Unpopular Opinion: Keijo!!!!!!!!! – The Magnum Op-ass of Sports Stories

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I love Keijo.  Both the anime and the manga.  It is to date the best sports story I have ever followed and that will likely never change.  No doubt that sounds preposterous to most people, I mean it’s just a dumb ecchi show shoving ass and tits in your face constantly.  From what I’ve heard the anime bombed pretty hard and there is no doubt in my mind part of the anime’s failure lies in the perception of the show I detailed in the previous sentence.  There are of course other issues, most notably that it starts well into the story, skipping over the two exams, something many fans of the manga resent.  But I can’t help feeling like the main reason people who’ve never read the manga, which has to make up a larger audience base than fans of the manga, avoided Keijo because of how it was perceived; as dumb, trashy fanservice schlock that used a flimsy premise to get away with justifying itself.  That perception is so miserably wrong and the fact that it likely informs the mass opinion of the show is deeply frustrating because Keijo is so much more than it says on the tin.

Now in fairness it is also exactly what it says on the tin, there is a lot of fanservice, tits and especially ass is often shoved into the viewer’s face.  And all of this is justified by the premise, which contrary to popular belief is not in fact flimsy.  Keijo is, in my opinion, the most ingeniously conceived sport of all time, an argument I made in my last post on the subject and will make again here.  But before that point I want clarify a few things.  First off I will explicitly separate the manga and the anime in a few key areas but for the most part I’m going to be talking about them as one unified entity because I want to talk about Keijo in it’s entirety.  Secondly this is going to be long as shit because I have a lot of things I want to talk about.  And lastly this will get up to it’s tits in Keijo and since I will explain things in as much detail as I’m able, there will be spoilers everywhere.  Now that were clear on that let’s get going.

One thing I want to address right away is how things have changed since I wrote my prior review.  In that review I argued that the manga and the anime were of comparable quality largely based on the fact that, at the time, the manga’s ending was very abrupt.  Multiple sites listed chapter 86 as the final chapter of Keijo, and it remained that way for at least a week or two after the Keijo anime wrapped up, a chapter that cuts off right after Kaminashi won her match against Maya/Kaya, seriously the last panel was like her teammates throwing her into the air as a part of their victory celebrations it was jarringly abrupt.  Currently the  manga is now 147 chapters deep so that part of my earlier analysis is no longer valid.  The manga is now unquestionably better than the anime and if the show bombed as badly as I’m hearing then it will likely stay that way.  That said I will stand by my earlier stance that anime made some good edits to the manga, though it made some pretty bad ones too, and that the Maya/Kaya fight was far superior in the anime, which was huge because at the time that was THE final battle of series.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me lay out in simple terms why I think Keijo is the best sport ever conceived.  Ass and titties.  This may surprise you but I didn’t pick that phrase because I’m way into the fanservice, I am but that’s not the point.  I haven’t checked the data in years but I’m fairly confident in what I learned a couple Olympics ago, the most widely viewed women’s event was beach volleyball and it was first in viewership by an overwhelming margin.  This is not due to sex appeal alone but if everyone only watched for the athletic spectacle then the ratings should be less skewed in it’s favor.  Beach volleyball is fun to watch as a sport but it’s also a sport where we get to see women showing a lot of skin, and it has really good ratings.  Basically as the age old adage goes: sex sells.  This is important because one of the central conceits of Keijo is that the sport is so insanely profitable that talented athletes from all kinds of other sports come to Keijo specifically to make bank.  And evidence from reality supports that conceit via women’s beach volleyball.  This is indicative of one of Keijo’s greatest strengths as a story concept, the blending of grounded realism and insane shit you can only find in anime and manga.

One of the reasons I specifically avoid a lot of sports anime is because a ton of them are underdog stories and I’ve seen a million of those.  I don’t want to see some skilled but fledgling team fight against their own weaknesses as they work their way up to the big tournament.  Sports shows share much of the same tone and characterization as shounen stories and I’ll take a shounen show over a sports story any day where underdog narratives are concerned because I value spectacle.  A lot.  So when I see a sports show I want to see high level competition more so than underdog struggles, not that underdogs winning a big fight through hard work, toughness and willpower can’t be fun, but for sports specifically I’m much more interested in high level play.  To that end Keijo is the ultimate sports concept, a sport made of so much money that National and even Olympic level athletes from all kinds of sports will willingly abandon their sport of choice to get a shot at that Keijo money.  This means the baseline of everyone competing in Keijo is really, really high, which results in great spectacle.  Spectacle made all the better by the inventiveness of the ass and tits combat on display, and that was not a joke in the slightest, the combat is incredibly creative.

This setup has a few great boons.  As described above it is totally believable and helps to ground a series which is also chock-full of crazy shit like a character who can use Giga Drill Breaker from Gurren Lagann… with her tits.  Additionally it is a veritable goldmine of creative variety, a bottomless well from which characters of all stripes can be drawn.  In Keijo all the fighters are put into three basic classes, Infighter, Outfighter and Counter.  Infighters are heavy hitters, Outfighters are quick fighters, and Counters excel at using their opponents’ power against them.  However within those three classes there is a ton of variety and room for specialization.  Sayaka and Rokudo Rin for example are both Outfighters with excellent speed and they share the same Ass Gattling technique (a series of super quick attacks with dat ass).  However they have very different strengths.  Sayaka is judo champion who was slated to compete in the Olympics and is notably stronger than most Outfighters, in fact in the beginning she’s got more power than the Infighter Kaminashi.  Rokudo is a runner and she has incredible lung capacity and endurance.  Which is why in a straight Ass Gattling battle Rokudo would win because she can use it endlessly while Sayaka will quickly become tired and out of breath.  Which is why Sayaka switches her main move to the K-acceleration, a move which relies on bursts of intense speed and power, to overcome Rokudo.  Because that technique plays to her strengths as a fighter with a lot of power for her size.

This kind of variety and the resulting plethora of foils, characters who mirror or are diametrically opposed to the main characters, is present throughout the entirety of Keijo.  Kaminashi, our leading lady is an especially fascinating case study where these naturally varying body types and skill sets are concerned because she fits in multiple classes.  She isn’t especially large, Infighters are typically the largest athletes competing.  She isn’t especially strong, which is the kind of the point her class.  She is remarkably good at dodging or keeping her balance when she takes a hit.  Kaminashi would be a great Counter and in practice she wins her first two practice Keijo battles (both happen in the same round but the opponents are very different) by way of Counter-style moves.  If not for the fact she can use her flexibility and gymnastics moves to build up phenomenal force for her special attack, the Vacuum Ass Cannon, there would be no reason to treat her as an Infighter at all.  But her technique is so rare and powerful that it’s practically a sin for her not to fight as an Infighter especially since it has the promise of being a great way to get money.  Which is especially important to Kaminashi as she is dirt poor and has been her whole life.

I know I’ve mixed in some information on techniques which isn’t applicable until the story starts but what I’ve been trying to illustrate over the last few paragraphs is Keijo’s baseline state as a sport.  It’s a tits and ass battle sport fought on a wide variety of arenas, I forgot to mention that above, filled to the brim with incredibly talented athletes who come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all kinds of body types, strengths and skill sets upon which they can create their own Keijo-specific techniques.  And this sport is able to draw from such a varied and consistently talented pool of players because it has all the money for reasons which we easily understand and which mirror trends in reality.  It’s fucking genius and we haven’t even gotten to the actual narrative and characters who populate it.  As far as I’m concerned Keijo has already surpassed any other sport by virtue of how well constructed it is at the conceptual level alone and when competing against other sports stories the match is Keijo’s to win or lose.

Now I expect it to lose for a lot of people.  Because of lot of people don’t want fanservice getting in the way of their sports story (it doesn’t in Keijo but whatever I get the complaint), some people just shy away from fanservice in general, some people will prefer a show about a more realistic sport or a sport they play and some people won’t like the characters and narrative, or maybe they’ll just like another story more.  I do not expect everyone to love Keijo, but what I hope I’ve shown is what merits the sport alone has, divorced from any other elements which a person may or may not like, and that it should be recognized for the excellent craftsmanship on display.  In a genre where most shows and manga just draw from existing sports and can focus solely on characters and narrative, Keijo has created an original sport that not only works as premise for a story but which would work fabulously in the real world as well.  This is just the foundation block of the story but it’s such a great foundation and I’m sad so many people will overlook this because they saw ‘ass and tits fanservice romp’ and checked out.

Ironically enough I came into Keijo like all the people I’ve been decrying, I started with the anime and the attitude that it was going to be so shameless and trashy that I just had to get a look at it.  Then the first episode was great and I checked out the manga and fell head over heels in love with it.  Most fans of Keijo will tell you the anime was bad because it skips the first major arc, the exam arc, which includes a lot of character for the two main girls Kaminashi and Sayaka.  They aren’t wrong but most of the focus appears to be on Sayaka because she develops more explicitly over the course of that arc.  However, while it was stunted, I think the anime got the main thrust of her character story across, that she was a judo champion born to a judo family who felt no passion for judo whatsoever and left against her family’s and even the nation’s wishes, abandoning the sport by throwing her Olympic qualifier match.  There are some great details in the manga that don’t make it into the anime, like how the person she threw the match to got crushed in the Olympics, lost her confidence and how friends of hers try to sabotage Sayaka during the exam as revenge, but honestly Kaminashi was the one who got screwed.

Kaminashi’s closest equivalent from another big name show is Natsu from Fairy Tail.  She appears incredibly stupid and she says stupid or blunt things all the time, but it’s consistently shown that she can be and is incredibly perceptive about things which she actually gives a shit about.  This is shown to an extent in the anime but a lot of subtle changes make Kaminashi looker much stupider and more underdog-ish than she does in the manga.  For example during the Sayaka-Rokudo fight in the anime Kaminashi is confused as to why Rokudo is beating Sayaka in the battle of seemingly equal Ass Gattlings and Kawai, which as a side note is a great name for that character as it’s one letter apart from both kawaii meaning cute and kowai meaning scary and she’s both, explains the endurance thing I detailed above.  In the manga, Non who is consistently depicted as air-headed and kind of out place amid all these other athletes is confused by why Sayaka is losing and Kaminashi is the one who explains it.  I feel this is an especially bad change because one of the key facets of Kaminashi’s character is that she’s far more dangerous than most give her credit for.  This is especially true early on as she’s one of the least famous characters but even in recent manga chapters she proves that she has a good head on her shoulders and can compete with fighters ranked well above her.

But to get away from anime-manga comparisons the point is that I’m a huge fan of Kaminashi and I like the characters in Keijo.  I think the mangaka has made some weird decisions regarding some characters and given how many there are it’s easy for some to fade into the background but on the whole I like them and I really like some of them.  None of the characters outright suck or piss me off.  Which means the story only improves from the impressive foundation laid for it.  This is true of both the anime and the manga though obviously more so for the manga because it’s the better version now.  I want you to keep this in mind whenever I criticize either the anime or the manga because I will and it might look inconsistent.  I think both versions made some bad decisions but I am very fond of Keijo and none of complaints are about things which break or ruin the series, just things I don’t get or disagree with.

For the sake of getting it out of the way let’s do the manga vs anime comparison now.  The anime’s like an 8, it’s a good time and tells a full arc that functions as it’s own story.  I agree that the anime skipping the exams was disappointing but it was also practical.  Most arcs of Keijo last about 3 episodes and there occasional bits that fill time in-between arcs.  This means if the anime had covered both of the two exams plus the first few chapters and the gap between the exams they would end up with 8 or 9 episodes.  To fill 12 they would either have to bloat the episodes they had or end in the middle of the school training.  Both are bad options.   Keijo is pretty tightly paced, it crams in as much as it can from the manga in the time it’s given while still leaving time for the major battles to feel fleshed out and satisfying.  Slowing that pacing down could be done but it probably leave more episodes feeling boring or at least more boring stretches.  Ending in the middle of school would anti-climactic as fuck though so that’s not really a viable option either.  It’s an awkward position to be put in and I think the anime skipping ahead so that it could cover all of the school stuff and finish on the climactic East-West war battles was a good idea.  Or at least it would have been if the anime hadn’t bombed.

The anime also made a number of smart edits to the source material and some shit ones.  One of better ones was keeping Kaminashi in the UTM all time when was forced to wear it, whereas it came off frequently in the manga, I felt that it added a lot more character and made it seem like Kaminashi worked harder.  One of the worst edits was having the Kaminashi vs Fujisaki battle end with both fighters sliding around the circular ring super fast, that looked shit and it was probably the part of manga the anime adapted worst.  The most noticeable improvement the anime makes to the manga though is in the Maya/Kaya fight, the final battle of the East-West War.  In the manga not enough is done to distinguish Maya from her alter ego Kaya and Maya regains control of herself so quickly that it seemed like having split personalities is more of a cheap gimmick to draw out the fight than anything else.  The anime brings that fight to life.  Maya and Kaya have different voices and hair colors, their attacks have different lighting effects and very different sound effects and the anime really sells Kaya as this unrestrained brutal side of the quite and largely defensive Maya and because the Kaya part of the fight takes half an episode of anime it feels fleshed out compared to the thirty seconds it took to read in the manga.

Back when the Maya/Kaya fight was the conclusion I would’ve pegged both the anime and manga as 8s and called it a day.  Now that the manga has continued to other great fights it has reached 10/10 status, but I still remember the anime edition of the Maya/Kaya fight and I struggle not to include that version when I think about Keijo.  Because I have a lot to say about the story in both forms and like both, it’s difficult for me separate them when thinking about Keijo unless I’m specifically looking at what they did differently.  Now let’s look at the manga only problems.

I just said the manga was a 10/10 and that may baffle you.  That’s ok because you aren’t me and don’t necessarily know my thoughts but Keijo is the only sports story I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Even good stuff like Kuroko no Basket which I marathoned the shit out of are shows I don’t love to the point of constantly obsessing over them.  Keijo is a a show I constantly obsess over and I’d like to think that by now I don’t to need any “not just for the fanservice” jokes or lines because that’s clearly not the only thing going in this show nor is it even my primary interest in the show.  I mean if all wanted was fanservice I’d be writing about how High School DxD or HOTD were the best anime of all time and I totally should write about those two for fun, but that’s not why I’m here, not really.  With that in mind let the nitpicking commence.

One of the manga’s problems is it’s got a bunch of characters and concepts which just don’t go anywhere.  For example there’s Kaminashi’s childhood friend who wants to fuck her, the male Keijo engineers, the hints of a shitty love triangle between the childhood friend, Kaminashi and this male-tsundere engineer.  But that’s minor shit.  The decisions which really bother are regarding Ooshima and Naka.  Ooshima is the less important of the two so let’s start with her.  Ooshima is this big volleyball player and National level athlete and she becomes friends with Sayaka and Kaminashi during the 2nd exam and she’s featured pretty heavily during that arc and she shows up for a few minor scenes in the school arc.  She’s an Infighter who’s main advantage is her size and the power that comes with it and she losses all relevance in the manga after she loses during the class advancement battle to Vajrass girl (I don’t remember her name but her technique is Vajrass aka Ass of Vajra, basically taking hard ass to a literal extreme).  Why cut her there?  Vajrass girl is not that important, she may be one Setouchi’s, the school, top ten fighters but that just means she will fight in the East-West War.  She has a mannish character design and sort of rough, ascetic Buddhist slant to her character.  But outside of her technique and design she’s utterly unmemorable and barely relevant to the story.

Why not just have Ooshima take her place?  You could even have Ooshima learn the Vajrass during the training arc between the class advancement battles and the East-West War.  Ooshima was never really a major character even we saw her a lot but at least she has a personality, a clear backstory, a history with the leading ladies and I remember her goddamn name.  I mean Vajrass girl’s most memorable scene is the class advancement battle, which is better in the anime anyway cause she beats out the two Infighters before losing to Non the airhead with a soft ass and arguably the best Counter we know whereas in the manga she loses to Non right away then Non just sort of wins off-screen.  I just don’t see the point of having two irrelevant characters when you could just combine them into one minor character.  Yes the Vajrass has a Buddhist component that isn’t in character for Ooshima but just have her learn it from a monk during the training arc, I mean they go to Kyoto for training why not just include a grizzled old monk guy who teaches her how to toughen herself up and she creates the Vajrass.  I mean Aoba Kazane uses a pyramid shaped ass technique that comes with ridiculous dodging which she describes as Egyptian sorcery (she stole the technique by feeling up a mummy’s ass because she can copy the techniques of any butt she touches) and one girl in a recent chapter uses Ass Incense she got from the African side of the of family to create illusions and basically turn feral so it’s not like having a monk teach Ooshima about body hardening would be too weird or out of place for Keijo.

This problem is only exacerbated when it comes to Naka.  Naka is one of the most interesting characters in the Keijo manga.  Something I forgot to mention while describing how Keijo makes bank is that it’s a gambling sport, so legally speaking all the combatants have to be adults.  They don’t do much with this in the anime and it doesn’t even play that big a role in the manga with one glaring exception, Naka.  Naka is a mom and it’s unclear exactly how old she is though you’d expect low 20’s to low 30’s.  Naka is also a former delinquent bike gang leader who despite her kind and motherly demeanor can get mean, and scare and roast the shit out of anyone she doesn’t like.  In addition to being one of the most interesting characters by way of being older and having a complicated past and life Naka is notable because for a while she has the biggest titties in the show and they are her weapon of choice, whereas most Keijo players focus more heavily on their ass as their primary weapon.  She was also present in the first exam as minor character and was a major character during the second exam.  Why the fuck did they cut her from the manga?

It’s weird.  They just have her marry an engineer and cut her from the story entirely.  Poof, she’s gone.  What I have to wonder is why?  There’s plenty of room for her in the story.  One of Setouchi’s top 10 is so ill defined and unused I don’t remember her name or her technique, I just know that she losses immediately to the twins in the East-West War, why not just give her spot to Naka?  More importantly during the Funabashi arc, especially the final battle, wouldn’t it have made more sense Naka to end up in the final round fighting with Kaminashi against the Funabashi fighters ganging up on them?  Naka clearly has the attitude and toughness that would compel and allow her to throw down on a gang of girls who trick and team up on outsiders and the leader of the Funabashi group is Don Kosugi, who like Naka has huge tits and fights with them almost exclusively.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to cut Kazane’s Egyptian sorcery bullshit and have Naka fight Don Kosugi, before losing a tit battle thus giving Naka a reason to either retire or train harder and get better, before Kaminashi finishes the fight?  She even would’ve been good to feature during the class advancement battles, because she could have been required to fight Kogatana, who uses boob iaijutsu (sword drawing techniques), and they could have had Naka’s boob volume overcome the boob-draw and get her into the top 10.  So what gives?

Honestly it’s not even like my nitpicks are about Keijo being badly written.  Some of that stuff is unimportant and goes nowhere but nothing I’ve spent the last couple paragraphs whining about breaks the story.  They just represent missed opportunities and I don’t understand why you’d miss those opportunities.  I have no idea if these decisions came from the author, an editor, someone on the business end of things or some combination thereof.  I also have no idea if it’s just because the story wasn’t carefully planned out and characters were discarded before anyone involved knew what to do with them.  It just bugs me because it seems like a waste, especially where Naka is concerned.   Another minor issue I have is that a few characters seem to fly in the face of the high level athlete thing I mentioned.  Non in particular is weird because she’s characterized as clumsy, which you’d think that would preclude her from competing even if no one can beat her soft ass counter.  I like Non and I still think it’s weird.

Anyway let’s cut back to one of Keijo’s strengths, creative combat.  Back towards the top I spent a while talking about the realistic elements of Keijo and those will still be relevant here but this is mostly about the crazy shit.  As a result of the varying backgrounds and skill sets everyone has their special techniques which make them standout and a lot of these techniques are either insane or are borderline superpowers.  That’s not to say there aren’t grounded techniques, Butt on Titan for example is a basic bum rush, pun intended, from a really fat character.  Most of the techniques though are either flat out ridiculous or are based on realistic ideas and then taken to unrealistic extremes.  Sayaka’s K-acceleration for example is based on actual physics, but I’ve yet to meet someone who goes from really fast to borderline teleportation fast just by giving themselves a wedgie.  I’m not complaining mind, I think Keijo strikes a great balance between having elements grounded in reality to make the show make enough sense while also including enough crazy shit to make it over-the-top and fun.  It helps that a number of special attacks are great references like Shoryucans, Giga Tit Breaker, Butt on Titan and Gate of Bootylon, which incidentally was better animated in the Keijo anime than the Gate of Babylon was in UBW.

Keijo is perfect aware of how silly it is and can allows itself to be silly in earnest and not take itself too seriously.  This is good because sometimes shows can’t even get that right.  But the fact Keijo does this while also incorporating realistic elements to excellent effect almost makes me wonder how people can even consider this just a dumb fanservice show.  I mean I know why, they judged the book by it’s cover or a plot synopsis and then looked down their noses at it without digging into the glorious genius that is Keijo.  And that’s not entirely their fault but it does frustrate me some as a big fucking fan to see how underappreciated this series is for shallow reasons.

Anyway back to the action.  The tits and ass action of Keijo is excellent.  There are tons of creative tactics, attacks, super-moves, and arenas to spice up any match.  The arenas range from simple discs to discs covered in mud or water to giant jungle gyms to fucking Edo castles and Spanish galleys.  There are a ton of different kinds of techniques with plenty of fighters choosing techniques which affect the mind.  The physical stuff covers everything you can think of.  I’m not kidding, Kawai has a style that uses precision strikes to key areas to drop her opponents borrowing pages from boxing and wrestling, I dare you to question Keijo’s creativity.  Tactics also play a large role not just in battle but also in developing techniques.  Kogatana just went through an arc where her boobs were suffering damage from overuse and Kaminashi straight up invents a technique for her based on sword-stealing, which I’ve seen in enough anime to wonder if it’s an actual thing in kendo/kenjutsu or if anime is yanking my chain on this one.

I could easily keep going into more and more detail but honestly unless someone wants to talk to me about Keijo, and if you do please a comment cause I will be on that shit, I think I’m done here.  Given that this is about the length of an average 5 page college essay I think I’ve communicated what Keijo has to offer, what aspects of it’s construction are good and why I think Keijo is legit the best sports story I’ve ever seen.  If you made it this far I’d love it if you say something in a comment, even a ‘I think you’re totally wrong because…’ because I would to debate or discuss specific scenes or trends in detail but I’m running out of steam for this particular post.  Thanks for reading, I hope yo liked it and I’ll see you in the next one.

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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.

Unpopular Opinion: Let’s Talk About Fate

So Fate:Grand Order – First Order came out recently and it was alright I guess.  It had great digital effects, cool Heroic Spirits and well that’s about it really, and it got me thinking about why it is that, contrary to most people, I’m getting less and less excited for anything Fate-related and by extension Ufotable in general as it’s becoming a Fate factory.  There will be scattered spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.

Few things in the anime world sadden me the way Fate does.  It should be right up my alley and I should be drooling over each new entry.  I mean it’s got magic (awesome), famous historical figures reincarnated as super-powered badasses (especially awesome for a history buff like me), action (always a plus), and convoluted lore I can dig into for hours (because lore is my drug).  That said since Fate Zero I’ve gotten less and less enthusiastic about anything Fate and I think First Order highlights some of my issues with the Fate franchise rather nicely.  Though to it’s credit at least First Order seems to be something of a progression from the prior series, which is more than I can say about the coming Heaven’s Feel movie Fate fans have been hyping for months.  One of the main problems I mentioned in my review of Unlimited Blade Works is that the Fate anime are adapted as if they’re still visual novels, they have several different routes and Ufotable is doing work on multiple routes.  If you’re a fan of the games this might sound cool but stop and think for a second about how weird it is in a film medium.  Did you ever see a Lord of the Rings where Aragorn shacks up with Eowen instead of Arewyn?  Or maybe a Harry Potter where Harry and Hermione are a couple?  Discounting any fanfic you’ve read or seen, no you haven’t because that’s not how storytelling works.  In anime it’s mostly standard practice to blend all the route of the visual novel together and have the guy settle on whichever girl and thus keep the series as single definitive story, like in Clannad for example.  As far as I’m aware the Fate anime are the only series to just do straight adaptations of the visual novel routes separately, without regard for the other shows.  It feels weird and out of place, like if they rebooted a Marvel movie a year after it came out to swap the romantic pairings and change a few battles.

Even setting aside the inherent off-ness of Ufotable’s current approach to the various Fate routes and series, the real nail in the coffin is the characters.  Fate Zero was written by Gen Urobuchi, not the creator of the mainstay Fate-verse aka the Nasuverse, and his style is I think vastly superior to Nasu’s in terms of characters.  Fate Zero’s characters were mostly grounded and realistic in comparison to Nasu’s, who are generally more archetypal and tropy.  Even if we focus on the only teenage character in Fate Zero to make things more fair, he’s still leagues ahead of his Nasu counterparts.  Waver Velvet was a kid, a weak and unimpressive kid in the magical world, who desperately wanted to show the arrogant old guard of the wizard world, who dismiss him out of hand because his family’s magical lineage isn’t long and distinguished enough, that he was worthy, that his ideas and existence held weight.  He had no journey or path, he just wanted his worth to be recognized.  And he’s one of the few survivors of the Fate Zero Holy Grail War that leaves both alive and with a hopeful road ahead of him after Rider acknowledges his worth and shows him a new path to take.  By comparison Rin is a bossy tsundere, Shiro is borderline retarded, wrapped up as he is in his ideas of heroism and justice, and Shinji is a cartoonishly awful and pettily arrogant bully.  The only characters who were cartoonish in Fate Zero were Caster and his master, and they were fucking hilarious because their insanities complemented each other so well, and the story made it explicitly clear that they were outliers.

And let me stress again because it can never be stressed enough, fuck Shiro.  Shiro’s inane monologues about how his ideas are fake but they still hold worth or how Archer’s (he’s Shiro in the future in case you weren’t aware) conclusions are correct too, but he’s going to choose his own path because it’s right and- Jesus. Fucking. Christ.  Shiro is like half of everything wrong with Fate, and no, Archer being badass for a few fights doesn’t save him because Archer is by far my least favorite Heroic Spirit since he’s actually a Counter Guardian.  If that makes no sense you then congratulations you’ve seen the next big problem I’m going to get to in a minute.  One of things I think should be cut from Fate entirely is any emphasis on romance whatsoever.  None of the romantic interests are particularly interesting characters and the guy they all want to fuck is the most annoying thing Nasu ever created, the only romance worth a damn was Kiritsugu and Irisviel because it had more relevance to course of the Fourth and Fifth Holy Grail Wars and was actually interesting conceptually given that Irisviel was a Homunculus and by the time Fate Zero rolled around, in the process of dying before becoming the Holy Grail vessel, which her husband later destroyed.  The high school romances are boring as hell and the Fate Stay Night ShiroxSaber route legitimately pisses me off, in comparison.  Speaking of Saber, she was a weaker character in UBW than in Fate Zero, even though she should be getting more complex and nuanced, and therefore a stronger character.  But the main reason I think all the romance shit (sans Kiritsugu and Irisviel) should be cut is because we need spend that time on things that actually matter, like explaining the lore and mechanics of the Holy Grail War and some character development.

The single most common argument you get from anyone defending any Fate anime is that the games were better, that the games explained everything that didn’t make into the anime and made the characters better.  They may well be right, maybe the games are perfect masterpieces, but that doesn’t save the anime.  This isn’t a problem in Fate Zero because if anything that conflict was too drawn out and the only thing left unexplained was how exactly the Holy Grail had become corrupted (an important plot point for future works).  By contrast UBW doesn’t even explain that the reason Shiro’s magic gets so powerful so abruptly in the series is because it’s derived from his Origin, like how his adoptive father Kiritsugu had special bullets that could destroy a mage’s magic circuits thanks to his Origin, Cut and Bind.  I still don’t get how Caster (UBW’s Caster) was able to summon and command Assassin though a few Fate fans have tried to explain it to me.  The Counter Guardian thing from above, basically a human that makes a pact with the world and becomes a time travelling hero-figure, introduces new complexities into the lore that the anime has not yet fully addressed.  Likewise the character development in UBW is lackluster at best, because A, it barely happens and B, the archetypal characters are boring.  Why not cut the romance and used the added time to bring some more nuance to the characters, to make them grow more over the course of the conflict?  Anyway that’s enough bitching about Fate in general, time to look at First Order.

First Order introduces a ton of new material and a metric ton of nonsense magic and science words to get it’s rather straightforward scenario rolling.  First Order is basically the beginning of mankind’s desperate attempt to stave off extinction, which was decreed by some being, potentially the metaphysical consciousness of the world (which yes is a thing and it’s what allowed Shiro to become a Counter Guardian).  This simple premise is obscured by mountains of mumbo jumbo about Chaldea, a system which I’m honestly a little confused about because it’s function is supposed to be ensuring mankind survives in top form for a hundred years, but it’s unclear whether or how Chaldea actually does anything beyond being a display/warning system.  There are all kinds of new magic-tech babble concepts like Rayshifting and Spiritron Dives to accompany the use of Chaldea and the people sent to fix the anomalies which appears to be what kick-started the mass extinction of mankind.  I admit that the end goal, fighting a bunch of screwy Holy Grail Wars to save mankind is interesting but it took wading through a lot of nonsense to get to the good stuff.

In addition, two of the new concepts that are actually interesting are Demi-Servants and the Shielder class.  Mash the main girl of First Order becomes the first, and going by the wiki, only Shielder class Servant and a Demi-Servant.  A Demi-Servant is a human who merges with a Heroic Spirit, presumably a weaker one that couldn’t manifest otherwise though that’s just speculation on my part.  The Shielder class raises a few questions though.  Have Shielders always existed and just not been allowed to participate in Holy Grail Wars?  Were they not deemed worthy to compete for the Grail? Or are the Shielders a newly minted class because the anomalies have screwed with the rules of the Holy Grail Wars?  Is the Shielder perhaps a manifestation of mankind’s collective will to survive (not that much of a stretch by Fate standards) and not a true Heroic Spirit at all?  Is that the reason Mash is the only Shielder or is it just coincidence?  If it’s a Heroic Spirit who is it?  The shield doesn’t match any real designs as far I know, though it’s closest to the Celtic and Norse Cross shields, but the symbols on the shield as well as the Wall it can summon suggest Eastern origins though I can’t say for sure where, so where the hell is her Heroic Spirit from?  Thus far all of the above are unanswered but I hope Mash will get addressed in more detail later.

Unfortunately First Order seems to be closer to UBW in terms of tone and writing.  It has its own Rin, Director Animusphere (which is an awful name), to play the generic tsundere, the main guy is a cookie cutter nice guy but at least he’s not as annoying as Shiro.  An interesting thing to note is that is that the main guy has Rin’s face, I’m not kidding save for the fact that First Order’s protagonist has a more angular jaw-to-chin compared to Rin’s rounded jaw-to-chin its the same fucking face, it’s weird and lazy on Ufotable’s part.  The other characters are quirky, Leff in particular looks like he’s cosplaying a leprechaun before he becomes an edgy cackling villain at the end, and the mostly lighthearted quirkiness doesn’t at all fit the overall tone the premise and Fate franchise in general has set for itself.  For whatever reason UBW’s Lancer is reincarnated as Caster, which makes no sense because why does he know magic?  I can’t say I’ve dug deep into his, Cu Chulainn’s, legend but what research I’ve done doesn’t suggest he learned magic at all.  Regardless of how he became Caster, him using a Wickerman was in keeping with his Irish origins but his other magic was based on Norse runes which obviously aren’t from Ireland so what the fuck’s going on there?  Poor attention to detail.  Other than that it was alright.

First Order isn’t great, hell it’s not even particlualarly good, but it’s mildly entertaining and pretty to look at.  If nothing else it seems it’s taking the Fate franchise in a new and possibly interesting direction, and there’s no Shiro so that’s something to look forward to.  This was mostly an excuse to bitch about Fate and Ufotable though, hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.

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

keijo

VS

kuroko-no-basket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpopular Opinion: Unlimited Blade Works

Warning, this post will contain lots of spoilers as I will take an in-depth look at UBW.

UBW was a rather mixed bag in my opinion.  Compared to what was airing at the time and just what anime is capable of in general, UBW is good, very good in fact.  Obviously the animation was damn impressive, and there was more than a little hype for the series.  I for one was excited to see Ufotable make a solid effort to make me forget Studio DEEN’s original Fate Stay Night.   And for the most part I think Ufotable succeeded in making a good show.  That would be great except for one minor issue, UBW was not the first Fate series Ufotable worked on and it was in no way the equal of the relative titan that is Fate Zero.  Fate Zero was not without its problems, but looking back on both series, I would say it’s quite a bit better than UBW.  There are quite a few reasons why of course, but essentially they all come down to adaptation issues.

To borrow a quote from before Christ was born, “Hannibal knew how to gain a victory but not how to use it.”  That was Marharbal by the way, and if you’re wondering how the fuck a Punic War quote has any relevance to anime, let me explain.  Let’s cast Ufotable as Hannibal, now Ufotable has indeed won a victory with UBW.  Regardless of its flaws, it got a lot of people excited and showcased the total dominance Ufotable has in terms of sheer graphical power.  UBW is certainly one of the most gorgeous anime ever made.  But despite all this, UBW failed to become a second Fate Zero.  As popular as UBW was, when the dust settles and new anime come to grab our attention I would be very much surprised if UBW continues to captivate the anime community the way Zero has.  This is because Ufotable clearly did not know how to use their victory, they failed to take full advantage of the potential UBW had.  The main reason why is that in my opinion they adapted it poorly.  Now before you go leave an angry comment about my lack of taste or intellect, let me rephrase that.  I think they failed to properly adapt the UBW story to the anime medium.  To me one of the things I found most off-putting about the entire series was that it felt more like watching someone playing a VN route than watching an anime.  Now astute fans will note that is because that’s exactly what UBW is, a VN route and one Uftoable has adapted pretty faithfully.  Unfortunately, that misses the point of my complaint, because even if UBW is a VN route, an anime should not feel like goddamn VN route.  Part of the issue it that the anime should ideally add its own flavor to the story that justifies the change of storytelling medium, but the main problem is the anime medium does not do routes.  Take Clannad for example, sure Okazaki has a brief arc with all the potential romantic interests from the VN, but it’s always clear where the story is headed and because of that it feels like a single cohesive story.  With UBW on the other hand I feel like I’m just watching a version of a story, not the story.  It’s a subtle difference but it does have a negative effect, because again anime does not do alternate routes, no matter how much Tokyo Ghoul season 2’s title would have you believe otherwise.  Basically the problem I have with UBW is that I feel like Ufotable is just going to spoon feed me the same story with minor alterations multiple times and that’s not something anime should do.  What UBW should have done, was try to be the sequel to Fate Zero, not a potential sequel, the sequel.  This would have been more effective because it would force Ufotable to alter the UBW story to better fit the new medium.  I think it would also just improve the storytelling in general.

One of the big draws of Fate Zero was how it spent a decent amount of time with most of the cast.  Ryunosuke and Caster are comedic gold in their own twisted way.  Kotomine’s and Gilgamesh’s nihilistic world views add psychological intrigue to the story.  Kiritsugu and Saber are a Master Servant pair who are at odds because the former employs ruthless tactics for a relatively selfless goal while the other fights honorably for a more selfish one.  Iskanadar was one of the most charismatic men to grace the anime scene and a total badass to boot.  But in UBW the story is almost entirely about 3 people, Rin, Shiro and Archer, who is also Shiro from the future.  The only other characters who even come close to comparing to Fate Zero’s are Medea, whom I personally do not like but I at least understood her, and Lancer, who doesn’t get much screen time but does make very good use of the time he has.  Saber is a shadow of her former self, I mean for fuck’s sake Archer ends up explaining Saber’s wish, instead of you know letting Saber explain it herself.  Gilgamesh upped the asshole factor in UBW but overall I found his performance to be weaker in UBW than it was in Zero.  This is mainly because Gilgamesh behaves very differently in his fights in UBW and Fate Zero.  In Zero Gilgamesh is extremely arrogant, he never bothers to attack Masters because they are beneath him, he never gets worried by any of the other spirits, and he never brings out his biggest attacks unless someone has well and truly pissed him off.  But in UBW Gilgamesh targets Illya during his fight with Berserker, uses big attacks all the time and was just less impressive overall.    Point is, I think UBW really dropped the ball when it came to handling the Heroic Spirits which is a major blunder in my book because the Heroic Spirits are what really make the Fate series stand out.  When you ask around and look for the moments people cared about most in Fate Zero, they are almost all Heroic Spirit-centric, like the Banquet of Kings.  The only exception I know is the Kiritsugu vs Kotomine battle, and maybe Waver’s quasi-happy ending.  Unfortunately, UBW dropping the ball on the Heroic Spirits is only one of several major issues.

The pacing is frankly atrociously bad.  Much like Zero, UBW has a first season where very little is accomplished and a second where people drop like flies.  However Zero was able to overcome the pacing issue by giving almost everyone some time in the spotlight, as they planned and schemed and we learned more about them.  This is not true in UBW because its focus is very narrow, so the pacing issues are more readily apparent.  Like how the last few episodes really got stretched by Archer’s backstory, which Rin condensed into a sentence or two, before we spent a whole episode letting Archer tell his story.  Likewise Shiro’s soliloquies about how his ideals are fake but still hold value, get downright tiresome in a hurry as they pad out the length of the final few episodes. In general I would say one of UBW biggest flaws was mismanagement of time.  Some episodes are wasted on things like Rin and Shiro’s date, which is pointless because it did nothing to further their relationship because their relationship is implicit not explicit. And other scenes aren’t given enough time to play out well.  In particular the Gilgamesh versus Berserker battle should have been split into two episodes, the first should have been light on action but covered Illya’s backstory, the second should have been heavy on action and ended with Gilgamesh’s victory.  But instead both the battle and Illya’s backstory are crammed into one episode, which cripples the fight and makes the backstory irrelevant because Illya is dead as soon as we finally begin to understand her.  Very poor execution on that event in the story, I could go on but if you want a more detailed rant on this particular subject, it makes up a big part of my fighting excellence post, so feel free to check it out while I move on to new pastures.  The pacing is a mess, but what really gets me is how bad the second season was paced.  Zero’s second half was pretty well paced if you look at it as a standalone piece but, not so for UBW.  In UBW second season, a lot of people die a bit too fast and other episodes are just strung out by soliloquies and backstory info dumps.  The end of the series was a mess too.

Not counting the epilogue, the final episode of the series was a chaotic clusterfuck.  The funny thing is, only two or three events actually took place in the episode, but the cinematography of Shiro and Gilgamesh’s fight was so helter skelter, I found it a thoroughly unimpressive final battle.  Don’t get me wrong it look gorgeous, but the camera was zooming all over the fucking place and it made the fight hard to follow, even though I understood how the fight worked.  Because the battle was so hard to visualize and make sense of, it had no climactic build up and was as a result, unsatisfying.  The same goes for Saber’s Excalibur.  In Zero they gave Excalibur a graceful buildup, then when the attack was loosed, followed it an good angle, and had it move slow enough that it was easy to drink in the majesty of the Noble Phantasm.  In UBW, the build-up is much faster and flashier, but lacks the solemn dignified grace of Zero’s.  And then when Saber lets it rip, well the camera follows the blow from a worse angle, and more importantly, a hell of a lot quicker.  In UBW it feels like we at the front of the attack and flying into the Holy Grail at rocket speed.  It looks like it could give people motion-sickness.  Sure it might sound impressive on paper to fly through a big attack at light speed, but it’s not.  The best way to use big special effects is to make them a subject of awe.  Look back at the second Archer versus Lancer fight for instance.  Both sides get some major buildup as they throw down with Gae Bolg and Rho Aias, each ability is slowed down so we can see it in its full glory and then they collide, and the collision is slow enough let us see all the details, before a major explosion results.  With Excalibur, we’re rocketed through a huge attack that has minimal buildup before it ends with an Evangelion style explosion cross.  Its flashy, but ultimately not nearly as impressive as it ought to have been.

Overall UBW was still a good show but it had the potential to be a great one.  However, mismanagement of time, mismanagement of the Heroic Spirits and a flashy but poor ending cripple this series.  Oddly enough I think Ufotable either did not understand the strengths of Fate Zero or simply didn’t feel they could take any risks by deviating from the source material.  The latter concern is more understandable, but in this case anyone who understands the strengths of Fate Zero should be able to see how implementing them would require deviations from the VN.  Anyway I know I bashed this show pretty hard but it just galls me to think about how easy it would be to make minor changes that would improve the series.  Like why did they not have Rider use her Noble Phantasm?  It’s one of the coolest attacks in the series and with the Ufotable’s graphics they could it make a memorable moment even with very basic fight direction.  But because she doesn’t use it in the source material, we don’t get to see it, even though it plays to Ufotable’s strengths to show it to us.  But for all the bad things I have said, UBW is still a solid show and if nothing else I’m glad for new fans who can see it alongside Fate Zero and avoid the train wreck that is Studio Deen’s Fate Stay Night.  Hopefully you guys enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.