Even More Anime22 Apr 2019
This time: even more anime. And actually, one or two live-action TV shows that have nothing to do with anime. And two animated movies.
Gurren Lagann The Movie: Childhood's End
Gurren Lagann is GREAT, however I see no reason to watch this movie instead of the show, who does a much better job of conveying the emotions and the characters.
This first movie covers episodes 1-14 of the show (out of 27, the 16th being a compilation episode). Maybe it's too much to squish in a 1 hour 50 movie.
Time is saved in two major ways. First by eliding everything that happens between Gurren Lagann's first fight and the fights against Lordgenome's generals. This is when most of the companions are met and introduced. In particular, I found it questionable to leave out the part about Rossiu's village, which is important background for an important character later down the line. It makes the character and by extension the story slightly less interesting.
Similarly, it's hard to relate to — or even get to enjoy — most characters when there are so many of them and they have so little screen time in the movie. Even regarding the main characters, the transition from key event to key event feels jarring. The stitching shows.
Second, the different general fights have been merged into one big fight. While it's quite well done, I kind of like the slower pacing of the show here. Simon's recovery was more subtle, and the next few fight see him really come into his own, culminating in his fight against Lordgenome... which is not shown in this movie. Like, WHAT? Why? Seeing as there is a multiple years time-leap after this fight, wouldn't it have been perfect to end on it. It is the culmination of the journey after all.
Seeing this, I didn't bother with the second movie.
So yeah. Watch the show instead.
My Hero Academia Season 3
As previously reviewed, this is as great as ever. The quality is consistent. The All Might fight in particular is fantastic. The season doesn't end on a very high beat moment, but the ride was great.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes
This is a movie that came out during the airing of season 3.
I really have nothing special to say here. It's Hero Academia, it's great. Of course it is.
Attack on Titans Season 3 (Part 1)
Haven't much to add. Season 3 diggs even deeper in the story and shed light on some of the mysteries in the series. I did perceive it to be less entertaining/gripping than the first two season, but it's high quality all the same.
I enjoyed that we get to know more and more about the titans, the universe, and how it came to be this way. Looks like we'll learn even more in the second part of the season, which starts airing at the end of the month.
Steins;Gate 0 explore an alternative timeline starting near the end of Steins;Gate. What if things didn't go down the way they did?
It's less good than the original in my estimation, but nonetheless great. I was very touched by how ragged Okabe becomes, how his decisions weigh on him.
My problem with the season is that there is comparatively less "plot" going on, with a lot being crammed towards the end, which feels less alive with emotion by virtue of being more dense. On the other hand, the emotions really have time to breathe at the start and that's where the series shines, but more could be happening.
That being said, if you liked the original, you'll probably like this one too.
Digi hates it, I disagree (scroll to see my comment).
If you don't remember what happened in the original Steins;Gate (it gets confusing), this video will explain everything you need to know.
Another Isekai. This time the protagonist comes back to life some time in the past when he dies.
The first episode is a two-parter, and the first part meanders a bit, but a few episodes in and it really gets kicking.
I ended up enjoying the show immensely. I liked being surprised by the directions things took - and was thankful that the relative strength of the power wasn't abused via loads of scheming and computations.
The show has a large and colorful cast, but unlike Overlord, the characters feel like they have a place in the plot, something to do, to say, and a more distinct personality. The villains are also particularly cool.
I also found the struggles of the protagonist touching, despite his motivations being somewhat surprising.
I wouldn't call this a masterpiece, but it's still japanimation at its best: weird, entertaining, yet relatable and occasionally touching.
Overlord Season 3
I was far from enthused by the start of the season. Againt we're in the less relevant arcs, this time with extra goblins. There is at least one episode that is a full-on awful conversation/exposition dump with not even so much useful info. Ugh. So I dropped it after 5 or 6 episodes.
But then my brother nagged me that I became awesome, and boy was he right. But not in the conventional way. I have two words for you: bad CG. Really really really bad CG. Copy pasted animations. Actual goat sounds.
Overlord sorts of jumps the shark, and its great entertainment. I certainly don't care about the plot in a first-degree manner anymore, however.
Speaking of plot, there is more than CG and just bad storytelling all-around to murder it. The final nail in its coffin is what I feel is a complete reversal of personality from the lead character Ainz Ooal Gown. In the past, he was "officially" evil but actually never does anything really bad, and often does go the extra mile to help people. But suddently, he's gleefully murdering everyone without so much as the hint of a reason for the change.
I'll watch the next season, and I hope the WTF will keep rolling in.
The Darling in the Franxx
What if Evangelion and Gurren Lagann had a love child? I think it would look a lot like this.
The basic pitch: in the future, kids are being raised to pilot mechas in male-female pairs, in order to defend against Klaxosaurs, a sort of mecha-aliens emerging from the center of the earth. The story follows squad 13, and Zero Two, an elite mecha pilot with a very special background, who develops a very special bond to Hiro, a member of the squad. One of the main theme of the show is puberty, in a society where it (along with sexuality) has disappeared. More here.
I thought it was great.
The show is not perfect however. It's not subtle for one, and all the character development is pretty much on the nose. Yet it works nicely. There is tremendous character development for one, accross the whole cast for two.
The cast is large but I liked how the show spent time on all its main characters. There is also some planning done so that character development doesn't happen in one episode but the seeds are planted earlier done. You do see it coming from far away, but it's solid.
I'm gonna veer into very very slightly spoilery territory now (no plot points are revealed, but the general tendency of the story to e.g. go well, go bad, etc is).
I liked how there was no "ping-ponging" in character development, something I was really expecting, especially regarding Zero Two. This kind of ping-pong is so overused it feels like a cliche, and it's difficult to employ it well. Even places where it is used interestingly, it's not always enjoyable: for instance in Evangelion, it's thoughtful (because depression), but it did diminish my enjoyment of the show.
My friend Gorby told me the show was great until the last three episodes that ruined it. And I had read the show "nuked the fridge" at some point. This actually made me more curious. Well, from my perspective, this didn't happen at all. Sure, the end broadens the stakes (in a way reminiscent of a certain other show...), but thematically, it stays consistent and I wasn't disappointed.
The Man in The High Castle Season 3
Ah, our first non anime-show review!
The Man in The High Castle isn't my all-time top-pick for a TV show. In fact, I'm a bit of two minds about it, but I will say that its strength are enough to carry it.
The premise is very strong: the story takes place in the 60s, but in a parralel universe where Germany and Japan won World War 2 and are now the only two global powers. They also split the United States (because who cares about the rest of the world, lol) in two, with the Japanese inheriting the west coast and the German everything east of the rockies. The rockies themselves are in a "neutral zone" which I assume exists for reasons of extreme plot convenience.
The Man in The High Castle is a weird show in that it is its antagonists that are actually the star of the show. With a few exceptions, I really couldn't really care less about the "good guys" (who come at odds with Japanese and Nazis, including a resistance movement), who are at times antipathic, and most of the time pathetic.
It's "villains" however, are fascinating. The first, trade minister Tagomi, isn't really a villain so much as a good guy in a government that has questionable ethical practices. But he does advocate for doing what we'd call "the right thing" whenever he has the chance.
The second, chief inspector Kido, is almost Tagomi's polar opposite. He's almost ruthless to a fault, yet the show still manages to give him a human figure. Joel de la Fuentes' peformance is incredible here, from his clippy delivery to the skin-deep tension he exudes.
The third baddie however, is the show's crowning jewel: SS chief John Smith, played by a Rufus Sewell at the top of his art (if you haven't seen Dark City — a sci-fi movie where he stars — I highly recommend it).
This is the mosts interesting character of the show, and also the most conflicted. A former American military man, he changes sides when it's clear the Germans cannot be stopped (they invented nuclear weapons first and wiped out Washington). While never really overjoyed with Nazi policy, he nevertheless goes up the ranks as a competent man who'll do whatever it takes to preserve order. However the show showcases a series of events (notably with regards to his son) that causes him to question the orthodoxy.
This could easily go trite, but it doesn't. John Smith doesn't have a sudden change of heart. He's lost, but continues to do what he knows. He's definitely a bad guy, but at the same time, he's human too.
So far, I'd say that each season has been better than the previous one. In particular, the last (third) season finally seems to embrace the aforementioned character as the interesting locus of the story. I'm eager to see what will happen next...
Goblin Slayer was a surprise. The show was being hyped as extremely edgy, and the first episode made a strong impression in that sense, featuring a jarring (by anime standards) rape scene.
But after, it calmed a whole lot — I'm not easily shocked and found it all mostly tame. Even in anime, Devilman Crybaby (which I haven't watched (yet?)) does seems to be much much more graphic. To be sure, this is still not a cute slice of life anime, but you've been to the movies before, haven't you? If splurging blood bothers you, then this is definitely not for you though.
Nevertheless, the surprise was that the story actually held up. The premise — a hero with a cold demeanor that focuses on slaying gobling because of a personal grudge — was looking more like an excuse for exposition than anything else.
There isn't a huge overarching narrative in this first season, but you get to learn about the characters in an interesting way. The small arcs are engaging, tension being built in the right place. The combat is dynamic, and you'll hopefully appreciate the imagination deployed in the task of slaying goblins.
In a certain sense, Gobling Slayer did everything right that the third season of Sword Art Online did wrong, but we'll talk about that later.
I watched the two seasons of Psycho-Pass. It came highly recommend, but the word I come from multiple people was that the first season was much better. I actually thought the second season held up pretty well, even if the first still has my preference. But more about that later.
The premise of Psycho-Pass is that in modern-day Japan, people have their psychological score (a "hue") and "crime coefficient" monitored. The hue determines potential in society (along with other psychological assessments), and the police simply prosecutes people whose crime coefficient crosses a certain threshold. The show follows a newly minted inspector — Akane Tsunemori — as she, you guessed it, comes to grapple with the ethics of this dystopian system.
The show is wonderful, and you simply have to watch it if you like both sci-fi and anime. The mood veers slightly Noir and reminded me of Cowboy Bebop a bit (however, less stylish, but — blessedly — without the slapstick comedy). The show also has some more philosophical undertones, with big questions being discussed by the protagonists and many books and philosophers being referenced throughout the series.
Regarding the second season, I felt the absence of one of the protagonists of the first season made quite a bit of difference to the overall mood, and a new protagonist tends to be too annoying for too long with very little in terms of closure offered. The villain is also less well-matched to our heros, which makes the dynamic slightly less interesting.
On the other hand, the story and the action holds up pretty well. It's still really good, but there's always a cost of following something really great.
Personally, I really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Akane as a character, and the second season certainly has something to contribute in that story, somewhat similarly to Okabe in Steins;Gate 0.
Briefly: Zombie Land Saga & Sakamoto Desu Ga
Here are two shows I watched briefly but dropped after 3 or 4 episodes each.
Zombie Land Saga is about a guy that resurrect a motley crew of zombie girl in order to make an idol group to revitalize the Japanese region of Saga. The idea ain't bad and there are some funny moments, but I personally found it less amusing than most (I think I'm maybe just not into anime comedy?). Some really bad immersion-breaking CG and some boilerplate bullshit anime drama convinced me to call it quits fairly early.
I liked Sakamoto Desu Ga (english: "Haven't you heard? I'm Sakamoto") much better. It's about Sakamoto, a dude that does everything "stylishly". As the recurring opening skit will tell you, he's cool, cooler, coolest (I'm sad I couldn't find the whole sequence, it's well worth a watch).
The gags are just so over the top, I think it really works. It didn't really hold my attention, but I'm probably going to go back and watch the remainder of the episodes at some point, when I need something to empty my brain.
As a teaser, here are two fun compilations of some fun sequences:
Net-juu no Susume (Recovery of an MMO Junkie)
This anime is about a girl NEET who leaves her work to dedicate herself to videogames. Romance happens.
I'm surprised at how little I have to say about Net-juu no Susume... I really enjoyed watching it. It's not a masterpiece but it was a very comfortable anime to me, and I don't have much criticism to offer.
Although... It was too short, probably. I would have liked seeing plotlines that involves the actual game more. And there were just a tad too much happenstances. Still recommended.
Sword Art Online Season 3 (Part 1)
Sword Art Online has a special spot in my heart as the anime that rekindled my interest in anime after I'd unfairly dismissed it in the past.
The anime, is not perfect, and I can forgive much.
That being said, this season is just plain and irremediably bad.
Very mild spoilers beyond this point!
I was on board with the premise: Kirito is once again in a virtual world he can't escape, except this time it's an accelerated simulation and the people he's interacting with are actually advanced AIs. The world has grown a magic system, where incantations are actually game system commands.
This is cool. But then the anime starts slowly. So slowly. Then it finally hits its strive somewhere towards the middle (the academy), where, if it doesn't manage to be amazing, it's still failry SAO-esque and showcases interesting drama.
The last part is dogshit. The protagonists fight boss after boss in a series of uninspired fights. It's like Saint Seya's golden knight arcs... except much much worse.
Consistency goes through the window. The ties/relevance to the system commands and other system introduced is dubious if not forgotten entirely. Powers (and power-ups) just happen as "fits" the story... which isn't even that good.
The animation is great... but damn, the timing of the scenes doesn't make sense! Characters, both heroes and villains, just say standing and talking when fighting would offer them an overwhelming tactical advantage. Just spouting inane nonsense besides.
Kirito actually spends a few (two?) years in the simulation... you'd think it would be great to showcase how he experiences this, misses his friends and Asuna? But no. Instead it's about how noble he is and wants to save all the AIs.
Anyway, by the end of the show (well, it's only part one of this season) I was thoroughly checked out. Even <*big emotional moment*> didn't affect me. I was just really curious about whether it was a bluff or not.
So yeah. Hopefully the second half is better, but I have doubts.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
This is an isekai in which the protoganist dies and gets reincarnated as a slime (later christened Rimuru) in a game-like universe. But don't worry — he's actually overpowered. He's about as OP as Ainz Ooal Gown in Overlord.
In fact, the comparison to Overlord is interesting. Both anime have a large cast of unique characters, an overpowered leader, and are — narratively — not very good.
They're different though. Overlord is sometimes quite interesting, sometimes so-bad-it's-good, and sometimes plain boring. Slime is much more consistent. It is never boring per se, but it is never great either. It feels like as though what should have been 3 or 4 episodes of setup was copied over 5 times with different antagonists and called a season. The show mismanages its tension by having only traces amount of it.
I'm a story guy, and so I can only be critical of this.
On the other hand, it's not bad. It certainly less bad than the last season of Sword Art Online. It's pretty. The characters are well designed and good-natured. You can almost (almost) see it as a slice-of-life in a fantasy world, where "life" is fighting the threat du jour (then making an ally out of it).
Another thing I got out of this one (and, it must be said, many of the anime on this list) was dicussing it with good friends who were watching it as well.
I'll watch season 2 with curiosity, to see whether the show is set in its way or if it can evolve into something more interesting. We sure have had enough setup by now.
The Promised Neverland
(This will spoil the premise, which is episode one!)
An interesting show about a bunch of kids in an orphanage, which realize that they're being raised to feed some sort of demons living on the outside. The show follow them planning their escape attempt.
It's a "battle of minds" show (think Death Note or Code Geass) but less ludicrous than these two (at least, so far) and with also much less action (no fancy mechas here).
The anime also features a number of twists. Those are well done in the sense that they don't invalidate your prior expectations. You do sense something is off and there will be something unexpected, you just don't know what yet.
It was well worth watching, but I wonder about rewatchability. I think on the second way around the show must necessarily be somewhat boring, as the plot is known and the show doesn't really deliver strong emotion, action or beautiful animation to compensate. In fact, I'd read the frist volume of the manga before and as such, the first few episodes were somewhat boring to watch.