2014
12.26

NOTE: This review was written in September and not posted until now.

Year: 2013
Director: Shinobu Tagashira
Studio: Zexcs
Licensed By: Sentai Filmworks

A show rarely comes along with such insult in its blood; Diabolik Lovers is 2013’s worst anime, something met with unanimous agreement. From its lack of plot to its creepy subtext, Dialovers is a trainwreck both as an anime and an adaptation. This show is diabolical, disgraceful and disgusting – not to mention painfully unerotic – and fails at almost everything it tries to attempt.

Yui Komori is a blank-state protagonist forced to live in an old mansion after her father moves away from Japan due to his work. Left alone with six mysterious brothers: Ayato, Reiji, Laito, Kanato, Shu and Subaru, Yui learns that the Sakamaki brothers are vampires, irresistibly drawn to her blood, and that Yui can not escape their threshold. Terrorized by constant attacks by the Sakamaki brothers – especially by Laito, Ayato and Kanato – Yui must adapt to her new life and discover why she was sent to their home in the first place.

The plot is weak and sluggish, and for the first six episodes, is non-existent as we are “treated” to Yui having her blood sucked by almost every brother while she is helpless to fight back. Every single time Yui is sucked, she never gives the brothers her consent, and every time they do it – even when Yui says they can’t – she begs them to stop while (you guessed it) they don’t! It doesn’t help that every single brother is despicable and unpleasant, and while the show takes an entire episode to try and explain the reasons behind their behaviour, it does not come off the way it intended to, and only proves the show is weak in every field. You don’t feel anything for the characters even after 13 episodes, and because of that, the show has failed as a stand-alone project.

Dialovers is a failure both as an adaptation of its source material and as an anime to stand on its own two feet. Its original source is an otome visual novel for the PSP named Diabolik Lovers ~Haunted Dark Bridal~ released on October 11th, 2012. Similar to The Queen Bee’s Sweet Mating, it started life as a series of Drama CDs before making the transition to an otome game. It is not astonishing that Dialovers is based off an otome game, as all the staples are featured in the show: “hot” men, boring protagonist meant to represent the reader, supernatural themes, romance etc. ~Haunted Dark Bridal~ proved popular enough that a sequel/fan disc was made – Diabolik Lovers MORE,BLOOD – which introduces four new vampire love interests. Fortunately, the chances are slim that an adaptation of MORE,BLOOD will be animated and aired – either as an OVA or a 2nd season, as Dialovers did not sell well in Japan. [Edit: As of this writing, an OVA has been confirmed to adapt some aspects of MORE,BLOOD.]

The original visual novel explained the backstories of the Sakamaki brothers as well as it could, and while the anime tries to replicate that, it leaves out many details. In the original visual novel, it is possible that Yui could go the entire game and not be bitten once, while in the anime, Yui is bitten every single episode. The anime picks Ayato Sakamaki as Yui’s romantic interest, and his very first introduction is him scaring Yui by breaking her phone and trying to bite her neck. Ayato is also a gentleman, as he calls Yui ‘pancake’ in relation to her chest, as only the kindest of men would treat a woman so poorly, correct? The fact is, none of the so-called ‘love interests’ have nothing interesting about them that make them attractive or interesting, coupled with the fact they treat Yui like a ragdoll who begs them to stop hurting her – Yui makes it clear every single time that she doesn’t want the Sakamaki brothers to suck her blood. A good and appealing personality can be ruined by a person who doesn’t understand that no always means no, unless the person specifies they can do it to them. It’s a little thing named consent: Dialovers doesn’t completely understand it and downright ignores it at times.

Yui is meant to be the blank state that the protagonist can project him/herself onto – Dialovers was created for a female audience in mind. In other words, Dialovers is fujoshi bait. The Sakamaki brothers look like they were catered to be hot, alluring and sexually engaging characters through their character design, personality and voice acting. Deep, brooding and sulking colours are littered in the designs of the brothers – Ayato’s hair colour is a blood red, and all of their uniforms coloured pure black and white. The original designs for the brothers are in actuality quite eye-catching and fair looking, although that may be thanks to Satoi, its artist. The original art pieces from the visual novel are very well drawn with fantastic colouring, and it is quite well copied into the anime. Well, as well copied as Zexcs could pull off.

To be frank, no-one would watch this show for the plotline. It takes seven episodes for an actual plot to materialize, the other episode serving as “introductions” to the brothers – Ayato treating Yui like his property, Reiji drugging her, Laito attacking her in a church, Kanato assualting her and Shu sucking her in a bath. Subaru is left to the last episodes for him to play any significant role, and he is shown as the kindest of the vampires before the tables turn and he transforms Yui into his plaything.

The show’s excuse for a plot is Cordelia, the vampire mother of Kanato, Ayato and Laito and wife to the Vampire King Karlheinz, is dead and her heart is in fact Yui’s heart – and because Yui is the Sacrificial Bride, a concept the show never really explains in detail needed to understand it – she is the vessel of Cordelia until the time is nigh when Cordelia completely overwhelms and possesses Yui. Cordelia-Yui is the best version of Yui, and she does not stand for anything disrespectful and is very manipulative. She criticises the Sakamaki brothers and treats them like they treated Yui, and we are meant to feel for the brothers despite their abusive attitude with their treatment of Yui when she was her normal, bland, uninteresting self. Cordelia, on her own, is cruel and comes off as despicable. Unfortunately, most of the backstory surrounding the brothers and Cordelia was cut from the show, which makes the actions of the brothers seem unrealistic and disturbing. The plot either revolves around Cordelia and her resurrection or Yui’s abuse, to put it simply.

The show is not sexy nor erotic. Those are facts that should be and are widely expected in the anime community. The plotline is also boring, uninteresting and lacking anything engaging – Dialovers is just merchandise to advertise the PSP visual novel, made in a lazy fashion. At least Clannad‘s anime adaptation actually tried – if given a decent budget, more running time and less shitty source material, maybe Dialovers could have some proper redeeming points except its score. Its score, while short, offers lovely tracks such as ‘Track 2’ and ‘Track 5’. Yes, the tracks do not have names. They are still very calm and relaxing songs, too good for this waste of an anime.

Words and ideas commonly associated with vampires are ‘blood-sucking’, ‘sexy’ (thanks to Twilight, sadly) and ‘monstrous’, all fitting for its mythos. The trouble with Dialovers, however, is that it tries to present the idea of forceful acts as desirable and sexy – that a Sakamaki brother should be allowed to use Yui as his plaything, because the show thinks this is okay, through the execution of camera angles and the use of music. Many scenes in Dialovers provide evidence for this, such as Laito’s abuse in the church. All this does is show their acts as creepy to a normal viewer – from both Yui’s reaction to her captor’s abuse to the dialogue present in the show. Luckily, for a 12-episode show, the episodes themselves are only 15-minutes long with a recap halfway through. If someone is curious regarding this show, they should only view the recap – the recap is literally all the scenes from episode 1 – 6 of Yui being abused by the brothers.

No person should watch this show. They do not deserve it, unless they are massive masochists for poor anime or have a rape fetish.

2014
12.24

"Why do I have to be straight?"

“I guess, I see a lot of myself in you.” – Korra

So let’s start with that quote. On the plus side, it’s refreshing for the Avatar to actually talk someone down from violence instead of beat them up until they accept peace. In a sense, it resolves the Dark Korra arc that’s been haunting the season by showing Korra concoct an alternate solution to what her shadow’s been stopping her from doing. People complained that this was going on for longer than the plot needed, and I don’t disagree, but this final moment gives meaning to all those times Korra became a wreck after seeing her mirror image. Instead of being a threat, it’s a warning to not give in to berserk tendencies. That illusion guides her away from being the Korra who almost butchers a judge to get her father back and into a Korra who can solve problems through mindfulness. I guess you could suggest that the Dark Korra is what Korra has to ward her off against vices now that the previous Avatars aren’t there for her.

This has been something that Korra’s needed for the entire series: A sense of self. Aang only had his predecessor Roku’s help because wartime was in the background, and he was a boy without any other mentors. Though he was given little direct guidance, this forced him to set his own responsibilities without the Air Nomads to nurture his thought process. Meanwhile, Korra has three or four people at a time trying to teach her. Tenzin says this. Suyin says that. Even her villain from last season is mentoring her on what to do. While Aang had the clarity to think without being talked down to, Korra’s behavior was clouded by the actions and thoughts of others. The chimera of hers was the mind’s way of playing a game for Korra to solve, and to solve that would help her define who she was without the need of Tenzin, or Lin, or Toph, or even Zaheer.

On the other hand, that attempt to sympathize with Kuvira comes with unrealized tethers. Yeah, Korra can go on about how Kuvira and her share tons of personality traits like being headstrong, but the fact remains one of them has thrown people into internment camps and the other hasn’t. I know it’s Korra trying to look into how they have similar spirits, but that’s been overshadowed by the actions each woman has taken throughout the season. And she wasn’t kept in the dark about what Kuvira did. She knew quite well about the forced labor and mistreatment done to the average Earth Kingdom citizen. I suppose this has the unintended side effect of giving Korra a tyrant complex. Maybe a deleted line in the script was “It’s okay. I wish I could throw people in re-education camps too.”

Although to be charitable, I could see it as akin to the relationship between Gandhi and Hitler. They were friends, or at the very least pen pals, who didn’t let a few war atrocities get in the way of understanding one another. And despite documented letters written by Gandhi, people to this day are incredulous to the idea that those two could have been friends at some point. This could be seen as the proof the writers used to showcase that actions weren’t what completely defined the average man, and that kinships could be seen from even the most unlikely duos. But of course, the letters Gandhi wrote to Hitler were in 1939, and given what history has shown, it seems that friendship didn’t translate amount to any concrete peace.

Though I should stop using Godwin’s Law when referring to Kuvira, since she’s finally shown something to her character beyond despotism in the show’s final moments. The writers reveal to be an orphaned girl who just wanted to make her country proud, and wanted above all else to make the Earth Kingdom a nation that people would be happy to bow to. It was just that her idea of happiness would be more at home with Huxley. Yeah, she had already gone too far into the depth of outlandish supervillainy when this was pulled off, so it was too late to complement her character far more than it should have. But at this point, I could take it or leave it.

And since she now has a character to discuss, let’s dissect it. Behind all of those intimidation tactics was someone who feared being rejected, who wanted to be recognized with any thought of being abandoned buried in the past. That somewhat justifies why she built a giant robot as her endgame. It was her way of showing to the world that she existed, and that she was more than someone who would be thrown away the moment she was of no use to others. While she gets points for effort there, such an attempt to prove to everyone that she was above dismissal blinded her from the people who valued her as more than a tool. Possibly, Suyin and Junior’s affection for her just couldn’t cut it as replacements for the love she wanted from her parents. She wanted to have true vengeance for her childhood, and those who weren’t with her in that quest were immediately her enemies.

She’s like Demona in that regard, fearing being alone but unable to differentiate sympathy with potential betrayal. Instead of dealing with inner demons personally, she points fingers at other people or even other ethnicities as the real threat to her well-being. Exiling the Earth Kingdom’s migrants was probably like Demona’s attempt to eradicate the humans. They were both easy scapegoats to paint all of their fears onto, and doing otherwise would make them realize their own flaws. And they can’t have that. Admitting that they’re their own worst enemy would be seen as the one defeat they couldn’t possibly acknowledge, preferring death to knowing that hell is what they’ve cared for themselves.

But her excuse as a troubled orphan doesn’t hold up as well when compared to the other characters that have lost parents. Mako and Bolin are orphans, and neither of them has expressed a desire to rule countries with an iron fist. Asami has no parents anymore, and she’s probably one of the nicest characters in the show. What makes Kuvira more prone to hatred if these people experienced the same thing as her and didn’t fall from grace? It could be that her parents personally abandoned her instead of simply dying, but you can say that about Hiroshi from Book 1. And unlike the first example, Kuvira had a maternal figure after being orphaned. She had people that she could call a family. If that wasn’t enough, that just makes her seem more spoiled than pitiable.

Though that logic in trying to have a message that gets contradicted by the plot is common in this two-parter. You have Prince Wu abdicating from the throne because he thinks that the Earth Kingdom doesn’t need outdated concepts like kings or queens to govern itself. And while his pro-democracy stance can be admired, one of the reasons Kuvira came into power was because she was popular with the masses. Some of her followers even wore T-shirts with her face. If the people were allowed to vote for their ruler at that point in time, they would’ve easily seen the crazed dictator as the opportune choice. If the people who can be sworn into political power are people like Kuvira, or even people like Raiko, what does that say for democracy? The people voted into power are just as bad as the people born into power. Monarchies may be outdated, but Wu surely proved to be worth his authority here. Surely he could have stayed as leader for a while until they could find someone who wasn’t a control freak to govern the nation.

If it’s what Wu wanted, I guess that aligns with how characters like him and Korra have to choose their own destiny instead of one set by their forebears. Though if that were the case, wouldn’t Kuvira fit under that idea for straying from what the Beifongs wanted in favor of her own desires? Or was that desire still rooted into her lineage than out of true choice? That could be what Bryke are trying to do here, pondering if free will should go against the wills of the precursors. Like you could say that villains like Azula and Long Feng were grounded in the desires of their countries, but so was Aang regarding the fallen Air Temples. Besides outward actions or violence, how can one’s connection to their legacy define their moral alignment?

But enough with philosophical conundrums and onto that Korrasami thing the fans are all gushing about. I’m appreciative that the writers managed to finally write a romance that didn’t devour half of the season’s runtime like previous relationships did. Maybe that suggests emotional coldness on my part, but I prefer romantic plots as less of a scene-stealer and more of a seasoning for everything else. They need personality behind the love to make it work. Otherwise, it’s just two stick figures making out with each other. That’s why nobody liked Makorra because Mako had no personality besides being a douche. And while Asami seemingly had just as little of a character, they also played the Korrasami relationship for longer compared to how Mako kissed Korra at the end of Book 1.

And as for the lack of a kiss, I’m saddened about that. I know that Nickelodeon would have had a fit, but come on. Don’t let your first gay kiss be on some Dan Schneider show instead. But of course, ten years from now, people will champion Nickelodeon for making Korrasami happen instead of the show’s staff. I know that in 2024, some guy is going to write an article about how brave Nickelodeon was for having a gay relationship in their shows, forgetting the treatment the last two books got from the channel, but they won’t be able to name a single one of the show’s creators. It’s like how people praise Star Trek for having an interracial kiss, when the producers tried everything they could to stop it in the first place. History doesn’t reward the progressives, but the people who just happened to be nearby.

It’s even happening amongst the Korra fandom, with some acting like this is the first of its kind to happen in history. Even outside of the fandom, you’ll find articles on Vanity Fair about how Korra’s groundbreaking as an animated drama. But it’s more of a culmination of what previous shows did than something innovative in it’s own right. We have to recognize the stepping-stones that were set so Legend of Korra could have its cake and eat it. We need to remember Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s fling in BTAS, or Velma’s relationship with Hot Dog Water in Mystery Inc, or even John Waters’ guest appearance on The Simpsons. If you’re going to see Korrasami as some sort of moral victory, learn the factors that made both creators and fans alike warm up to using LGBT characters in cartoons rather than acting hostile to them.

Or you can be like me and laugh at how Mako’s the only one of the main cast to remain single.

And that concludes Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Some people are saying that this will be the end of the metaseries, but I’m not buying it. Before Legend of Korra was announced, people thought that The Last Airbender movie would spell the death of the franchise as we knew it. Sequels are unpredictable, and no final word can ever be trusted regarding fiction. Even if it won’t happen in the near future, or on the same network, or even have the same creators, there will probably be a new Avatar series. I know that people from other fandoms say that for their fallen shows to no avail, but I feel safe in thinking that some kids in the future will reblog GIFs of an Earthbender five or so years from now. These Avatar fans are too stubborn to have it any other way.

2014
12.22

After that rather mind… something or whatever (unsure if it is right to call it ‘mind-blowing’) last episode, we return to a damaged Arzenal this week. Instead of dealing with what the hell happened with DRAGON Princess, Ange makes Commander Jill live up to her promise in Episode 10 to spill the beans on the story of Arzenal. Unsurprisingly she does that in a hot springs, but surprisingly it’s pretty comprehensive.

In essence it’s the dog and pony show of one person, Embryo (aka Evil Blonde Guy in the OP), wanting to stop the war through the creation of a perfect human, the Mana user. However Norma exist, and that’s not cool to have people different for the world order, so he foments hatred of them. “But THAT’s not cool either,” say normal people sympathetic to Norma, so they also rebel and join forces with Arzenal to do that (explaining the rationale behind Not-Kira’s involvement and how the Vilkiss operates). Given the current state of affairs though, they… still need a lot of work.

These revelations would make for a somewhat solid, if a bit boring, episode, but we then find out DRAGONs are human and humans are DRAGONs. It is not enough for the show to reveal this by having Vivian become one; it has her transformation back into a human happen right in front of a big burn pit of DRAGONs who revert to human form when immolated. Of all the negative reactions, Ange gets the worst since she rejects Commander Jill’s vision of revenge and would rather come to her own decision on Libertus, not be coerced into it. That and she is very content with being a blue-collar working Norma, killin’ DRAGONs n’ makin’ money. It’s a nice way to show that the character isn’t married to didactic idealism and pushy self-righteousness, but would rather come to her own terms about life now instead of being told what she should and shouldn’t be by anybody. That is too bad for her though, for her new ideal life is upended after finding out about those DRAGONs. Good thing it didn’t involve the anal rape.

If there is one thing the show does well it is keeping information close to its chest (hur hur) and dealing it in controlled amounts that satisfy what you want to know, but not enough that you’re no longer intrigued to see what happens next. Yeah I would like to learn more of that messed up ending last episode, but knowing about Arzenal takes greater priority given the developments throughout the first ten episodes. The series midpoint provides a sound juncture to showcase why the world is what it is. Now that we know enough of the backstory on the World of Mana, now we can focus on how the DRAGONs fit into the equation.

With regards to the revelation of humans being DRAGONs… like last episode I dunno either. I would be worried about all these things with regards to plot holes, but given the show’s self-awareness and this episode’s candidness I do not think it will be swept under the rug. Vivian’s transformation doesn’t seem like it was pulled out of an ass, given her strange infatuation with Ange’s music in the last two episodes and Commander Jill’s smirk when Ange finds out her new dream life kinda sucks is prescient and feels like it is also directed to the audience. It is as if she is saying, once more with feeling, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Then again, when have we ever in this show?

Rondo of Notes:

  • This is the third Fukuda production where Seki Toshihiko plays a creepy evil blonde guy with a weird name. In SEED he was Raww Le Klueze, SEED Destiny he was Ray The Barrel, and now in Cross Ange he is Embryo! Here’s to hoping he doesn’t go insane like the last two guys.
  • Oh look, Embryo’s piloting the Astray Gold Frame Amatsu. More references to SEED, even if it never appeared in the TV series.
  • Cross Ange doesn’t give a shit, but apparently it gives enough of a shit with regards to Winter Holidays to take a week off. We’ll see it again on January 3rd.
  • Next time: It’s an attack on a small militarized island by an invading superpower. It’s the Orb battle Mk. III! Fukuda you scamp!

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

 

2014
12.19


So Psycho-Pass 2 has recently ended. And after my commending impression of the first episode, this show went off the rails more than any other show this season could do. Yes, you can say that Grisaia or Sword Art Online were worse, but they didn’t have that extra sting of being promised a sequel to a wonderful show. Maybe it was blind idealism getting in the way of seeing what was going on before the beginning. One could hope that Urobuchi being succeeded by Ubukata wouldn’t have been as much of a whiplash as the product turned out to be. One could delude themselves into thinking that it would provide a broader perspective than the first season. But no, we had people in their underwear exploding thanks to stupid cops. We had those same stupid cops murdered over an Angry Birds ersatz. We had the idea of a personified legion taken literally through exposition that only served to make things more nonsensical than they already were. And most of all, we had illegal immigrants dressed up as zebras being burnt alive to the tune of opera music.

The wish of many a Psycho-Pass fan was to have a sequel that would resolve the loose ends like how Akane could fulfill her campaign against the Sibyl System. The first season’s ending was one that promised a better, but still grim future. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to step over broken glass to reach that potential. This is usually how Gen Urobuchi works in his shows, rather than the “being everyone is suffering” stereotype that detractors have tacked on to him. While he’s not known for being very subtle in his messages, he makes them clear. That the path to righteousness is an arduous journey, but realizing what is noble and what isn’t is the hardest step on that road. For the same guy who wrote Fate/Zero, he crafted a hopeful message in light of dystopia. Even if the system is oppressing its people, they can’t just fight back through brute force like savages. Being able to attain a better world means not abandoning those ideals and not succumbing to utilitarianism, which while repeated in other Urobuchi works felt the most genuine here.

But this sequel ignores that in favor of reinforcing the grim messages the antagonists like Makishima gave but watered down and with less clarity behind those motives. Instead of one morally gray side fighting a darker gray, it was just assholes beating up other assholes while the main characters could do nothing but watch. This missed the point of the Sibyl System. Despite being an analogue to Big Brother, the first season made efforts to show that it worked as a legitimate governor. The Sibyl System created happy civilians and diminished crime, at the cost of free expression and the right to control one’s own future. It was a dystopia that you could see in real life, and even worse, one that you could see people happily accepting.

Of course, that all gets thrown down the toilet and replaced with a regime that performs bizarre science experiments for no concrete reason and can be brought to hysteria through an old man who refuses to take his medication. The cold logic of the first season’s hierarchy was replaced with backstabbing for backstabbing’s sake. Instead of the officers acting like real people governed by a mechanized authority, the tables were turned. Enforcers were now shooting at civilians without a second’s thought while their superior didn’t know which button to turn it all off. The acts of police brutality committed in the name of Sibyl could make even a Ferguson cop scratch their heads. It made any unsubtle point that Urobuchi had made in the previous season and inflated it into sheer idiocy.

The realization that characters become little more than mindless cogs for Sibyl’s imagination can be seen clearly in Inspector Mika Shimotsuki. Even before the backlash against the season had become widespread, she was always the point of derision among fans for serving little more than a contrarian to Akane’s mission. But instead of acting like a real person who had reason to suspect Akane’s ideals, she became a mad puppet who had complete faith in what the Sibyl System did despite any contrary evidence. To her, the Sibyl System was right because it said so. They could give a single word on her behalf, and she would applaud like Charles Foster Kane. Despite being a minor flaw in comparison to the rest, she still served as the most irritating for her inability to be anything except a strawman.

What Ubukata thinks people are like.

Then there’s Togane, and his derailment into a psychopath after being a seemingly decent replacement for Kougami. The show offers no middle point between those two. One episode, he acts like a regular person. Next, he’s mutilating old ladies inside his trunk. He doesn’t even get a reason to be crazy. He’s just a test tube baby that the Sibyl System made for the sake of having a psychopath on their force, which makes no sense when looking at the Sibyl System’s previous view on deranged individuals and contradicts the original message. And it’s all because it would look cool if they had a Black Butler clone as a villain. Why even have assassins in the midst when you’re an all-seeing eye that can coerce everyone into doing what you want? Did Ubukata even watch the first season? Because it seems from his writing that he wanted to make his own cyberpunk cop show, but had to make do with this instead. His ideas contradict the format and do nothing that hasn’t been previously done.

And in the rare moment when he does something original, we get a man made out of 184 dead kids trying to get some vaguely-described revenge against the Sibyl System. This is supposed to create a dynamic of legion versus legion, and how a law can judge a group of people for what one person does. That would be an interesting concept that could have challenged the show’s themes, but this was all tarnished by execution not seen since that one episode of Umineko. Ubukata’s idea of social satire is having the rich literally eat the lower class. He illustrates how the average human is trapped in their own waste by having Kirito literally trapping a group of people with human waste. I guess when he was writing this, turning these metaphors inside out was supposed to be smart. Admittedly, this is from the same series that gave us Spooky Boogie, so I should allow the show to do some stupid things once in a while. But when they’re churned out episode by episode without any real thought to them besides shock value, it stops becoming a message on society’s woes and is just a guy trying too hard.

I’m not well versed on Ubukata’s previous works, with only a passing knowledge on Mardock Scramble and the like. But through her thumbprint in this season, he changed what was supposed to be call to not lose hope into borderline nihilism. Sure, less named characters died this season, but the existing characters had nothing to do this season. People complained that Yayoi needed more to do last season, and she gets even less here. I’ve heard the rumors that the film will ignore this season, and while it’s believable, I don’t see the point in ignoring this season if none of the characters developed throughout this season to really impact the film’s characterization. Sure, Akane’s now a bit hardened thanks to some betrayals, but I already assumed she would go down that path. Knowing that, the show becomes less of a narrative and more of a halfhearted advertisement. I wanted to like Psycho-Pass 2, and spent every episode wondering when the show would go back to form and be good again. Alas, I have to wait for the movie to wash away the mental scars.

2014
12.16

Saint Seiyuck

Initially only present in the OP and ED, we finally see that DRAGON Princess for the first time. She of course is some wunderkind with not only a Paramail but also in vocals that control DRAGONs and fire twin-shoulder death spirals powerful enough to destroy roughly half of Arzenal. If that’s not enough, Ange unlocks the Vilkiss’s power by singing as well. Then they cancel each other out and then that scene above, with the background montage spanning multiple storylines (anime?) with DRAGON Princess and Ange being rivals, friends, or lovers, happens.

I… don’t even know what to think anymore.

This revelation comes out of nowhere and while it can be said to be something pulled out of an ass, it does not reek of desperation as Cross Ange is unreservedly unpredictable and strange. Instead it merely baffles. It is not the negative kind of baffle that would cause somebody to drop it out of frustration. However that makes for a cold comfort as I’m not feeling any happier from watching it, meaning it isn’t the positive kind of baffle. Is the DRAGON Princess self-aware of how this is all some strange anime thing, and what the hell does it mean for Ange and the rest of her world? I don’t know anymore, and even worse, I WANT to know more.

Other than that the episode, like the last one, is pretty brisk and engaging. We find out quickly Julio’s henchwoman is a DRAGON woman much to Sylvia’s dismay, and then we’re off to the DRAGON attack. As usual, the mecha battles fail to impress, but the events around them are well-staged enough. The result is genuine tension as Ange tries to get back to the Vilkiss, taken by Salia midway through the episode. Salia’s actions (based on Ange’s desertion) feels kindof forced since Episode 7 made it seem like she fully reconciled with the former Princess. I think they felt the need to have Salia react to Ange’s desertion a bit more, but could only do so much before having to resolve it by episode’s end. Despite that, it allows for very nice moments between Salia and her younger sister, Mei (we’ve spent little time with them together but they’re a more convincing sister pair than Lunamaria and Meyrin ever were in SEED Destiny), and a good establishment of the connection between her and Commander Jill.

So I guess it all balances out, then being Cross Ange it does a bit more and involves midflight jumps between Paramails, Norma tossing, and the importance of bathing. I will expect nothing less next episode, which implies that we’ll learn more about Commander Jill and potentially Libertus.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Fukuda for some reason also really really REALLY wants to remind us that he was the guy behind Future GPX Cyber Formula. Can anybody tell me if I’m missing something by not watching this series? For that matter, why doesn’t he like to remind us he did Gear Fighter Dendoh?
  • Fun fact. DRAGON Princess and Ange’s seiyuus (Yui Horie and Nana Mizuki respectively) will also be playing primary characters (and friends) in the sequel to an anime more horrific than Cross Ange this January: Dog Days Double Dash. If you think Cross Ange is the worst possible thing, you have clearly never seen the original Dog Days or Dog Days Dash.
  • Congrats I guess to Ange hitting #4 in the Newtype Character polls. She just needs to jostle Asuna from her #3 spot and then all is mostly right with the world.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

2014
12.15

Release date: Summer 2011
Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi
Script: Reiko Yoshida, Keiichiro Ochi and Yuka Yamada
Studio: feel.

Well, here’s this year’s review that I am doing for Animation Revelation. Last year, I wrote about Bodacious Space Pirates, a very fun and entertaining show that I still quite like a lot. Now, as 2014 comes to a close, I am taking a look at another show, brought to us by the wonderful folks from Sentai Filmworks having since gotten a re-release a few months ago, with an all new English dub. That show, in case you couldn’t read, is Mayo Chiki.

Mayo Chiki, the shorthand version of the original title Mayoeru Shitsuji to Chikin na Ore to (or The Stray Butler and Myself the Chicken), is naturally an adaptation of a light novel series written by Hajime Asano between 2009 and 2012. It is about the tale of Kinjiro Sakamachi, the somewhat typical high school Joe Schmoe MMC who lives with his younger sister and mother and his encounter of Konoe Subaru, a butler to Kanade Suzutsuki, the ojou-sama of the school. Subaru, who despite all external appearance, is actually a girl, as revealed very on the nose and awkwardly. Also it turns out that Suzutsuki is in fact a mad sadistic minx who blackmails Jiro into keeping Subaru’s secret due to family circumstances.

So, Subaru and Kinjiro start up a courtship, a rather awkward courtship as the two tried to keep Subaru’s gender a secret and fend off people who want to mess around with their budding relationship. Be it Kureha, Kinjiro’s genki and overly violent (or overly affectionate) little sister, the sadist rich girl Kanade, Subaru’s overly protective butler father or the legion of yaoi fangirls (no really) that Subaru has amassed, some of whom yearn for Subaru x Kinjiro slash-fics. Yeah, it’s that kind of show. One of the big issues that affect Mayo Chiki is the tone and mood of the piece and how uneven it is. One episode might be a rather nice and sweet slice of life plot but out of nowhere bam fanservice. Another might be laden with silly but then the brakes hit hard into serious business. The show has a very vague of what it wants to be: either a slice of life comedy of errors or a serious relationship drama and with only 13 episodes to work with, that’s not a good thing. There is also this wicked and twisted sense of humor that permeates the show which veers occasionally into dark comedy. Granted, despite this, the first 4 episodes do set up a story with a positive direction of sorts, as Kinjiro and Subaru develop feelings for each other, in a sort of kindred spirits idea similar to Kare Kano from over a decade ago.

But then with episode 5, the harem tropes strike again, as they introduce some other girls to sway the story astray. Because, Mayo Chiki, in terms of premise, should focus their story on Subaru and Kinjiro’s relationship but nope got to appeal to the harem crowd despite the fact that isn’t really a harem. So we deal with Usami Masamune, a lone wolf tsundere whose storyline basically amounts to ‘I need to learn to make more friends and stop being a loner’. There’s also the possibility of a love triangle between Kanade, Subaru and Kinjiro but then since Kanade as a character is a constant tease, they don’t do anything with it. By the time they get back to the main story it feels rather rushed, though the moral (Be true to yourself) is a good one for this story. A few days back, when I was finishing my watch of Mayo Chiki, I made this particular tweet:

That said, the characters are an interesting bunch to be sure. In fact, they seem to be unconventional takes on stereotypes of main harem characters. Kinjiro is at first comes across as a MMC in the mode of Tenchi and Keitaro but over time he demonstrates some sort of initiative and in fact resembles what I looked like back in high school, before I grew out my beard. Subaru is an interesting take on the reverse trap in that outside of everyone in this show’s world be partially blind, she doesn’t quite make a convincing butler, even with tying her hair up and binding her rack. Despite that, she is quite nice and well-meaning and any intimate moment she and Kinjiro share while being awkward is sweet and full of d’aww. Her portion of the story (her trying to fulfill expectations put upon her vs. going what she actually wants) is probably the most compelling. Most of the rest of the cast is serviceable, more or less being twisted versions of characters you would expect to find in something like Toradora or Golden Time. All except for one, Nakuru Narumi, who is basically an indispensable comic relief who on occasion get a laugh or two at how bat-shit crazy she is. They even devote the last episode to her escapades, which makes that feel less like a final episode then a glorified OVA episode and we all know how those turn out.

The animation/visual presentation of the series is rather eh, or at the very least, looks alright. There is some semblance of a budget but the production staff really cut corners more often than not. The look and feel of the show doesn’t derp and dip that often, but it doesn’t really stand out, aside from the rather unique character designs. The music is also rather generic, though the OP and ED songs are nice to listen to.

So, what really saves this show from being merely on the good side of ‘meh’? Well it’s the English dub really. No, seriously, this is what saves it for me. It is way better than it has any business being but then again it’s all in good fun, and that why I like Sentai Filmworks so much especially since now that they have dumped Foster and bringing in new directors and writers on their dub works and overall improving their dubs, more so than last year. Christopher Ayres directed this dub and as expected it’s well casted and well performed, for the most part. When I first watched the show subbed on Hulu this past spring I had put together a list of potential talent they would get for the dub and lo and behold Sentai delivered on that. Casting came to down to Blake Shepard as Kinjiro who has done a good job in voice acting (here, in Campione and even the supporting roles like in Little Busters and From the New World)-he manages to give Kinjiro more dimension beyond just being the MMC. Relative newcomer Genevieve Simmons plays Subaru and got to say, she is shaping to be quite a versatile actress, being able to distinguish between Subaru’s butler persona and her more feminine side with ease. Carli Mosier, whose career spans back to Nerima Daikon Brothers (Chris Ayres first dub back in 2006-07) has in the Sentai era for Houston dubbing rose to prominent roles in a bunch of titles.  She plays Kanade as expected, with tons of seductive wiles and charm that elevates her performance a bit over her seiyuu counterpart in the original Japanese. The rest of the cast is a nice blend of newer talent (like Caitlynn French and Meg McDonald) and veteran talent (Greg Ayres in a very minor role, Allison Sumrall, David Wald, etc) that manage to do a good job with the given material. Of course, the ADR Script is credited to Clint Bickham, who has worked mainly as a voice actor for Sentai and script writer for both Funimation and Sentai. This year, he worked with Chris Ayres on this and 2 other shows (both seasons of Maria Holic and From the New World). The dub script is written with a certain degree of charm and wit that elevates a show that’s a bit on the meh side to be more interesting and entertaining. Bickham’s writing, especially on comedy dubs (which this is to a point) is lot like Steven Foster’s style only with a bit more restraint-he doesn’t just toss in a random joke for no reason just to get a laugh for his own gratification. Plus kudos have to be given to these actors/actresses for having the fortitude to work on this show.

Overall, Mayo Chiki is a heavily flawed series with a great idea that gets drowned in a lot of unnecessary elements but ultimately is saved by an English dub that makes it all the more entertaining. I’ll admit it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me just because of how bizarre the show is. I would suggest checking it out, but it’s not essential viewing.

Mayo Chiki is available from Sentai Filmworks, both in a sub-only DVD set released back in 2012 and on DVD and Blu-ray sets this past August for the anime. The light novel series has yet to be released here in the States, but the manga done by the creator Hajime Asano (7 volumes total) has been released by Seven Seas Entertainment.

To you all, have some happy holidays and here’s to a great new year!

2014
12.13

Run! It's the fanfic pitches for Book 5!

Okay, I get it. Kuvira’s forming the Earth Reich. She’s making Nazi Dirtmany, with her own Groundstapo and Earthmacht. The only way to dig the point deeper would be for her to make up her own language that sounds suspiciously like German, or to name the last episode “Groundfall”. Not an episode goes by where some character doesn’t talk about evil Kuvira is. I have deep pity for anyone who takes a shot every time Kuvira’s villainy is mentioned or inferred. I know she’s supposed to be the anti-Korra, but Korra wasn’t a saint. She has problems that this season is making its duty to spell out as subtly as Kuvira’s. So in trying to make her the anti-Korra, give her the virtues that Korra lacks instead of making her the absolute evil. But let’s not go for that attempt to characterize a villain. Let’s not make her feel like a genuine person than just what a 12-year-old thinks evil is. Instead, let’s make giant robots.

In a universe that already has its niche in elemental martial arts, I always found adding mechs in the lore to be questionable at best. It felt like the writers having no attention spans when exploring how bending can work, and they just decided to add robots because that would be cool. Like they couldn’t get a giant robot show accepted by Nick, so they just threw those elements into Korra without much reason. For a comparison, it would be like if they just had guns in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. On a technical standpoint, it makes sense. But it undermines the prior concepts laid down in favor of adding things for no reason other than boredom on the producer’s behalf. While I’m sure that people who wanted an Equilibrium-style gun fight between Harry and Voldemort will disagree, it creates a rift between what’s happening on-screen and what happens from a narrative standpoint. There’s less focus on what’s going on between the lines and more detail on how wacky Kuvira’s scheme can go.

And that doesn’t amount to much when you look at her plan, to take back Republic City for the Earth Kingdom. It’s something that was better portrayed in the Dark Horse comics with The Promise arc, where Earth King Kuei decides to go on the aggressive due to a lack of knowledge given the Fire Nation colonies. Like Kuvira and her own grandstanding, Kuei wanting to prove himself to his people. He wanted to be seen as a strong king. But the story also let it known that for all of his arrogance; he was still a man with good intentions. And if it weren’t for the sympathetic portrayal of the Fire Nation colonists, with one example showing how Earthbender and Fire Nation culture could fuse together, he wouldn’t be seen as an antagonist. It was all a gray situation that took diplomacy that Aang hadn’t fully mustered yet to resolve.

The Promise was also a clumsily written comic that only gets slowly vindicated through its successors like The Search, but that’s for another article.

What I’m trying to say is that Kuvira’s role in comparison to Kuei’s feels watered down in terms of character conflict while seemingly made up for in terms of firepower and overall threat. She has more physical strength than previous villains Korra has faced, but having power and little else gives you as much importance to the plot as a DBZ movie villain. Being able to score points in a “Who would beat who” scenario isn’t enough to make a good villain. While I’ve said this repeatedly, Kuvira’s potential to be more dims at every moment. I’ve heard complaints that she’s no better, if not worse, than Unalaq, and I don’t disagree. Unalaq was a lousy villain, but you knew that right from the bat. Kuvira, however, was set up to be more, like the answer to all the complaints about Korra’s character wrapped up in a worthy opponent. Alas, we get Earth Hitler.

This mismatching also makes me wonder. Given how much of a swerve a giant robot is, was Kuvira even intended to be the final villain? Launching impractical weaponry and making loud gestures to cower the opposite side seem more like something Varrick would have done in Book 2. An overarching mech used as the forefront of an authoritarian regime? Sounds stupid. An iron giant made by an eccentric millionaire who got the idea from seeing giant spirits fighting each other? Sounds… slightly less stupid, but something that would have fit better. Maybe I’m biased, but the idea of a crazed Varrick riding a giant robot into Republic City seems more fun than what we’re getting here. Plus, it makes more sense for it come out of him than from Junior, who’s never shown the kind of character crazy enough to make that kind of machine.

In fact, he’s never shown much character besides playing Kuvira’s snide lieutenant. It’s what limits the hostage scene, because his character is only defined by his love for Kuvira (and a brotherly love for Opal that seldom goes anywhere). Korra could have kidnapped some random technician with the know-how behind the machines, and that would have had as much emotional impact. This scene feels cold, and offers little in surprise or intrigue. I could even predict that Kuvira was going to sacrifice her husband for the good of her empire, which will in turn lead him to see the errors of his ways and give Korra the information on how to stop the robot. What should be emotional isn’t because you know Kuvira was going to fire the cannon. If she can make concentration camps, she’s definitely not above murdering her own husband. I would have been more surprised if she sent reconnaissance agents to rescue Junior and kidnap Korra and friends in turn. But then, Kuvira is a villain that lacks pragmatism. And pragmatism is something that should have been used more often for Legend of Korra’s villains.

But to get away from my rambling and onto some positive points, I’m appreciative that tensions are finally rising. After weeks of watching that same flashback of Zaheer choking Korra, it’s refreshing to see something else plague her thoughts. I like the little cameos by Tahno and Gommu to imply how big this siege will be. It’s something I’ve been hoping for the final season to do, to have actual finality by tying up some things full circle like showing what season one characters have been doing or letting characters finally let go of paranoia to let people do what needs to be done. I’m still far from satisfied, but things are going on a better path now that the concentration camp allusions, Korra’s rehabilitation arc, and the clip show are history.

2014
12.09

I’ve always been a big fan of Lupin III. It’s not high art by any means, but the fun characters, cool artwork, great music, and thrilling (if often predictable) capers are simply too alluring for me to resist. It’s a nice mega-franchise, and with so many episodes and films to choose from, one that usually offers just what I need when I want to turn my brain off and enjoy some decidedly old school animation. Much like the five other Lupin III fans who actually enjoyed The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (hell, it was my favorite anime of 2012), I’ve been impatiently anticipating the upcoming blue jacket(!) series since its announcement in October. Thankfully, the animation gods have seen fit to bless us with a sampler of next year’s misadventures in professional thievery via Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone, a theatrical sequel to the aforementioned Fujiko Mine anime.

Of course, by “theatrical,” I mean “it had a week’s worth of screenings in a single theater.” It’s also not really a movie, but two 26 minute episodes, complete with OP, ED, and recap segment. And the full title, which begins with Lupin The IIIrd, proves that whoever named this thing has absolutely no idea how roman numerals work. But who cares!? Lupin is back, baby! Not that it ever left, what with all those boring yearly TV specials no one seems to like. But who cares!? Lupin with genuine effort put into it is back, baby!

This kind-of-theatrical non-film is, for better or worse, not nearly as focused on Jigen as the title might lead you to believe. He does play a fairly prominent role in the story, but unlike how the Fujiko Mine series featured her as the lead character, the main focal point of this special is unfortunately not Jigen. That’s fine, and Lupin’s as likable as ever here, but it’s a little disappointing, as I’ve always loved the stylish gunslinger and was hoping he’d get one last chance to truly shine before his long-time voice actor Kiyoshi Kobayashi is inevitably forced to retire the role. The plot itself is fairly typical, revolving around an assassin trying to take out Jigen, but the villain – Jael Okuzaki – is pretty cool and has some neat quirks that make him a formidable opponent for the protagonists to overcome. Of course, this being a prequel, there isn’t much tension when Jael “kills” Jigen – but I don’t think anyone actually expected him to die, anyway. Just being along for the ride is fun enough, and it’s always been hard to tire of the Lupin gang outsmarting bad guys.

That said, just because the story isn’t particularly original doesn’t mean the writing is bad. The script is filled with great character moments, and the dynamic between Lupin and Jigen is in top form. Zenigata and Goemon are sorely missed, and Fujiko isn’t given much to do, but by choosing to mostly focus on these two characters, Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone manages to deliver some of the best moments between the duo in a very long time. A lot of it is somewhat subtle, with visual cues and sight gags telling much of the story, but it all goes a long way toward making it seem like this was the moment the two really became friends. It’s rare to see legitimate character development in Lupin anything, and I hope it becomes a more common aspect of future iterations. Every scene featuring Lupin and Jigen together is simply a joy to watch, really hammering home why this prequel/reboot was a good idea in the first place.

As mentioned above, Fujiko is featured in the movie, but she doesn’t really do much. However, many of the scenes involving her are kind of gross and, frankly, unnecessary. At one point, she gets captured by some evil organization/freaky sex cult (as she is wont to do), and what follows is… bizarre. I can’t say what happens without spoiling the story, but it feels completely out of place in the context of the special, and is unnervingly rape-y to boot. These moments were incredibly disheartening to me after the more mature sexuality of her titular 2012 series, hearkening back to the bad old days of the manga and earliest green jacket episodes where she was literally used as rape bait for the bad guys. (Not that there’s any actual rape here – as far as I can tell – but, well… you’ll see.) I really hope this doesn’t become a trend in the blue jacket series.

With that in mind, now is probably a good time to mention that Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone is perhaps even closer to Monkey Punch Lupin than the previous TV show was – and not just in terms of decidedly unsexy sexiness. Lupin himself is more serious than usual; he still makes goofy facial expressions and sometimes bounces around like an idiot, but he’s much colder and more calculating than many are probably accustomed to. Gravestone is also quite violent for a Lupin feature, even sporting some fairly nasty gore near the end. I can accept Lupin shooting people and a little blood here and there, but that particular aspect does feel rather out of character for the franchise, even in the darker version presented by this film and preceding TV series. It doesn’t bother me that much, but I do hope the upcoming TV anime tones down the edginess just a tad, as I can see this kind of stuff making the weekly capers less fun and potentially unnerving.

As expected from Takeshi Koike, the director of Redline (which is objectively the greatest movie ever made, ever), the character designs and animation in this special are fantastic on nearly every possible level. The unique look of the Fujiko Mine series has been refined to perfection and is more impressive than ever. The character movements are, more often than not, incredibly fluid – exaggerated to just the right degree to hit that pleasure spot in the brain which makes you happy merely to know cartoons are a thing. I’m not kidding when I say that this piece sports some of the most expressive facial expressions and body language I’ve ever seen in animation. Not to mention how the attention to detail at times can be breathtaking, as well; for instance, when Jael sets up and loads his guns, you can practically see the animators’ effort and production values oozing off the screen.

Sadly, Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone is also the latest victim in a series of beautifully animated works that have fallen prey to planting completely jarring, terribly rendered CG people into the backgrounds of scenes to fill space. They only appear a few times throughout the work as a whole, but they’re annoying and obvious enough to warrant mention. Personally, I would vastly prefer it if anime studios went back to the old method of painting still figures into the backdrop; while that was neither ideal nor realistic, it never took me out of the experience like when I see PS1-era video game models moving around a hand-drawn environment.

Special mention must be given to the amazing soundtrack by previous Koike collaborator James Shimoji. While none of the songs will likely be remembered as fondly as Yuji Ohno’s iconic classic Lupin themes, Shimoji brings an excellent low key, chilled out funk sound to the table. I found myself consistently bobbing my head along to the music throughout, repeatedly noting to myself that “I need this OST.” (Which comes out tomorrow, by the way. (You should buy it! (This isn’t a paid sponsor advertisement, what are you talking about?)))

The film ends on a pleasant note with nice character moments for Lupin/Jigen and Fujiko, and there’s a post-credits scene which heavily implies that this special was intended as a prequel to next year’s blue jacket series. However, sandwiched between these two bits, there’s a short but exciting scene that made me jump out of my chair in surprise and joy. All I’ll say is that it contains the reveal of a certain antagonist only seasoned Lupin fans are likely to know. This may very well have been the highlight of the movie for me!

Overall, this is standard Lupin III fare done perfectly, with lavish production values and a closer adherence to the original source material’s tone. It isn’t going to win any awards and might not appeal to the uninitiated, but those of us who’ve already fallen in love with the characters and universe are bound to have an absolute blast with Daisuke Jigen’s Gravestone. It succeeds where so many of the previous films and specials have failed by having a clear focus and not shoehorning in other characters, be they recurring or exclusive to that particular feature. While it would be a lie to say that I didn’t have some issues with the content and presentation at times, this was an excellent two-part pilot for the soon-to-be-released blue jacket series, and I can hardly wait to see more. As far as I’m concerned, April can’t come soon enough.

2014
12.07

What an incredibly brisk episode this was. We start with a public event of the torture and execution for Ange which quickly is quelled. Ange and Momoka are rescued by Not-Kira, the former gets disciplined plus detained for a week as punishment, and fully reconciles with Hilda (apparently brought back right after her dirt road beatdown last episode) as they bond over Norma things. Things like say… someday getting back at the world for being so stupid with their rabid hatred.

When a Norma comes along, YOU must whip her!/If she says she’s a human, YOU must whip her!

This lacks the big emotional core of the last episode, but it serves as a great payoff after that cliffhanger. I was expecting Ange to go into another existential funk again for a chunk of the episode, but she instead parses through the last nine episodes and decides to die with as much dignity as possible. Hard for me to really hate the character now, especially after that scene as well as her epiphany of how all the friendship and teamwork stuff she said in the first episode was a load of bullshit. I like the righteous tone established at the end of the episode, bereft of any deep desire to reconnect Ange with her old life, for it indicates we may just hit the second half running.

Every time this guy appears it’s like a passive-aggressive ‘fuck you’ to the character who first had that design.

I wish I could say more but the episode was without so much shock-inducing material that I’m really at a loss to take issue with anything. One could argue that the briskness meant we didn’t have enough time to really linger in the mainland. Then again, who would want to? Fuck that place. I could argue that Not-Kira still being a well-meaning if bumbling idiot tripping into Ange’s magical place is kinda old, but eh. It’s already established he’s that kindof a sadsack, and the show keeps making sure to punish him for his transgressions through continued beatdowns. I guess it could also be argued it may have spent too much time with Ange and Hilda in a cell at the end, but they needed to compare notes on their magical adventure, nip that animosity in the bud, and detail what the others thought of their desertion.

There is one thing I can argue about, how strangely the rescue of Ange went. No I’m not talking about Not-Kira falling into her crotch again but how it was shot. The entire build-up to that point was filled with many crowd shots eagerly begging for her to die. However when Ange is rescued the only focus is what and who is on stage. There is no cut to that Hover-Quidditch lacrosse player wondering what’s going on, no audience reaction shots, or even goading to get her killed. They’re just… missing for the entire scene and do not even get a reaction shot after Ange tells them to fuck off before shurikenning her brother so badly that his blood splatters onto her evil, racist, cripple sister princess. It’s a strange aesthetic decision to completely focus on such an abrupt event without showing the other people trying to figure out what is going on.

Anyway, now that we know we shouldn’t really care for the mainland, hopefully the reconciliation period with Ange and Hilda vis-à-vis the rest of Arzenal is short, and that they get to work soon in tearing the world a new one.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Seriously this moment is heavily amusing and cathartic. Cutting his cheek was nice, but to cut it so deeply that blood splatters upon his sister? Brilliant.
  • I hope Crazy Quiz Girl (aka Vivian) gets some background information. Outside of Hilda she’s the only one excited over Ange returning. I have to wonder why she’s like that. Even the big-bosomed, big-sister type is disappointed at Ange deserting.
  • Looks like we may no longer have an emphasis in keeping the perspective in one place. Now we’ll be cutting back and forth between Arzenal and the Misurugi Empire.
  • The episode preview banter had a point. Usually in this kind of shows an accord or friendship is made AFTER a death, but here… not. Charming.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

2014
12.05

4chan will use this for a dubs image, won't they?

So besides saving Zhu Li, what was the point of Bolin being in this episode? He didn’t really prove his worth or show off any lavabending moves. Instead, he’s just the comic relief in a recon mission. And while that would be just dandy in the first season, but we already had over 40 episodes to deal with that. I don’t think the writers know what to do with Bolin anymore. They keep throwing him around as a failed movie star or a savant or whatever seems interesting at the time, but none of that sticks. He’s still the stupid one out of the cast, and in a season where the staff have made Mako a bit bearable than before. Why not have the rescue operation be Beifong-only? Lin and Opal have had enough screentime to hold the show on their own, so why not devote an episode to them? The A-plot of this episode is so centered on the trials of the Beifong family that having anyone without a strong connection to the clan dilutes whatever dynamic the show’s going for.

And I bring that dynamic to question when the writing goes into the parental neglect angle that was scratched and scrapped in Book 2. They have little time as it is, and they’re going to introduce some angst between Lin and Toph? Because that worked well when Bumi and Kya bitched about how Aang didn’t love them enough. We already had Lin coming to terms with her family members a book ago, and we haven’t had any word that she had any beef with her mom beforehand, so why bring it up now? Furthermore, this angle gets resolved as soon as it’s introduced, so why bring it up in the first place if you weren’t going to delve into it further? For a season themed around the anxiety in exploring outside one’s comfort zone, it seems ironic for the show to keep on doing these tricks instead of something new.

Speaking of old dogs, are they going to deal with President Raiko? Instead of providing a morally gray teammate for the good guys, he’s been consistently portrayed as a politically inept man who would probably go the same route as Kuvira if he weren’t watched by the other characters. Almost every scene he’s been in for the past two seasons paints him as generic slimy politician. It’s grown excessive. And with almost ordering Varrick to replicate the spirit cannon, he’s becoming less subtle than Tarrlok. I want to know how he’s been holding Republic City for years. Maybe Gene Luen Yang can bring that up when Dark Horse eventually asks him to write a sequel comic. But then again, look what he did with the Zuko’s mom plotline.

We’re currently looking at a show with little time to waste, but is still playing around with plotlines than trying to resolve them. Like Korra still can’t get the spirits on her side because three years since Harmonic Convergence didn’t teach either side how to cooperate (though it’s probably a callback to how Aang couldn’t get useful advice from the past Avatars when dealing with Ozai during his show’s final arc). Prince Wu’s still a dipstick who wants to pork Korra. Kuvira is still stoic Earth Hitler after all those teases last season. If you’re going to make your main villain have little cameos before unveiling her, you could do well to have her be more special than the previous antagonists. Instead of any complexities, her plot revealed at the end is just “Hey, I’m gonna use my spirit cannon on everyone if they don’t obey me.” And I was really into her character at the beginning, so it’s disappointing to see her being given little in terms of characterization.