There haven’t been that many posts from me lately, I know. There’s only been one other posts in between these monthly catching up posts, thanks to life getting hectic lately. I moved to a new address, sorted out a bunch of financial stuff, had to do a bunch of paperwork, and set up some other stuff I don’t want to go into detail on right now. There’s also an emerging Path of Exile addiction and a ton of anime I’ve been watching, with most of the focus on two longer shows.
As always, this is just me writing about what I’ve been watching lately, not necessarily what just aired. If you’re curious about what I watched last month, you can read my report here.
Persona 3 the Movie 2 – Midsummer Knight’s Dream
I’m starting to get the feeling like everyone loves Persona a lot more than I do. Probably because it’s the truth. From a gameplay perspective I don’t get fully drawn into the mixture of visual novel and simplified Shin Megami Tensei game. During the dungeon crawling segments I find myself wanting to go back to the comfort of dialogue options and character exposition, but by the time those roll around I want to get back to the combat. Neither is particularly bad, but I’m just not drawn into the world, the characters, or even the gameplay segments enough to want to keep going.
So you’d think the condensed anime versions would be the perfect relief to still be able to keep up with all the fan gushing about the franchise without coming across as an asshole who hates everything… But they’re not helping either. They’re just making it even clearer that I don’t feel any connection with any of the characters at all.
Stylistically, this movie is fantastic. The darker tones throughout the Dark Hour scenes look amazing and as expected of a Persona product, the music is really good. But without content to really latch onto the presentation just falls flat for me.
Keep in mind that this is probably just me. I tried playing Persona 4 and ended up dropping it in favor of reading JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4 – Diamond is Unbreakable because they’re the same story, one is just told more enjoyably. I want to enjoy the Persona franchise, but I feel like I’ve played too many diverse JRPGs to be suckered into one that as its most special feat isn’t set in a typical fantasy setting. Until then I’ll wait until The World Ends With You gets the recognition it deserves in movie form.
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
So you know how last month I said I was wrong about Nichijou and how it was actually amazing after I sat down and properly watched it? Maybe you also remember me not liking G Gundam all that much beyond the hilarious space racism? I was wrong again.
G Gundam got even dumber than it already was. There a point where shows are stupid and become unwatchable because of it, and there’s a point where that stupidity reaches a level that it becomes completely okay with it. Actually, there’s several points wrapped around each other and it’s not always easy to hit the mark in terms of the kind of stupidity you want to hit. Generally the one thing that can save a truly stupid series is self-awareness mixed with a sense of earnestness about itself. You want to be aware that your writing is stupid, but you don’t want to detach yourself from the stupidity to safe face either. G Gundam quite earnestly delivers all of its stupidity, love, and anger with the pure hotbloodedness of a good Super Robot series and the further I got into the show, the less I wanted it to ever end.
I owe everyone an apology for comparing Mobile Fighter G Gundam to Gundam Build Fighters Try. For all Try tried to do in terms of building up Super Robot shows, it felt like it tried to detach itself from the franchise and the dumb things going on, taking away from the excitement of all the graphically impressive fighting scenes. In the meantime G Gundam delivers the dumbest emotional flashback with a character forever traumatized because he was held hostage by a clown in the most serious tone it possibly could.
As of writing, I only have about 10 episodes left of Zeta Gundam to go, so I can’t give a final verdict on it just yet. That said, it’s still the series I first think of when I think Gundam. After a somewhat slow build in the early episodes, Zeta Gundam reaches a point where every scene, every conversation becomes loaded. Not in the Star Wars Episode 1 “There’s so much happening on the screen” sort of way, but from the plot perspective. Multiple aspects of the story move in different directions while characters develop, situations escalate, and backstory is given. A battle doesn’t just have one outcome for one side, multiple groups benefit or take losses from them in more than one meaning, while the individual characters all leave the battlefield with a different mindset than they entered it.
This sort of complexity in writing is rare in anime. Generally writers and directors contend themselves with making one thing and one thing only apparent with each scene. A lot of times this has to do with the original format being manga, and the way a lot of the larger publishers operate with their weekly formats. Having the plot move at a slower pace helps buy time to write later chapters, plus the way they tend to operate on popularity polls, you can’t leave parts of the audience behind by confusing them on morality and character motivations. That’s not to say every anime needs to have this sense of depth, frankly I don’t think most of them even have it in them to deliver on it, but the times a show can actually deliver on this, it’s always appreciated.
The reason I’m going on about the complexity in the writing is because for me, it’s the second time seeing the first half of the series unfold and there were so many things going on with the story that I hadn’t picked up on the first time I saw it. Character motivations are generally things that aren’t put on exposition for the world to see, but is instead hidden within a combination of their dialogue and their actions. You have to figure out for yourself why everyone is doing what they are, since they all move indirectly. Which, for a series focused on war, where it’s hard to fully trust each other, is state that makes absolute sense.
When you think about the way Zeta Gundam is written from that perspective, it starts to make more sense why fans of the series rewatch it every so often and can go on thousand word essays on simple character motivations and lore.
It’s especially nice that, as the series progresses, the viewpoints and philosophies of the characters change. For example, the main character, Kamille starts of as yet another spin of Amuro, but becomes more and more like a soldier as the series goes on. To a point that another character is introduced to show how this same growth could happen negatively through everyone’s least favorite character, Katz Kobayashi.
No seriously, fuck Katz Kobayashi.
I don’t want to take up too many words to describe Redline because if you’re looking for a description of what this is, it means you haven’t seen it yet. Which means you should go watch it. In 1080p.
Seriously though, this is the F-Zero anime we never got. Not sure yet? Watch this review of a guy trying to tiptoe around the movie without saying anything concrete about the story. Redline is good. Go watch Redline.
Patlabor The Movie 1
One of my biggest pet peeves with science fiction novels is that, generally speaking, there are no characters in them. As intriguing the world building, the advanced technology, and the implied changes on society they would have all are, usually the actual cast of characters takes a backseat to all the things it wants you to think about after you’re done reading it. Whenever a big budget movie is made based on an old science fiction novel, they try to emphasize the humanity of the characters more, taking away precious time from the world and social commentary that is supposed to be the focus of the story in a media format that leaves less room for the complexity those stories would require even if they were made the main focus.
I’m bringing this up because Patlabor The Movie feels like what would happen if you leave the focus of a science fiction novel on the technology and commentary instead of the characters, and while the execution of it is near-perfect I don’t think movies are the right format for this. This probably means I’m going to have to watch the TV series instead.
Although Patlabor is technically a mecha anime, it’s closer to a detective drama set in a science fiction narrative. There are mechs, and they are a large focus of the story, but they’re not big flashy war machines. They’re strictly made for utility, because a large mech has more manpower than a large group of people. In a lot of ways, it feels like the next logical step for mecha anime to take after Gundam introduced the world to Real Robots instead of Super Robots.
That said, while Patlabor the Movie has excellent pacing and story, it doesn’t have a cast to really help carry it as a movie. Which is a shame, because I quite enjoyed the setting.
Initial D: First Stage
I’m generally annoyed by the lack of good romance stories in anime. Sure, nearly every anime has some romance subplot going on, but they’re almost all terribly executed, as if the author was pressured into putting it in there because everyone else is. Initial D managed to annoy me with romance subplots in a completely different manner. While the angles are all written very well and feel like they’re a lot more natural than most anime series, they take up way too much time away from the actual focus of the show.
Any scene that doesn’t involve the AE86 drifting around corners at full speed with Eurobeat music blasting in the background is a scene that shouldn’t exist. Forget that the cars and roads look like Playstation 1-era CG. Forget that everything about this show is utterly absurd and stupid. It’s an AE86 going downhill on a mountain road in the rain at full speed, nailing a drift that when done wrong means instant death on a road that’s open to regular traffic. This isn’t something you want to distract the audience from, but we’re still treated to dating scenes in between every single race. Where most series are satisfied with a beach episode, Initial D manages to sneak in a pool episode besides.
I don’t even like cars, and I still want to go back to them going fast. The races are that hype.
A man in his 30s adopts the illegitimate child his grandfather left behind after nobody in his family wanted to take care of her when he died. He doesn’t know much about raising children, but does whatever he can to give her a good childhood while working full-time and adjusting to life as a parent.
There’s not much to be said here other than how absolutely stellar the writing and execution of Usagi Drop is. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I left the series with one of the more heartwarming tales of parenthood that I seen in a long while. Even though the backstory to Rin’s character is incredibly depressing, Daichi makes up for what she’s lost by sacrificing his old ambitions and lifestyle to give her the future she deserves, only to be rewarded with a more full-filling life and new friends.
Just, you know, pretend the manga doesn’t exist and/or is fanfiction. I do wonder if Rin’s mother was a self-insert by the author. Not only because it’s such a common occurence in anime and manga to have the author insert themselves as another manga artist (Rohan Kishibe in JoJo is very obviously based on Araki himself), but because she was already hinting at a future project while being warned about negative backlash from the fans. That, and she’s so overloaded with negative character types that I almost want the writer to be that person after reading the ending. It’s that bad.
It’s only just started, but the mixture of Yoshiki Tanaka (writer of Legend of the Galactic Heroes) and Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist) is already delivering. Political ideals, gigantic armies, military plans, huge death tolls, betrayals, and a pacifist master strategist. Although so far the complexity of the series doesn’t match that of Legend of the Galactic Heroes by any means, and I’m curious if that’s inherent of the original book versions, a trait of modern anime, or part of Hiromu Arakawa’s style, I’m still really enjoying the ride so far.
It’s your typical story. Guy gets an insane power boost if he sees a girl’s panties, but if he sees panties while already powered up he causes a nuclear explosion. Having been expelled from his body a drunk cat with a cat porn addiction tells him to find a book to remove the evil spirit currently in his body. The book is somewhere in his house. Oh, and he’s the only guy there, so he has to somehow avoid getting too excited and causing a nuclear bomb to go off while haunting a house full of attractive girls who think they’re alone in their rooms.
I’m not a big fan of fanservice focused shows and have stopped watching harem anime ages ago, but the absurdity of this show’s concept is enough to draw me in for now.
Kuroko no Basuke
A flashback arc of when the Generation of Miracles got started. It’s probably going to be a long one too, considering they changed opening themes to reflect the change. It’s interesting to note that this is the first time since the series began that they didn’t use the same band for the new intro. That said, I don’t feel like there’s this much need to show the complete history of the Generation of Miracles right now after we’ve already had frequent flashbacks to the pasts of the characters who became famous under that title.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders Part 2 – Egypt Arc
We are so close to Dio’s World I can almost taste it. Almost. I saw a few articles of people complaining that the lack of direct fights is hurting JoJo since the introduction of Stands, and I’d suggest they find more straightforward Dragonball Z style anime to watch instead. The current experimentation in using abilities for things other than fighting are what brought us to the excellence of Part 4. Back when Part 3 was released, this kind of experimentation was groundbreaking, and even today, the absurdity of it is still a breath of fresh air compared to the vast majority of shonen series that has only homogenized as time went on. You’d hope an adaptation of an almost 30 year old manga wouldn’t still be as far ahead of the curve as it is, but here we are. The only recent anime to really have learned from JoJo’s implementation of abilities as something you can explore out of battle in this style seems to be Hunter x Hunter, which actually treated powers a lot more consistently.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
I don’t have too much to say about the continuation of UBW so far other than that it feels like a continuation of UBW. Yeah, it’s really good, but everything currently happening just feels like the setup for later events. I trust Ufotable will actually deliver on something with all this buildup unlike Deen though.