2012
02.20

That goes where?!

Kodaka and Yozora find Sena still obsessed with visual novels, with her addiction devolving to eroges. FUNImation has also taken its time to subtitle it, so the hearing-impaired are allowed to read about a girl coming inside her womb. Yeah, that’ll satisfy everyone not named Jack Shaftoe.

They get into another bitch fight over about the sense in playing an H-game at a Catholic School instead of trying to accomplish their mission from two episodes. Yozora proceeds to use several synonyms for “cum bucket” to describe her blonde counterpart. Really, other than the hair color, there hasn’t been much to differentiate the two. I guess one is bitchier than the other, but that’s not saying much.

Sena tries to make an argument over how eroge has far more intellectual and artistic value than books such as The Brothers Karamazov, which as a Dostoevsky fan, makes me want to claw through the screen in a half-hearted attempt to strangle her. Yozora dares her to read out the game’s lines to show if 2-d porn really is considered intelligent literature. They decide to have a dramatic reading contest, with Sena having to read through horrible dialogue which compares a sword to a black guy’s dick. No, really.

Naturally, she runs and cries like a newborn seconds away from tasting a soldier’s rifle. Yozora decides to show what she considers art in the form of bad poetry interspersed with more footage of Sena being a twat. Admittedly, there’s some entertainment in watching at least one of these characters suffer.

Later, Kodaka returns home to find his weeaboo sister, Kobato. Seconds in, and she already makes Yozora and Sena combined more likable than Omar Little. Seriously, she spends the episode in a maid suit, watches nothing but cheap knock-off anime like Full Metal Necromancer, does the “Kira” pose, and refers to juice as “lifeblood”. It’s like every bad fangirl stereotype combined into a hodgepodge of loathing.

Behind them, there’s news footage of a monkey riding a warthog. Why can’t I watch that instead of this shit?

Kodaka has to explain his life through exposition because the viewer’s too dumb to understand it themselves. It’s just crap about how his dad has to work in America, leaving his son to take care of that thing. You’d think the whole dead mom aspect would probably put a dent to his employment plans, or at least get a caretaker or something, but no! His son has to fend for his own fucking self!

At the club, Kodaka reasonably wonders what point there is in the club. Of course, Sena interrupts him because she needs to learn how to swim. She needs to understand in order to impress her VN girlfriends. On a normal viewing, this would be the point where I’d just quit and never return like a space cowboy. But it’s for the trial, so the show must go on. Argh.

There’s also an eyecatch of Kobato’s back, as bare as Hel’s exoskeleton. Yeah, here’s one more thing to make me feel uncomfortable about this dreck.

Kodaka and Sena take a bus trip to the pool. In other words, it’s an excuse to show some fanservice and wish-fulfillment at the behest of the people who actually like this show. We get a montage of it all, most of which I doubt is actual swimming training.

They have lunch and talk about how the pool might be going out-of-business, oddly leading to a Takahashi moment between the two. They also argue about Yozora’s name calling while we get shots of Sena’s cleavage. Classy.

Kodaka goes to the bathroom and gets a flashback that has no connection the plot whatsoever, before finding Sena arguing with a bunch of guys. And as always, the only way she can get through this predicament is thinking with her pussy and pretend that Kodaka’s her slave. Sena congratulates him with the promise of being allowed to lick her feet, causing Kodaka to teach her a lesson in misogynist submission. Because how dare a woman speak without being spoken to?

The two part ways as Kodaka gets more flashbacks of being beaten up by racists, until naked Kobato appears and cries over how the bath is cold. Unlike other older brothers in anime, he… just doesn’t seem to react at all. Well, I’ll give this show a point for avoiding the incest angle, for now at least, even if apathy really isn’t a step up. And Christ, what does it say when “not having incest” is considered a plus for an anime?

Kodaka gets another flashback where a girl who looks like Ash Ketchum tries to defend him against bullies, only to get into battle royale without the guns, and then friendship occurs. Because, you know, a bloody nose assures that you’re no longer alone in the world. Not-Ash then has a Patrick Stewart speech about how it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a hundred friends, as long as you value them as if you had that amount. They laugh, and Kodaka finds himself teleported to the club.

Then it turns out, Yozora was that girl! But she’s turned into a bitch, and this is an anime, so she can’t reveal her true feelings until the last episode. Kodaka, not even knowing what gender Not-Ash was, offers more exposition about what happened to that sod of a kid, devolving into friendship fluff that makes the fucking ponies look subtle.

2012
02.13

Kodaka walks in to find Sena waiting on the table like a stalker in heat. She then talks about how calling her by her last name would conflict with classist issues or some shit. But then, Yozora pops in and starts the club by suggesting that the y find friends by playing video games. Yeah, gaming is obviously the prevailing key to an active social life.

Yozora pulls out a non-copyright-infringed PSP and uses the almighty might of the MMORPG to show how friends can be made. So you want neckbeards as friends? Fine by me.

Sena and Yozora have another feud over who can play games the best, and it turns out that the former chugs in more gaming hours than she does with high school dicks. Sena defends herself by claiming that even RPGs should be made with a true effort. Yeah, maybe that’s why you don’t have friends, dear.

They start up with outfits worse than most Ohayocon cosplayers, and hunt in the great forest killing non-Venomoths and not-Chocobos. Then, Sena kills Yozora because she’s a cunt. It goes the other way around for the same supercilious reasons. They soon discover a dragon, and sacrifice Sena in order to bomb it. You’d think the game would have turned off friendly fire or something, but no.

The two girls finally decide to shut up and duel while Kodaka goes out playing Minecraft instead. After quitting the games and not realizing that they should stop being bitches to each other, Yozora and Sena stop for the day while Kodaka laments having a pink PSP.

Instead of PSPs, Sena decides to bring over a non-copyright-infringed PS3 instead to spread the fun and generic cunt-wiggling. They decide to play a dating sim, making Kodaka and the viewers why before Sena gives another bitch-tainted reason for it. Titled “Sparkling School Life 7”, they start arguing over using the name of the fucking character. You know, I’d actually like the rivalry between Sena and Yozora if there was an actual grounded reason for it other than extremely petty squabbling. But no, they can’t be helped.

After that, they start making random assumptions about how visual novel girls are all bitches, not understanding their own message of trying to make friends when they can’t even properly communicate to video game characters.

Watching this bit, I can tell how narrow this show’s demographic is. You know this was written for otaku, with absolutely no one else even understanding what the hell’s going on.

Of course, Sena suddenly becomes a lesbian and shakes her rump like a baby needing a shit change. After that, her mindset soon devolves into literally seeing the VN as real. Requiring an enclosed instruction manual to comprehend basic human interactions, Sena has to try her hardest in order to get VN girl to like her. But as always, it ends in failure and baby tears.

The day after, Sena gives Kodaka the VN while getting more warm feelings over virtual 2-d women. I suppose this is intended to be funny. However, it just makes the characters seem more deranged than hilarious.

Oh, and someone’s stalking them. Don’t know who. Don’t care why.

This entire episode makes me wonder, in an industry that is desperately struggling to find new buyers, why would FUNImation license such a niche show? Is it just because it’s another mindless fanservice romp, because you know what happened the last time the anime market overstuffed itself with the lot. Is this the medium’s future? To collapse and gorge itself on the same shit in an endless cycle? And don’t tell me that this is the best they could license. You could acquire shows like AnoHana, Wandering Son, and Bunny Drop, marketing them to wider audiences as alternative dramas. You could dub and release shows like Steins;Gate (which while licensed by FUNI, hasn’t even been released through streams) as a gateway for sci-fi fans. You even could’ve gotten Blue Exorcist in order to tempt shonen fanboys. But no, FUNI, you chose this show to stream to the mass public. And if the market shares go down in the next quarter, don’t blame the fans for losing interest. Blame yourself for releasing inferior product.

2012
02.09

The beginning of the end

So here we reach the end of our journey.

 

I apologize for the length of time between this installment and the last but you see, if you have never seen this program you wouldn’t understand. As you can see I am no longer Desensitized, but merely the Spark Of Spirit- you may call me Spark, Sparky, SOS, or ‘kind Spirit’ (Yes, Dickens-esque!) for short). I am no longer the person you once knew. I have since cleansed my soul of this vile concoction of rubbery animation and evil writing and am here to tell you that not only am I still alive, but a stronger human being for it. As any person who sat through the Adult Party Cartoon will tell you, there is no way to sit through it without telling yourself lies about it in order to fight away those malicious tendencies to end it all.

“Well, the animation makes it watchable, at least!”
“It’s edgy and shocking and that’s all we need.”
“John K without his gloves on shows the real mind of an adult making cartoons and we could all learn from it.”
“This is what cartoons were meant to be.”
“It’s not that bad.”

Okay, those are all embellishments of things people have said in regards to this pile of fecal matter in animated form, but you have to understand that people simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing when watching this show.

 

Ugh

 

Adult Party Cartoon outright killed Ren & Stimpy, no one will deny that. While the Games episodes were mostly forgettable and tedious with some bright spots, nothing was outright offensive to good entertainment (it did get close, but at worst it was forgettable) or the entire medium of animation. Adult Party Cartoon tries very hard to offend you, but in the way a small child will try to get a rise out of an adult by hiding their keys or saying a swear, or a teenager will talk back to their elders in an attempt for recognition of being an adult. In other words, it tries to be something it isn’t to appeal to those who had no problem with the way it was.

Would you see episodes in the old series (either era) where Ren sat around torturing helpless creatures with no punchline for twenty minutes? Or how about gay jokes, those are adult, right? Who needs subtlety,writing, and timing when characters can sit around spitting on each other for a whole episode? That’s right, Adult Party Cartoon is the equivalent of the “deep” kid who sat in the back of your middle school math class and whined all the time in order to fool his peers into thinking he was deeper than them when ironically his bids for credibility make him shallower than those he thinks he’s above. Yes, APC is that kid.

This entry will be short because it is not meant as a review so much as a warning. Do not seek this show out, do not attempt to look it up, and do not attempt to understand it or sympathize with shattered fans or disillusioned staff members of said show. You will not gain anything from watching it. You will not find any entertainment from watching it. You will not want to continue living after watching it. It is best left as what it is, a complete forgotten and hazy memory in the animated world that will never be remembered for anything other than driving the final nail in the coffin of a franchise that was once brimming with potential.

And that was the end of Ren & Stimpy. The series is now dead and vanquished to the nostalgia of those with precious memories of their youth in the 1990s and pop culture obscurity. A sad end for such a breath of fresh air of a cartoon.

 

So what did we learn from our trial? Well, we learned that some sleeping dogs are best left sleeping. Ren & Stimpy was a good idea that was milked hard and warped into things it was never originally meant to be in order to keep it from fading away from the public eye. But ironically, if the show had ended when John K was fired, it would probably be missed more than it is now. As a result, a franchise is dead, a creator is bitter, and fans all over the world are left confused and disheartened. If we learn anything else coming from this trial; it is that without the soul behind the words, there is no meaning. When the show lost its soul, it lost its meaning as well. And if this show can stand as a reminder of how not to lose yourself in your own world and ego to others out there, than at least it has that purpose to serve if nothing else.

 

Thanks for sitting through this with me.

2012
02.06

Shame on you...

We open onto a school full of people walking, guys playing, and girls stalking each other. The obligatory underage girl with bare feet makes her rounds, while girls gawk at our main protagonist for a reason that only gets more stupid as the show goes on. See, this boy has the stigma of being an abominable half-breed nihonjin with blonde hair. And because Japanese people are either horribly racist or fearful of an oncoming Super Saiyan attack, they quickly run away from such a biologically inaccurate sight.

After the opening full of tea and boobs is done, our main character enters a room with a normal black-haired girl who he recognizes as Yozora Mikazuki. However, her cheerful demeanor contrasts with how she seems like such a wallflower in class. That can only mean one thing: She has imaginary friends! No, really. She has a dark passenger and all that. After blondie pops in, Yozora becomes emo again and pretends that it was actually her “air friend” whom she was speaking to. She compares it to an air guitar, like how a boot to the face is equivalent to wearing a hat.

Ever since she was in middle school, Yozora’s always had an imaginary friend named Tomo to guide her along. Blondie wonders why she can’t just make a real friend, to which she scoffs at because anime girls have to be bitches. Our main protagonist introduces himself as Kodaka, who keeps wondering why Yozora hasn’t sent her friend out to Madame Foster’s already. Of course, it’s because Tomo’s beautiful, gentle, smart, never backstabbing, as well as a potential safety hazard.

They both relate to how neither of them knows how to make friends, even though such an interaction means that they could already be companions or something. Yozora suggest paying people, like hookers who don’t have sex with you. Kodaka wonder why she can’t just, you know, ask people to be her friends without treating them like hoes, but she doesn’t know how. After all, why bother when you can ask your imaginary friend how to start a school shooting?

After five minutes of pointless introspection, they decide to form a club for people who need friends, a friend club, for friends with friendship and all that friendly shit foaming through your friendly-ass mouth.

When we’re done watching eyecatches of jailbait showing their bare thighs, Kodaka explains in flashback that the blonde hair is due to his dead, white mom, because black hair is clearly a recessive gene, after all. A bad first day leads to everyone wondering if they’re facing the next Tsutomu Miyazaki. Thus, his life is doomed to be an abyss of asocial activity.

Now at his house, he makes dinner for him and his sister because of dead mom and all that. There’s not even a dad for some reason. What’s wrong with anime and having both parents around and alive? Do all the anime writers come from broken homes or something? I mean, even Disney learned to buck off with the trend a couple of times.

Then at school, he follows Yozora to their new friendship club, where they meet in front of a Virgin Mary. Because praise Gee Zuzz! Then they meet at a more formal room, requiring the help of someone named Sister Maria. Yozora hands blondie badly-drawn posters that have the message in the form of a word search puzzle because why the fuck not? You know, you’re not gonna make friends through shoving secret message in your goddamn posters, Yozora. If anything, you’re gonna draw the kids who like pointy things.

Oh, and Yozora feels that only friends call each other by nicknames. It’s either that or death. Or cake. Or both.

One day in, and they already get a visitor in the form of a blonde girl that Yozora locks out like the fucking bitch she is. Yozora reverts to being a racist with imaginary friends, and yells at the other blonde girl because of unseen rivalries that can only be explained through the shitty logic of anime. She freaks out over how big her tits are, and how high her grades are, and how much boys want to lick her clit, and et cetera.

Meanwhile, blonde girl, henceforth named Sena, climbs through the window in demand of friends. Yozora and Sena soon have a titty contest because that’s totally what girls talk about when they want to be friends with each other. Sena explains that despite the popularity and the tits, having utterly no personality makes her worthless as a friend.

Cue another titty contest with unfortunate undertones, leaving Kodaka to get out and gaze throughout the stained windows, lamenting upon his lack of friends and how he’s stuck in this show.

And I thought American romcoms were shitty enough. Two of the three characters we get introduced to are awful excuses of human beings, and not awful in an outlandishly funny way like Eddie and Patsy. They’re just unpleasant to hear and be around, with their characters more suited to roam through the halls following Harmony Kendall than carrying their own series. And Kodaka. Oh, Kodaka. All we know about the guy is what others think about him instead of his own personality. We’re expected to sympathize for what happens to him rather than what he does, which makes for a protagonist with less depth than my drunk uncle’s piss stains.

2012
02.06

This was going to be longer and have more shows, but we kinda’ ran out of time to work on it. Please enjoy what we managed to finish!

———-

The New Prince of Tennis


Oh hey, yaoibait’s back. Where all but two of the middle-schoolers are in their early twenties, tennis is treated like a DBZ battle, and sucks to your assmar for thinking that girls play sports. Instead, it’s only girly men who can play such stagnant sports. Because far be it for a shonen to actually appeal to viewers with a penis.

The animation’s bad even by anime standards. It uses so many still images of the characters looking right at the screen, it almost feels like it’s begging the fangirls to screencap this shit and masturbate to it. There are more Whitefin dolphins than there are frames of this episode. You’d think a tennis show, where the characters should be required to at least move their arms, would learn to get decent animation, but no.

Before you think there’s a good story behind this slideshow, fat chance. The premiere spends a quarter of airtime directly describing the characters and their personalities to the audience instead of slowly showing it to us throughout the episode. After all, long-running shonen series have absolutely little time to be subtle, right?

And aside from a decent joke about how commonplace glasses are now, the dialogue and characterization are shit. More time spent on generic trash talking and random glaring than actual plot development. At least a dozen rival team players get introduced, and we know nothing about them other than how they like to scowl. They always look at each other as if someone pissed on their dad’s corpse. There are like a few exceptions, but they aren’t any better. If anything, they’re more anything than the generic frowners.

And the engrish. Sweet Christ, the engrish. At least with shows like Black Lagoon, they did it because it was funny. Here, it sounds like they genuinely think that badly pronouncing words is somehow cool.

Rating: 1/10 – Dr. Insomniac

Bodacious Space Pirates


Gordon Bennett, I was expecting a fanservice romp with very little actual piracy. Instead, I received something that made me realized how long it’s been since a show had a really good start. From the premise, the pictures, and the bloody title, the show initially promised to be shit. But you look deeper, and the first episode made me remember why I got into anime in the first place. It delivers an exotic world with characters not too different from us roaming about. And while it carries some unfortunate clichés that other shows have, it’s at least savvy enough to subtly mock them.

The series shares a director with Martian Successor Nadesico, and it shows. The tone is very tongue in cheek, while not letting it sully the story. It allows the plot to slowly unfold while letting the characters establish themselves within their first few minutes. And the direction allows for some smooth animation despite rather obvious usage of CG. The mix of comedy, action, sci-fi, and what appears to be a looming conspiracy ensures that this show will prove to be a fine genre buster just like its predecessors.

Rating: 9/10 – Dr. Insomniac

Nisemonogatari


Imagine if a Taiwanese immigrant who knew not a single word of English watched The West Wing. That is how I feel when watching Nisemonogatari.

So what a surprise, I didn’t like it. Your precious Shaft show of the season is only endless talking heads with a silver of plot development. The dialogue doesn’t carry the plot or the characters. It’s just used to spew out exposition that the viewer already knows, as the cast just stand around doing nothing aside from the odd gag or headstand.

Granted, most of my apathy towards the show comes from being awful at understanding Japanese, and certainly unable to recognize any of the word play Nisio Isin has written. Through the translation of a fansub that is usually handled by amateurs who have to pop it out in a day instead of professionals who take their time adapting the script, very little of it works as the conversion can’t handle being changed like a normal fansub would. Instead, it just sounds like repetition and endless explanations written to slow down what would’ve been five minutes on a normal show to an entire episode.

Not to mention the underage panty shots.

That said, what seeps through works well. Shinbo’s direction is unique as always. Everybody except Hachikuji is tolerable. And the music’s pretty good.

Rating: 5/10 – Dr. Insomniac

Kill Me Baby


The summary for this show makes it sound as if it’ll play out like the comedy episodes of Full Metal Panic!, only this time with an all-female cast. Sadly, the brilliant sense of humor and characterization of FMP are nowhere to be found in Kill Me Baby. Sonya is a high school student and an assassin by trade, but it doesn’t really seem like she’s very good at her job. This episode makes her look like an incompetent fool (all for the sake of comedy, of course), while Oribe Yasuna, her best friend, does absolutely nothing of consequence and behaves as you’d expect an average slice of life character would.

Indeed, one look at the art style will clue you in that this series is more interested in the moe antics of some high school girls than clever jokes about an assassin trying to blend into modern-day society. And there’s nothing wrong with that, all things considered. The problem I have with this series isn’t that it’s painful to watch or offensively bad or anything. It’s just boring. There are quite a few humorous gags in the first episode, but Kill Me Baby insists on explaining literally every single joke immediately after its delivery, thus making it almost impossible to laugh or even chuckle when something funny does happen. Also bringing down the quality of the show is perpetually-stoned “ninja” Goshiki Agiri, a character who falls flat at every instance in which she appears.

The animation is, simply put, not good. This is a JC Staff production, after all; and while their work is generally more consistent than stuff by other bad anime studios like Deen and Gonzo, the character movements never once approach anything even resembling fluidity.

The voice acting is pretty decent — what you’d expect from a series such as this, really. On the other hand, the OP is horrifying; it’s like a Japanese woman tried to perform a Mr. Bungle tribute song and failed miserably. The ED and BGM fare far better, however.

I didn’t want to die while watching Kill Me Baby, but I did think about turning it off a couple of times. 4/10

– Foggle

Recorder to Randoseru


Apparently merely writing “it’s bad” isn’t good enough for the Clusterfuck. But really, there’s not much else to say about Recorder to Randoseru, since the episode is three minutes long, with 30 seconds of that being the ED. The above image is the only thing that happens in the entire episode; a nice, but stupid… elementary school student? What the fuck? That guy’s in fifth grade? You’ve gotta’ be shitting me!

Ahem. A nice, but stupid, elementary school (wtf) student named Atsushi is mistaken for a child molester when he attempts to loan his jacket to a small girl. Aside from the opening joke — one that’s present in nearly every single Spongebob episode — nothing else happens in this installment. Yeah, not much to talk about.

The animation’s okay (except for the weird way some chick’s breasts flop around during the ED), but the art itself is fairly terrifying. The voice acting and music are okay, too. The writing is bad, though, and that’s probably the only draw of a series like this.

Like I said, it’s bad. 2/10

– Foggle

Senki Zesshou Symphogear

Symphomaniac

I guess some people really like attending class.

Wow. Symphogear is quite possibly the most insipid thing I’ve seen in months. Objectively, the usage of color and the high quality animation during action sequences are mind-blowing, but these elements are the only things this shit stain has going for it.

The story is as stupid as they come. Apparently this show is what happens when you mix gratuitous (mediocre, sometimes bad) singing with unnecessary science-fiction elements in a mahou shoujo anime. Whenever the magical girls comprising the music duo Zwei Wing fight the bad guys (named Noise by someone who must have erroneously thought he was being clever), they sing songs to channel their powers… or something. It’s not really explained, but it is painful to watch. Most of the songs can be easily filtered out as background noise, but one in particular is absolutely grating to listen to.

The characters can only be described as “empty shells.” The major players all have different personalities, sure, but they don’t have any qualities that make them feel real, an element that even the worst writers can often instill into their creations. It’s also worth noting that the only (slightly) likable character, Kanade, dies within the first fourteen minutes of the episode. Brilliant. The out of place and somewhat bizarre homoerotic overtones don’t help matters, either.

I don’t know if I can properly describe my distaste for Symphogear through text. It’s utterly horrible, and so painful to watch that more of your brain cells will die every minute you persist at sticking with it. The story sucks, the characters suck, and the music is both terrible and completely unfitting.

If you don’t watch one anime this season, make it Symphogear. 1/10

– Foggle

Highschool DxD


Story: Boobs and panty shots overlaid on top of some bullshit plot about high school demons fighting fallen angels.
Characters: Perverted losers and girls with oversized, often-exposed breasts wearing skirts short enough to show off their underwear.
Art: Nipples hard enough to be seen through a sweater.
Animation: Humongous floppy boobs and skirts flipping up in the wind.

Just watch some fucking porn or something. 0/10

– Foggle

Daily Lives of High School Boys


Tadakuni rushes from his house with a piece of bread sticking out of his mouth. “I’m going to be late!” he announces as I groan. Suddenly, his friends show up behind him; both are running to school alongside him, but one is eating curry and the other has a bowl of noodles. Then Gundams descend from the sky to attack the city and the guys explode as I laugh heartily. Thus begins the daily life of three high school boys.

This series is all about cute boys doing kind-of-but-not-really-cute things. It’s like Cromartie High School but a bit less witty (and not as weird). It follows the same pattern as other slice of life anime comedies, but unlike the vast majority of them, this one is actually really funny. Not every joke is original, but most of them hit the right notes, and few fall into the trap many anime series do of explaining the punchline after delivery. Timing is also expertly handled here, especially in the episode’s last sketch. The characters aren’t really distinct (yet), but they’re all likable and play off of each other very well.

The animation is merely good enough for a show like this (not great), but the voice acting is seriously hilarious. Every character sounds ridiculous and will probably bring a smile to your face. The music is great and the ED is perfect in the context of the episode. I didn’t expect to like this show, but I ended up greatly enjoying it.

This one is worth following if you have a sense of humor. 8/10

– Foggle

Originally posted on January 21, 2012

2012
02.06

As far as I’m concerned, Archer is by far the wittiest and most legitimately clever animated comedy currently airing. Forget the rampant stupidity of today’s family friendly cartoons and the over-reliance on shock value of modern “adult” animation… Archer‘s dialogue is quite raunchy, yes, and the (very) occasional violence is fairly bloody, but it also sports two things shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force (recently renamed for those keeping track) and post-revival Family Guy sorely lack: intelligence and actual cohesion. Sure, there’s not much realistic about Archer, but unlike in so many other series of its ilk, the viewer will never encounter anything that wouldn’t make sense within the established universe.

For those who’ve never seen an episode, Archer is essentially a more adult and up-to-date version of Get Smart (the series, not the godawful film), about Sterling Archer, self-appointed world’s greatest secret agent. He’s a total asshole, but it’s hard to dislike him just because of how legitimately funny he is. Archer works for an agency named ISIS — which happens to be run by his mother — alongside a couple of less douchey (and equally hilarious) agents and some fairly strange/often disturbing pencil-pushers (plus one scientist). I can’t really do the series justice with a basic description like this. Just watch the first episode online or something.

The writing and performances in Archer are top-notch, and both elements have been improved two-fold for the second season. Adam Reed’s scripts are consistently bust-a-gust hilarious, while H. Jon Benjamin’s rapid-fire delivery never gets old. I’m singling out Benjamin here because it’s his performance as the title character that really makes the show work, but it’s worth mentioning that every single voice actor really owns their role here. Aisha Tyler especially is also brilliant as Lana Kane, a character who ends up being nearly as quotable as Archer himself. And quote these characters you will; the recurring gags will no doubt get stuck in your head and make you laugh every time you think about them.

Another great thing about Archer (and its key draw) is its excellent and wonderfully broad sense of humor. Even the easily offended will likely find something to laugh at in every episode, as the jokes run the gamut from stupidly obvious to so goddamn clever that they actually require a bit of thought from the viewer. There’s also tons of replay value here; each episode tosses so many jokes at you that it’s quite possible to miss something hilarious from laughing too hard at a previous bit.

But perhaps my favorite thing about this series is a certain component that often ends up being a weak link in TV comedies… ISIS’ employees — in spite of their dysfunctions — are all shockingly competent and good at their jobs instead of being bumbling morons. Comedy never devolves into “look at how stupid this guy is” pissing contests or bad slapstick, a refreshing change of pace from all the anime I’ve been watching recently. Certain episodes are among the finest television comedy installments I’ve ever seen; Stage Two, Placebo Effect, and White Nights in particular.

The art is pretty good, but the animation is only slightly above that of your average [adult swim] cartoon. It moves well enough, all things considered, but the budget (or lack thereof) is definitely obvious. That’s not such a bad thing for a series like this, though. The video quality on the DVD could be a bit sharper, but I highly doubt that the Blu-Ray format really makes much of a difference.

The second disc contains few special features, but they’re all pretty good, and certainly better than the meager offerings of Season 1′s release. It includes four special shorts, which end up totaling about 15 minutes in length. They’re all reasonably humorous, but not really worth buying the DVD for. There’s also a 13-minute recording of most of the cast (and Adam Reed) being interviewed at a Comic-Con panel, which is interesting but not essential. A bit disappointing overall, but Archer fans (and fans of comedy in general) will want to pick up this release anyway.

TL;DR
Story/Writing (9.5/10): The dialogue is absolutely brilliant and each plot is sensible (in-universe) and serviceable.
Characters (9/10): The dynamic is flawless. Development is kind of lacking, but that’s not really important in a series like this.
Art/Animation (8/10): It looks good but could definitely move more fluidly.
Voice Acting (10/10): It doesn’t get better than this.
Bonus Features (5/10): What’s here is good, but the lack of commentary and/or deleted scenes stings.

Actual Content: 9.5/10
Overall: 9/10

Archer is by far the most hilarious and consistent cartoon currently airing, if not one of the best of all time. Season 2 is even better than the first, and longtime fans and newcomers alike will want to pick up this DVD (or Blu-Ray) for its healthy ratio of belly laughs to dollars paid alone. Just don’t expect anything substantial as far as extra content goes.

Originally posted on December 31, 2011

2012
02.06

Gorilla Grodd

Leave it to the most comedic member of the Justice League to spark one of the most significant elements in the show, one that involves talking gorillas of all things.

The first act just seems like pandering to Wally West fans, showing how spectacular he can be by chasing a truck while saving civilians along the way. Then as the episode progresses, the Flash is portrayed in a more negative light as cops yell at him while even his companions hit him for his usual low wit. And as the episode crescendos toward the end, where all of Central City is now trying to kill Flash, you see how far the downward spiral has gone. Everything that makes Flash what he is has been turned against him, as something that he’d normally laugh off has become a threat to his life.

The dream sequence after Flash gets shot becomes resonating after viewing the show throughout its run, by portraying him exploding under the pressures of the brain while showing how he’s a puppet who needs its strings cut in order to be free. It might seem like nonsense initially, but it shows how the writers have been able to use cryptic references to their full extent in the future. Then you realize that it’s Flash’s thoughts that are going on. He sees himself as a puppet that needs his strings cut. His own mind foretells the idea that Flash is part of a grander plan in the series, one that needs to be stopped before things get out of hand. While unintentionally, this greatly foreshadows to a future character’s words that everything’s connected, and how he is wrong.

Effective ludicrousness begets effective ludicrousness with how Grodd stands in the show. He manages to take over a city while the rest of the previous villains, aside from the White Martians, were trumped just as they were starting. And all this despite his appearance: An oversized gorilla with a blinking yellow helmet. It should be silly. It should be laugh inducing. But yet, it isn’t. A powerful performance by Power “Cy” Boothe certainly helps.

What probably seemed like a silly idea on paper ends up becoming one of the better moments of the season. Brave & The Bold’s ability to use what would be considered over-the-top in a serious manner benefits it and the show as a whole in terms of what it can do with established comics characters that are weird even for the DCAU’s standards.

And it didn’t even have a man of steel to play meat shield.

Originally posted on December 29, 2011

2012
02.06

One look at Gen Urobuchi’s Wikipedia page is proof enough that he’s a brilliant writer and a gifted storyteller. With an exceptional body of work featuring relatively famous and often praised titles such as Saya no Uta, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, it’s hard to imagine why this guy hasn’t become a household name amongst anime fans. While Fate/Zero itself isn’t exactly new, the anime adaptation happens to be his latest endeavor… but is it as good as his previous writings or Kinoko Nasu’s original Fate/Stay Night?

Fate/Zero is very different from F/SN. It has more action, less exposition, many likable characters, and no cooking scenes or pornographic sex; all things which Stay Night would have greatly benefited from. While the concept is the same (as are some of the characters), the style and progression are anything but. Simply put, this is Urobuchi’s Fate, not Type-Moon’s.

And that’s a very, very good thing. EDIT: I have discovered recently that the fan translation of the original visual novel is considered bad and stilted by people who can actually read Japanese. My complaints about Nasu’s prose have been rendered void in light of this, and I’ve grown a newfound respect for his writing upon checking out his other work.

It's a bit violent.

Fate/Zero tells the story of the Holy Grail War that took place ten years prior to the one in Fate/Stay Night. As the first (double-length!) episode explains, the Holy Grail War is a battle between seven magi who summon beings known as Servants. Each Servant represents a “Heroic Spirit” from mythology or actual history, and the magi use them as tools with which to kill each other and attain the Holy Grail: a mysterious entity that promises to grant the victor a miracle. The first episode — which many have referred to as “boring,” but I, personally, loved — establishes the fairly large cast of characters, and right off the bat things differ from Fate/Stay Night; almost all of them are adults.

Many characters are standouts and all of them are distinctive. Returning fighters include the cruel and cunning Kotomine Kirei (perhaps the best character in F/SN), the honorable and stoic Saber (who wears a badass business suit this time around), and the pompous and cocky “golden” Archer (I’m purposefully being vague here to avoid spoilers), all of whom play a key role in the events of this series. These three (and a few other returning characters) are joined by many new and memorable faces, such as the scene-stealing Rider and the disturbingly insane Ryuunosuke Uryuu. The cast is vibrant and lively, ensuring that there’s never a dull moment in this anime.

One of my favorite scenes of the year.

Special mention must be given to Emiya Kiritsugu, Shirou’s adoptive father (present in Stay Night only through flashbacks) and the closest thing Zero has to a traditional protagonist. This man is fucking excellent and practically the physical embodiment of everything Fate/Stay Night isn’t. A gun-toting, smart-dressing mercenary who isn’t afraid of committing acts that most would consider terrorism and only uses magic when it serves to make his action scenes look cooler, Kiritsugu suavely watches (and murders) from the sidelines because that’s just how he rolls. The best part is that his intentions are actually quite pure in spite of the contradictory nature of his actions. Brilliant.

Another highlight of the series is the interaction between Rider and practically anyone he comes into contact with. He’s definitely the coolest, most likable Servant in the entire franchise and an all-around chill guy who really knows how to brighten the mood. His antics are legitimately humorous — unlike the pathetic “comedy” of F/SN — and will probably bring a huge smile to your face.

Not much can be said about the plot at this point; this is clearly the first half of a complete story [season 2 airs in April], and one that ends on a positively maddening cliffhanger. However, Fate/Zero is remarkably good at establishing a certain tone and keeping with it. The series is dark throughout and most episodes are fairly violent, but admirably never feels like it’s trying too hard to be cool or “edgy.” Near-constant action keeps things exciting and causes the 24-minute runtime to appear closer to 12, while the always evolving character dynamics make for at least one “OH SHIT!” moment per episode. While occasionally predictable, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time in anticipation. Not since Kaiji has an anime made me feel this way.

My face while watching Fate/Zero.

The production quality is as excellent as the series itself. Despite occasional fumbles in the art design department, it looks and sounds great with superb animation, voice acting, and music. Not once do the characters super-deform into chibi mode or what have you for comedic effect, and rarely do still frames take the place of proper background animation. It’s inarguable that Ufotable did a sublime job with this show; much better than Deen could ever hope to accomplish. The voice acting also warrants praise: each seiyuu fits their character so perfectly that I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job.

Reading Fate/Stay Night before watching Fate/Zero isn’t necessary, though it should be noted that if you have any plans to ever check out the visual novel, you should probably do so first because Zero will spoil quite a few important plot details and make the experience less compelling. There’s also a very surprising episode near the end of the season that won’t really work for you unless you’ve at least seen Deen’s F/SN (which you shouldn’t actually watch). But if you haven’t read or watched Stay Night and don’t plan to, then feel free to jump right into F/Z, because everybody should see it. This series is loads of fun and exactly what a Fate anime should have been in the first place.

TL;DR
Characters: 10/10 – Every member of the cast is distinct and likable. Development is engaging and sometimes funny.
Story/Writing: 9/10 – The concept is inventive while the rapidly evolving plot takes off and never stops running with episode 2. Dialogue is usually great despite a few occurrences of jarring exposition.
Art/Animation: 9/10 – There are a couple of missteps along the way, but this is one of the best looking and smoothest running anime you’ll find on TV.
SFX/Music: 9.5/10 – Sound effects usually pack a punch and the music is just amazing. Good-but-not-great OP and ED.
Voice Acting: 10/10 – Characters are brought to life by actors with incredible talent.

Overall: 9.5/10
Fate/Zero puts the original F/SN anime to shame and delivers an experience that’s consistently thrilling and compelling throughout. You owe it to yourself to watch this anime.

Originally posted on December 28, 2011

2012
02.06

Note: I have discovered recently that the fan translation of this visual novel is considered bad and stilted by people who can actually read Japanese. My complaints about Nasu’s prose have been rendered void in light of this, so you should probably not read the following article.

The first season of the Fate/Zero anime will be concluding its run in a few days’ time. Packed with huge thrills, great animation, and a manly eminence on par with that of Dragon Ball Z‘s entire run, it’s absolutely one of the best new anime you can watch this year. Before my full review drops, however, I figured it’d be a good idea to present you fine fellows with a piece about its parent story; an exceedingly long visual novel that’s been poorly adapted at least three times named Fate/Stay Night. It’s supposed to be written with a lowercase “s” and “n,” but that looks weird to me when I type it out, so I won’t.

A visual novel is a storytelling format wedged somewhere between the concept of “the longest book ever” and that of “a video game with almost no actual gameplay.” Basically, it’s an electronic Choose Your Own Adventure novel inspired by a certain famous work of Leo Tolstoy’s. This is not to say that no visual novels have legitimate gameplay elements; for example, Fate’s 115th and latest spin-off — JRPG Fate/Extra – and classic(?) SRPG Utawarerumono feature a hefty amount of VN reading while also functioning as traditional video games. As you can imagine, the overseas audience for visual novels is even more niche than Suda51′s, so they don’t really receive much exposure outside of Japan. Of course, that doesn’t stop fans from releasing their own translation patches (as with F/SN), and their prominence in the western world has actually been on the rise over the past few years; recent PSP title Corpse Party has released to good-to-great reviews, publisher MangaGamer has officially localized Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as well as a large amount of porn, and upcoming visual novel Katawa Shoujo isn’t even made in Japan!

Fate/Stay Night is Type-Moon’s cash cow, and Type-Moon is perhaps the name brand visual novel producer, considering how many anime fans who’ve never read a VN in their life have still heard of them. Thus, Fate has been aptly dubbed “babby’s first VN” on the internet. Tsukihime (also by Type-Moon), Higurashi & Umineko, and 999 have also received this honorable title (among others, I’m sure), but F/SN really is the quintessential work as far as babby’s first VNs go due to its accessibility and probably some other factors that I’m ignorant of. As such, it makes sense that even a cynical bastard like myself has read Fate/Stay Night and lived to write about it.

Truth be told, it’s a worthwhile read, despite easily taking more than 50 hours to finish. On the whole, it’s a very good experience, but (and I’m sure many Type-Moon fans will crucify me for saying this) it’s definitely a flawed one. I can’t really recommend it over many of the “traditional” print books I’ve read, but that doesn’t make it bad at all. Fate/Stay Night is filled with interesting ideas, yet it never truly lives up to its own potential for a few reasons. I’m not trying to be unfair here, either; I’ll just go ahead and say right now that this visual novel is objectively far superior to Higurashi‘s — something which I absolutely adore.

Fate/Stay Night is divided into three different interpretations of the same basic story (routes). Unlike some visual novels, where you can go directly from the prologue into any of the available routes if you play your cards right, F/SN forces you to play ‘em in order. Perhaps the biggest flaw present in the entire VN is that the first route, Fate, is incredibly boring and often monotonous if not outright tedious to read. Despite having no significant connection plotwise to the other, better routes, this first one spends somewhere around 25 hours setting things up and presenting the reader with backstory about the various characters, especially protagonist Shirou Emiya and his Servant, Saber.

“Whoa,” you say, “slow down! The fuck’s a Servant? And why the hell is there a talking sword character?”

Fate expends hundreds of pages worth of exposition clarifying such matters. Shirou, the shittiest magus in the world, is somehow granted the “most powerful of all servants,” Saber, at the beginning of the newest iteration of a centuries-old war for something called the Holy Grail (no, not that Holy Grail). A Servant is summoned by each of the seven maguses to help them fight for their ultimate goal, with the Servants each representing a different legendary hero. Saber is calm, cool, and professional about everything, a major contrast to Shirou’s unflinching naivety that often borders on stupidity. The other Servants — Archer, Lancer, Rider, Assassin, Caster, and Berserker — are all far more interesting than Saber (well… maybe not Berserker), but this is forgivable because she’s still quite likable. The biggest problem with the story in this route is that it doesn’t really go anywhere and is jam-packed with amateurish, poorly-handled exposition that often repeats itself. Some of the fight scenes are very cool (and well-written), and it features a nice conclusion to certain character arcs, but actually reading through Fate is unquestionably a slog.

Assuming you can make it to them, Unlimited Blades Works (route 2) and Heaven’s Feel (route 3) are both far, far better. Unlimited Blade Works tones down the unnecessarily wordy explanations and delivers an exciting action-oriented take on the material with some great plot twists thrown in to keep things interesting. There really isn’t much to say about it aside from “it’s pretty cool” and that I found it to be a very enjoyable read. As for Heaven’s Feel, it’s definitely the highlight of the entire VN. By dropping the overcomplicated “magic rules” jargon of the other routes, making the fights brutal instead of fantastical, and darkening the overall tone of the story, it delivers the more focused and well-written take on the concept I’d been begging for since the prologue. Unfortunately, it’s also overlong and at times obnoxious.

On that note, author Kinoko Nasu desperately needs an editor. And not just in Fate/Stay Night, I mean in everything I’ve ever read or seen of his. He needs someone who can trim down his work to make it more palatable. Someone who can help him become more accomplished at his craft. Someone who can say “no” to him when he decides to implement more painfully awkward cooking scenes or horrifically embarrassing sexual encounters. I’m not calling Nasu a bad writer, but if Mirror Moon’s seemingly excellent translation accurately reflects the prose and overall writing style of his original manuscript, I can’t say he’s a good one, either.

The narrative relies far too heavily on exposition to explain things to the reader. As previously mentioned, Fate is rife with overwrought explanations for things that could have easily been implemented into the story in such a way as to make them more pleasurable to read. These explanations tend to extend for pages at a time, breaking (and sometimes outright annihilating) the flow of the story. Worst of all is that he actually repeats certain bits of exposition at multiple instances, merely phrasing them differently each time. I frequently found myself yelling, “show, don’t tell, goddamn it!” at the screen during the first route, because the expository narration and dialogue (yes, dialogue) just drags on and on. This is, quite frankly, depressing coming from a man who had written at least three traditional novels and two visual novels prior to the release of this particular one. Many have described Nasu’s writing style as being “unconventional;” I prefer “amateurish.” EDIT: After having read Tsukihime to completion, I’d just like to say that Nasu is a much better writer than I once thought. My problems with Fate/Stay Night remain, but he’s definitely quite talented.

The dialogue doesn’t fare much better. It is, in all honesty, some of the most stilted, unrealistic dialogue I have ever encountered in a piece of writing people are expected to pay money to read. Conversations between people don’t come across as natural or even conversational; the characters appear to be talking at each other rather than to each other around 80% of the time. This is hammered home extra hard by the interaction between three of the major characters; Shirou is dumb beyond comprehension, Saber has no sense of humor and speaks very plainly, and Rin Tohsaka is a tsundere archetype (causing me to have a hard time tolerating her in general). Things improve significantly whenever other characters are involved — especially when those characters include Archer, Lancer, or Kirei Kotomine — but whenever someone’s cooking or eating at Shirou’s house, you better be ready to groan.

Furthermore, there is too much padding throughout the story. The sex scenes are unnecessary and obviously shoehorned in, while the feeble attempts at comedy (aside from a certain scene involving mapo tofu) and aforementioned exposition explosions will make many contemplate suicide. On the subject of sexual situations in Fate/Stay Night, they are very (poorly) detailed and 100% pornographic. They also feature some of the absolute worst erotic writing I’ve ever seen, delivering unto us such gems as:

  • “Our membranes rub against each other. My grotesque member is wet with foaming love juice. Her contracting walls suck on my blood-congested penis.”
  • “Maybe she can’t breathe out her mouth because it’s filled with my penis.”
  • “The varying movements are like those of an educated prostitute.” (Keep in mind that the girl in question has been raped hundreds of times by this point.)

and

  • “My cum ejaculates as if to shoot down her womb.”

Worst of all, despite everything being way too long, it never pays enough attention to the actual Holy Grail War. However, when it does, the writing really shines. Every action scene is beautifully detailed and paints a wonderful picture of what the battle would look like if it were to be animated (please note that the anime adaptations of Fate and Unlimited Blade Works are downright disgraceful and should be viewed by no one).

If it seems like I’m being harsh, I am. Fate/Stay Night is very good overall, but the amount of wasted potential on display here is positively frustrating. You have to dig through layers of poor writing and useless padding to really see the gem that is this visual novel for what it is, and that saddens me. Fate/Stay Night could have been a masterpiece, but it’s not, and unfortunately doesn’t even come close. It seems content being just “pretty good,” and I guess you can’t really fault something for simply being great.

When everything’s said and done, I recommend this visual novel to anyone willing to read it; especially if you plan on watching or reading the excellent prequel, Fate/Zero. Look for my review of that one’s anime version sometime next week!

Originally posted on December 22, 2011

2012
02.06

A distressingly consistent theme within these episodes is that Superman’s been pretty useless. More often than not, his only purpose is to be a meat shield so the villain will be shown to be threatening enough for the other heroes. While it proves effective in trying to show that characters like Hawkgirl are just as useful as everyone else, it ends up devaluing Superman and turns him into the Krillin of the group. As a result, the show ends up going against its supposed belief in justice by having the forerunner of the idea made into a buffoon.

War World can be seen as a means to fix that characterization; which it does rather well yet in a way that doesn’t serve to be objectively good. In other words, it has a good execution as a message, but not as a story.

In terms of how it serves in its ideas, War World is heavily symbolic. Draaga’s first fight and its reaction seem like a critique against a certain other action show which ran alongside, rendered a tad unsubtle given the opponent’s mechanic features and use of oil in place of blood. Putting him in opposition towards the Man of Steel mirrors the two shows and what they represent: Draaga going through neverending brute violence done only to satisfy the audience’s whims versus Superman’s stand to be a beacon of hope in an otherwise alien world (or channel, if you will).

Therefore, the theme serves to not only show his value to the team, but his value to the series. Is Superman still relevant in an age that views him as old hat?

The society run by Mongul—where the poverty rate’s at an all-time high and society is kept under the leashes of entertainment—further cements the show’s ideas as it reflects the real world during the time. Other viewers might claim that it’s a satire of the Gladiatorial age, but remember 2002? When America was still feeling the moral and economic woes of 9/11 and while being force-fed reality television? Justice League tries to show what we are: A poverty-inflicted horde that can only be satisfied by what’s on the screen.

Then you get to the idea of Mongul threatening to use a laser to destroy Draaga’s home planet. Not to start a political fight, but the idea to start conflict to make sure the public’s happy shows reminiscence towards the Iraq War and how we went straight in after the public was calling for terrorist blood. Though being in production long before the war was even considered, War World beings up an interesting point on how corrupt leadership dictates society.

That said, its story proves to be predictable to an almost clairvoyant degree. You know that Draaga’s planet won’t get destroyed. You can bet that everybody will cheer for Superman instead of Mongul. The least-read of viewers will predict the ending in the first few minutes. The writing is clear, but goes nowhere. Although it brings up why Superman is still relevant despite all these decades, it lacks the ability to go beyond the simple message of heroes triumphing over barbarism.

Originally posted on December 22, 2011