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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unpopular Opinion – Re:Creators

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Unpopular Opinion: Kakegurui

 

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

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

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

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

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

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