Unpopular Opinion: Fuck Fate

Twisted_Lancelot

I can barely imagine how I can hate the Fate universe.  It’s about a bunch of mages and ancient heroes, of the real and mythical varieties, with super powers throwing down in a battle royale for the Holy Grail.  It’s got all kinds of historical references and confusing lore and it’s appeal practically writes itself, especially to a history buff with a serious interest in magic, fantasy and mythology like me.  Funny then that, barring Fate Zero, I can’t stand any Fate show anymore.  There will be spoilers.

Maybe I should dial this back a bit before I go in too hard.  So a few years ago I see Fate Zero and I’m fucking blown away.  I’m like “Bro bro bro, top tier anime right here”  and literally the entire anime community agrees.  Then I watch the infamous train wreck that was the original Fate Stay Night and I think it’s shit but I still like the concepts contained in the franchise and move on.  Then I see UBW, the TV show not the movie, and that’s when some of the underlying negative feelings I have with the Fate universe begin to solidify.  It’s when I start getting into long arguments with Fate fans, about details I don’t think make sense.  And don’t get me wrong I’m not here to paint these guys in a bad light, the arguments I had with them were among the best I’ve ever had with regards to anime even if most arguments ended with us agreeing to disagree or them agreeing the anime stumbled on a particular point that the visual novel handles like a champ.  And I’m totally willing to take their word at face value that the visual novels cover my problems with the various anime adaptations.  However the fact that Fate was created as visual novel is the root of every nail in all of the various anime adaptations’ collective coffin.

There are three major issues I have with the underlying construction of the Fate universe and it’s lore that arise from the nature of it being a visual novel, routes, game mechanics and harem style love interests.  Now you might be asking yourself, “what’s wrong with having multiple routes?”  In the visual novels, absolutely nothing.  In literally any other medium – a lot.  Multiple routes or experiences which mirror multiple routes, i.e. playing an RPG and doing things in a different order or siding with different factions, etc.  work fantastically in video games because you get to play each route.  It’s fun and it lets you approach the story a totally different way, it allows you to significantly alter the experience.  However this requires a ton of freedom on both the player’s and creators’ parts and film and printed media do not have that freedom.  The only non-video game examples I can even think of are choose your own adventure books, which I discovered in middle school and have never seen since because they never caught on, the movie Clue which allowed you to choose multiple endings because it’s a comedy based on a who-dun-it game (good luck making many shows like that) and spin-offs.

But even spin-offs aren’t really a good equivalent to routes.  Spin-offs become entirely different shows with familiar characters or show the same story as the original from a different character’s perspective.  Routes don’t work like that compared to spin-offs they have either greatly reduced changes to the story or greatly increased changes to the story and overall they function very differently from a spin-off.  UBW is not a spinoff of Stay/Night, it most closely resembles a choose your own adventure story but those died in print and never made it to film, because they aren’t workable in that medium.  This why when after UBW wraps up and they announce a Heaven’s Feel movie I groan in frustration instead of getting hype, this despite the fact Heaven’s Feel actually looks more up my alley than UBW did.

This next bit is probably going to sound pretentious as fuck but in film you can’t just keep changing the story.  So get this, there’s an event called the Fourth Holy Grail War and the combatants are blah blah blah and the winners are X & Y.  You can’t tell that story and suddenly go here’s another version where Z & U win.  I know art isn’t supposed to have rules and all but frankly you can’t do multiple routes in film.  Not if you want it to be immersive, not if you want the audience to suspend their disbelief and get them hooked.  It is my humble opinion that routes require an abstraction that can only really manifest in games and it’s an abstraction called – I know I’m playing a fucking game.  Here’s an example.  Because I never play new games when they are new I recently start up Bloodborne.  I love the difficulty, sound, environment and the feel of the combat.  But then I hit a wall and because it’s a game, I take a step back and say if I grind for blood echoes (currency/exp) by killing these two infinitely respawning giant pigs I can level up to the point where the boss isn’t hard or I have better gear or whatever.  Point is I have to deliberately take a break from trying to immerse myself in the world and story to take a sort of meta-view and exploit the game’s mechanics to my advantage.  This is not something I would wish upon anyway trying to enjoy a film because unlike with video games, you aren’t playing your way through a film.

I actually kind of hate that in Bloodborne there are times when I am so stuck I have to break my immersion on purpose and find a solution using my outsider knowledge of game mechanics.  It’s frustrating remove myself from the horror and magic of the setting to do some basic tactics and math, putting fun and exploration on hold to do the heavy lifting required to push through the next boss.  I do basic tactics and math everyday in real life, I don’t walk in a beautifully horrific city fighting all kinds of twisted monsters everyday.  The point of immersion is for me to escape real life and that’s why immersion breaking events suck, even more so when you initiate them yourself.

So in summary, routes aren’t possible in film because they require a level of abstraction that is antithetical to immersive storytelling and to me good films are all about immersive storytelling.

Moving on to game mechanics, one of things which is so crushing to me about Fate lore is that it’s designed as though the Holy Grail war was a video game.  For example let’s look at the seven servant classes.  The classes clue us into what kind of weapons, fighting styles and certain attributes a hero will have.  For example, Saber fights with swords, Caster uses magic and Berserker is not sane.  These are broad categories that leave a lot of room for character and power development, as well as, simple descriptions that can be easily fit into existing lore.  For instance it’s no surprise that King Arthur would be a Saber servant because Excalibur plays a huge role in the Arthurian legends.  This also leaves room for the same hero becoming multiple classes though I admit I have very mixed feelings about that.  On the one hand it makes sense in terms of real world lore as many heroes fought with more than one weapon or were known for more than one aspect of their character.  On the other it plays into that multiple routes crap I broke down above and makes the character less defined.  I suppose it could used for very interesting things if, for example Lancelot the Saber had to fight Lancelot the Berserker so that we can see what fighting his other self does to Lancelot both in physical and mental terms.  But thus far that’s never happened and there are too many other weaknesses to make me watch a Fate where it did happen.

Much more frustrating however are that each servant class have basic traits which apply to everyone in that class regardless of lore.  All Sabers get magic resistance for example.  Ok but here’s a hypothetical.  What happens to sword wielding heroes who, in their own legends, fell victim to magic.  Sure in the specific story you can just not include such a character and bypass the issue.  But the fact that I can make a believable hypothetical which makes this part of the Fate universe lore not make sense, proves that it’s a weakness in the lore’s construction.  Moreover I think it’s fucking stupid.  When I watch two Heroes with magical superpowers go head to head, the last thing I’m thinking of are class advantages.  To make matters worse they have literal stats like Strength A, Constitution C, etc.  I can’t even imagine to how you could make me less interested in a clash between to Servants, viewed without any of this knowledge they fights are generally great but knowing they have fucking stats rather just allowing them to test their ability against each other with no knowledge of their opponent’s relative skill is a buzzkill of epic proportions.

There is nothing, literally NOTHING, less appealing to me than trying to quantify a character’s ability and power level by busting out a stat sheet and using that to help guide or predict the outcome of a fight.   And when you do that to such towering figures of history and legend it boils my blood, which then evaporates due to sheer heat as soon as those figures turn out to be great characters in their own right.  Which incidentally brings me to third and final problem, the characters.

Up until this point I’ve largely been talking about my gripes with the Fate universe, or Nasuverse, or the flaws that come with adapting a visual novel into anime and still treating it like a goddamn visual novel.  The latter point is not restricted to Fate btw, I’m absolutely furious about Steins:Gate Zero and it hasn’t even come out yet.  But the characters are arguably the most important point because it what will maybe justify some speculation on my part.  That speculation being that Nasu, the creator of the Fate universe is a big part of the problem.  I will admit I have not intensely studied Nasu’s work so take my speculation with plenty of salt but as it appears to me Nasu isn’t very good when it comes to people, or in writing terms, characters.  Jumping back to the stats thing for a second, to me the fact he would even assign stats to Servants like that at all says to me that he is either trying to bind his lore to the medium, in this case visual novels, or that he is a man who puts a lot more emphasis on systems than people.  Broadly speaking men are more interested in systems at a basic psychological level so it wouldn’t be a huge leap of logic to imagine that Nasu is especially interested in systems and thus applies systems where he doesn’t need to, in this case to the Servants.  Again this is complete speculation but Nasu seems to be someone who makes hard rules, or perhaps, creates order where he doesn’t need to.

I’m not saying this slight the man.  He’s not stupid or bad for creating a system within his own ideas.  I am saying that I disagree with him fundamentally on this point.  I think placing a system within the Fate universe is a bad move because I want to see the places it could go with a bit more chaos.  I think it has all kinds of room for malleability and the potential for very organic stories and clashes which I personally find far more interesting.  I think putting in a stat system makes the Fate universe more stale and that wild, chaotic speculation as to how well a given Servant does against any opponent is a universe full of far greater intrigue and possibility.   Alternatively if Nasu was seriously hard-wiring the nature of the medium into his lore then fair enough – but if that’s the case there will be an inevitable drop in quality when you put it in a different medium.

This where the characters come in.  Me and my best friend have a big problem with the all the gender bending going on in the Fate universe.  To me it totally undermines certain characters, like King Arthur, or is just there for fanservice, which fair enough I have no problems with fanservice but it really takes away from the gravitas of these figures if we see their gender-bent tits flopping about.  King Arthur is an especially bad example as the main reason she is gender-bent is so she can be one of the main love interests to Shrio, aka the most insufferable Fate character of all time and one of my least favorite anime protagonists of all.

The biggest gap in quality between the one Fate show I liked Fate Zero and everything else is that the characters are less interesting across the board, one of the main reasons being the teenage romance central to the visual novels plays a major role in the various anime versions.  Once again this is a huge mistake to me because there’s nothing I would rather not see in a Holy Grail War than weak, harem-style teenage romances.  Their very presence undermines the coolest aspects of the Fate universe and makes the whole experience less serious.  This is one of the reasons I think Nasu either struggles to write good characters or tailored his creation so closely to the medium of visual novels, to me there is no logical connection between the romantic elements and the Holy Grail War beyond the fact basically all visual novels are centered around various routes wherein you can romance different love interests.  If I were in Nasu’s position and came up with the Fate universe I would never have included boring teenage romances and it probably never would have been a visual novel.

My other justification for this line of thinking, that Nasu either isn’t good at characters or tailored Fate to the visual novel medium, is Fate Zero.  Fate Zero was written by Gen Urobuchi of Madoka Magicka fame using Nasu’s preexisting lore and characters as a template for the prequel to Fate Stay Night.  With the change in writers there a ton of immediately apparent changes between Fate Zero and any other Fate work.  There is only one teenager and all his enemies are adults.  The only gender-bent character is King Arthur and that’s because of preexisting lore.  The only romantic elements that exist are used to enhance a few characters and they are not a major focus of the story.  Instead the focus is now squarely on the battles and the characters.  Waver, the sole teen, is a teen precisely because it puts him such stark contrast with his Servant, the best character in the show Alexander the Great.  They make a great pair because Waver is young, not especially confident and has no guiding principles or goals and Alexander is this massive force of personality with larger than life dreams and goals.  They have an effect on each other, an effect which transforms Waver’s character because frankly that was the point of pairing them together.

Fate Zero is unusual in that the conclusion is a forgone one, we already know how the Grail War ends.  The individual battles are given a lot of attention but overall this is a ‘the journey is more important the destination’ kind of show.  That’s why it allocates so much of focus on the characters, their development, their ideals and their desires and how and why they come into conflict.  This is perhaps best shown by the famous Banquet of King because it spells out in no uncertain terms that all of the Kings have very different ideals and this will inevitably bring them into conflict even if they can have a dialogue for the moment.  There is nothing like the banquet of Kings in any of the other Fate works because frankly none of the characters in any of the other Fate shows are strong enough and fleshed out enough to carry such a scene.  And the fact that Fate Zero can speaks to Gen Urobuchi approaching things from a fundamentally different lens than Nasu, and I prefer the Urobutcher’s lens.

There is actually one more problem with Fate and it’s characters and it’s the problem showcased by Fate Grand Order and Fate Apocrypha.  There are way the fuck too many characters being thrown at us all at once.  I got about halfway through Apocrypha and dropped out because nothing in it seemed to matter.  The characters were boring and just seemed to fill space, looking cool and not having any real weight in the broader sense, like this was some Fate shit to tide us over until Heaven’s Feel.  Seeing the sheer number of servants, their alternate forms and masters on the wiki makes me think the best way to do Fate is to go full long form shounen on that shit.  Because otherwise there’s way too much and we won’t have time bond with any of the characters or enjoy much of a story, and ultimately I think that robs the Servants of their uniqueness and intrigue, much the same way I think the Avenger’s movies suffer from having to cram too many characters into one story and thus have to keep things simple and not explore any individual heroes in greater depth.

I hope you enjoyed this huge rant.  I’m not here to slander Nasu or pick a fight with Fate fans, I think the Fate universe is full of great shit but it’s also full of shit that is not to my tastes and the onslaught of upcoming Fate stuff has really just caused me to kind of despise Fate as an IP, especially considering all the hype surrounding Fate at the moment.  See you in the next one.

Advertisements

Raging Rant: Games and Cheating

kaiji-featured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raging Rant: It’s Time to Stop Whining About Re:Creator’s Sota

recreator-20170615-figure02

On my last post about Re:Creator’s I argued that while Sota annoyed me as well I believed that handled correctly he could be a good character if not a likable one.  And he stepped up to the plate.  Which is why I’m so fucking mad that other people are still bellyaching about him.  There will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.

In case you haven’t read the post linked above one of the main points I made with regards to Sota is that it’s not his fault Setsuna killed herself even if he blames himself for it.  He doesn’t owe her anything, the world doesn’t owe her anything, he didn’t make that decision for her.  The responsibility for Setsuna’s suicide lies with her.  In the latest episode they dug into the backstory of Setsuna and Sota a little and explained that Sota felt they were drifting apart as Setsuna got more popular and started working with well known people while he wasn’t enjoying the same success.  That is fucking normal.  He committed no sin here, it’s natural for friendships to have their rifts and for people to drift apart – sometimes temporarily, sometimes for good.  What happened next was that she was accused of plagiarism and relentlessly attacked on social media and Sota didn’t stand up for her.

This is where most of the Sota haters say things like “he should of stood up for her.”  This fucking triggered me.  It’s FUCKING NORMAL for people to not jump into defend people from mass harassment because it can in fact escalate the harassment, which is what Sota feared, or it can see the defender get harassed badly as well.  This is not a Sota problem –  this is problem with the internet and mob justice in general.  Remember when that scientist who landed a probe on a comet was harassed to the point where he broke down in tears during a public apology because of the shirt he was wearing?  It’s the same shit here.  Silence is the path of least resistance and it’s the one most people take.  Trust me I’m in the middle of working on a local campaign and the opposition is filled with angry shitheads who bombard every social media post we put out with loads of harassment, they’ve tried to make public all the information about me, the Campaign Manager, they can get their hands on, they have stolen and vandalized signs and harassed businesses who show support for our side of the campaign, sometimes to the point where managers break down in tears.

Nobody wants to deal with that.  I don’t have much of a choice because fighting against these assholes is part of my job description but unless you’re like me or are morally motivated enough to make a stand, most people just do what they can to avoid the harassment until it blows over.  It sucks that Setsuna was confronted by a mob of anonymous assholes online, and that their harassment caused her to commit suicide is an indictment of internet mob justice and harassment campaigns.  But at the same time, it’s still not Sota’s or even the mob’s fault she committed suicide.  I’m not feeling the need to commit suicide from this harassment, and in most high profile cases of online harassment mobs people don’t commit suicide either.  Setsuna was exceptionally weak and that’s her fucking problem.  Make no mistake my fury is directed more so at the harassers than Setsuna, they are shitty people who deserve all the bad things that happen to them because they can totally ruin people’s lives and careers.  However Setsuna is still the one who chose suicide as her response, that was her choice and she owns all the responsibility for it.  Long story short anyone who blames Sota for not standing up to an online mob of harassers is either a cyber-hero who lacks empathy for all non-cyber heroes or has never stood up to such a mob and thus lacks appreciation for bad it can get or just how much of a fucking hassle it can be.

“But wait,” you say,  “he said he felt a satisfaction seeing Setsuna being taken down a peg,” he’s awful.  First off he admits it was an ugly feeling and he is deeply ashamed for feeling it, implying he normally wouldn’t feel this way and it’s not reflective of his normal character.  Which is normal.  People say and feel things we don’t really mean, or rather that we would never seriously embrace in our normal state of being, all the fucking time.  The important thing here is that so far as we know he didn’t act on this feeling, he just felt it. Or do you mean to tell you’ve never felt or said something in anger, hurt, jealousy or what have you that you’d never seriously give the time of day if you weren’t anger, hurt, jealous or what have you?  I call bullshit, it’s human to have feelings which go against our moral code of conduct.  The second thing to remember is that he was in fact jealous at the time, he was hurting in his own way and that’s the catalyst for why he felt the way he did.  Again though that had nothing to do with his actions, he said he didn’t stand up for Setsuna because he was afraid of making things worse, not because his envy was so potent he didn’t lift a finger to spite her.  How he felt in a moment of weakness is irrelevant to how he acted, and as such to call him awful for it is woefully inaccurate.

Also Sota already manned up in the episode before that.  In a battle where characters who could kill him in one second with no effort whatsoever were throwing down, Sota stood his ground and tried to stop the fight.  I do think he should have just told Aliceteria that Altair killed Mamika but even so he did his best to reason with her and bring the fight to a halt and when that didn’t work he refused to budge even when she charged at him, the only reason he didn’t die was because Meteora knocked him away.  That takes fucking balls and anyone who calls him a pansy after that needs to seriously reconsider what the hell they’re saying.  Sure he’s still struggling with his own weaknesses and short comings after standing in front of Aliceteria, but this is ONCE AGAIN fucking normal.  He’s not an unstoppable badass, he’s a kid and one who lost a close friend and blames himself for it at that.  He has plenty of reasons to be fragile and unsure of himself, especially since he’s been caught up in such a crazy turn of events and is surrounded by pros and heroes, people he doesn’t feel he can ever measure up to.  Which is to say that Sota is an impressively nuanced and well-realized character, one of the most complex and devastatingly human characters of the entire season.

While I’m on the subject of character I want to mention that Aliceteria’s character got a massive upgrade in the fight described above.  Previously she just seemed willfully blind to the fact she’s fighting to worse of the two sides in this conflict.  That does hold true but the reason for it is because she has lost all of her bearings.  Imagine for a second you meet God, or something you hold great faith in, and he turns out to be far less impressive than you expected.  That would shake you up a bit.  Now imagine that on top of that you find out there are tons of gods and all of them are making worlds like yours so they can have stories.  This is what happened to Aliceteria, she believes everything she ever knew is a lie and can’t come to terms with her new reality and as a result clings to an ideal, justice, because it’s all she has left.  If it turns out she is fighting on the side of evil she will break, she’s already losing herself as it is.  In other words she’s doing what Sota did with Setsuna, refusing to face something because doing so might break her entirely.  Which is to say she’s also be given a great deal of believability and nuance as a character, improving her place in the story and showcasing that yes, Mother’s Basement was right, this show does in fact have great characters.

Ok rant over.  My fury has been vented.  I recommend this show now more than ever.  See you in the next one.

Understanding the Fandom: Anime Arguments 101

I’m justifying this post under the guise that it may be educational, but honestly I expect people who read and write blogs to be a cut above random YouTube commenters when it comes to making arguments, so this is really just an excuse for me to pettily roast a guy I got into an argument with because he’s the type who will never admit defeat no matter how badly he gets thrashed and I’m tired of getting YouTube notifications about this argument.  If you’re at all interested in a startlingly stark showcase of how to argue reasonably versus how to not argue at all while pretending you are in fact making legitimate arguments, or if you really just want to bask in my pettiness, feel free to stick around.

Before I get going I’m just going to lay out the format for you.  I will paste the argument in this page as whole after this paragraph.  Then I will look at each comment made and discuss why it’s good or bad and how it applies to arguing like a rational human being.  And lastly I’m just going to refute his last comment he made after I said was done arguing with him on YouTube for my pettiness and spite are too powerful for me to resist.  Also I’m going to refer to the guy I’m arguing with a Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole because while I would like nothing more than to see this stupid shithead get dog piled on, I’m not enough of a dick to send potential harassers to him.  Also because someone else in the thread called him a Pseudo-Intellectual and I think Asshole is a good finishing touch to the name.  For context, this argument took place over a video cataloging the evolution of SAO criticism and fan reactions to the show with Digibro’s hour-long diatribe serving as a major turning point.  The first comment is directed at Digibro.  Let’s look at this shit.

Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole: Recognizing that SAO is crap does nothing to vindicate your rambling and inconsistent anime criticism.

Me: You do realize that criticism of art is subjective and therefore will always be inconsistent right? I’d say Digibro’s relative power in anime critic circles more or less proves that his style of criticism vindicates itself…

Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole: Subjectivity is no excuse for being inconsistent with yourself. Nihilism is not a justifiable perspective upon which to base criticism. Stop brown-nosing Critical Theorists

Me: Inconsistent with yourself? You say that as if we are unchanging immutable entities, which we aren’t. Our opinions change constantly as we absorb more ideas and experiences. But even setting that aside where is he inconsistent with himself? I’d love to hear some examples. Moving right along how is nihilism an invalid perspective? There’s no such thing as a wrong way to do criticism, at best you can argue his criticism is done badly, in which case you’d be disagreeing with over ten thousand people and me. But coming at things from a nihilistic perspective is not inherently wrong, and the idea you think someone else’s perspective is invalid is far more damning than any criticism from any perspective. And I ain’t brown-nosing, in all likelihood Digibro will never see this and I didn’t reply to you in the vain hope he would. I wanted to politely disagree with you because frankly I think what you said is retarded and I think don’t just calling you an idiot at the first step is polite.

Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole: Do you even understand that different perspectives contradict one another? You are the only one here who is denying that there is any value in Digibro’s criticism when you suggest that the validity of criticism is meaningless, that the only purpose of criticism is to please the ear of its audience. How could I possibly let such an outrageous claim stand?

Me: How the fuck did you get THAT out of what I said? Where did I say criticism only exists just to please the audience? I didn’t and I never would. Based on your skewed as fuck interpretation of what I said, you mean to tell me that because I said any perspective is valid I’m somehow claiming Digibro’s criticisms have no value? Because if anything I said his criticism was valuable even if it came from a perspective you claim is invalid. And since when do different perspectives have to contradict each other? There’s a million different perspectives to come at critique, countless shades of grey that you’re treating as if they were black and white. I guess the closest I can get to a logical thru line in your argument is that if I posit that all perspectives are valuable and valid, then criticism of all stripes lose their validity because there’s no longer a way to divide between invalid and valid perspectives of criticism… I think? I’m trying to be politeish and take you seriously but that’s honestly so ridiculous I can’t. I mean the fact that you twisted my words to an insane degree to make me sound crazy already makes you look stupid and petty, but the fact that argument your seemingly attempting to make while doing so is so ridiculous just makes it worse. Let me spell this out in short easy sentences. Criticism of art is subjective. Subjectivity is intrinsically tied to one’s perspective. Perspective is shaped by the art one consumes, the experiences one has and the values one finds valuable. Therefore, you can, and really have to, be able to approach criticism of art from any perspective. Therefore all perspectives are valuable and valid. The audience can choose to like or dislike any style of criticism from any perspective, but no style of perspective is inherently wrong or invalid. Therefore Digibro’s criticism is inherently valuable, even if an audience member, such as yourself, doesn’t like it or find value in it or considers it invalid.

Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole: “[i]f I posit that all perspectives are valuable and valid, then criticism of all stripes lose their validity because there’s no longer a way to divide between invalid and valid perspectives of criticism.” If you understand the problem with relativism, why are you still whinging about it? The fact that something is subjective is not an excuse for a critic to abdicate all responsibility to the listener. Don’t you get why I am objecting to your sentiment? By your reasoning, my original critique of Digibro stands simply because it was my subjective experience of his work.

Me: That’s a nice line you quoted from me, seems like you missed the part where I said the argument laid out in that quote was honestly so ridiculous I couldn’t take you seriously, you utter moron. You also missed the part where I explained this was your argument not mine, because I don’t fucking agree with your idea that one’s perspective can be invalid. For the record I never said invalid arguments don’t exist. For example if you get an objective fact wrong in an analysis and make statements based on that, then sure that’s an invalid argument. Which incidentally was what I called you out on. If you’d said “I don’t like Digibro’s criticism”, I’d never have bothered to argue with you. However your critique implied (and you kindly later confirmed) that because Digibro didn’t do critique a certain way, the way you want, his criticism was invalid. Which is wrong. There’s no goddamn formula for art critique, you can have your own formula if you want and some people might find a formula valuable, but there’s no set way things must be done. Personally I think criticisms which incorporate formulated scoring are shit, I don’t like them, but they aren’t invalid just because they aren’t useful to me. In a similar vein there’s no such thing as invalid perspective, because all perspectives have their own insights on a work which collectively increase the value of the discourse about the work. The only invalid critique is one based on an invalid argument, like an argument where you cherry pick quotes without context and twist your opponent’s word’s to attempt to hide their actual argument instead of confronting it and then acting like you’re the one in the right and on the moral high ground… you sniveling little shit. And you mentioned responsibility, galling considering you’ve shown not an ounce of it yourself, but what does a critic owe you exactly? Fucking nothing is what. I write reviews too you know and I don’t write them for the audience to walk away with a score and recommendation to watch or drop. I write them for me, to put my thoughts and feelings into words and share them, if someone agrees with those thoughts or chooses to watch a show based on those thoughts, that is entirely up to them, not me. The most Digibro or I or any critic owes anyone is a valid argument, and Digibro lives up to that obligation and therefore owes you nothing more. Incidentally, I presented you with a valid argument, one you’ve repeatedly refused to reply to with valid arguments of your own, and as such I owe you nothing else as well. I will not respond to the inane babble you present as an argument again.

Anonymous Pseudo-Intellectual Asshole: “… [T]here’s no such thing as invalid perspective, because all perspectives have their own insights on a work which collectively increase the value of the discourse about the work. “ My perspective is that, to me, your comments feel like advocating for child rape and on the behalf of pedophiles. So just how does my subjective experience of your words as pedophile apologia add any value to your work or to Digibro’s?

Ok.  Now that that’s over with let’s go over each point, starting with Asshole’s first comment.  Now that comment “Recognizing that SAO is crap does nothing to vindicate your rambling and inconsistent anime criticism.”  is not too terrible.  It appears mostly innocuous and the only reason I replied at all is because it implied that Asshole didn’t like Digibro’s criticisim of SAO, which is fine on it’s own, but that the reason he didn’t like it was because Digibro did the criticism wrong.  He would later confirm this to be the case.  However, as this comment is wrong but not too egregious, I politely and mildly rebutted him by explaining art was subjective and therefore Digibro’s review is self-vindicating.  And vindicate was the key word here because it was what implied that Digibro’s criticisms were somehow invalid, which they aren’t.  The key thing to note here for argument noobs is that I’m being polite, because all arguments should at least start polite, and the longer they can be polite the less chance there is of it devolving into a shit-flinging contest.

His response to me was that Digibro was inconsistent with himself, which I assume he means as Digibro is a hypocrite, and that nihilism is an invalid perspective of criticism.  This was the only time he actually presented me with an argument, the only insight I have into his viewpoint and reasoning.  And it’s hilariously bad.  As I later argued, people’s perspectives are constantly changing and no one’s values are necessarily set in stone, meaning being inconsistent is not really an issue.  I did however challenge Asshole to provide me with examples of Digibro being inconsistent with himself for the sake of argument, Asshole didn’t reply to this challenge.  Moving on to his second point, I find myself asking two questions, only the first of which made into the Youtube argument.  1, How is nihilism an invalid perspective? and 2, In what way is Digibro’s criticism of SAO nihilistic?  In the actual response I explained why a criticism from nihilistic perspective was not invalid and once again challenged him to explain why he thought it was.  He also failed to respond to this challenge.  His final part of this response was to me accuse of brown-nosing, which I not-so-politely refuted because I called him out for being wrong for the sake of proving to him that he was wrong not because I wanted to win favor from Digibro.

The most important thing to take away from this stage of the argument is how things will change on Asshole’s end going forward.  I mean his argument here is barebones and stupid, but at least he’s presenting me with his own argument.  Going forward his tactic will be to twist my argument to make me look stupid instead of actually arguing anything so that this original argument appears right.  Also notice how I’m arguing.  I go out of my way to rebut his points or express my concerns with his arguments, and then I make arguments of my own on top of that.  This is how to argue reasonably, to create valuable discussion, though my use of insults isn’t one I’d encourage unless your opponent has really fucking earned it.  I acknowledge his points and if I disagree I refute them and explain why I disagree, and if he made points I agree with (I mean Asshole never does but I just want to expand this point) I would acknowledge their value before going on to make my own argument.  Give your opponent the sense that you’re at least paying attention to, if not respecting their arguments and you increase the odds said opponent will return the favor.  Moving on in the argument.

Asshole’s next response is where things start becoming a downward spiral.  He argues that different perspectives contradict one another, which I honestly don’t get his reasoning behind.  I mean I argued that different perspectives didn’t contradict because not all of them are in opposition to each other, which is true, but I can’t pin down his line of reasoning at all.  The closest equivalent I can think of is that he thinks like a radical SJW and believes anyone who holds opinions that aren’t his are wrong, conveniently ignoring the fact that of course other people have different opinions.  I admit this is mostly speculation and I won’t outright accuse of him of thinking that way but it’s the impression I get.  He follows that up by claiming I am the one robbing Digibro’s criticisms of validity by claiming that the only purpose of criticism is to please the audience.  WTF?  What the fuck?  Where the hell did I say that?  You can scroll up and see that I never said anything like that, seriously where the hell does he see that in my argument?  He can’t, not logically anyway, because it’s not there.  He even has the nerve to say he can’t stand my outrageous claim, by which I mean the outrageous claim he made for me and treated as if it were my own claim like I gave him permission to make me look shallow and vapid.  This dear readers is not an argument.  He hasn’t made any points, he hasn’t rebutted any of my points, all he’s done is attempt to make me look bad while speaking for me.  This actually pisses me off more than shit-flinging because at least shit-flinging is honest in it’s ugliness.  What Asshole’s doing is duplicitous, and still just as worthless as shit flinging when it comes to progressing the argument.  Like I said he’s made no new points, nor has answered any of my questions, this argument is dead in the water.

It was at this point I should’ve stopped arguing, it was also after this point that another commenter called Asshole a pseudo-intellectual.  But being the avatar of argument and righteous fury that I am I kept going.  I even had the courtesy to dissect his skewed as fuck interpretation of my argument and argue against it as if it were his argument.  I even proved right in coming to the conclusion that Asshole’s argument boiled down to the idea that some perspectives have to be invalid, so that he can separate criticisms into valid and invalid perspectives and thereby find more value in the criticism he likes since those are “valid.”  It’s pathetic really, an incredibly self-centered and vapid dumpster fire of an idea that throws actual intellectualism under the bus to make Asshole feel like he has better taste than other people (which itself is a flawed idea).  I called this idea ridiculous, because it is, reiterated my points about how there are an infinite number of perspectives and they’re all valid and insulted him some more along the way because at this point I felt he’d earned my contempt.

Asshole’s next response was a sightly botched quote of me figuring out his argument on my own since he wouldn’t express it himself, and following that up with a “if you see the problem with Relativism why are you supporting it” (paraphrase of Asshole’s quote became I’m too lazy to get the actual one).  He then says subjectivity is no excuse for the critic to offload all responsibility to the listener (which I’m once again confused by because how the fuck did he come to this conclusion?) and that by my own logic his “subjective” interpretation of Digibro’s work was valid.  This response has a lot of issues.  For starters he took the quote out and provided no context, making the words appears as my argument when in fact it was my deduction of his argument.  Real honest fucker isn’t he?  Then he reveals his hand with the Relativism thing.  For those who don’t know, in an artistic sense Relativism is the idea that standards don’t matter and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  In fairness, the main example being painting and sculpture, the abolition of standards has resulted in mountains of art I consider shit tier.  But as I explain in my next reply, art or critique I find shit is not invalid.  That it has no value to me is irrelevant, it’s got a right to exist and be recognized as a thing because someone, somewhere enjoys it.  Mainly this just proves he wants art criticism to have standards in place, though he doesn’t at all outline what those standards should be so I refuted the idea using formulated scoring systems, the best idea I had of a standardized review, as an example of criticism I thought sucked to show that standards aren’t necessarily helpful.

His other point, the one about how his own argument stood because it was his subjective opinion of Digibro’s work was probably the best point he makes in the entire argument.  And it’s wrong.  As I explained to him, he can hate Digibro’s work all he wants, but the idea that Digibro’s review is bad because it doesn’t meet a standard, undermines the basis of art criticism.  This was the issue.  As I explain further, you can’t have invalid perspectives but you can make invalid arguments, and Asshole’s argument that Digibro’s work sucked for not conforming to a standard is an invalid argument.  Then I addressed his idea that critics have a responsibility to the audience.  I phrased it poorly but my point was that a critic only needs to provide the audience with valid arguments, and what they take away from that review is up to them.  Reviews can come from any perspective, choose any format, give scores or not gives scores, whatever, and that any perspective can add to the overall discourse on the work.  Critics can do what they want how they want so longs as they make valid arguments, and it’s up to the audience to decide what they like.  I also spent more time insulting this craven shitlord for being a dishonest idiot, which he proved himself to be over and over, and said I was done.  And as far as YouTube is concerned, I am done.

Asshole however was not done.  In his trademark style of taking things way out of context and twisting the argument to make me look bad and validate him indirectly instead of attempting to validate his arguments directly, he took what I said and said he felt like my comments were advocating pedophilia.  Now his tone was anything but genuine, it seems clear he was just using an example to try and make me look bad rather express something he really felt, though technically I suppose he could have felt that way.  In any case the reason I want to attack this that another commenter said Asshole had a point.  Because Asshole doesn’t have a point.  Remember this entire argument has taken place within the context of art criticism.  I’ve made no statements whatsoever about society and social norms and law or anything like that.  All I’ve said is that in regards art critique all perspectives are valid.  Asshole, being an asshole, decided to strip away that context and put insane words in my mouth.  I don’t believe all perspectives are valid in all facets of life, and I’m not advocating for pedophilia.  Nothing in my argument suggest I do unless you do what Asshole did and strip out all the context, and even then you’d have to ignore how I said things like criticism of art and perspective on the work (something Asshole leaves in when quoting the line he uses to make me look like I’m ok with anything in all circumstances, and extrapolates to me being pro-pedophilia, thus invalidating his own argument, not that it was ever really an argument so much as it was misdirection).

So yeah, his argument is once more, invalid.  But in the name of courtesy I’ll explain where his ludicrous idea could be applied to my argument.  Theoretically speaking you could say that according my argument if a pedophile wrote a review of Boku no Pico, or any show that one’s just a good example, the insights a pedophile’s perspective brought would add to the discourse on Boku no Pico.  Which is true, I do believe that, that said I doubt a pedophile’s insights are something most people would like.  I certainly don’t care what new ideas on Boku no Pico come from a pedophile reviewing it.  But that review has a right to exist even if I hate it and disagree with everything because so long as the arguments it makes aren’t invalid, then it’s fine.  There you go I advocate pedophilia because I support pedophile free speech, hurray.  Naturally I’m being facetious, I support free speech which happens to include the free speech of pedophiles, doesn’t mean I advocate for pedophilia.  These are two very different things which Asshole labels as the same thing to make me lose credibility.  And the fact that someone was stupid enough to buy into it galls me.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed the equal parts pettiness and superb reasoning ability/intellect that’s been on display.  If you’re not the type to argue much I do hope you’ve learned a bit about basic argument etiquette  and what works versus what doesn’t.  But mainly what I want is further third party vindication assuring me that I’ve totally roasted Asshole, which I did, so I can stroke my ego and feel good about myself and be confident in my Asshole crushing abilities.  Thanks for reading, I do hope you enjoyed and that I’ve not scared you off from my blog.  I hope this never happens again.

 

Raging Rant: Fuck Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi (and Japan)

History anime are by and large a joke.  I say this not because I hate history, in fact I love history the way a normal American loves football and apple pie.  But just fuck Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi.  With only a few exceptions I’m aware of, all history anime take place during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period) in the 1500’s and Loyalist Rebellion in the late 1800’s.  Their have been some fun, good and even famous anime from these time periods, like Rurouni Kenshin or Gintama.  But I, and many people who I’ve also heard complain about this topic, are sick to death of Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi.  They’re fucking everywhere, and even when it’s not about them specifically when I see a show like Onihei roll around I can’t help but be a little disappointed by the fact that it looks just like a show about the Shinsengumi, because the main guy has a similar job.  And Nobunaga is in everything, some of it’s good like the recent Drifters or Nobunagun.  But the stories of these figures are so well trodden and their notable traits, beahviors and even verbal ticks so popularized that they’re pretty fucking boring.  Even in a fantasy show like Drifters you can totally predict that Mitsuhide would show up as an End because Nobunaga was a Drifter, everything about these characters is predictable and that’s rather boring really.

This is why I consider most of the best history shows to be historical fantasies like Seirei no Moribito, which builds a phenomenal setting and society to recreate the feeling of a history show, or Akatsuki no Yona which is great fantasy historical action-romance-drama thing, or Arslan Senki which I’ve praised in detail multiple times, or Katanagatari, which is all about possibilities and subverting history, or Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) which mixed witches and mythology into the Hundred Years War.  These are all great shows and I highly recommend them but it would be great to get a more normal, realistic history show which avoids Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi somehow.  And we just don’t.  The only example I can come up with is Kingdom, which is fantastic.  The thing that really gets me about this is that it’s not like Oda Nobunaga and Shinsengumi are necessarily the coolest figures, or their eras the coolest points, in Japan’s history.  I think the Gempei War, which completely redefined how Japan’s military, social and political organizations would function from the 1100’s to the 1800’s is far more interesting.  Which is why I was really glad they brought in Yoichi in Drifters and Himiko, a semi-mythical prehistoric queen of Japan, in the awful Nobunaga the Fool, they shed a hint of light on interesting and largely unexplored, in anime at least, periods of history.  Hell a historical fantasy anime featuring Himiko fighting monsters and/or ancient gods practically writes itself.  But what would be even better would be if Japan just branched out a little.

Kingdom and Arslan Senki, and arguably a few scenes from the Fate series are steps in this direction but if we could get a mostly realistic anime of of ancient history outside of Japan I would kill the nearby peasants and loot the local castle to pay for that shit.  There’s so many possibilities, any time period for Rome, the Greco-Persian Wars, the Hunnic invasions and the rise of Attila, maybe go for some original story set in Mesoamerica because most of their history is a mystery, or maybe some Viking story about invading Britain or discovering North America, Egypt, the famed Gupta empire and Chandragumpta of India, the great Arab conquests, the Crusades, the Mongol invasions of Europe or China, an original story featuring the Sea Peoples who suddenly ravaged most of the ancient world without warning, you could even do a Gilgamesh spin off set in ancient Sumeria, etc.  The possibilities are endless and that’s just ancient history, what about the Bolshevik Revolution, the Crimean War, the Opium Wars maybe go for the Protestant and Catholic wars following Luther’s 99 Theses, Vietnam, the Cold War, etc.  There are so many possibilities I can’t even list them all and that’s just the the shit I know, there’s tons of history I don’t know jack about that could make great anime too.  But instead we just get Nobunaga and the Shinsengumi on repeat at least dozen times each and they get mentioned in almost everything with even the slightest connection to history and historical figures.  Stop it Japan.

This leads me to my next point and if you read my Patriotism Problem post then this will sound familiar but Japan really needs to work it’s tendency to make Japan always look good.  I’m not even talking about really controversial shit like admitting to the Rape of Nanking,  I’m talking about basic shit not making the JSDF invincible when fighting dragons *cough Gate cough*.  I can’t tell if it comes from the insecurity of an inferiority complex or the ego of a superiority complex but Japan always goes way out of it’s way to make sure it’s the best.  Oh UBW you have super powered historical figures eh?  Fine be sure to give Sasaki Kojuro a technique so good it transcends heroic abilities and enters the realm of divine swordsmanship to make us look better (I’m not making that up UBW’s Assassin technique, the fabled Tsubame Gaeshi, is explained as being better than the power of mere heroes and stepping into the realm of the gods at least in the wiki, can’t remember if that made it into the show itself).  Nobunagun you have people with super powers based on their ties to historical figures? Make sure to give the girl tied to Nobunaga the all-around best abilities to make us look better.  Drifters you have a bunch of historical figures fighting in Middle Earth?  Ok make sure to have an unusually large portion of the heroes taken from Japan and make them all super badass to make us look better.  I could give examples like this for days.

Japan it’s fucking embarrassing, and more than little irritating sometimes.  Look I’m from America and I have no problem with patriotism and being proud of your heritage.  But it intrudes on the story when you say deliberately make Hannibal Barca, one of the most revered generals of all time, a senile old man to make sure he doesn’t outshine his Japanese contemporaries in Drifters for example.  Japan’s obsession with inflating it’s own image and/or worth in historical shows is a complete waste of time.  It’s a minor nuisance at best and can totally break a story at worst.  I just don’t really get why it even exists.  To me it projects an arrogant fragility more than anything else and it severely limits what most anime with even the loosest ties to history can do and where they can take place.  There plenty of western medieval fantasies or recent WWI/WWII era fantasies like Shuumatsu no Izetta but the, in my opinion of course, far more interesting ancient world is left frustratingly untapped because of Japan’s need to always look like the best.

That’s it really, just wanted to flip Japan the bird and scream ineffectually at it like a bunch of liberals at an anti-Trump protest, which is the kind of thing I can only say here because California is overrun by liberals and trying to argue with them is an exercise in futility.  I don’t expect many people to care much about this, I don’t typically envision most readers as history buffs, I just needed to get it out of my system.  On the off chance you are interested give some of those shows I recommended a shot or if you just want to talk history for a bit that’d be fun too.  Thanks for reading and see ya next time.

Raging Rant: Stop Liking Edgy Bullshit

Edgy is one of the worst possible descriptors a show can acquire.  And yet for some reason blatantly edgy shows do annoying well with a large percentage of the anime community.  A lot of that can be attributed to people being noobs, which is fair enough because we were all noobs once, but at the same time I don’t think it’s fair or correct to write off all the attention edgy shows get as solely a noob problem.  So what is it that attracts people to edgy shows in the first place?  Why do so many people buy into the edgy bullshit?  Well… there will be spoilers ahead you’ve been warned.

I think one of the main draws of edgy shows is that they are dark and gory, and to first time viewers that make them seem very cool and maybe even mature.  I remember the first time I saw Elfen Lied and Mirai Nikki, and I thought both of them were awesome and I was ready to fight people who shat on them, you know before someone really broke down why they sucked and I realized the great sin I’d committed by liking these shows.  I hate them both now, in fact the only thing I like about Elfen Lied now is Nyu, because Nyu is fucking adorable.  But I get it, the first time you see a show that’s willing to horribly murder a bunch of people right from the get go, where characters die right and left, where gore and tragedy are everywhere, it can seem like a big step up from all the boring high school stuff.  It can feel more mature and realistic than shounen battles with their huge emphasis on optimism and friendship and marked rarity of death.  But edgy shows are anything but mature and I happen to know a character that illustrates this perfectly, Seiryuu from Akame ga Kill.

Akame ga Kill is one of the notable edgy shows but in contrast to Elfen Lied and Mirai Nikki, it’s one I actually like.  I’ll get into more details on that later, for now let’s look at Seiryuu.  As detailed in one of my early posts, Seiryuu is a well constructed crazy person.  She has been driven to the point of insanity by a clear chain of events, i.e. her parents and mentors are all murdered in rapid succession, and thanks to the fact that some of her mentors are corrupt scumbags themselves, her moral compass and understanding of the world is totally fucked.  This makes Seiryuu a character who believably would act in an overblown, hyper violent, edgy way.  She is a child trying to deal with very adult issues and she just can’t, which ends up with her laughing about feeding people to her dog monster while still believing she represents justice.  This is the essence of what it means to be edgy, adult content written for, and perhaps with, a child’s perspective.  Because any show can be super gory and violent, any show can incorporate tragedy and trauma.  It doesn’t need to be a mature show to have mature content, but that’s precisely why edgy shows generally suck, they just take the trappings of mature shows and throw in some babies first characters and hope no one notices.  And is works on a lot of people, because a lot of people are so wowed by the all the blood and death that they stop thinking about anything else going on the story entirely.  But the effect created by the inherent flaw of edgy stories is present in Seiryuu, she’s far and away the most hateable character in Akame ga Kill and watching her die was one of the most satisfying scenes in the show.

What really puts the nail in the coffin of edgy shows is that the things they are trying to do have been done elsewhere so much better.  Even in Akame ga Kill there were characters who had a more mature perspective and their personal philosophies, ideals and goals were by far the most interesting aspects of characterization in the show.  The titular Akame is especially good because, as discussed in my post on anti-heroes, she follows the all too rare path of the redemption seeker.  She knows how hard she fucked up earlier in life and she fights now to make up for her past evils and ensure others have the brighter future she can never have.  Likewise Bols comes from the unique, at least among Akame ga Kill’s characters, perspective of being a family man while also having done a ton of horrific shit that makes people hate him, but he comes to terms with the hatred of others and resolves to continue doing ugly things anyway because they are in service of the ideals he believes in and the people he fights for.  Now both of these characters were weakened because they were saddled with lame comedic punchlines, but the point stands, these two were the most interesting characters in the show because their stories best reflected a more mature perspective in a show full of mature content.  But those two are pretty minor examples compared to the entire shows and stories which handle the same dark and gory content as edgy shows so much better.

Berserk and Neon Genesis Evangelion are stories with plenty of gore and a buffet of traumatic events.  But in direct opposition to Mirai Nikki and Elfen Lied, the violence and tragedy aren’t gimmicks meant to wow the audience in these stories.  Trauma and mental damage play a gigantic role in Evangelion, they are core themes central to the narrative of the story and the kind of message it presents to the audience.  And Evangelion is way darker and more impactful for it.  Forget a yandere killing a lot of people because they touched her Yuki, isn’t it really insane to force a fifteen year old with serious trust issues and an understandable lack of confidence to pilot a crazy mech and defend the world from otherworldly beings?  What’s really more tragic, a kid seeing his sister blow in a blood pinata and forgetting the whole thing due to the trauma it caused him or a girl who had to deal with a mother that never recognized and loved her, a mother who she saw hang herself, and then had save the world from invading aliens despite the deep-seated mental scars her childhood left on her, which she not only could never forget about but which would also put even more pressure on her during her future struggles with the aliens?   What’s really darker, a world full of overblown characters and equally overblown violence, or a world full of people who behave like human beings, humans that suffer from a myriad of terrible mental issues and are constantly confronted with violence, but have to keep coming into the office every morning because that’s what’s expected of them?  In all three scenario’s it’s the latter because Evangelion, in a addition to just being a damn good show, took a mature, realistic approach to mature content and told a story with mature themes.  Mirai Nikki and Elfen Lied use the same kind of content to tell cartoonish stories of overwrought tragedy and mindless violence with no noteworthy themes at all.

And then there’s Berserk a story where people we like get raped and where people reel back in genuine horror not just from monsters but from Guts and his exceptional skills at violence.  I think one of the best arcs of Berserk was the Lost Children arc because more so than any other arc it really cemented the idea that Guts was fucking scary.  It doesn’t matter that he’s the hero of the story, that he’s in the right or that his feats were badass, in Lost Children Guts scared even the monsters because of the lengths he was willing to go to take them down and most humans feared and hated him for the damage he left behind.  It really showed how isolating Guts’ path and by extension his reaction to his past traumas were, and it took the near death of the only person he cared about to make him change his ways.  That’s a story that speaks to people about human problems, it doesn’t matter that Guts is fighting demons with a stupidly huge sword in a medieval fantasy land, he and other characters around him suffer from very human problems and they deal with these problems in human ways.  In short the characters in Berserk are relatable and human, and at times they showcase the very worst of what people allow themselves to become.  By contrast Mirai Nikki is about a pink haired girl whose kills people because she’s insane.  It’s pathetic in comparison to a story that actually takes a mature approach to mature content, because again in Mirai Nikki violence and tragedy are gimmicks meant to garner a reaction, they don’t really mean anything narratively or thematically.

Another thing that supports the popularity of edgy is shows is their premise.  Tokyo Ghoul and Mirai Nikki are both shows with a strong premise that got a lot of attention, and to sadly large portion of the audience, respect.  Hell I was into to Tokyo Ghoul for the premise, I watched all of both seasons waiting to see if the show could deliver on that premise, and it just fucking didn’t, not in any meaningful way.  It was such garbage that the best character in the show died in episode one and she somehow continued to be the best character despite getting no extra development.  And as I established in another post, premise means nothing.  You can have the coolest premise in the world but if the execution of the narrative, of key scenes, of the presentation vs the themes all sucks, then your show fucking sucks.  This again is where edgy shows trip up, because gore is a gimmick to them, they don’t really have hard hitting themes to match their presentation, so it all comes off as cartoonish, lacking in subtlety and tact, and ultimately tasteless and juvenile.  This is why edgy shows are laughed at as pleb tier anime, because they damn well are pleb tier in terms of writing and construction.  Which brings me back to the one edgy show I will defend, Akame ga Kill.

Akame ga Kill is an odd beast because the reasons I like and defend it don’t really match up with why most other people like it.  That’s not to say there’s no common ground, I’m pretty sure everyone who likes Akame ga Kill likes the action in Akame ga Kill for instance, but generally speaking there is a big disconnect between me and most everyone else.  Because it sounds like a lot of people who like Akame ga Kill actually like the edgy bullshit that drove so many potential fans away, this is especially true of fans of the manga which based on my admittedly limited knowledge appears even more edgy than the anime.  This is ludicrous to me because while I have found a defense for Akame ga Kill’s edginess, I ain’t celebrating that shit.  It’s edginess is by far the worst thing about Akame ga Kill even if it sort of fits in context.  That context being the anime only end of Akame ga Kill, which in retrospect automatically puts me at odds with manga fans.  As discussed in my review, I found the anime only ending of Akame ga Kill pretty incredible.  Not only did we get to see a bunch of great battles in a row, but we saw a final conclusion to the overall story and that’s rare enough that I was happy we got something.  However what really sold me on this ending is the scene where the few remaining survivors of the conflict are talking atop a huge ruined tower on capital city’s wall.  The shot really hit home the idea that, holy shit the scale and cost of this conflict was enormous.  The majority of the Imperial Arms, super powerful artifact weapons that no one can create anymore, used in the show are destroyed.  Hundreds if not thousands of people have died, the capital city is in ruins, a ton of young talent and potential heroes are dead in addition to the established heroes of the empire who have died and the government is being totally reformed by the few who remain.

Put succinctly, the ending of Akame ga Kill gives me the impression of something like the fabled Trojan War of Homer’s epics.  In the world of Akame ga Kill this conflict’s end signifies the passing of age and it will likely end up as an in-universe epic at some point in that world’s history.  I admit this is a weird thing selling point, especially as it doesn’t appear at all until the end, but for me the idea of a conflict which defined and ended an era is overwhelmingly awesome.  Maybe it’s my love for history, or fictional world building, or legends and lore, maybe all of the above; but it was powerful to me and that’s why I really do love the damn show despite it’s faults.  And as far the edginess is concerned, epics tend to have overblown characters with larger than life personalities and traits taken to extremes, i.e. they are kind of edgy in their own, albeit far less cringy, way.  Therefore, if you look at Akame ga Kill as an epic happening in real time, the edginess makes a little more sense and fits the story.  That doesn’t make it good mind, but it fits enough that I’m willing to forgive it and enjoy the rest of the show.

What this has all been building up to is me, here at the end, begging you all on my hands and knees to stop falling for edgy bullshit.  You’re allowed to like whatever you like, but please, please stop liking edgy bullshit.  You can do better than that and we all deserve better than edgy bullshit.  I want to live in a world where edgy bullshit is not financially viable, where Tokyo Ghoul doesn’t sell well and is shit on by everybody for it’s overwrought yet hollow tragedy, it’s boring flatlined story, and intense gore hidden behind all kinds of shadows.  I want everyone to get past the Mirai Nikki’s and Elfen Lied’s of the world because then maybe, just maybe, we can talk about more interesting shit and get some better dark, gory anime worthy for all of us to enjoy.  Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

Raging Rant: Fuck Corporate Cash-Grab Sequels

You know about a year ago I said I thought it would be healthy for anime to make some sequels to older shows instead of making a ton of split cour shows and sequels to recent shows.  And I’m starting to regret that statement now.  There will be spoilers you’ve been warned.

Man just fuck cash grab sequels, fuck’em all.  Between the fucking awful Berserk 2016 and the trainwreck reboot-continuation D Gray Man Hallow, I’m beginning to think sequels to older shows might be a mistake, at least in the current cultural paradigm.  See here’s the thing the people mandating all of these sequels either don’t give a fuck about art or care more about money than art.  I also think part of the problem stems from FMAB.  Now you might be wondering why I’m mentioning FMAB when talking about sequels because it isn’t one, and that’s because I believe FMAB is the main cause of the reboot and sequel boom.

As far as I’m aware FMAB was the first reboot (sort of, I’ll get into more detail in a minute) to really make it big and convince investors and studio heads that maybe reboots of older shows and sequels to older shows were financially viable and potentially lucrative.  So people jumped on the idea and ran with it.  And sometimes it worked, HunterxHunter quite famously had an excellent reboot, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been doing well and even the Ushio to Tora reboot looked pretty good.  However it’s important to note that all of these other success stories aren’t exactly like FMAB.  FMAB was not a one for one reboot the way HunterxHunter 2011 was (sort of), nor simply a new adaptation of an old manga like JoJo.  FMAB was a re-adaptation of FMA, one which followed the now-complete manga much more closely, and as a result the two shows are pretty different.  Most notably however, FMAB does not cover some of the early episodes of FMA like Yoki’s introduction episode and instead breezes through that shit to get to the rest of the story.  And’s it’s this approach or attitude I feel that’s informing the trainwreck sequels mentioned above.

Both Berserk 2016 and D Gray Man Hallow open on episodes that are one part reboot, one part sequel and one part reintroductions to the work (which was pointless anyway because the fans already know what the fuck the shows were about and newcomers shouldn’t be watching the fucking sequel first to begin with).  Part of the reasons the first episodes of these sequels were so terrible was because they are such a chaotic mishmash of ideas, trying to go too many directions at once.  D Gray Man Hallow’s first episode in particular reminds of FMAB’s, if FMAB’s was total shit anyway.  D Gray Man Hallow begins with a flashy fight, where all the main characters are busting out their big moves, while later in episode Cross talks to Allen about important stuff that let’s us know this story is going to be more involved and complicated.  FMAB did the same things with Isaac trying to freeze the capital of Amestris, they just executed the ideas much better by showing us a bunch of fights and some of the important characters or items, like Bradley and the philosopher’s stone, and what they could do without explaining them to us as a means to pique our interest.  Berserk 2016 likewise saw Guts kill a bunch of guys in a bar like episode one of the original show and fight some big tree monster later to show us what a badass he is.  And do you want to know why the first of FMAB, which fulfills a similar function to D Gray Man Hallow’s and Berserk 2016’s, works while the other two don’t?  Because they’re fucking sequels and FMAB wasn’t.

What really baffled me back when I bitched about the first episode of D Gray Man Hallow was why the hell they bothered to make it a sequel at all.  They changed all the voice actors and presumably the staff (I haven’t checked on that but considering how different it is I’m pretty confident about it), changed the look and tone of the show, and opened on this atrocious fight scene that introduced all the characters and their powers (sort of, they botched it with Alystar and Miranda).  What was the fucking point of making a goddamn sequel if everything was going to be different?  The answer was that they decided to advance the story and pick up where D Gray Man left off.  But that seems pretty meaningless given that they changed everything else.  Now I get it, they threw the fans of D Gray Man a bone and hoped to make a bunch of money off of us in the process, I’m just mad because I hate this particular metaphorical bone.  And it’s a shame really, because as badly as I thrashed that first episode the show has actually gotten borderline ok as of the latest episode at the time of this writing (Kanda and Alma’s backstory), and even before that they introduced some decent ideas like the Third Exorcists.  And all I can think of is how much better this would be if we had the old voice actors, the old look, the old team and most importantly the old tone of the show.  I honestly wish that D Gray Man Hallow was a full HunterxHunter 2011 style reboot than a fucking sequel-that-is-also-a-reboot.  I’d probably care about less if it was a reboot but I wouldn’t be as pissed at it either.  And I think everyone can agree that we wished Berserk 2016 never happened.

This trend of sort-of sequel, sort-of reboot shows (let’s call them rebquels) worries me because, until I see someone make it work, I’m pretty sure it’s a formula for failure.  Moreover I know more shows like this are going to come out, people are already worried about how much damage the upcoming FLCL sequel will do to that IP.  And I weep at the thought of other great shows that fans have been dying for more of getting these absolute garbage sequels and rebquels as a “reward” for their faith and patience.  Fucking no, this has to stop.  As I discussed before a bad sequel is worse than a bad show, put some fucking care and attention into your fucking high profile sequels Japan.  If you don’t you are going to burn a lot of fans.  And look maybe enough people will just be so happy that more of [insert beloved older show here] is coming out that the practice is financially successful for now, but if it keeps happening over and over you can bet it won’t continue to be successful.  Devoted fans will eat a lot of shit but even they have limits and if we keep getting more Berserk 2016’s you will push fans beyond their limits and it will fucking destroy you.  It will destroy you because you will have dragged your name and legacy through the fucking mud and destroyed your own damn credibility so you could make some easy fucking money.

If you want to make a sequel to an old show, then make it a proper fucking sequel.  You don’t need to reintroduce it anyone, because the fans already know what’s up and they will build hype for the series for you.  If you want to hook a new audience to an old IP, make a reboot.  Don’t combine the two in any way shape or form.  Also recognize that FMAB was a readaptation and if you want to do what it did, your show must also be a readaptation, or at least a HunterxHunter 2011 style reboot because that rebooted the old stuff completely and then added new stuff.  One of the best sequels in recent years was Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen.  You know why?  Because it was a proper fucking sequel and it had some some fucking care put into it.  Itsuwari no Kamen isn’t even as good as it’s predecessor, but you know what, it also isn’t bad.  Itsuwari no Kamen has gorgeous visuals, good characters and a decent story even if it dragged it’s feet and ended well before the full story was over.  But it didn’t ruin Utawarerumono for me, it didn’t even really disappoint me, if anything I was worried it was going to be even worse and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was good.  It’s not ideal, an ideal sequel is as good as, if not better than, the original show but it’s acceptable, I don’t feel burned by it and I have faith that any following sequels will likely be good.  If you made a Berserk sequel like that, or a D Gray Man Hallow like that you’d be so much better off, fans would be happier and I’d be a lot fucking happier (which frankly is what really matters to me).

That about wraps this one up.  The issue here is really simple, I don’t want to the legacy of great studios and great anime ruined by terrible, short-sighted sequels and rebquels created with the goal to make some easy fucking money rather than making some great fucking art.  Because that’s what makes those old shows good, they’re fucking great works of art, and throwing that art to the wind in the attempt to make a quick, easy profit will hurt you in the long term.  And sure, maybe you only care about the short term, and some of your audience no doubt does as well, but a lot of anime fans are long time fans, and they care about the long term damage to a show’s legacy.  So respect you fans, because they pay your bills and if you fail them too hard, too often they’ll stop footing the fucking bill.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.