When Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary) ended in late 2013, I wasn’t terribly pleased with it. Beyond anything else, I thought that it could’ve easily been better, if not in terms of poor directing in its last two episodes, and its mismatched tones, and other issues, then at least in terms of emotional investment in a certain event, and thus in one of the two main characters of the story. It felt frustrating, that a show missed its mark with what could’ve been an easy change. And that in turn led me to solidify my thoughts on why I wasn’t as invested in Fate/Zero which I watched a couple of years prior – I felt that the show, which wasn’t bad, could’ve been so much better.
This post is going to cover an assortment of topics, as they all tie into one another. It will mostly revolve around and use Fate/Zero, both as the object discussed, and as an example for these other topics: Series composition, the act of deciding which part of the story will go where in the story, and how much space it’ll receive. Story structure with regards to revelation, character involvement and emotional attachment, and Urobuchi Gen’s specific quirk in this regard, and some thoughts on how it might tie to Visual Novel writing, as well as thrillers and tragedies. Hopefully these topics, and how they’re interwoven, will all be interesting.
(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for Fate/Zero, and as Fate/Zero spoils Fate/Stay Night, that will be spoiled as well. There’ll be meta-structural spoilers (I’ll discuss the form of the storytelling) for Gargantia in the Verdurous Planet, Madoka Magica, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary), and Psycho-Pass’s first season.)
Sturgeon’s Law states simply, “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” And well, it’s certainly true of anime. We have certainly had shows this year with promise that simply fail to add up to anything meaningful (Kyoukai no Kanata / Beyond the Boundary, see episodic write-ups), shows that just don’t know what to do with all the material they do have (Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta / The Pilot’s Love Song, see episodic notes), or shows that didn’t know what to do with storytelling and contained poisonous subtext (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School, see episodic notes, see editorial on its subtext).
Behold Barney the censored smudgy purple monster thingy. Scary.
But if 90% of everything is crap, then not only is the average thing crap, but being crap is being average, and nothing out of the ordinary. But every so often comes along a show that fails on every single account, that you’d be hard pressed to find a single positive thing to say about it. This year, we’ve had such a show, and its name was “Pupa”. Yes, indeed, the sign was on the wall, with a name all too similar to “poop-ah” as some people referred to the show (not really, but they certainly should’ve). This show was terrible on all fronts. How terrible? That I dropped it 12 minutes in.
Due to the holidays, Desu ex Machina which runs the weekly Anime Power Ranking (APR) where anibloggers get to submit ballots on the episodes/shows of the past weeks, didn’t run an APR last week, so I’m going to share with you the ballot I would have sent. Each link in this post is to my write-up of said episode.
Samurai Flamenco Episode 11
Sentai delivered so straight that it’s crooked!
This is the weakest anime of Samurai Flamenco thus far, and my least favourite (no, the two do not necessarily go together). While every other episode up to now maintained the themes of the show, and even when we had the “craziness” it was a logical continuation of the themes (what people wished for) or had a new thematic discussion (the growth of evil), this episode hadn’t done either of these things. The crazy sentai references didn’t bug me (and in fact reminded me of my childhood TV-watching), but it was “just an episode where things happened“, rather than one where the show advanced, or even paid any attention to its themes.
I hope that after using one episode for it, it’ll return to its normal nature next episode.
Some recent anime episodes led me to discuss flashbacks in a bit more length; I think this topic is interesting enough to devote more time to. The discussion and examples used will follow anime, western television, films and books. It is not an anime-only topic, but anime might get a bit more space and examples because I have examples on hand and it’s what made me revisit the topic conceptually.
Flashbacks obviously can come in the form of showing us content from earlier episodes, say, so we’ll remember what happened. An anime infamous for flashbacks in this way, which had episodes where up to a third of the content was recycled was Naruto – this was done because the anime was catching up to the source material and they wanted to use as little content per episode as they could. We’ve even had some examples of a flashback within an episode to something that happened the very same episode.
Note, however, that sometimes such “remembrance” sequences aren’t only required, but drive a point home – you can see it where someone is surprised by a new development and the flashback serves to have them narrate to us what actually happened, or show it again now that we’re armed with new knowledge and can put in the proper context – it’s very common in thrillers – think of the resolution of The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, or recently in anime the case of Akatsuki in Log Horizon thinking of how Shiro and Nyanta had defeated Demiklas – we’ve seen the content we’ve just seen, in slow motion, accompanied with her trying to work out what happened which we’ve missed.
So, another season of anime reached its half-point and it’s time to watch my mid-season impressions, where I talk a bit of the show and rate it.
Due to how many shows I have to cover (15), I’ve cut them into two halves, sorted alphabetically. The shows within each episode are sorted roughly by excitement generated within me or how good they are. I’ve also bolded in the following lines what shows I’ll recommend people without reservations.
The first post (this one!) will cover: BlazBlue: Alter Memory, Coppelion, Galilei Donna, Gingitsune (Silver Fox), Kill la Kill, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary), and Kyousougiga (Capital Craze). The second post will cover: Log Horizon, Nagi no Asukara, Outbreak Company, Samurai Flamenco (Samumenco), Strike the Blood, Tokyo Ravens, Unbreakable Machine-Doll, and Valvrave the Liberator’s 2nd season (Kakumeiki Valvrave).
Kill la Kill:
To those who don’t know, I avoid reading most online discussion of this show, so the hype and anti-hype and plain old disappointment won’t affect me too much (I try). So, what do I think of it? I think it’s a very interesting show. The clothings as an external power source that runs counter to normal shounen sensibilities where true power must originate from within, and clothing as dignity/humanity had been very real thematic threads in the show’s early episodes, until it came time to shed them as second-hand skin, and to proudly don one’s clothes, and be proud of not wearing one’s clothes… I feel the yarn had got a bit tangled for the writers in that segment, but since it’s early, not every reversed thread must truly find its way into the final tapestry.
The source of power still seems a very relevant thread in this tale, and I’ve noticed that not only are the antagonists in this show potential shounen-show characters/allies, but a few of them could even be the stars of a shounen action show in their own right, especially considering what happened in episode 6, where Sanageyama had to show his will for power was greater than everything else, his desire to win, to fight a strong opponent, and maintain his dignity. I’m still curious about all the “Balance of power” talk we’ve had, and hopefully the lessons of Nazi Germany and the George Orwell references in episode 1 (both 1984 and The Animal Farm) wouldn’t just be discarded from here on out.
I really wonder what the show could do with more money. The artistic direction and use of stills is brilliant, but it’d be nice to still see it augmented with more money. The musical direction and the choice of classic pieces throughout the episodes greatly enhance the experience of watching this show.
Episodes Watched: 6/25 Current Grade: A? Some episodes are amazing, some episodes are really good, a couple didn’t hit the mark, and within each episode there are also moments of greatness within an ok episode and weak moments in a good episode. So I’ll give it an A? for now.
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: Kyoukai no Kanata, Valvrave the Liberator S2, Log Horizon, Unbreakable Machine Doll, Galilei Donna, Walkure Romanze, Miss Monochrome, Super Seisyun Brothers, Golden Time, Sekai de Ichiban, and Samurai Flamenco.
Click here for part 1, covering the following shows: 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:
Samurai Flamenco – Also known as Sumamenco, this is definitely the most surprising show of the season for me. The show covers a young man who dreams to be a superhero, and the show bears definite similarities to kick-ass. He meets with a slightly more cynical cop, and that’s episode 1.
This show is drawn in the classic way, and I mean the near classic, think Samurai Champloo, which can trace itself back to Cowboy Bebop, and from there we’re solidly in the early 90s. This show oozes style, and charm. Everything about this show makes me nostalgic, which isn’t enough, right. It’s drawn in a gorgeous way where there’s attention to details. The attention to detail is noticeable elsewhere as well, with the actors all doing a splendid work in their roles, delivering believeable lines and characters, with solid character interaction and chemistry as well.
If I could, I’d have marathoned this show here and now. There’s no single part of the show that is “extraordinary”, but the whole composition is superb, especially as the show doesn’t try to be anything it’s not – neither zany, nor moefied, it knows what it wants to be, and it goes about it with panache. Watched: 1/22 Keywords: Old School, buddy cop show, delusions, sentai?
Log Horizon – A bunch of gamers suddenly find themselves locked within an MMORPG, and though it seems to have resembled a game of the sort we can play in our world until now, now they seem to be there in person. We also get some really neat sci-fi moments, and signs that show the writers like and play MMORPGs.
I’ve played various online games since 1999. I remember reading the comic USER. In other words, this is exactly the type of show I enjoy. We had good action sequences, we had the players thinking about their humanity, what it means to live in this reality, and reflecting about their goals, about motivation – meaning this show will have definite themes for us to bite into, while also actually exploring the rich premise that we have, rather than ignoring it for yet another battle royale. We also had plenty of Akatsuki.
The characters continue to be human, in a good way. A solid show, thus far. The pacing is quite slow, but I think we’re still setting up our characters and their situation as relatable, as well as providing exposition to non-MMORPG players. For a 25 episode show, this is fine. Watched: 2/25 Keywords: MMORPGs, Comedy, Economics?
Also, this OP certainly has a lot going for it, and the English is even worthy of being called English, I present to you “Database!”