2013
06.30

Clearly these poseurs like Plasmatic Vasquez who’ve already complained about the wonderful Japanimation series that bares the name of the most beautiful poem known to man are insane cock-knockers who clearly are only into generic pablum like Fate/Zorro and Maduka Maguca. It is therefore up to moi to settle this matter in an appropriate manner. Flowers of Evil is the greatest Japanimation since Momotoro’s Divine Sea Warriors, and only I can share with you how never has there been a tale of such woe as that of Naramura and her Taka-o.

Obviously this animation is so life like and realistic that it represents the true humanity of the being within. Some foolish “critics” complained about how it was “ro-to-sco-ped” and that it was done in an unnatural, choppy manner. They claim a series named “Gurgangchia” poses far more detailed and fluid animation as the result of a higher budget and an accomplished studio named Production Ig Nobel. POPPYCOCK, I say! This is the most true to life animation I have ever seen  in my entire life. The character designs are such a gigantic improvement over the flat, alien, inhuman original man-ga that I cannot believe that embarrassing series has lasted for five years. But then it occurs to me that this incredible television program was what it was building to all this time, the genius original man-gak-a knew traditional animation was bad for his work.

But as well animated as it is, the storyline is clearly what shines above all others.  The protagonist Taco’s moral quandary is so monumental that no one could ever overcome such a difficulty in real life. You know he cannot return the gym clothes because that would destroy his fragile mind forever turning him into an ordinary unenlightened unintelligent member of the masses. OH THE HUMANITY! To counterbalance this conflicted man, we have a figure of such diabolique cunning that we have not seen since the days of Milky McDoogal in Cubrik’s A Clockwise Naranja. Naramura’s psychosis burns through the screen like silky sheets of hot lead.  I especially love the scene where she assaults Takao in the library. The outstanding animation only accentuates the primal nature of the incredibly witty intelligent script, something we haven’t seen outside of the brilliant work by legendary novelist Nisio Isin.

Again the cowardly Liberati slam this show. They claim it’s too slow, that it goes nowhere and wastes time on sequences that ultimately mean nothing. Again, what fools they are! This series is a masterpiece of expert slowburn suspense and pacing. I especially love Episode 7 and its long opening sequence of people walking calculating their own imminent dread. Those who fail to see the symbolism are clearly only into the works of noted hack Gin Oogieboogie or watch those horrible “A-Doramas” on the HbeeOH(!). Clearly that network has not run anything worth seeing since they canceled that classic series Arliss.

So yes do not listen to these foul curs and watch Flowers of Evil. It will show the true meaning of anime. The meaning Anno was trying to achieve with Evangelion but failed to until his masterwork Evangelion 3.0, but we’ll discuss that horrid badly written diatribe by this Foghat character who probably didn’t like it only because it’s not like the show another time. I leave you with this, do drown in the river of shit you will find the serenity within!

2013
06.30

Always the Demon fidgets here beside me
— Destruction. Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

Aku No Hana—adapted from Shūzō Oshimi’s manga by Hiroshi Nagahama of Mushishi fame—proved to be ambitious, to say the least. Beyond all the controversies over questionable designs throughout the show, the series can be peeled back to reveal a story about a boy forced into a pact with the devil and not knowing what else to do. The mentality of a teenage boy has been thoroughly dissected again and again in literature, movies, music, video games, and many more forms of art. Following the paths of characters like Werther and Holden Caulfield, Takao Kasuga accidentally makes one wrong choice and goes through hellfire as payment. However, the banality of Kasuga’s actions combined with introspection that ultimately leads into self-destruction generates questions aimed at the series’ stance at humanity and intellectualism. Does Aku No Hana disparage the idea of teenage philosophy or does it revel in the concept?

Of unbridled laughter mingled with tears of gloom;
For Lesbos chose me among all other poets. — Lesbos. William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Takao’s life is established as boring, yet peaceful. There are brief glints of hope, but no chance of ever grabbing onto them. For all of the disapproval from both family and friends, the catalyst of his personal hell—stealing Saeki’s gym clothes—also signifies the start of his spirituals highs and lows. To commit a sin in his own eyes means that he’s been pulled out of childhood and thrown into a world of extremes. While the outside world shames him, Takao’s anguish allows him to escape his shell and become more upfront and open with his emotions as a human being.

Give me the courage and the power
To contemplate my own true image without disgust! — A Voyage to Cythera. George Dillon, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

On the other hand, Takao’s attempt at personal evolution is restricted by impulsive decisions and an inability to get what he wants. Many events like Takao’s breakup with Saeki and refusals to ever actually throw away the gym clothes imply that Takao wants to be kept in this position of unease and disarray. He’s been shoved into the fast lane, but refuses to reach the finish line. Why does Takao want to indulge himself with thorns on his backside when they could be easily removed through mere rationality? If Takao’s angst is self-inflicted, then Oshimi illustrates how man must need the devil in order to thrive. While this deviancy strangles Takao’s soul, the inner pain has also allowed committing to actions like ask out Saeki. Without evil, humanity cannot ascend into good.

As blood runs in the lists, round tumbled armored bones,
It soaks the city, islanding the paving-stones;
Everything thirsty leans to lap it, with stretched head;
Trees suck it up; it stains their trunks and branches red. — The Fountain of Blood. Edna St. Vincent Millay, Flowers of Evil (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1936)

But why must humanity force itself into horrible situations in order to thrive? While Aku No Hana speaks about how one much sacrifice in order to gain, the gains could have been won without having to give up anything. Self-harm won’t make you stronger. Instead, you’ll just have a bunch of scars. However, Aku No Hana seems to teach that pain is a lesson in and of itself. Rather than falling down in order to learn how to pick ourselves up, the series cuts the second half of the lesson in favor of teaching how merely falling down benefits us. But how so? Casting humanity into the darkness without teaching them of the light only creates questions rather than opportunities.

Frozen with fear, I shut my eyelids tight,
Then, opening them against the garish light,
I saw no solid puppet by my side
Whose lusts my blood, drained dry, had satisfied, — Metamorphoses of a Vampire. Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)

Deviancy for deviancy’s sake appears to be what characters in Aku No Hana strive for, as if Takao and Nakamura take pleasure in causing chaos toward society and within themselves. While this type of pleasure can be seen as a form of schadenfreude, the characters also restrict themselves from doing extreme forms of havoc like violence upon other people, or at least so far in the adaptation. More than a few commentators have compared characters in Aku No Hana to Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. Alex DeLarge was known for wreaking havoc just to express his own cruel self upon humanity, but his acts often involved rape and murder. Nakamura commits one act of sexual assault throughout the first thirteen episodes and nothing more extreme than that. She doesn’t so much cross the line as she does just inch her way toward deviancy. The characters discuss how they are being deviants rather than the actual act of being a deviant. They pride themselves instead of actually act upon these sins. But really, the minds of the young do like to exaggerate.

When is this fierce, ludicrous game
To come to an end? — Cupid and the Skull. William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

The ideal of a teenager doesn’t age well. What’s special and heartfelt when you’re sixteen seems trite when you’re twenty-one. However, Oshimi’s point adds too much pointless cynicism to an already difficult time in life. He illustrates the perils of pubescence through a domino effect instead of multiple threads that seldom align. For a show that has been prided as intelligent, the series offers a very simplistic view as to how young adults can sink into depravity. Saying Takao Kasuga represents any kind of teenager is like saying Idi Amin is a good representation of the average rugby player. Instead of allowing for ambiguity to take hold, Aku No Hana’s black and white view of human mentality causes an inconsistent stance as to whether the perspective is in favor or against Nakamura.

2013
06.30

Aku no Hana [Foggle]

Aku no Hana has the worst pacing of any anime – nay, any TV show – I’ve ever seen. It’s not a terrible series by any means, but watching it is akin to staring at the grass as it grows. I was not a fan of the characters or the rotoscoped animation (which, while occasionally extremely stupid looking, is not bad enough to be worth getting worked up over), but I found the plot interesting and was occasionally taken in by its overall atmosphere. That said, and I know a lot of folks will jump down my throat for daring to speak my mind on this, it was boring. In fact, it wasn’t just boring; it was a nearly unwatchable slog.

I’m going to cut past the sarcasm and jokes for just one article. Aku no Hana is sleep-inducing. I am generally a fan of slow-paced stories, and prefer a good serial or novel over pretty much any other style of fiction. As I previously stated, I was actually interested in seeing where the plot would go. And to answer that question, it goes nowhere. Oh sure, in the manga or the proposed second season we might get to see some real story development, but this first season’s drearily slow build-up comes crashing down the moment you realize that the final episode is 70% clip show, 10% commercial, and 15% still frames. (The other 5% is actual stuff happening, mostly.) Not enough relevant moments occur over the course of its run to warrant the usage of 13 episodes; any other show could and would have gotten through everything this season has to offer in seven episodes or less.

Take, for instance, the 12 minute (or thereabout) scene in which Takao and Nakamura walk in a straight line through town. This develops neither character nor story. It serves no purpose other than to be “art” or some other such nonsense. This is an extreme outlier, yes, but it’s also a real example of how grotesquely stretched out every single little bit of Aku no Hana is. Nakamura sees the world as boring and “shit” (a word she uses quite often), so perhaps the dragginess is supposed to represent this, but that’s akin to Kyoto Animation wanting the viewers to “feel the characters’ pain” when they pulled that Endless Eight garbage in season two of Haruhi; intriguing in concept, but downright stupid in execution.

Of course, there are moments which progress the plot and character development of this series, as that is the bare minimum of what a story needs to function. And indeed, Aku no Hana meets the bare minimum of storytelling by having about one or two fleeting scenes per episode which feature things other than people walking around aimlessly or staring at static objects. It’s hard enough to get invested in a story that revolves around a manchild’s love triangle with a complete asshole and a “perfect angel” (who, SPOILERS, isn’t such a nice person either), but when coupled with pacing that makes Bleach look like Panty & Stocking, it’s hard not to wonder why you’re even bothering sometimes.

Look, I get that some of y’all out there enjoyed this show. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If it’s your favorite anime ever, then that’s totally cool, and I’m glad you found something to love in it. Personally, I feel it could have been something special had Zexcs hired a decent editor. If your feelings are genuine, then I don’t want to – and won’t – try to change them, but please, don’t just call it a “masterpiece” because it isn’t more of the same generic moe or shounen drivel Japanese animation studios keep pumping out. Believe me, I’m probably far more tired of all the Monogataris and Sword Art Onlines out there than any of you are.

2013
06.29

I don’t think I speak just for myself when I say that a lot of people in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan community were a bit skeptical of Equestria Girls. Despite what haters and websites such as Cracked were spewing, there were very few of us that were absolutely ecstatic to see our favourite characters ditch their equine forms for human ones. Every single brony saw Equestria Girls as it was: a cash grab, pure and simple. Not something to expand the show’s universe from a natural storytelling perspective, but something made simply to sell merchandise, merchandise, and more merchandise. And from the time the first trailer made its appearance online to the point where I was sitting down to watch the first few minutes of the film proper, I’d be lying if I said that my own opinion of the whole idea wasn’t all over the place. My thoughts on the project would go from “This movie could be pretty good” to “Equestria Girls undermines everything that Lauren Faust’s vision did for young girls animation” within minutes. I mean, high school? Don’t get me wrong; unlike most people, I had a great high school experience. But “high school hijinks” is something that is so overdone in children’s media, that I couldn’t help but groan. What could the writing team do with a “pony-out-of-pasture” high school tale that no one else hasn’t already tried? And how could they possibly do it in a way that wouldn’t make me mummer out a quick “Meh.” But on the other hand, the film’s writer — Meghan McCarthy — did pen some of my favourite episodes of the series, from the lovely “Green Isn’t Your Color” to absolutely hilarious “Lesson Zero.” So if I had to choose any one of the show’s writing staff to belt out a script for this, it would be McCarthy.

Anyway, to make a long intro short, I eventually decided to check out the film last weekend, opting not to drag my old buddies from high school along for the ride. Since, you know, I’d like to keep them as friends. And after spending the morning in a theater filled with young children and bronies, how did I find that 72-minute animated bit of corporate schlock made for the sole purpose of stealing my hard-earned cash? Well, I was a little more than pleasantly surprised.

For those who aren’t aware, here’s the story: After arriving in the Crystal Empire for a political summit, newly-dubbed Princess Twilight Sparkle has her tiara stolen in the middle of the night by Sunset Shimmer, a former student of Princess Celestia. With Sunset escaping through a magic mirror holding a piece of one of the most powerful weapons Equestria has, Twilight must slide off to the other side and retrieve the royal piece of headgear in order to protect both her homeland and this new dimension…the world of humans. Unfortunately, saving the day here means navigating the unforgiving halls of a suburban high school. Can Twilight survive high school, my dear readers? Can she become Princess of the Fall Formal? Will there be magical girl transformations? Shall there be in-jokes and references for the bronies? How much shit will get blown up? The answers to these questions are…yes, yes, yes, yes, and at least $15 million worth in school damages if I did my math correctly.

Writing-wise, Equestria Girls plays out like your typical episode of the Emmy-nominated show. Cold opening, theme song, dilemma occurs, hijinks ensue while trying to handle said dilemma, a song or two if they feel like it, you get the idea. Beyond the species and setting change that everyone in the community was focused on, there was nothing really to upset what I and many others came to enjoy about the show. The number of jokes and songs that had me laughing and smiling far outnumbered the ones that made me cringe like anticipated, with the character interactions that form the template for 90% of the cartoon’s comedy being completely natural and fluid. You’d expect Twilight Sparkle to have a little breakdown once she realizes what has happened to her, and she does. You’d expect Spike to play the straight man, cracking a joke or two while helping keep our gal in check, and he does. No one here acts out of the ordinary, which does wonders with helping the audience accept what is a ridiculous plot. However, I do have my qualms here and there. Like I mentioned prior, there are a few bits and pieces in Equestria Girls that are clearly there for the older fanbase to latch on to or have fan-induced double meanings that led to us and the kids laughing for different reasons. Now that’s all fine and good, but I couldn’t help but feel as though some of them were there for the simple sake of being there and padding the running time. Referencing the whole Cutie Mark Crusaders musical fiasco? Nice, but unnecessary. The Great and Powerful Trixie and her lust for peanut butter crackers? Funny way to continue and end the vending machine gag, but ultimately pointless. Princess Vice Principal Luna getting her 15 minutes of fame with the interrogation scene? Luna is the shit, but that whole segment felt like a complete waste of time. Also, as you’d expect, the climactic speech about the “magic of friendship” is cheesy. So very cheesy. But that occasional cheesiness is something I enjoy about My Little Pony, and you can’t exactly argue against the efficiently of taking down demons with magic rainbows powered by love. You just can’t.

Animation-wise, what am I supposed to say? It looks great. The day I badmouth anything that former Ed, Edd n Eddy storyboarders have touched is the day I stop loving the bloody medium of animation. Equestria Girls continues the whole “smooth and well-done Flash” thing that the series proper has going for it, thanks to DHX Media taking up the animation duties here with the same love and care as they do with all the shows they tackle. It’s just quality animation, pure and simple. Same thing goes for the music as well, with Daniel Ingram composing songs that get stuck in your head just as much any from the show and William Anderson putting together a score that is just nice to listen to. Oh, and the theme song remix sounding suspiciously similar to the Alex S. remix? Coincidence? I think not, and it was one of the few subtle nods to the fanbase that I thought wasn’t just jammed in. There is literally nothing bad I can say about these two aspects, so…yeah, deal with it.

Overall, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls is a fun little movie that manages to surprise you with how heartfelt and true to the spirit of the show it actually is. Yes, the story has its flaws, the biggest one being that its existence is solely to make Hasbro money up the wazoo. But hey, so goes the world of entertainment; half the game is about making as much money as you possibly can. Plus, complaining a lot about an obvious cash grab when it turns out be an entertaining cash grab just seems stupid. At the end of the day, if you enjoy the show — especially if you hold no ill will towards the writing team for the third season — then you’ll likely enjoy this as well. Welp, back to waiting for Season Four. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as the current wait for Legend of Korra Book Two.

P.S. – I had no problem with the Flash Sentry and Twilight Sparkle romance. And even if I did, Equestria Girls isn’t canon to the events of the show, so it doesn’t even matter.

2013
06.26

Ah, good old Scooby Doo. Is there anyone among us who isn’t at least passingly familiar with one of the shows featuring the talking mutt and those meddling kids who made up his posse? Traveling in the aptly-named mystery-machine, solving crimes involving some sort of bogeyman, which would invariably turn out to be Old Man Caruthers (or some other seemingly benevolent older man), who had chosen to disguise himself in order to propagate some villainous scheme.

Truth be told, I was never a big fan of the majority of Hannah-Barbera’s body of work, which is not to say that I hated their cartoons, I just didn’t consider them to be essential viewing. Basically, the cartoons created by Hannah-Barbera were simply there; I’d watch them if I felt like it, but I can’t say that they engaged me or sustained my interest after the episode had ended. Scooby Doo! Where Are You? Was not the exception to the rule and I can’t say I cared enough about the franchise to seek out the spinoff shows like A Pup Named Scooby Doo or the latter-day live-action movies. As such, when I heard that there was a new Scooby Doo show, my interest was at first practically non-existent. However, I soon noticed that people on various forums I frequent was talking about the new show titled Mystery Incorporated in quite positive terms and when I learned that the show’s director was a certain Victor Cook, who had worked with Greg Weisman on The Spectacular Spider-Man; one of my favorite cartoons ever, I decided to give this new Scooby Doo a shot.

I’m glad I did, because Mystery Incorporated is a genuinely great show, featuring a really engaging on-going plot which is revealed bit by bit during the course of the show’s two seasons. The show takes place almost entirely in the town of Crystal Cove, it’s here that we meet the eponymous Mystery Inc. consisting as always of Fred Jones Jr, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and last, but not least, Scooby Doo. When Mystery Incorporated opens, the quintet has already been in the mystery-solving business for at least some time – catching the various ghouls and ghosts that plague Crystal Cove and exposing them as regular crooks in costume. This is not looked upon kindly by Fred’s father, the mayor of Crystal Cove, who sees any seemingly supernatural activity – no matter how dangerous, as a great way to put Crystal Cove on the map.

Soon enough, the gang stumbles upon a new mystery which will turn out to be the biggest one they have ever been faced with. Guided by the enigmatic Mr. E, Mystery Inc. must attempt to find out what happened to their predecessors, the original Mystery Inc. and how their disappearance ties into the legend of a fabled treasure said to be hidden beneath Crystal Cove.

I’ll stop there for fear of having said too much. Suffice to say that Mystery Incorporated makes excellent use of its serialized format to gradually reveal more of the mystery that is at the center of the show and although not all the episodes revolve around that storyline, there’s usually something in each episode that adds to the puzzle. The writers of the show has also done a great job with the characters, keeping their most familiar traits intact (Velma is the smart one of the group, Shaggy and Scooby are the constantly hungry cowards, etc.) while also allowing them to step out of the types they represent and become fully fleshed-out characters. The one who differs the most from his original incarnation is undoubtedly Fred, while he still serves as the group’s de-facto leader his primary characterization this time is an obsession with traps which at times had me convinced that Fred was, at the very least, borderline-autistic. This is in my opinion a huge improvement over Fred’s characterization in the original show, which could charitably be described as bland.

The supporting cast is as rule engaging, my personal favorite being Professor Pericles who emerges as the chief villain of the series. Pericles is a genuinely sinister and competent villain who almost always manages to stay one step ahead of the protagonists; unsurprisingly the episodes that involve him are among the show’s more serious installments.  Other noteworthy characters include the local lawman, Sheriff Bronson Stone, whose incompetence coupled with an inflated ego provides much of the show’s comic relief as well as local radio DJ Angel Dynamite, who serves as the kid’s closest ally.

As much as I liked Mystery Incorporated, the show is not without its flaws. The early episodes are plagued by a rather tedious love-triangle between Shaggy, Scooby and Velma, which quite frankly I could have done without. Another episode also introduces the character Jason, who is one of the most stereotypical and obnoxious nerd/geek characters I’ve seen in a recent cartoon. Thankfully, after his initial appearance the character is soon relegated to the occasional cameo, so he never has the opportunity to become Mystery Inc.’s Scrappy, thank heavens.

I guess I should’ve written a bit about the voice acting (great, but than what would you expect with such talented voice actors as Patrick Warburton, Grey DeLisle and Mark Hamill among others in the cast?) or the fact that the show provides us with an explanation for why one small town attracts so many weirdoes in masks, among other things, but that would’ve made this review even more long-winded than I fear it may already be. Suffice to say that whether you were a fan of the franchise or not, Scooby Doo: Mystery incorporated comes highly recommended for anyone who likes good, serialized animation and while I mean no disrespect to its predecessors this is quite frankly the only Scooby Doo cartoon that I’d rank among my favorite animated shows. Check it out.

2013
06.15

Ten episodes and a shocking revelation later, I think it’s about time we do some Attack on Titan dissecting.

Anime protagonists in general come off as being constantly set at an intensity of 11, but Eren Jaeger takes the cake when it comes to such. Without having even seen a Titan before the attack on his hometown (at least to our knowledge), a young Eren is already roaming the streets telling off army officials about how they better not take such times of peace too lightly. And while such a statement is understandable enough, it can be difficult to be taken seriously about a topic on Titans when they’ve been successfully kept at bay for 100 years. People as old as Eren’s grandparents (arguably, great-grandparents, assuming an understandably short life span given food shortages) have lived inside the wall, leaving well enough alone, so who is someone like Eren to suddenly become curious as to what’s out there?

Enter Armin—a close friend of Eren’s who just so happens to have a grandfather who owns some contraband books on the world outside the wall. Suddenly knowledge as seemingly minor as the existence of a sea full of salt water leads to Eren developing something of a “there must be more than this provincial life” syndrome. He has a sense that the world has so much more to offer, but rather than villainizing his world’s rulers for keeping a cap on the spread of certain facts, he grows to direct his hatred towards the more prominent reason preventing humans from venturing outside the wall: the Titans. This hatred is slowly brought to a violent boil when Shiganshina is attacked, and Eren’s own mother is killed by a Titan during the chaos.

But there is more to Eren’s rage and overall plight than even that traumatic event.

Upon further investigation, you’ll notice that the flashback of Eren and Armin reading about the outside world has a severe lack of Mikasa. And considering that the three of them were all essentially joined at the hip during their childhood, it is safe to assume that the flashback in question took place before either Eren or Armin met her. Another factor to take note of during the flashback would be the lack of Eren defaulting to an angry face or screaming about the cold harsh truths of the world. As far as we know, the first time chronologically we have seen Eren at his default max intensity would be when he saves a young Mikasa, killing two grown men with an unrelenting fury comparable to that of well… a kid all hopped up on mysterious serums that even the manga hasn’t fully explained yet.

I mean... I don't think you can get away with calling it "just a phase"

What I’m trying to get at is that with the exception to the serums he’s apparently been injected with, Eren’s true strength doesn’t come from his book-smarts like Armin, or his brute strength like Mikasa. Rather, Eren has been built up to be the type of character that is able to get by regardless of (and probably due to) his shortcomings. His intense hatred for Titans as well as his underplayed curiosity of what lies beyond the community walls is what pushes him to do his very best, even when his very best clearly doesn’t hold a candle to the other army members.

So imagine my disappointment when all that character building is essentially tossed out the window when it’s revealed that Eren has the ability to transform himself into a Titan.

The twist itself is interesting enough and provides a sense of surrealism in a world that’s come off as decently planted in reality (or y’know… as “reality” as a world full of giants would be). But the fact that this ability has been granted to Eren—a character that up until this point has been moving forward based on his own merits (or lack of them)—seems incredibly contrary to what he’s been built up as. In terms of squad usefulness, Eren isn’t the first person to come to mind, but with his newfound abilities, he has instantly reached god-like status with outsiders either willing to roll with him or are irrationally against him. And if it weren’t for the handful of seconds-long flashbacks with Dr. Jaeger waving a hypodermic needle in front of Eren’s face, I would have called this a deus ex machina from the get-go.

That’s not to say that this new kink to the plot hasn’t grown on me. Keeping up with the manga (46 chapters as of this post), I will say that future Titan lore has been written in such a way that Eren’s transformation feels less forced and obnoxious. And of course there’s also the possibility of the anime taking things in a different, equally positive, direction as well.

Regardless of where you stand with Eren’s Titan powers, I will say that the series as a whole handles their cast of characters in such a way that meets and exceeds most anime fans’ shonen expectations. In the long run, Eren still remains the brash, overly intense shonen main character with enough unique bumps and bruises to separate himself from the ever-growing list of anime protagonists.

2013
06.11

Before I begin, let me allow this one matter to be perfectly clear…

Yes, I am a hater. I spit on your holy territory. I dance the dance of Jazz singers on your loved ones’ graves. You may now proceed to ignore the rest of this article and post some petty, misspelled, improperly punctuated drivel in the comments if you wish under the tl;dr clause. However, for the benefit of those who agree with me about the current mess of a block that is Toonami, I shall continue…

Seven years ago, I posted my thoughts on the then-current version of the Toonami block at the forum that must not be named. At the time, the anthology had undergone two of the worst lineups in its history, balancing favorites like DBZ and Yu Yu Hakusho (which we didn’t know was on its way out the door at the time) with drivel like DICE, Wulin Warriors, Zatch Bell, IGPX, and the 4Kids version of One Piece. I was reminded of the famous Moltar speech from his final weeks as host about how Toonami had become something of a failed experiment due to what was perceived as a nosedive in quality between 2000 and 2006 and how the current direction would eventually prove fatal. I was proven correct as the plug was mercifully pulled on the Saturday night Toonami, albeit three years too late.

So we fast-forward onto 2012. April Fools Day has occurred. Instead of Johnny and Mark, we see Gohan and Cell. The response has been enormous. #BringBackToonami is burning up the twitter trends. One month later, Adult Swim Action is officially Toonami again. All is well, right? Well it was… for two months. Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins bring in the ratings but they’re not well loved by the all-important faithful who demand their DBZ back, and replacements Samurai 7 and Eureka Seven don’t endear them either. What to do then?

Easy, you just sell out… again. Back in 2006, it was to the toy companies (which is no longer a factor since Hasbro has its own channel and doesn’t need no Time Warner money). Today, they’ve given in to the nostalgics by adding shows that either have a direct or semi-tangential connection to the original Toonami. So now Naruto’s back…albeit uncut and a decade old…but still Naruto…and its reruns…eh. One Piece is back!…except its 200 episodes in and we’ll never catch up…and the ratings toileted a week later and haven’t recovered because of it…eh. Tenchi’s back!…except its the show everybody hates…and they could have easily reaired the OVAs…but they didn’t. Thundercats is back!…but its the remake…and its reruns. Etc. Etc. The problem is… these shows all suck to some degree, and with a lead-in like the ever awful Bleach, the first 90 minutes of Newnami has become a slog (Soul Eater gets a pass since its new to Cartoon Network and probably the best acquisition they’ve made since expanding to six hours).

Well I can’t say this is the worst block Toonami’s had in a while (the infamous March 2006 lineup holds that title in perpetuity), it’s damn near close, and the assortment probably will be when Sword Art replaces Eureka come August. We have replaced toy sales with nostalgia beer goggles, which once again put a crimp on development. Admittedly my vision of a mostly artsy/seinen Toonami From Heaven is about as unrealistic as it comes, but there are some very good shows out there that could have easily been acquired for not much fuss and not a lot of cash. Full Metal Panic, for instance, has about a years worth of content spread across three series and they’re all owned by Funi, as well as other good shows like Last Exile and Steins;Gate. But no! It’s Toonami so we need two hours of boring Shonen Jump and four hours of additional nostalgia fap because that’s what you, yes YOU, want! It’s depressing.

However, on the other hand, I cannot call this a failed experiment because we’re only a year in. True, the Absolution’s going downhill at an alarming pace, but there’s hope that Jason DeMarco is basically whoring out Toonami to make it better. I don’t know if that’ll actually happen, and if it doesn’t then way to go Broonami’s, you defiled your own homeland…again, so we’ll probably find out for real when Funi dubs Attack on Titan, which can’t come up any sooner.

2013
06.08

As today’s market of dystopic fantasies and misunderstood loners can tell you, gritty storytelling sells. Darkness has been selling since before Nietzsche could count to ten. You’d be struggling to find a story without a bad case of dead moms, totalitarian government, murder, or something about rape in modern drama. But instead of adding realism, too many attempts at proving a tale to be mature only elicit disbelief and scorn towards the work. Make something too dark, and the whole thing becomes more garish than an LSD-laced gay pride parade.

Take Guilty Crown, for example. The show had it all: Evil government, childhood friends becoming cold-blooded terrorists, civilian deaths up the wazoo, and inexplicable nods to incest. The writers were telling a grim story about how war can corrupt the most innocent of men. As a result, the series bombed. Hard. What Guilty Crown completely forgot was one simple thing: Illustrating a reason to give a damn about all the brutality. Any characters with unambiguously good intentions get killed off or forgotten while prissy little Shu Ouma and his milquetoast motives take the center stage. The creators were clearly going for a Shinji Ikari or a Kamille Bidan type of character, only to forget that those two actually had reasons and motives beyond looking cool while debris flows through the air. When Shu goes into dark moments or experiences personal angst, the reaction is akin to watching a ragdoll getting spit on. No matter how turmoil he goes through, I’m still only seeing a blank shell get trampled on. Only so much J-pop can hide the truth that Shu is a soldier without a cause. His character doesn’t define his role, but the complete opposite. And what’s his role beyond “Uh, he’s Lelouch but more of a doormat?” or whatever subject that probably went over Production IG’s heads?

In the attempt to stray from the “healing-type” writing that I know most of you readers dread, we’ve gone to a different problem with too much conflict getting in the way of actually caring about what’s going on. That’s a criticism repeated again and again for recent shows—even ones that are generally considered good—like Fate/Zero or Aku No Hana. After all, there’s a reason why a sizable amount of fans prefer the coming-of-age tale of Waver Velvet to Kiritsugu’s thorough vivisection by endless bouts of horrific circumstances. A character arc more often than not repels viewers when the character in question is doomed to fail. People want a semblance of hope that the person they’re rooting for might actually get out with kind of payoff. While the show still rates highly in my book, that element fruitfully explains why certain forms of conflict might turn off an audience. You’ll hear complaints about why every character in Game of Thrones is either an asshole or a punching bag, and how many horror movies make you want to see the entire cast die. Before I digress any further, what is the most crucial element of drama lies in how despite all that stands in the way, there should be at least one drop of hope.

2013
06.04

Hey guys! Remember when I used to update on a more frequent basis? Well, it’s not that I don’t care (I don’t), but hey, that’s life!

Here’s an attempt to try a new series out- plagiarizing taking inspiration from Criterion’s great Three Reasons series of videos and articles, in which they pick 3 particular reasons that you need to check out their most recent releases or rereleases, we’re going to try to do the same for some of our favorite animated works. Be it a strong series or film, totally essential or stuck to the sidelines, we have our reasons for all of these, and you should listen up.

First up will be a particular Disney show from the early 00’s, the first of their animated series to have a full release come out from the Mouse House (excluding certain Marvel shows they obtained the rights to), The Weekenders. Two sets containing all 39 episodes are currently available on the Disney Movie Club, and worth joining just to pick up.

But why is that? The Weekenders was decent popular during its original One Saturday Morning run, as well as later repeats on both the Disney Channel and Toon Disney, but far from one of their biggest hits. We’re only now just getting the rest of Gargoyles and TaleSpin, while DuckTales, Darkwing Duck and Kim Possible, among others, still have plenty of episodes not currently released on disc, while a strong amount of other series don’t even have one set available to their name, including a little show that has grown a teeny, tiny bit of a following in recent years. Something about some boys and a pet platypus or something.

Why should you check out this small show about some kids that kill time on the weekend? These are my three reasons as to why it’s worth another look.

#1- The Characters

If there’s one thing I can safely say about the show, it’s that the four lead characters, Tino, Lor, Carver and Tish, have nothing but shades of shades in their characters. Tino isn’t just a playfully sarcastic geek with a heart of gold, but a neurotic mess with severe abandonment issues that have popped up as far back as when his parents split up, if not even farther back; Lor’s a tomboy raised as the only girl in a large supply of athletic little boys, as we can see her evolvement into womenhood come at a nice, if subtle pace;  Carver can be incredibly narcissistic, but his obsession with shoes and popularity are brought on due to hi doubt of hiss parent’s strict upbringing, as Carver doesn’t believe he’s smart enough to do greatly in school and attempts to exceed in other ways; meanwhile, Tish is smart enough to be at the top of her game, but overachieves due to her ties as a foreigner, which almost forces her to excel beyond your average American student’s grades. Otherwise, she just wants to be a normal teenager, with mixed results.

A lot of these character traits aren’t massively original, but combined together with incredible voice acting and a wide supporting cast, you have enough to make for one of the better coming-of-age middle school series made in recent history.

#2- The Dialogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My props go out to this great tumblr blog, which has tons of gifs, pics and other goodies in relation to the show posted.

#3- Running Gags

And the show has ’em. Plenty of  ’em. Pretty good ones, too, but the weird thing is, they’re all food related. So why don’t you down some of Tino’s mom’s kelp ravioli if couscous (the food so nice, they named it twice) isn’t your thing, and then go to Sherlock pizza and try to grab a slice and a Chug-a-Freeze, if you can find one. Good luck!

Also, I like pointy things. Seriously though, check out this show again.

Later days!

2013
06.01

Evil...

As of a few weeks ago, my traditional household has encountered the radical views of Shezow. After watching a few episodes with a Jesus statue in my tight, Caucasian hands, I was absolutely offended. How could this cartoon promote such a disturbing lifestyle to children? Our faithful Congress has done such strident actions to keep the filth away from television, only to allow this pile of Obama-sanctioned excrement to air? There’s nothing more disgusting—or more offensive to Christian viewpoints—than discovering a children’s cartoon supporting the rights of Canadians.

The holy Bible—definitely not edited beyond original comprehension by centuries of editing—decrees that “Thou shalt not lie with Canadian kind, as with righteous American kind: it is abomination.” What worked for men and lesser women from two thousand years ago must be able to work now. As is decreed by our savior who must have said such glorious testaments, the beatification of Canadians is blasphemy and something that only a Pagan would consider doing. Through the long-upheld doctrine of Christian Science, Canadians have been proven to be of a lesser breed than the pure Anglo-Saxon-American lineage that can be seen in true-blooded patriots such as me.

The Canadian has long been rooted into crimes of pedophilia or philandering from proper Christian households. A mountie will steal your son and diddle his American flag so hard that his former pride throbs with the might of Quebec. Yet, you have such contrarians to the Godly cause such as Jenna Talackova or Rae Spoon question the ultimate work of literature by smearing their Canadian nature all over popular culture. The Bible is the most infallible work of diction in the same way An Unearthly Child is automatically the best serial. And as our Sir Doctor DJ Jesus Wilson Vincent Christ OBE KCSG knows, these cracks into our glorious status quo cannot be tolerated. Imagine seeing your son go out into the open and say, “Mother? Father? I have come out of the closet and decided to be Canadian.” Would you take that risk?

Americans Beware

I thought so.