September 04, 2017

Midterm Report Card

Concept A
Characterization A-
Basic Comprehension of American Superhero Comics A
Plot A
Screen Time for Frog Frau and Gadget Girl D-
Pathos B
Comprehension of What a Hero is A
Physics/Biology F*
Pacing C-


This has been a surprisingly good show, being Kohei Horikoshi's take on superheroes, specifically AMERICAN comic book superheroes, albeit in a Japanese setting and in a Shounen style of storytelling.

That last bit was a cause for some trepidation, especially as season two began with a  tournament fighting arc, which, in Japanese boys comics, is usually where interesting stories go to die. Fortunately, this show has thus far used such framing devices, not as filler, but as a way of providing venues for characterization of what is a fairly large cast. 

The breakneck pace of the first twelve episodes does slow considerably as much of the show's action is now taking place simultaneously in different locales and some events are told in a Rashomon style from different viewpoints. However, the story is continually moving along and most of the villians are actually quite interesting, several having interesting ( though admittedly warped) philosophical reasons for their mayhem. 

The Japanese storytelling techniques notwithstanding, this is a show that GETS the American superhero genre in a way that American superhero comics often don't anymore. Most notably it appears to be a disquisition of the nature of heroism. At least three of the characters are pointedly reflective of some of the more obnoxiously nihilistic 'Iron Age' tropes, not in homage to those ideas, but in mockery of them.  The number one hero of the universe, a pivotal, but largely background character named All Might, is a VERY American superhero combining the best aspects of Captain America and Superman. Powerful and idealistic, All Might is an astounding beacon of strength and sincerity...
IN A WORLD 
...where superheroes are basically licensed mercenaries . 

You see, some years prior,  superpowers spread like a disease through the general population granting over 99% of humanity "quirks" which range from the useless to the dangerous. Superheroes are, perhaps surprisingly, not passe' since the criminal element is similarly blessed. Superheroing is somewhat akin to private security firms, licenses and bonding are required and they work closely with the police (many have product endorsement side gigs based on their social media presence). One way to get a license is to go to an accredited superhero college...This is the goal of one Izuku Midoriya, who has, since a young age dreamed of being a superhero. There's just one problem, as the show starts he is revealed to be one of the infinitesimally small number of people with no quirk at all. 

The main characters are for the most part quite likeable and (generally) idealistic, though perhaps not quite as much as they think they are, heroism being more than a career path or physical strength (as they are finding out). Interestingly, even some whose goals seem at first glance to be cynical are pursuing them for noble reasons. This is really, well done.



This series is a shonen show, and all that implies, but it is an outlier of its genre in a most positive way. I am enjoying this series immensely more than I have any right to be right now. 


* This is as it should be.

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Eromanga Sensei Ends

Actually, Eromanga Sensei ended some time ago, but I only just finished it as shortly after watching the first few I had developed a nagging fear that it was going to be horrible. 




Fortunately it was merely offensive. 



Sometimes exuberantly so....



The show did not conclude, it merely stopped, though there was continuous, if unsteady character development throughout. It remained enjoyably silly till the end. On the debit side, it kind of jumped the shark when the second female author entered out of left field. More disappointing was that her arrival made the series an actual harem show (which it had not quite been up till that point). Still, it was cute and generally funny. It also had a lot to say about the creative process, but it really said all it had to say in the first 8 episodes, and it was pretty much fan service after that.


 and crossovers...with troubling implications.

Some of the characters, particularly those introduced later, appear to have been conceived by rolling dice and referencing an NPC encounter table, but I must say that Elf Yamada is one of the better characters in recent years, having surprising depth and complexity for an utter loon. The show did not live up to its early promise as it spent the last third checking off every trope box on the harem show bucket list as if to apologize for the quirky and touching first part. Disturbingly, this may imply other...issues...with the plot. 

It's still cute and funny overall, but nowhere near what it could have been.
(Or was.)



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Lost in Translation

So, in an attempt to mitigate simultaneous afflictions of boredom and writers block, I went and watched the Japanese dub of RWBY which is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. 


Wow.

This interpretation has a truly bizarre series of editorial choices. Some, like  the almost complete omission of the JNPR story elements one can almost get one's head around. Others, like severely cutting the fight scenes (removing most of the cute character bits and even some of the better choreography) are completely inexplicable.

To be fair, the very odd Jaune Arc...er...arc in the first season was indeed a dumpster fire of a subplot (until the end), but it clearly established why Jaune appeared to be a few islets of brilliance in a sea of derpitude. 

Along with Weiss, Jaune is one of the characters who has come the farthest in overcoming personal shortcomings, and without this backstory, his later development (especially in season 4) is not going to have anything like the same impact.  That whole arc as well as the other excised footage also developed Phyrra's character, establishing her both as 'the pro from Dover' and as a mentor to many of the other characters, particularly Ruby. The whole notion that JNPR are genuinely significant to the story is lost, as are several things that seemed to be random, throwaway bits, but were, in fact important foreshadowing. This can't help but hurt the show later. Indeed, one of the best and most consequential conversations in the series, (Ruby's "Nope" speech from season one) is completely omitted.



Way more important than we initially thought.

The voice work is off as well. However, it's not that the voice acting is bad per se (it's not) but rather that the characters are voiced as straight up versions of their respective (assumed) archtypes. To my surprise though, the guy they got to play Oobleck nails it. 

I'm not sure, but they may have cut as much as 45 minutes out of the show as of the middle of season three, much of it, as is noted above, fairly consequential to the later plot. 

This brings back memories of my youth in anime fandom when everyone was griping about how edits by the American rights holders would almost inevitably gut the impact of or destroy the cohesiveness of the plots of anime brought to the U.S.

Well, it's not just American distributors that do that...

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August 16, 2017

An Utter Failure...at Destroying Childhoods

Disney has put the first two episodes of Duck Tales online.

This is really well written and surprisingly faithful in tone to the 80's Cartoon, but even more so old Carl Banks comic it was loosely based on. 

Via 

The characterizations of the kids, (er ducklings)are way better I was particularly relieved with what they did with Webby, who is a really neat character.

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Just Received A Brief, Terse Text

It contained information on how to access the following file...



I'll leave it to you to asses its importance.

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August 15, 2017

Attack on Titan Season 2

Attack on Titan continues to be unpredictable, generally well animated and interesting. It is also a seinen show and keeps the attention of its adolescent audience by tempering its introspective moments and thoughtful observations with  amazing action scenes and visuals that frequently go beyond graphic to full on baroque in their depiction of carnage.











This space intentionally left blank.











After all the hints in season one, they are finally exploring what the hell was (and is) behind the calamity that inflicted  implacable solar powered cannibalistic giants upon society.

That actual expository plot is kind of incoherent and at the end of the series we still have no idea what is actually behind this calamity, except that there appears to be a conspiracy of some sort. The whole thing is treated as the MacGuffin that it is. 

The show's strength, however is in how its characters react to their frankly insane and increasingly hopeless situations. 


Mercifully not pictured; their situation.

This is a show that's had very good characterizations...except for the main character, who seems to be a parody of a shonen protagonist. He's not at all lacking in courage or determination, but he's not particularly good at his job. The side charachters however, are fascinating and intelligently written. Several of them are quite likable too...




 The moody direction and sense of trancendental dread of the early episodes of the season are not as well handled in the latter half, which relies on increasingly bizarre plot twists, and breakneck pacing only interrupted by an episode of fairly non-expository dialog that seems to have been placed there just to get to the requisite number of episodes. 

Despite that and its gruesome visuals the series is still interesting enough that I hope they do another season. Its splatterpunk tendencies notwithstanding, the show manages to have some remarkably effective and even subtle horror. It has quite a bit to say about the importance of redemption, as well as the nature of true heroism....



...the 'last stand of Potato Girl' being particularly epic in that regard .

The show was wildly uneven and should not be watched while eating, but it remains surprisingly interesting. 

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July 02, 2017

Just a Reminder That When You Break Out the Apple Pies on Tuesday...

(Language Warning)

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July 01, 2017

Oh.

I understand now!

Pete, in the comments, specifically said stay with Eromaga Sensei 'till episode 3, because...Elf. 
And I was all like..."Elf annoys the hell out of me. If she's the hook, screw this noise!"

Well. 

Pete was right. 

Elf Yamada is a gloriously whacked antagonist. I mean she is epically nutsoid in a most entertaining way. Now in any other show with someone like her that would be the alpha and omega of her characterization, but not in this show...



 

There was an amazing amount of character development and exposition in this episode, and all of it was superbly written.


I'm afraid I've gotta watch more of this delightful trainwreck. 

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June 29, 2017

Alice and Zoroku Ends

That was remarkably satisfying despite the fact that I really would like to see more of this show.

Although, Alice and Zoroku is rather schizo in tone, the series leverages this trait quite well.. 

For one thing, it has the benefit of being completely unpredictable. 

One never knows if an episode is going to be action adventure..



...adventures in floristry...



...fast food appreciation...



....haute cuisine appreciation...



...fantasy horror...



...or merely an excuse to trot out a new action figure....



...whatever genre it's dabbling in,  Alice and Zoroku manages to be consistently good.


If you haven't watched it, you are wrong.

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June 22, 2017

Spoiler Warning!

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June 20, 2017

The Only Battle That Counts Is The Last One

And now for something refreshingly silly.


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April 30, 2017

FINALLY!

We get to see Yotsuba&! in an anime!




...from Eromanga Sensei episode 2 which introduces the girl in pink, a rival author who is amazingly annoying. Why, she's almost as annoying as Sagiri's class rep.



Thanks to Meguni here, the show is now on probation. That darn class rep managed to inject all the squick that I was so happy the pilot avoided into the show and then some....

To our heroes' credit, he is mortified. unfortunately, he is a teenage boy and blissfully unaware that in the age of the iPhone there is no expectation of privacy, especially if one's response to an annoying, pushy girl is awkwardly phrased.  

On the plus side, he has now persuaded his sister to come out of her room occasionally. If only to do laundry. 



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April 23, 2017

So....

You're supposed to be Princess Emillia, from Re:Zero, right?





I'm more interested in our protagonist's agent anyway.




What are we prattling on about?

Eromanga Sensei has a dumb as rocks premise, but it's extremely well done for what it is. 

Our hero, Masamune Izume, is a light novel author...in high school, who, being recently orphaned, has to support his younger sister, Sagiri.  Complicating this is the fact that, aside from the most fleeting glimpses, he's only seen her once, briefly, when she was adopted after HER parents died. You see, she's a hikikomori, presumably because there's been a lot of death in this tweener's short life. 

Masamune has been particularly fortunate to land the services of a noted cheesecake illustrator on his latest novel series. He's never actually met the dude, but the artist helped to make his latest trilogy enough of a success that our hero is making a decent living...and loosing his anonymity, This is beginning to further complicate his already hectic life. 

This being anime, things take a turn for the weird when series of conversations during and after a book signing and an obscure website set our hero on a path to discovering a shocking secret that will change his life forever!

Hijinks ensue.

This was a really solid first episode and except for one gratuitously tasteless gag  at 14:29 this is really cute show, though I'm not sure how far they can go with this. 

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April 22, 2017

Bad Engineering






From episode 11 of Tanya the Evil which has graphic violence and black humor to go with its poor role models.

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April 03, 2017

In Lieu of Any Actual Content









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March 28, 2017

Obligatory Pool Episode

The last episode of Interviews With Monster Girls was indeed a pool episode and broke new ground in prurience with this uncensored frontal shot of Kyoko without a stitch on her.



" I LAUGH at your guillotine!" 

I hope they do more in the coming years as this series really was a gem.

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March 19, 2017

So...



So...the latest episode of Interviews With Monster Girls addresses the nagging concern that Takahashi has become not so much the girl's counselor, as the driver of their short-bus.  The sinister assistant principal's true motivation is revealed and Sakie, though forced to improvise, nevertheless achieves an important milestone in the...umm, subtle and cunning machinations she is plotting in pursuit of her goal.

In contrast to episode 7 and especially episode 10 which hinted at a much "bigger" storyline, episode 11 is focused primarily on character development and nicely portrays the considerable personal growth the entire ensemble cast has gone through, including fairly minor characters.

This episode really touched on everything that has made this show so refreshing. The students in this show, both human and demihuman are   very believably written and their actions are both charming and realistic.


Within limits.

I'm unsure how many episodes this series is, but if it is a 12 episode run then this was a solid and reasonably satisfying finale. Of course there is at least one more episode. However, there are indications that that will be a beach or pool episode and therefore probably fanservice pandering best ignored in the context of this nearly sublime little series*. 

One thing that stands out above even the stellar chraracterizations of the students is that of Takahashi Sensei. Here we have a male lead who is not only a gentleman that behaves in a professional and mature manner. He's a remarkably macho guy as well. In addition to being a science teacher, he's a weightlifter, and characters comment on how much he's bulked up recently. In any other show that would be a character trait of a buffoon, but Takahashi is stoic, disciplined, kind, perceptive, intelligent, intellectual and strong in both body and character. He epitomizes the male virtues and in a thoroughly positive way. That is a rare and welcome thing in this day and age. 

Interviews With Monstergirls has been low key but engaging. and a thoroughly enjoyable ride that stresses the importance of actively engaging life lest  wonders pass us by.


No. Twitter is not "engaging." 
If you've missed it, watch it. 
If you've seen it, discuss it. 

*


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March 11, 2017

The Means by Which Dulhallans Eat

...has yet to be addressed in this show, but despite that glaring omission, as of episode 7, Interviews With Monster Girls is mostly living up to the hype.



"No. We understand how it gets into your mouth, it's the step after that which has us confused."

A biologist whose PHD thesis on demi-humans was shot down due to a lack of any preternatural people to study, abandons his research and gets a job as a high school biology teacher. Years later, he is surprised to learn that his school has enrolled a dulhallan, a vampire and a snow-woman. He begins his research anew arranging interviews with the fantastical beings and with the help of a delightfully goofball math teacher, councils his students and watches as they cope with all those little awkward moments every high school kid goes through.

Well, in fairness, she could have been more clear.

This is a surprisingly well done story.  Cute girls doing cute things in high school has been done a lot but this show has really good characterizations and despite the centrality of the monster-girls quirks....


"I will never really get used to that."

...they come off as some of the most believably characterized kids in a long time. Cast-wise it treads perilously close to harem territory, so it's very welcome that at least one of the schoolgirls has (maybe) a tentative romantic interest amongst the student body. It's even more welcome that the aforementioned delightfully goofball math teacher is around. 

More welcome still in our decadent age is that this show actually stresses the virtuousness of men aspiring to arete' and thereby maintaining a stoic demeanor in stressful situations.... 



...and dealing with one's emotions in private so as not to bother others. 


"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Did I mention the delightfully goofball math teacher?

Interviews With Monstergirls is, despite its premise, surprisingly down to earth and well written. 

Now there are tentative indications as of episode 7 that there might be more to the story than a high school slice of life show.



That could be disastrous, or it could be awesome. At this point, even if they brought in giant robots that trapped everyone in a video game, I'd still watch it for a couple of episodes to see what they did because I'm that enamored of these characters. 

I'm just gonna recommend this one. 

UPDATE : 72 Minutes and 3 episodes later:

Well, what do you know.

 

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March 09, 2017

Flip Flappers: Belated Thoughts

Cute, whimsical, and thoughtful horror stories are kind of rare for some reason. 


Flip Flappers is an exception, though after finally finishing the entire series, I find it still quite difficult to describe. The set-up is easy enough, Cocona is an honor student in high school and her ultimate goal is to...umm....be an honor student...



Life however, involves more than just studying for the test, and Cocona is trying to come to grips with the fact that the answer to "What career part do you intend to take?" Is not found in a book, or in any academic articles. Suddenly a crazy redhead named Papikka shows up with a comic relief robot and drags Cocona into a magical dimension to help them find...power crystals.


"Will this be on the test?"

Sadly, they don't keep the bunny ears, but they DO get time limited super powers accompanied by magical legware. 


'dem stockings...

This is useful as well as stylistically fascinating because they do get into fights, with monsters as well as rivals.

Starting off as a (faux) magical girl show with an Alice in Wonderland vibe, it goes in a number of different directions to the point of seeming unfocused at times. However, there is a story here and the show is a surprisingly intelligent disquisition on the nature of identity, the blissful squalor of a utopia and the responsibility we all have for who and what we become. 

The story does go to dark places as the characters explore their backstories but the series, despite its breakneck pace and seemingly schizophrenic tone does come to a satisfying conclusion. In the process the series stays unpredictable and is never boring. 

It is also high octane nightmare fuel. This show is genuinely terrifying at times, and the story has more in common with Phillip K. Dick than Lewis Carrol. 


It also gets bunny anatomy...wrong.

This was, however, a surprisingly enjoyable and thoughtful series and I recommend all 5 hours. It really was one of the best shows last year.

 

"We Rock!"

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February 18, 2017

RWBY Season 4 Ends

Well, we're two weeks late in our appraisal, but then, out of 12 full episodes, we managed no more than four other reviews this season as life's interventions caused a substantial delay in watching the show this time around.


Thankfully, it was worth the wait.


"See guys, it says here that we ROCK!"

At mid-season, RWBY's five disparate plotlines began to converge, but not as expected. Instead of having the groups all come together, the various plotlines converged in their tone, with 5 different flavors of existential dread being presented. These, counterintuitively, coincide with the show largely regaining its optimism.


Monty would be proud. 

The next season looks to be the last and this finale tees it up perfectly. My only complaint at this point is that we've got 8 more months to wait for it. 

UPDATE: Rereading the post, I should have mentioned that the ending of this season is not so much a finale, or a cliffhanger as a pause point in the story.

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