passionate man and I really loved D Gray Man, which is why I’m so fucking furious at D Gray Man Hallow and everyone else’s reaction to it.

The biggest problem with D Gray Man Hallow is that it’s trying to be a reboot and continuation at the same time and fucking both up horribly.  The story may be continuing where the old D Gray Man left off, but Hallow’s characters might as well be at square one.  And in the process they have legitimately ruined everything about the old D Gray Man.  I’m not kidding they fucked up everything and I’m a about to break it down piece by piece.

For starters they recast all of the voice actors, literally all of the fucking voice actors have changed and it drives me up the fucking wall.  Allen sounds like he just walked out of a jam session with an up and coming boy band.  Lenalee sounds like weak little girl.  Lavi sounds younger Allen now despite being older than Allen.  Bookman has become the narrator from Hayate no Gotoku and lost the scratchy, phlemgy bent his old voice actor had to really sell the part, now he has generic old man/narrator voice.  Cross sounds more like he used to than anyone else but even has lost some the more guttural or throaty nuances to his style of speaking.  Kanda is still a dick but his voice has somehow become more bland despite having more emotion than the old one used to.  Arystar has fucking Hermes-from-the-new-Arslan-Senki’s voice and it sounds awful, he’s supposed to be mostly a goofy naive character not a ragged seeker of vengeance.  And Miranda’s new voice actor was so bland I can’t even remember it well enough to describe it, and I watched the first episode twice when it came out just to confirm how shitty it was.

And it’s not just the voice acting, none of the new actors have any kind of chemistry thus far, no real rhythm to their interactions yet.  This is disappointing because part of what made the old cast so good was that despite all their differences they had great chemistry and some of the best back-and-forth dialogue shounen shows have to offer.   More to the point none of the characters behave like they should, Arystar is looking like a badass when he’s supposed to be mostly an almost childishly innocent thanks to having lived most of his life in seclusion.  Lenalee’s brother is a straightforward and serious character who has his shit together in Hallow, and he used to be almost nothing but a comic relief character in the old D Gray Man.  Also Lavi and Bookman can now communicate telepathically for some reason, seriously where the fuck did that come from?  Even characters from the distant past aren’t safe, child Allen has becoming an angry brat when he used to be a very sad child and that sadness fit him so well because it made way more sense not just for his child self but how it later influences his current self, anger is not in character for Allen in most circumstances.  Likewise Mana, Allen’s foster father has become a goofy clown despite him being a very down to earth and serious character in the old D Gray Man.  Kanda and Allen are still at odds but for some fucking reason when Kanda calls Allen a bean sprout, “moyashi,” they don’t bicker at all… that was one of the main things that set those two off in the old series and was a perfect way to get them arguing, but Hallow just skipped past it like Kanda never said anything.  This is especially depressing since one of the greatest comedic moments in D Gray Man was this amazing argument that started with Kanda calling Allen a moyashi after almost accidentally killing him.  When Kanda says moyashi in Hallow and Allen doesn’t fucking respond I felt like the show was advertising just how much it wouldn’t be the D Gray Man I knew and loved.

The visuals have also drastic redesigns.  Everyone has new uniforms and while I don’t think they are bad, I don’t get why everyone else seems to be into them because they aren’t as cool and unique as the old Exorcist coats and they don’t do a lot show the differences in rank the same way the Finders and Exorcists used to looking totally different did back in the old D Gray Man.  The Akuma have gotten significantly more colorful as well, which isn’t a bad change per se, but I do think it feeds into the much bigger problem of the show getting lighter in tone which I’ll discuss later.  There are however several redesigns I truly hate.  Mana, Allen’s foster father has gone from a rugged and ragged travelling entertainer in to colorful fat clown, child Allen did not have white hair for some reason despite him always having it the old D Gray Man.  Worst of all though is Miranda, in Hallow she has an unbelievably generic design and it’s killing me.  Part of what made Miranda so memorable and in my opinion hot, was that she had an absolutely hideous design prior to becoming an Exorcist, so when she becomes an Exorcist and looks pretty good you appreciate how much her image has improved.  This is the closest I have ever been to experiencing “gap moe” (the increased attraction to someone because they go against expectations) in real life, seriously Miranda is so much hotter than she should be because you can see the change from her ugly design to her reasonably attractive design, it’s amazing.

They even fucked up the powers both visually and in general use.  For example in episode one of Hallow Kanda uses what was one of his most advanced attacks from the old D Gray Man, a move he only used on the Noah.  Why?  Was Kaichou Ichigen (First Illusion Hell Insects) too hard for the new team to animate?  Because Kanda the character would have used Kaichou Ichigen, he was swatting low level Akuma not battling for his life against a Noah, why would he have used anything else?  Lavi uses the correct move Hi Ban (Fire Seal) but the animation is different, it’s much faster and it doesn’t show all of the other seals he could potentially choose from, and because he doesn’t hit one seal of many the motion is wrong.  Arystar’s is the one they least messed with although his new design put more emphasis on his arm, which is weird because the arm is Allen’s thing and Arystar’s is his fangs.  Allen, for some reason uses his ultimate sword to kill low level Akuma instead of just using his claw, which is what the old Allen would have done, just killed them with the claw because the sword is impractical because it requires him to remove one of his own arms to use and it’s only really meant for fighting Noahs and the Millenium Earl.  Oh and they even forgot to make Allen’s eye transform when he’s fighting the Akuma, you know the single most important facet of his entire character and they fucking forgot to show it!  Also Miranda’s power isn’t really shown at all, she’s just wearing green glowing disc made from her old clock, even though her time powers clearly used gold and yellow not green in the old D Gray Man and had more explicit clock effects to boot.

By far the most troubling change though is the overall shift in tone I mentioned earlier.  As I explained in my review, the Old D Gray Man was a much darker show than is typical for a shounen.  Level 1 Akuma are the basic enemy everyone fights and to make one at least two people have to die and one has their soul trapped in a killing machine until an Exorcist saves it.  The Exorcists fight thousands of Level 1 Akuma, dozens of Level 2 Akuma, which Level 1’s evolve into after they kill a bunch of people, and even a bunch of Level 3, which Level 2’s evolve into after killing many more people.  There’s also some dark shit like Road tormenting that one Exorcist general by making him relive the death of his students over and over or the doctor who poisons his own patients and helps the Earl create Akuma to get some extra cash or best of all, Suman Dark betraying the entire Black Church and becoming some damned monster which Allen has to defeat.  The old D Gray Man was full of dark stuff and it was awesome.  By comparison Hallow starts with a flashy action scene in a cartoonish scenario about Innocence keeping the hand of dead chess master alive to play a game with someone who can beat him, so that the Exorcists can destroy the new shiny Akuma and it can all be timed to match the chess game… It’s madness and not the cool and fun madness that I like, it’s contrived bullshit trying to capture the sense of cool and fun madness, and actually going mad in the process.

In a similar vein the old D Gray Man was more subtle about important topics.  In Hallow Cross just tells Allen who the 14th is in a bland exposition scene where two just stand around in a room talking, and Cross’s sudden decision to tell Allen about the 14th comes out of nowhere.  In the Old D Gray Man the overseers of the Black Church didn’t want Allen and Cross to talk at all, and Cross dodges the question when Allen does get a chance to ask him.  Likewise Allen trying to be a “destroyer and savior” to the Akuma is something he never explains to anyone else in the old D Gray Man, it’s just part of his mindset and it would get him into trouble because no one else can see Akuma the way Allen can, so to most people they are simply target to destroy, while Allen literally sees a soul to save.  In Hallow he just says something like says “let this Akuma’s soul be saved” and Kanda confronts him about it for 2 seconds and the scene moves on without anything important happening.  Because like I said, they literally fucked up everything in Hallow.

Other random complaints that bothered me are that Cross somehow receives a heavy wound instantly, which makes no sense because the old D Gray Man clearly showed that all of the Exorcist Generals were monsters, it took two Noahs to beat even the weakest Exorcist General, and Cross is supposed to be the most dangerous, or at the least the most mysterious, of the Exorcist Generals.  He went toe to toe with the Millennium Earl, the main bad guy and possibly Satan himself, and didn’t take a single hit… Who the fuck got him so bad in Hallow?  Also Lavi has a line like “as expected of expert Exorcists” in response to seeing everyone fight, and it makes no goddamn sense.  Lavi has been fighting alongside the rest of the cast for dozens of episodes across multiple continents fighting everything from low level Akuma trying to capture Innocence in backwater European villages to invading the Earl’s fortress in Japan… he already knows how good everyone is and most of what they can do.  Why include a line like that?  The only thing I can come up with is that reinforces that Hallow is something new, that everything has a fresh start.  And if Hallow was a normal reboot that would be fine, but it isn’t, because the story is not being given a fresh start.  Which is why this whole show is fucked.

See the problem here for me, I mean aside from all the details I take issue with, is what D Gray Man Hallow is, a reboot and a continuation.  Because here’s the thing, I don’t usually buy into hype for anime, I’m very much a guy who forms his own opinions and doesn’t give a shit about what the community is excited about.  But I was hyped for D Gray Man Hallow, because they said it was continuation, because I can hype myself for shows I think I will like.  If they had announced a D Gray Man reboot, I might have watched it but I would have cared way less about it than a continuation.  Because what I really want when it comes to D Gray Man, is I want it to come back, I want the old D Gray Man to come back and kick ass and move forward and fulfill all the potential it had.  I don’t really want a new D Gray Man, not unless it’s a reboot that involved all the old staff and voice actors.  If they wanted to take the old team and revamp the old D Gray Man, I would have been down with that.  But like I said what I really want is more of the real D Gray Man, the old D Gray Man.  For me the only warning I had that D Gray Man Hallow was going to be shit was a day or two before the first episode aired.  I checked the staff on a whim, saw all the new voice actors, checked their roles compared to the roles of old voice actors and I was worried because of the people I looked at, the new voice actors were way less experienced and some of their roles did not line up at all with their D Gray Man Hallow roles.  The problem is that for some fucking reason someone decided that instead of a reboot or a continuation, they would make both at the same time even though they have totally opposite intents.  A continuation continues something established, a reboot gives something a fresh start, they have opposite goals and some moron combined them and it fucking sucks.  This is such a basic mistake  that there is no way D Gray Man Hallow will ever be good, or at least it won’t be what I want, what I consider to be good.  Everyone’s allowed to have their own opinion of course but Hallow fails at such a fundamental level to me that I would be utterly fucking amazed if it stops being shit.  I don’t think it’ll ever get good but if it can even achieve mediocrity I will be impressed, I won’t like it mind you, but I’ll be impressed.  Because as it currently stands with me D Gray Man Hallow ought to be renamed D Gray Man Hollow, because it has none of the original’s heart and soul.

Poignant alternate names for the show aside there is one final issue that I need to address, the positive, celebratory community.  Let me start with this: You are all FUCKING MORONS, well most of you anyway.  Now you’re allowed to be excited, to be happy, to have opinions that aren’t mine, but there is one thing you aren’t allowed to do and that’s try and shut me down for being negative.  Look I get why someone might be excited for D Gray Man Hallow, I used to be one of you positive bright eyed people, and some people have given their reasons as to why all new stuff doesn’t bother them or maybe even excites them.  Which is fine, if you really want a new look for D Gray Man then Hallow might excite you, though I would think you’d prefer a reboot to a continuation, but whatever maybe I’m just pickier than most people, in fact I’m sure I am.  And if you want to argue in D Gray Man Hallow’s favor and say, I don’t know, that you like the new uniforms or like the more colorful Akuma, do it, seriously more power to you.  But that’s not what I saw a lot of.  I was the first guy to write a negative comment, and a substantial one at that, on the site I was using and the first two responses were, and I quote, “wrong” and “omg you’re so annoying shut up or gtfo.”  As of the end of Monday when Hallow aired, I was one of only three people who had made negative comments and I was the only one of those three to be confronted by multiple people whining about how I should leave and take my negativity with me, without actually arguing why D Gray Man Hallow was good.  And it’s fucking infuriating.

Look I’ve been confronted by more people on shows before, I got in a ton of long slogs with UBW fans over the new UBW.  But in those cases even when people disagreed with me they at least had arguments, they made points as to why it was good and why they thought I was wrong.  With Hallow though everyone who actually confronted me had no argument to make, they just thought I was being mean to the show they were so happy about and wanted me to leave and never come back.  Now if you were a fucking five year old I might be ok with that, but let’s face it I’ve never been confronted by a five year old in the comments section of an anime episode.  If you think I’m wrong that’s fine, most people probably do, in the same way I think all of you positive people are wrong and it’s fine for me to do that.  But also recognize that I am allowed to be a whiny negative bastard when I want to be, and when you actively want someone who disagrees with you to just go away, and never address my concerns or the concerns of people like me, then you are being a fucking infant and are by extension a fucking moron.

I feel that this also applies to people that are just so happy that D Gray Man is coming back, for one thing that mindset really makes you look sheep to me, sorry if that offends you but I don’t think more of something I like will automatically be good and I may not want more of it.  I’ve never watched the Steins Gate movie or OVAs for example because I felt like the original end of the show was the proper place for it to stop and adding more would not help improve my opinion of the show.  But  I can’t see why anyone who wanted more D Gray Man can even be happy because as I’ve described above, Hallow is not D Gray Man, D Gray Man has not come come back.  Oh sure the name is back, shells of characters we know and love are back, and if that’s enough to get you excited, then good for you, I guess. But D Gray Man is not back, we are not getting more D Gray Man, because this shitty show isn’t D Gray Man, because it has retained nothing of value from the real D Gray Man.  So why is anyone who wanted more D Gray Man happy?  Do you guys not care that it’s totally different?  Are shells of the characters and the name alone good enough for you?  Because if so, what the literal fuck?  I don’t understand how anyone can consume any media that mindlessly, let alone a show you really like.  If that works for you then I am happy for you and do encourage you to continue enjoying the show, I still think you’re morons though.

Anyway I think that about wraps this up.  I yelled the community for a bit and I think I covered all the problem of D Gray Man Hallow episode one.  More than anything else though I hope I’ve communicated to any who read the whole post where I come from and why I’m being so negative about the show.  I don’t understand why people are happy with this for the most part, and if someone would like to explain why they are to me then I’d love to hear it.  But by the same coin it seems to me that most of the positive people either don’t get why I’m being negative or don’t care, maybe both, and that’s why I need to write a post like this, so that people who aren’t me and may not be like me or think like me, understand me a little better and don’t stop by at the first hurdle by telling me to shut up or gtfo.  If I were to credit D Gray Man Hallow with anything, I must admit this has been the most fun I’ve ever had tearing apart a show I thought I was going to love, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined Hallow would fuck up so hard so fast and I had a blast writing this post trashing it.  So there is that I suppose.  Anyway thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

Surly Summaries: Koutestujou no Kabaneri

You know I’m kind of having trouble deciding whether or not Koutestusjou no Kabaneri was in fact the best show of the season or not.  It’s a fantastic show but I feel like it ultimately suffered from greatest bane afflicting original shows in the anime industry: time.  Typically anime studios don’t want to bet big bucks on anything but a sure financial success, i.e. SAO clones, so they only give them 12 episodes, much the same way that AAA gaming has lost much of it”s flair because publishers only want CoD level smash hits and refuse to make many more original, potentially riskier titles.  Anyway before I really dig myself into this, be warned there will be spoilers ahead.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is fantastic anime, far superior to Shingeki no Kyojin, which many compare it to for obvious reasons, it was made by all the same people and has a similar story.  Actually to pause from reviewing this for a second, I wish now that it was Shingeki no Kyojin which was stuck with twelve episodes and Koutestujou no Kabaneri which got 24 but sadly that’s not all that relevant.  Koutestujou no Kabaneri is the best zombie apocalypse anything to have out in years, it’s much more intense and interesting than your typical zombie fare, the characters are better developed, the setting is fucking rad and the actual virus itself makes the zombies metal as fuck.  As far the animation goes it’s fucking amazing, though I would argue the art style is even better and more important as it sets the tone of the series.  Sadly though despite all this high quality stuff, stuff which I applaud the show for and would love to see more of, Koutestujou no Kabaneri suffers from a lack of room to breathe.

In other words to much happens too fast.  Part of what the series so great early on was that we had Ikoma investigating the Kabane, how the virus worked, what kind of tech could kill the Kabane, etc.  After the first few episodes that all vanishes, any new information about the Kabane like the Wazatori or the Fused Colony comes via exposition from Mumei.  Now I love that the Wazatori and Fused Colony exist, I totally dig the variety of Kabane both in terms of how dangerous they get and just seeing multiple levels of intelligence, it’s a nice touch, however I would rather that had come through Ikoma and other’s observation maybe with some help from Mumei’s knowledge as Ikoma explored how these special Kabane came to be.  Also I love how you can see Biba’s values in the names of the female Kabaneri at his side, Horobi the one who destroys Iwato, well her name means Ruin or Destruction, and Mumei explains her name as basically being No-Name but it can also mean No Honor, which fits Biba pretty well, and I’m a sucker for names which foreshadow things or the like.  And if the show had 24 episodes that probably could have happened.  Another problem is the last two episodes, episode 11 is a gigantic buildup to 12’s main confrontation between Ikoma and Biba, and sure getting the chaos started in city was important but I felt like episode 11 didn’t quite do enough, while ironically episode 12 tried to do a little too much and felt a little rushed as it tried to make room for all the fights and everyone getting to safety.

I think this can be attributed to 12 episode limit as well as the director Tetsuro Araki.  Araki has done some really big shows, Death Note, High School of the Dead, Shingeki no kyojin and now Koutestujou no Kabaneri, but in all of them except High School of the Dead I have always thought the pacing could use some work.  Araki has a tendency to make unbelievably powerful episodes with big dramatic moments, tons of tension and a pulse-pounding pace that leaves the audience begging for more, but I always thought when he’s forced to slow down and make more normal episodes so the audience has time to digest more information he’s generally been a lot weaker, though in episode 3 the first slow episode of Koutestujou no Kabaneri this was not the case.  Anyway long story short, I’m not surprised the show has pacing issues though I do feel it would have been a lot better if we’d had 24 episodes and the director had a bit more room to work with.

I also have some questions as to why the virus effects men and women differently, like how Ikoma can’t become an artificial Fused Colony but Mumei can, why the one pregnant woman took hours to become a Kabane when Ikoma was going to get turned in like one minute.  Which again was something I feel the show could have explored if it had the extra episodes.  But on the whole the show was fantastic and I highly recommend it to everyone, though most people have already watched it and so I’m not sure how much my recommendation helps.  Hope you enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.

P.S.  If you want some more in-depth analysis posts about Koutetsujou no Kabaneri you can find them here, here and here.