Seraph of the End: A anime that struck me as… just a Remix

I have such mixed reactions when I watched the new show Owari no Serafu/Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign. First, what a silly title. Move past that, the art on Hulu and for the show in general contains spoilers (for a couple eps in, but still). Get past that and watch the show, and you’re confronted with a super fast action packed sequence that established the premise and rockets plot off, and YAY for that! I was pretty excited to watch this show but a few minutes into it! And then an interesting and kinda classic gothic vampire world, but with really interesting backgrounds and setting details, but sadly REALLY stock characters. There’s the “we must fight them from within!” kid, the “I rebel against control” kid, and an assortment of adorable young’uns that immediately practically have “FUTURE VICTIMS” written on their foreheads. And as always on TV, fighting from within never works.

This was where I ran into my first, Wait, is this show just going to rehash Code Geass’s main conflict between within/without system main character arguments? Then lots of awful things DID happen, I was like “CALLED IT” but was pleasantly surprised when what was the cliche had some minor shocking and interesting twists and the fight scenes were really well done.

And then some more cliches, then a pointless school things that felt yoinked from Aoi Exorcist but not at all as well done. (It didn’t help there was voice actor similarities). Then exactly the beginning of every story ever happened (seriously, all of them. At least Deadman Wonderland killed-ish him! That had an interesting play on the school-attack-monster trope). Then We’re yanking the conflict from Devilman AND still running around as if being Aoi Excorcist/D.Gray-man versions 2.0…

I wanted to enjoy this show, but it just feels constantly derivative to me. It’ll do something in the details or execution I enjoy, but goes right back to cliches and I’m left disgruntled. Finally, I was like OMG it’s a REMIX! it’s got all of these things yanked right from other things! IT IS SUPER DERIVATIVE! But trying to be just different and interesting enough that people will like it, while still using all the main notes from these other shows.

And frankly, I think that it will be popular and lots of people will super enjoy watching it. Anyone who is super fond of this kind of shounen show is probably going to love it. It’s reminiscent of a lot of big hits that people would love more of, and here it is! More of that thing you enjoyed before! So hey, you like those things, maybe this will be a fun entertainment time for you, yay! Let’s all enjoy it (I’m certainly still watching it as it is released).

But is it good? So far I’m going with no. It’s almost completely unoriginal, and the three setting changes it’s gone through in the first few episodes abandons a lot of the details I think could make it standout and be awesome. It’s sticking so close to tropes it’s insanely predictable, sans minor “Oh he DID get one punch in before going down” ways, and that’s just not the kind of show I think is good. Passable and decent? Oh totally. So am I damning this show with faint praise? Yes. Unless it’s the exact kind of thing you’re into, don’t bother with it. Otherwise, it’s upon Hulu for north America free watching, happy viewings!

P.S. It’s got little in the way of positive or non-status-quo representation. This is not a show with interesting or unique female/gender diversity, racially diverse, ability or neurodiversity. I’m 10 eps in and zilcho, so… yeah. Don’t expect that.

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K-drama for a change! Empress Ki

So for a bit of a change of pace, and since this season’s crop of anime has been disappointly full of sub-par anime, I’ve been checking out some K-dramas. Specifically, a few popular modern dramas and a few period dramas. I’m very picky about k-drama and have put aside most of them, but think I’ve got a winner with Empress Ki. It’s everything I’d want out of an epic fantasy novel sans the magic and dragons! The setting is interesting, the characters get involved in huge nation-ending plots and wars and fights. It has good characters and action and plot moves at a good pace. So yes, watch it! In specifics, the protagonist is actually really cool, and even though it’s a lady, all her plots don’t revolve around her vagina (you know that boring plot kind. Rape-threats all the time and the rest of the time it’s ugh lady sucks I must be Cersei Lannister level conniving and manipulative and then ladies getting shit for it). which yeah, okay in one character, but it drives me crazy when that’s the only lady portrayal in a story. But this Empress Ki had conniving manipulative MEN and WOMEN! The men are WAY WORSE than the ladies and really scary manipulators! And uncomfortable rapey time threats for male and female characters in about 50-50 proportion! and the man-rape-ish moments are actually the most plot important ones, which is super nice to not have yet another plot hinge on being-shitty-to-women. The main character also gets to have a lot of roles and settings and I’m enjoying that. Also, like most of the epic fantasies I enjoy, it’s doorstop-long. K-dramas are actually 55 minutes, and with Hulu’s free watching but added commercials, it takes about a hour and a half to watch, and there are 51 episodes! Hours and days of entertainment! You can binge-watch, but maybe try in batches.  I haven’t finished yet, but I have good expectations. And really, it’s so nice, as a western-living person when stories seem obsessed with medieval europe, it’s SUUUUUPER interesting to learn about the history and see all the interesting other forms of culture and dress and conflicts. Expand your worldview! so yes! If any of this sounds interesting, give it a shot! I’mnot going to say there isn’t sexism in it, as there is it’s set in a sexist historical society, but the actual STORYTELLING doesn’t rely on dreg-gusting cliche’s of watching women suffer, women get to do awesome things, there are more than one lady character that are awesome, so it’s got upsides! And so much fun drama!

Review: Death Parade

The premise is that the show takes place in a limbo/purgatory-esque place where people go after they die for judgement, and they play games or other such things to further that end. The architecture of said non-necessarily-real space is very bendable and over-the-top, but it makes for some great visuals. All the staff of this place are interesting visually and character design wise, and I’m very amused at the awesome and interesting hairstyles of the people ultimately deciding the fate of souls! So yeah, overall a fun visual experience and I think it was excellent art and animation. fun touches of the surreal here and there!

The tone of the show at first was very much like Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl), but this show isn’t a series of vignettes, and intersperses the focus between the actual death arbiters and the dead people, which I SUPER appreciated.It kept it from being maudlin and depressing, and I love a good back-and-forth from the serious to the more lively tone.

And how can you not enjoy the pointing in the opening sequence? images

So much pointing. And Air Hockey FOR YOUR LIVES!

Anyway, they present interesting questions about humanity and emotions and such, but nothing shoehorned in there or terribly some weird gross preaching. The end (no spoilers) wraps things up that were ongoing, but does leave a little hanging in a room-for-a-sequel-y way, and also implies that certain things just keep going in a machinery of these characters way. But overall I liked and felt there was a good wrap-up to an overall great show that I really enjoyed. I think everyone who thinks it sounds interesting should watch it! In North America it’s streaming on Hulu and available through FUNimation.

Yay adult show with adults living hard lives and interesting speculation about life, death and meaning!

Anime from the Fall 2013 season that I liked/hated

Just the one!

Strike the Blood – Hilariterrible, bordering on just plain terrible. The premise is OH NOES MR VAMPIRE, DON’T BITE MEEEEEEE (said while presenting neck sexily). And it’s a harem anime pretending to be action, doing neither terribly well but also having some interesting magic things here and there. The characters are trite and archetypal, the setting is poorly constructed and fleshed out, and everything exists just so we can be introduced to yet another hot lady who will become sexually available to the protagonist. Its a fun, stupid watch, but it’s really poor quality.

Anime from the Fall 2013 season that weren’t good

Unbreakable Machine Doll (Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai) – The main female is literally an object, who is obviously obsessed with and constantly offering all sorts of sexualized things to the main lead, who we are supposed to be all like, WHOAH, SO ETHICAL AND AMAZING because he doesn’t want to treat women like objects, instead he is white-knighting them. BARF BARF BARF. It’s straight-up male power fantasy, white-knight-style, and that sexist, unexamined shit can barf barf barf. There is some uncomfortable violence against women by men and the plots vaguely interesting, if completely unoriginal, so the show really faffs off into bleh land.

Walkure Romanze – It’s a show about girls who joust. The main character is your standard-issue-non-entity-talented-but-not-too-talented-male-all-the-ladies-are-slashy-with. I didn’t like the main female, she’s too shrill and whiny and it’s hard to not be annoyed by her, but she tries hard and means well. The rest of the constant fanservice is just… tiresome. And eventually, the lack of unique or original characters or a plot other than School:We’re-in-it killed off any interest I had. To boring to watch.

I Couldn’t Become A Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided To Get A Job (Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku wo Ketsui Shimashita) – Fanservice with the barest plot premise, which barely shows up until a rush at the end. It was kinda fun to watch characters fight with the tedium of actual living, rather than glamor of fighting the devil, but it all revolved around the genitals and breasts of the female characters, and how interesting those were! (hint: they’re not really). It had the potential to be an interesting parody, but it isn’t. As wank material, it’s a solid B if you’re okay with unremarked on female harassment and humiliation, but as an anime to watch and enjoy, a solid D.

Samurai Flamenco – At first, I thought this was an interesting show about a guy’s boyish dreams of being a superhero and how they clashed with reality, and how he was stubbornly trying to get them to fit in despite police, uninterested in perfection people, and the troubles of modern living. It was original and semi-parody and reminded me of Tiger and Bunny, and the characters were equal-opportunity slashy with a strong female lead. But then shit went downhill and downhill FAST into a flaming pile of Just-like-everything-else, totally cliche and uninteresting, inexplicable developments, and the sexual humiliation and physical dis-empowering of the female lead for no other reason than because women:amiright. From maybe an A down to a D show. Hasn’t ended yet, but only expecting poor things.

Non Non Biyori – A snoozefest. I’m not the biggest fan of slice-of-life genre, especially if there isn’t a supernatural factor, and this was just… SO… BORING. Nothing happens, the characters weren’t original or interesting. Unwatchable.

My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with my School Romantic Comedy (Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru ) – I was mixed on this at first, because I love any plot line that includes god/gods, since I think that kind of overpowering supernatural force is super interesting. But it just didn’t do enough to counterbalance the constant harassment of women as a joke (sure, it’s embarrassing for him but the problem I had was with the way it was presented to the viewer). I just don’t like to watch that much humiliation and degradation of men, much less that much constant rapey-feeling bothering of and objectification of women. Unwatchable.

Diabolik Lovers: Haunted Dark Bridal – This looked at first like it might be a fun to watch silly anime about too many hot boys, but no. It’s an anime about watching a bunch of boys physically, verbally, and sexually assault a girl. Repeatedly, as if they were practicing for their Abuse 101 midterm, for 80% of the screen time. Completely unwatchable.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova) – Aliens? are keeping humans out of the seas, and isolating and reversing the effects of globalization. A plot and setting that sounded pretty interesting and like it could go somewhere! But Then they introduce the fact that the male lead is obviously uber-super-special (gag-me-a-cliche) and so a boat, personified as a female prostrates herself before him in all kinds of sexually suggestive ways, constantly talking about how super-special-awesomesauce the male lead is. It’s just too sexist in an infuriating way, and also, really unoriginal characters and pounds of sexist bullshit. Unwatchable.

Galilei Donna – The descendants of Galileo (the mom is really into that fact), three daughters leads to inexplicable things in an inexplicable world that is mean to them for no apparent reason. I feel like I was supposed to be intrigued or that it was a mystery for them to solve, but when the flying fish mecha showed up I decided that it was just inexplicable and uninteresting. Three lead ladies was maybe interesting and different, but it wasn’t.

Miss Monochrome: The Animation – Short, mildly amusing comedy about robots. Meh.

Kill La Kill – I was all excited to see this, hoping it would be well done and interesting seeing as it’s an action show where both the protagonist and the big bad are strong women. No, it is trite, completely unoriginal, uninteresting, and filled with rape jokes, threatening to rape ladies because they are in mildly vulnerable positions, and sexually humiliating women as fanservice. This show can fuck off and die.

Anime from the Fall 2013 season that were… alright.

Nagi no Asukara – Premise is that all people lived in the sea, but some went onto land and lost the seas-god’s blessing that lets them breathe water. The world building seems off, since sea life is exactly the same as land life and that seems wrong (down to electricity use), and the characters are archetypal and unoriginal, though well played out. The whole first 13 episodes move way too slow and were barely interesting to me, though plot kicks in mid-season and it gets way more interesting character and plot wise. Hasn’t’ ended yet, but so far it’s a B show, with a warning of the slow, boring school parts of the first half.

Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the Gods – I wanted to like this show, it was cute and happy, and fluffy, but it was just too boring. It’s the kind of slice of life that just reminds you how very boring watching security cameras actually is. The Kitsune were cute and fun, the humans were well intentioned and living their lives, but I just felt disappointed by the storylines emotional payoff (nothing like Natsume Yuujincho, which this show wishes it could be), and relatively little character growth. A solid C show.

Magi: the Kingdom of Magic – 2nd season. Still enjoying this, though it’s problematic regularly. I still think the setting is unique enough, and the world and magic and characters are interesting. A solid C+ of a show, it’s a nice entertainment but nothing spectacular. Good for passing time.

Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata) – This show is about how if a boy fetishizes and is interested in a girl, that is a great and interesting thing and romantic and awesome. SERIOUSLY, that is the primary take-away message from episode one till the very last moments. Ignoring that disgusting and affronting and plain stupid aspect, it’s an interesting and well animated show about demons living among us, and those who fight them off. The plot has a nice pacing and development, and ends decently. The characters, for the most part, fulfill roles (such as mastermind, maid, info lady, fetish-object, fetish-haver), and don’t really have much characterization beyond that other than their tragic backstories. Overall it makes for an entertaining watch, with interesting settings and plot and magic and fighting, but with squick out moments of CREEPY EW EW EW NO OFFENSIVE ASS BULLSHIT that you have to gloss over. A decent time waster.

Kyousougiga – It’s got an interesting premise, of a man with supernatural powers making a happy and perfect world for himself and his family, but the disjointed presentation of the story and the mind-bending antics just didn’t interest me. None of the characters were particularly compelling, though they seemed at least modestly original. There were also definitely some interesting world building things going on, and I think this show might actually be kinda good, but it really just wasn’t my thing and I didn’t like it, it couldn’t hold my attention. I’d give it another shot if I heard it built better tension later or ended spectacular or something, but not my cup of tea as it stands.

Meganebu – This is very colorful and stylized anime about a bunch of boys who wear and LOVE glasses. They have silly antics, and that’s what this show is all about – over-the-top foolishness and fanservice. Not that bad, but wasn’t enough to keep my interested, and a little to cracked-out for my tastes. Not for everyone, not my tastes but it’s not bad per se, so I’d give it a B to C range.

Actually interesting anime that I’d recommend from the Fall 2013 season

Golden Time – This is a really interesting drama, where the main plots revolve around characters and character interactions and romance. I had low expectations when I started watching because the opening is really… setting you up for a different, terribler show. But the characters actually were well-rounded, interesting adults with interesting lives and semi-soap-opera problems, and I quickly got sucked into it. It’s still running, so I can’t give you any final comments, but so far it’s one of my favorite shows that’s running and definitely in the A range!

Log Horizon – I had low expectations for yet another show about how now an MMORPG is FOR REALZ. There was nothing especially interesting about the first few episodes, but I didn’t have issues with the treatment of the female lead, even though she’s lusted after by other characters, and there was something mildly interesting that kept me watching and I’m not sure what. And though slow to start, this show has become one of my favorites after it hit mid-season that I am currently watching. There are super interesting world-building and setting things, character growing, learning about their new lives and how to deal with their situation that I think is crazy interesting and original. Haven’t finished, but so far, An A show!

Yowapeda: Yowamushi Pedal – This is a sports/guts show about an anime Otaku who just wants to make friends in high school, but turns out he has a talent for biking, thanks to his hoofing it to Akihabara every weekend. He ends up joining the ultra-competitive and impressive biking club, and ACTION! BIKING! RACES! GAINING SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH PHYSICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT. It’s super fun to watch and I heart it. Hasn’t finished yet, but it’s a solid B (It’s crazy fun, but the characters and plot just don’t lift it to an A).

Valvrave the Liberator – I actually enjoyed this series. It has a plot that rushes forward and lots of action and plot-twists/turns. The characters have mostly differentiable personalities. It’s a fun action ride if that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, it’s trying way to hard to be as interesting and awesome as Code Geass and failing, plus the ending is less resolution and more deflation. It’s also really calling upon the tropes of the Mecha genre (which I do not like) and so at best I’d rate this anime a B-, maybe C+.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Yay! This is my second favorite anime for this season (also available to watch for free on Crunchyroll for viewers in the US), mostly just because I think it’s the most interesting use of a ghost in a while. I admit, my ghost-story standards are not that great, as I have long standing arguments with my significant other and best friends about the merits/demerits of Ghost Dad (BRILLIANCE AND YAYS!).

Image

A lady! Who is interesting and different looking!

Those things aside, I do enjoy a drama, I enjoy a love story, and I enjoy a paranormal story. That’s what this is!  I won’t go into too many details so as to not spoil a good porch scene in the first episode. But I like the main character, he’s cute and manly and I like that combination. I like the girl-love-interest, because she seems reasonable, isn’t very girly, and is loved anyway (yay, a diversity of women!). And it’s fun, though also sometimes sad. And really, I feel like it’s more original, and therefore interesting, than many other animes that I could be watching instead. I could point out specific plot turns/twists but I won’t spoil them! Check it out, yay!
If I had to say something bad about it, that would be that I really have trouble BELIEVING that there is not going to be a happy ending, that things just won’t end up well, and that takes a bit out of the tension of, OMG, am I dying? Am I going to suicide? etc. that happens. Also, I think it spends a little too much time in Lala land, and I think that the fairy tale could be worked in better, or at least more… I dunno, contribute to the overall ambiance and plot of an episode? (I’m comparing to Princess Tutu and it’s falling short).

Finally! A Decent Show This Season!

I found one I found one! a fun good show that I’m actually enjoying! It’s Kokoro Connect.

The premise? These five people, all in a meaningless club suddenly find themselves body-swapping for no apparent reason. They don’t believe it till it happens to most everyone, and then they are confronted with the mysterious source of their predicament. IS it malicious? I won’t spoil, but it is SCARY AS HELL by ep. 5, that is fo sho. And creepy creepy! They go about, forced to become rather intimately involved in each other’s lives, and human interactions! feelings! Characterization! Yay! Lighthearted humor mixed with deep questions about what makes a person a person!

The art and animation is one of my least favorite styles (the same as K-ON and Tamayura), and so I’m not sure I can complement or not it. But since it’s not an action show the directing and movement is pretty unnoticeable to me – neither bad nor interesting or spectacular. Just, fine.

So yay! A good show that has promise! Without needing to be qualified or reservations held back on it! Looking forward to see where this goes, and I will be pissed if it peters out meaninglessly.

 

Humanity Has Declined?

So I’m now checking out the first five episodes Jinrui wa Suitaishimashita (Humanity Has Declined). As you can see immediately, it’s a bright, pastel, big-eyed atr and animation style meant to make everything look sparkly and cute, and frankly, the fun discrepancy between a dystopian future rendered like that is a decently interesting hook for this show.

The actual show is a little cracked out ans foolish. I don’t like the portrayal of women very much, but mostly because the on-screen in the first episode are incompetent airheads. The main character is okay, but she’s kinda low key and in charge, and only because she is a nice, sweet person does she seem to be able to get along with the fairies. Also, no props for being a good lady diplomat when it is to sweet-toothed tiny fairy creatures.

Further episodes make it apparent that the show is a probably going to be mostly silliness with some tongue in cheek parody and meta thinking about the entertainment genres, as well as some possible political/sociological commentary not so well hidden in there.

Overall, I can potentially dig it, but it’s a bit too nonsensical and foolish for me to really enjoy it much. It’s running a C average so far in entertainment grades.