Anime Impressions – Some Top Show Thoughts (Fall 2013 Week 3.5)

I’ve decided rather than use a never-ending list of shows, that I’d talk each week about a few different shows. This week I’ll pick three shows I think are pretty good, or surprising, and which I feel need more love in order to be picked up – meaning, Kill la Kill, Log Horizon and Kyoukai no Kanata, for instance, are all out. I’m also going to be a tad swamped with things for the next couple of weeks, so I’ll use a couple of such posts to tide us over while I work on some content in the background, and real-life related stuff.

The shows I’ll discuss in this post are Samurai Flamenco, Gingitsune and Kyousougiga.

I’ll also add a paragraph per show which is more of a “Sales pitch.”

Samurai Flamenco / Samumenco – This episode is good in ways that remind me of one of my two top shows of last season, and considering I gave a whopping 6 shows a score of 8 or higher last season, that’s saying a lot. The show is Genshiken Nidaime, and what the two share is comedy that isn’t entirely reliant on gags or generic moments that could and often would appear in dozens of shows a year, but comedy which rises, seemingly in an effortless manner, from the characters’ personalities and the interactions between them.

Samurai Flamenco / Samumenco anime

Crossing in red light will not be tolerated!

The characters seem to be either naive or cynical, but they’re all likeable for it, rather than feeling anyone is either too stupid or too much of an ass. The characters, especially the two main characters, seem to interact well with one another. What is the show about? A boyish model who believes in justice like in cartoons from the 80s, and sets out to spread it, and his friend the cop who can’t help but facepalm. The show makes me think of older shows such as Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop – it is solid, without resorting to wild colours or a crazy art style.
The show knows what it wants to do, what it wants to be, and it doesn’t try to be anything other than that.

Sellin’ it: Amazing character interaction, classic art style, discussing issues that have to do with adulthood – And it’s all done so well. Target crowd? Have you liked Cowboy Bebop? Have you liked Samurai Champloo? Are you over 20 years old? (Note, only one needs to apply), did you like Kick-Ass (I sure did)? Whatever, just watch this – unless all you’re after is lolis and comedy, then you might want to skip it.

Watched: 3/22
Current Grade: A. If I could marathon the whole show right now, I would, and considering how busy I am, that’s high praise.

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Controversy Draws Attention, But Don’t be a Jerk

Continuing from my entry a couple of days ago about a list of “controversial anime opinions“, which had been popular on reddit and my blog, it might be useful to talk a bit about controversies, discussion, and the relationships between these things.

Duty Calls - xkcd strip - First, controversy attracts attention, people just love to see what’s controversial. Controversy also sparks discussion, because we love to weigh in on things we believe strongly about. This is somewhat related to when people attack things we love and we interpret it as an attack on ourselves. Furthermore, discussion sparks discussion, and attracts more attention – we see people excited about something, saying things we agree or disagree with, and we pitch in. That’s also why popular posts on reddit tend to only get more popular, and not just because we’re too lazy to keep looking after spending time on them, though that certainly helps.

Someone in the reddit thread which spawned my list said “In this thread –  Reasonably popular opinions being portrayed as unpopular controversial opinions”, and this statement contains so much that needs unpacking, and that is useful to unpack when discussing controversies, and garnering attention, and also when discussing fandoms in general. First, you don’t need controversy to spark discussion, you need the appearance of controversy. People don’t actually need there to be anything controversial as much as they come to be excited, and to have discussion with other people.

More than that, there is the dark side to much of this – controversial opinions are often controversial because they lack nuance – many would rise up against hearing their favourite X is shit, but would agree with an argument which presents some pitfalls it has – the difference is how much weight they ascribe to these things. In this, you might find it to be that it is not controversies themselves which draw attention, but polemics – statements that are presented in a highly divisive manner, which are “calls to action” from supporters and dissenters – who might be agreeing if things had been presented in a more nuanced way. Of course, the more nuanced and lengthy it is, the more you risk losing people’s attention.

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Controversial Anime Opinions – A List of Grievances

Yesterday, my blog had broken through its old visitors’ count in one day, as a result of my comment in a Reddit thread titled “Controversial Anime Opinions” where I had the “top comment”. I’ll begin with reposting my list of opinions – note, opinions only, and the whole assumption is that these are controversial, rather than iron-clad truths (for the most part):
Some of the more relevant shows mentioned in this list: Sword Art Online, Angel Beats!, Girls und Panzer, “Big Shounens”, Spirited Away, Code Geass, Btooom!

Cover of "Spirited Away"

1. Sword Art Online is a solid show, with a non-horrible romantic relationship. (See blog post.)

2. Angel Beats! started great, but then worked hard to make me lose my respect for it, episode by episode, until the final episode had betrayed the show completely – I don’t think it’s bad, but I think it’s disappointing, which might be even worse, because it could’ve been so much better. (See blog post.)

3. The Big shounens aren’t terrible, and watching them is fun and doesn’t cause mind-rot. A lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the anime studios – even without fillers, the padding they add within episodes not only killed the pacing, but actually changed the way you look at the characters – and even still, these shows are enjoyable, to me and many others, even as thinking adults.

4. “Favourite != the best” – that you love something doesn’t mean it’s great, that something is great also doesn’t mean you have to love or even enjoy it. And having something you love which isn’t the best doesn’t make it a “guilty pleasure” – it can still be good, and even if “bad” you’re still allowed to enjoy it without having to keep apologizing on its behalf.

5. Pursuant to #4 – belittling shows others like, or them for liking them, only makes you a douche. I mean, you can do it without being a douche, but if you seek their threads/discussions just to piss on their parade? No matter how articulate and polite you are there, you’re probably still a douche (though exceptions exist).

6. Many anime studios don’t care about anime-watchers, unless after the fact something is found out to be a runaway success, and sometimes even then – unless it’s an anime original it’s only here as promotional content, that we get to enjoy it is an afterthought (also see recent Index/Railgun news). We’re not even second-rate citizens, being western anime lovers.
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Ari Folman’s The Congress – A Thematic Jumble of Sights and Sounds

Ari Folman's The Congress - 2013 filmDirector Ari Folman is well known in Israel these days for his film Waltz with Bashir, which isn’t done by Rotoscope, in case you’re wondering. A couple of weeks ago I’ve watched his newest film, The Congress, at a local sci-fi and fnatasy convention, surrounded by other convention goers. The film was different, and interesting on many levels. One thing I didn’t feel it manage to do well is add up to a consistent creation, on an artistic level, or on any thematic level – discussing its theme, the main question it raises, or its messages. However, considering the film is split into two different moods as part of its concept, I guess it’s not all that surprising.
The Congress is very loosely based on Stanisław Lem‘s novel, Futurological Congress.

The first half of the film deals with actress Robin Wright, and is filmed “normally”, with her being faced with her fading career and being given an ultimatum – sell over her digitized avatar to the studios who will be able to make film without her involvement, with the catch of being unable to ever act again – the other side of the ultimatum is that she simply will get no more contracts – so either way, they’re shutting her away from movie-making, but the difference is whether she’ll get to choose which roles to play in, or won’t. In case you wonder, she sells her rights over.

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Anime Season Begins – Fall 2013 Week 1.5 Impressions (Part 1/2)

Well, I’m watching a lot of shows this season, even more than last season, about 20. So I’m going to split this post into two parts, the first will go live today, and the second will likely go live in a couple of days. I will not post this sort of list every week, certainly not for this number of shows. I intend to cut down the amount of shows I’m watching to 10-12 by next week or the week after, to leave me more time for other things.

There will be spoilers of episode 1-2 of the shows discussed, but that’s part of the premise, honestly.
Shows covered in this part: Coppelion, Nagi no Asukara, Gingitsune, Yuushibu, NouCome, Strike the Blood, BlazBlue: Alter Memory, Tokyo Ravens, Kill la Kill, Outbreak Company.

Well, let’s dive straight into it. Again organizing it by how well I like them thus far to make it easier to read. Will also use some keywords to describe each show.

Got Me Hooked:


Kill la Kill – In case you’ve lived under a rock, this is the hottest show of the season, and perhaps the year. Made by the people who had left Gainax to form Studio Trigger, many of the people behind Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann are also behind this show, and it shows. Kill la Kill is very sure of what it wants to be, which is a spectacle. Everything is over the top, and we also get some interesting note on the nature of power in the background. Koshimizu Ami who plays the main role of Matoi Ryuuko is an inspired choice, giving the same vibes she did as Kallen in Code Geass. Watch it, it’s fun.
Watched: 2/25(?)
Keywords: Popcorn, over-the-top action, fascism, nature of power.

Kill la Kill

Sadly, I can’t cover all the expressions Ryuko has in one photo, especially not her cheeky smile.

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Blood Lad – A Show Of (Too) Many Components


Blood Lad is a show I was quite excited for before it aired for its premise, which had reminded me quite a bit of Disgaea, a common theme in recent seasons, with one such show per season. Here is the basic premise: Evil underworld boss is actually an Otaku that wants nothing more than to go to Japan, meets a human girl who dies and becomes a ghost, and he must now save her while hijinks ensue. There’s comedy, there’s action, there’s fan-service and supposedly there’ll be romance as well at some point.

Well, it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that there is action and comedy in such a show, but sadly for me, I didn’t find it all that funny. The show had fan-service, which means we’ve had busty girls showing us their wares and being cute in general. The issue of fan-service with this show is actually quite interesting – Fuyumi is set up as the love interest of Staz, but there is no real reason for him to fall for her aside from her being human, and a Japanese to boot – this is a classic example of falling for someone for what they are rather than who they are. This could be seen as a metaphor for how otaku view women/fan-service in general, which might be quite apt considering the show is about an otaku vampire who doesn’t even realize how much of a goner he is.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be a fair amount of spoilers.)

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Attack on Titan / Shingeki no Kyojin – Between Monstrous and Human

Attack on TitanAttack on Titan - Shingeki no Kyojin anime poster (Known as Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese) is certainly the most popular anime of the Summer and Spring 2013 anime seasons, and also the best selling one. Based on a manga, we have an action show where people die by the bucketloads. A hundred years ago titans appeared, huge monstrosities that forced humanity to wall itself within a huge state-wall, and now they live under siege. Our protagonist, Eren Jaeger, is a determinator determined on killing those titans, after they break into the small section he lives in, and he loses his parents.
Let’s be honest – everyone loves action shows, well drawn action shows. Everyone likes bloody, grim and gritty settings. It’s easy to understand why people like this show. In this show, humans are helpless, and they are killed by titans left and right. The show has definite themes of helplessness and being cattle.

One thing a show’s ending is useful for is presenting the show’s themes, or at least presenting themes that you can look back rethink the whole show through the lens of. The lens I chose for this post is the one pushed quite heavily toward the end of the show, but which had been present throughout – the distance, or the tension between becoming a monster and being human. The question is usually raised in the manner of “Are you willing to turn into a monster in order to defeat monsters?” or in the same way that Code Geass had raised its question – “How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to win?”

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be spoilers of every single large plot-twist in the show’s first season.)

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