Raging Rant: Games and Cheating

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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