2015
12.27

I say this without hyperbole that the last episode of Charlotte was the worst twenty minutes of anime this year. The episode of Ranpo Kitan where the fat guy made cement blocks out of lolis? All the times in Dragonball Super where the characters were just circles and dots? None of them compare to the torrential incompetence of Yu having to scour the world for mutants and then taking away their powers without even a second thought or even question as to what he was doing. This crazed attempt to turn a season’s worth of plot into an episode must be remembered for years to come so anime fans and creators will know when such atrocities will happen again. But Charlotte’s finale wasn’t out of nowhere. It was a ticking time bomb that no one was willing to cut. So I bring to you the first sign of this show’s reckoning, episode seven. But before that, let me take some cold pills so I can discuss this show without wanting to cry.

(gulp)

Yu’s good-for-nothing sister died because her mutant powers activated at the wrong time, and he just can’t deal anymore. He just spends all day playing violent games and eating cup ramen, and that’s bad because cup ramen’s not even the kind where you have to walk over to the stove and cook it. Cup ramen’s just the kind where you just fucking pour water in the container and microwave it. Cup ramen’s the shortbus of instant ramen, and that’s why Jun Maeda made Yu eat a diet of nothing but that to imply he’s slow. And don’t you suggest that’s the wrong interpretation after watching the last episode, because go watch that and not tell me that Yu has brain problems, the kind of brain problems that necessitate cup ramen and not fucking regular instant ramen with a pot!

But that’s okay, because our boy also eats dangos to satiate his Key belly. You need to fill your tummy after straight-up killing a guy and stabbing people with a dango stick. You see, when you’re overdosing on the dead little sister, you have the really bad shakes that make you do things you’re gonna regret in five nevers. Yu is in a tough shape by this point in this episode, having gone from killing people in video games to stabbing more people with toothpicks. Dead sisters are the slippery slope that leads to playing video games, and Jun Maeda doesn’t want you to forget that. No sir. He wants you to play happy games with no killies, like the ones he makes. All his games teach you not to do that cocaine made out of dead sisters, and the dangers of premature pregnancy. Jun Maeda doesn’t want his audience to make freak babies, okay?

Even more okay is when his girlfriend Nao reveals she was stalking him all this time, but used her invisibility so he wouldn’t know. She watched everything Yu had done and did nothing to stop it. She watched him make a dead sister idol out of used cup ramen cups and then he tried to fuck it with his overtly circumcised dango penis, and she did nothing to stop any of that. She just let him wallow in his piss, because that’s what BFFs are for, right? And all of the killing he did in this episode? That’s all okay too because he just goes into the past and hops to another dead-sister-free timeline like he’s fucking Rintaro Okabe or something. So the lesson here is that snorting the ashes of your dead sister is bad because it will lead you to getting time traveling powers. Remember that, or I’ll smack your ass for failing the test.

[]*[]

See, this is your booty. It’s square like your soul. And I’ll slap it if you write about Charlotte when you should really be writing about cultural Marxism. Now fuck off and let me keep taking my pills. Mmm.

2015
12.26

Normally when a series follows conventional story cliches, it just comes across as boring or mediocre. After all, when you’re checking off points on a list rather then going out of your way to add bad plot elements, you’re going to end up with a serving as bland as ham on wheat bread. But oh, does Isuca deliver.

Isuca is in fact a fascinating case study on current Japanese animation. It’s the descendant of years of inbreeding within the industry, and Isuca is so imbed it might as well have blue skin and eat deep fried squirrel. I’d have an easier time counting the cliches Icuca doesn’t abuse. Harem for the hungry protagonist, pointless fanservice battle damage, flat-chested tsudere, more pointless fanservice battle damage, rats eating naked chicks, etc. etc. You get the idea. But with someone with an iron constitution like me, none of this would raise an eyebrow. Yet through a miracle of writing, it actually producing emotion from me. Anger. Resentment. Confusion. While many anime released this year can be catorgized as “so bad it’s good”, Isuca is just plain bad to the bone. The ugly art and frustrating main female protaginist, combined with the atrocious fanservise, make this show downright unwatchable.

This, ladies and gentleman, is what the anime industry has come to.

2015
12.25

Oh yeah I completely forgot about this didn’t I?

It was inevitable...

So as you may know, I kinda stopped blogging Gatchaman Crowds Insight after 2 ½ episodes last summer. I blame it on a combination of general procrastination, overwork on various other projects (many of which are also incomplete), and that lousy behind-the-scenes soap opera that exploded between myself, Mahou, Foggle, and a certain youknowwho who’s forcing me to write this shitty article and has generally been the source of everything that has gone wrong for me professionally in 2015. To say the least, I haven’t enjoyed being on the internet or watching anime that much this year.

But anyhoo! Crowds! What did you miss? Well Gelsadra used to be Kana Hanazawa but then ate enough emoticons to turn into Joseph Joestar! (or at least be voiced by Sugita) Then he was successfully elected Prime Minister of Japan over that boring guy from last season by running his own cult of personality! The he ate too many emotions and he kinda started spitting out incredibly patriotic iguanas! Then Hajime beat herself up! And that’s all you need to know about what’s been happening on Glee-er Gatchaman!

AND NOW THE CONCLUSION…

KATZE SMAAAAAASH!!!!

So our final episode begins with an overview of Hajime’s dumbass plan to “kill” Gelsadra by using the power of Berg-katze to impersonate her. This does not sit well with the other Gatchamen, especially newbie Tsubasa. We then get a replay of the fight (or should I say beat down) of Not-Sadra from last week, albeit now with footage of Hajime getting clobbered inside her suit…

…and this is where the episode takes a turn for the disturbing.

Ew.

The sight of a battered and bloody Hajime is admittedly something I’ve desired to see for some time (like five minutes into episode 1 of Series 1!!!), but the way this episode goes about it comes off as overkill. Well anyway, Gelsadra is alive and Hajime is in a coma. Not even Tsubasa’s grandpa’s fireworks display is able to lull her out of it. A vote is held to determine the fate of Gelsadra on Earth which she wins. And the episode just sorta ends without any real resolution.

OR DOES IT?!?!

A few months later the surviving iguanas are playing soccer with the CROWDS. Sugane and Jou continue to get drunk. And Hajime comes out of her coma in time to engage in hot yuri with Tsubasa. All is right with the world. Yeah whatever, this show sucks.

No Tsubasa, thank YOU!!!!

The thing about the Insight finale is…its actually pretty decent. I remember how bad the original Crowds ending was that they had to shove an additional final episode in just to explain exactly what the hell happened in the last two minutes. Not so much here. While the first half of the episode does feel like its retreading ground from the previous week, its done in a way that still feels kinda fresh since we’re getting the Gatchamen’s angle on the fight and not that of their captive studio audience. Did it need Hajime’s surprise goreathon though? Not really. But hey! At least the coda this time feels fully developed and not something that was literally tacked on at the last minute.

So what about Crowds Insight in general? Well I’ll be frank in saying that this show overall was a hell of a lot worse than the original Crowds. Why pray-tell? Well its simple really. Everything Crowds did wrong, Insight managed to make even worse. Annoying insufferable characters? Here have some more. Confusing storyline that seemed to shift focus every five minutes? Try 2 and a half! Mamoru Miyano’s acting? Seriously it sounds like he’s INTENTIONALLY trying to impersonate Barney in this series! I could go on but I’m just repeating myself at this stage.

NOT BUYING IT.

At the very least though, this appears to be the end of the Crowds franchise as we’re out of old Gatchaman villains to cannibalize and render as moe girls and psychomaniacs. Maybe Tatsunoko will get the impression that Yatterman Night is a better way to go to do these edgy half-reboots than this weird ass hipster pandering bullshit. Only time, and money, will tell in the end.

2015
12.24

You know what was one of the most polarizing anime this year? Yuri Kuma Arashi. One faction thought it was a wonderful take on lesbian relationships both grizzly and calm. Another smeared this anime as nothing but pandering fluff for the creator to masturbate to. You can say this show either touches upon many facets of the human identity, or just uses them as a platform to show naked girls licking each other. Or you can be a stuffy little centrist like me and take both angles. To watch this show requires much engagement, the kind where you can watch an emotional conversation between toy bears with a straight face. Try even further to stay engrossed when they intersperse “growl, growl” into their sentences.

I guess you could say this is camp, but not the kind of camp you could show to any newcomer. It’s as camp as a throne made of Bette Midler heads. It’s more melodramatic than Nicholas Cage on an overdose. It’s so over the top that divas and spinsters look like prudes and hags when faced with this show’s might. The entire age of Romanticism turns stilted compared to the blind emotions running rampant in Yuri Kuma Arashi. The likes of John Keats would look at Ikuhara’s work and balk at his outlandish visions. And for better or worse, it’s the cheesiest love letter someone could ever send to her crush.

This series is the entire duration of someone’s emotional unsteadiness just before they ask their soul mate out for a date or some coffee. A love so intense that it can only trigger either sheer empathy or the urge to barf. There’s no in-between. I’d say this would be like gauging one’s reaction to a Harlequin Romance, but that’s a compete disservice to this series. It’s more like judging a reader’s ability to enjoy a Nabokovian relationship. This show is for the people who could sympathize with Humbert Humbert and his love for Lolita, the kind who were enthralled by Van and Ada’s romance. It’s for those who can see through the flaws of some horribly troubled people and find forlorn lovers in the need of a little push. Yes, that means forgoing a ton of professed beliefs just to rationalize why these two should be together. Anyone with logic on the brain would watch all of this show and think Ginko and Kureha should not be together at all, but this show pisses on logic. Logic has nothing at all to do with romance. That’s not to say I didn’t find this show pedantic, but Yuri Kuma Arashi could be rewarding if you do your best set up your suspension of disbelief.

2015
12.23

A lot of people watched Toyko Ghoul √A this year. I was not one of those people. I just didn’t care. And unlike Gakkou Garashi, which I regret having skipped out on during its initial run earlier in the year, I have no such regrets regarding the ghouls of this urban fantasy. Can I understand why people would love this show? Yes. Do I myself give two shits about this show? No. Non, et je ne regrette rien.

The root premise of both the Toyko Ghoul series is beautifully simple: there are humans. There are ghouls. Ghouls eat humans. Humans hate being eaten. Both species just want to chill and live life, but that whole “can only eat people” thing causes tension. It’s simple, but it is a pretty cool idea. And in some episodes, it can be cool watching both our ghoul and human protagonists try and juggle normal lives of going to work or attending book signings and dealing with the whole “war is just around the corner” thing. But…okay, I’m going to be frank with you guys. I wrote that first paragraph after watching the show a few days ago and I had a whole rant planned out at the time, but I just realized something very important: I don’t remember jack about this show. I’m serious, I watched four random episodes in a row a few days ago. And now all I can remember are pieces involving some called Owl, an old man, gangs with masks, and this one dude having a mental breakdown because he can’t see his friend anymore. And therein lies what might be the biggest fault of this show for me; in the moment, it can be a stupid and confusing ride. But in the aftermath, it was just something boring and forgettable to watch before Marquis and I skipped off to watch and riff on something else. I watched the final episode of Gurren Lagann only once, back in 2011, and I can still remember every plot beat that happened there, down to the final scene. I remember early bits of dialogue from Bleedman’s Grim Tales from Down Below, the incestuous subtext quickly becoming just text, and I haven’t touched that webcomic since middle school. I watched Toyko Ghoul √A on the 18th, and I remember…what? A really bad OP? So screw complaining about how stupid the show can get, or how much it bothers me that a 22-year-old male sounds and looks like your classic yandere chick. No, this show’s biggest crime is that, it bores me too much for my brain to jumpstart early-phase LTP and move it to long-term memory. Now if you excuse me, I have to catch up on One Punch Man.

2015
12.22

There are a lot of bad works of fiction in this world, dear reader, and I have had the displeasure of “enjoying” many of them. But for the most part, they do not provoke any real emotion from me. Yes, they’re awfully written, sloppily passed, and often offensive in content, but they’re still fiction, so I often feel bored the whole way through. You become desensitized to things eventually, after all.

Then….there’s Grisaia.

Grisaia is such a convoluted concoction of just plain bad writing that it’s hard to write about it without just ranting like a rapid animal. The characters are dreadful, and they do ludicrous things at the drop of a hat. There are several attempts, especially with the main character, to add depth through drama, but it all falls flat. It seems whoever wrote this was trying to out do themselves. How much more revolting stuff can we cram into this episode?

Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide how good or bad an anime is. For your convenience, here’s a short list of observations made within the first nine minutes of the first episode of the Eden of Grisaia:

– Annoying harem with awful designs that all go to some school for some reason. Because harem.
– Red eyelashes for some reason.
– Older woman training a young boy to kill. They do the horizontal happy dance latter. For some reason.
– A puppy that dies. Of course.
– Said young boy is training to be a mercenary despite the fact that he spent time imprisoned in a place that trained child soldiers, where he was forced to dress up as a girl and raped, all after being raped by his sister and witnessing his father kill his mother. But really, training him to kill is the best option here.

This isn’t even getting into what happened in the first season. Or the rest of this season. Really, “Grisaia” and “stupid” are interchangeable at this point.

2015
12.21

There are some pieces of media that are hard to recommend without revealing a twist that occurs within it, as said twist is often integral to the very identity that the show, film, or book has for its fanbase. It was difficult for my fellow Thaumatropists to get me to watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica without them constantly promising that “the twist is coming” or that “this episode will change everything.” They ultimately refused to tell me what made this magical girl series so damn special. Likewise, Steven Universe presents itself as a cute, magical slice-of-life comedy, but us fans will always urge you to watch until the episode 25/26 two-parter, screaming in your face that this is where the cartoon gets cool and all the events in previous episodes take on new meaning. Where I’m going with this is that Gakkou Gurashi! falls within the same boat; this isn’t your standard “cute schoolgirls doing cute things” anime despite the overly saccharine opening sequence and song. There is a twist come the end of episode one, and it is a twist that turns the show from a run-of-the-mill amusing diversion to something that, while not groundbreaking or thought-provoking, forces the viewer to reevaluate every single scene.

The main characters of the show differ from other characters in this adorable genre in that they spend pretty much all their time in school; they live on the school grounds, hence the English translation of the title being School-Live. How this came to be is once again a part of the eventual reveal, but the decision to do this on the part of the original mangaka leads to some interesting little stories that wouldn’t have worked remotely as well if our girls were constantly running around off of school grounds. Even so, you have probably seen these character types before: the happy-go-lucky protagonist, the tough-as-nails action girl, the motherly/big sister type, etc. Really, the thing that has quickly made this one of my favourite anime of the 2015 after only watching two episodes for this very review are the ways these characters play off each other and the school environment. Everyone has their own little secrets and quirks that only become truly apparent once you see the reactions that the characters surrounding them have. Abundant joy doesn’t feel especially weird until you realize the reserved looks other characters give the genki girl and the deliberate manner in which they word things when she is in the room. Reserved is probably the best way to describe the direction that the anime is going after watching these first two episodes. Even though the show revels in bombarding the viewer with chibis and cuteness from time-to-time, Gakkou Gurashi is also more than willing to step back and allow a simple gaze or a lack of speaking set the tone for a scene. Zig-zagging between different atmospheres is a prevalent thing in fact, with the tone of a given episode jumping back and forth between a happy playfulness and a more somber realism. Over the course of the second episode, for example, we jump between the happy Yuki trying her best in class and the shovel-bearing Kurumi coming to terms with an awful breakup…and it works. Maybe the mood whiplash trope isn’t a favourite of yours, which is fair. But I can’t help but feel that the juxtaposition of joy and sadness that forms the foundation of this work is executed very well, letting neither tense or funny moments to overstay their welcome. Inside this cute production is something that happily managed to subvert my expectations in the same as the shows previously mentioned in this article, which I suppose brings us back full circle. Explaining a show without giving away the big reveal can be a struggle, with one having to tip-toe around what is possibility the biggest draw. So I find myself having to close out with just this statement: check out Gakkou Gurashi, because if you are like me and have been struggling to really get into most of 2015’s offerings, you may find this to be a pleasant diamond in the rough.

2015
12.20

For 13 years a very vocal section of the Digimon fandom has been clamoring for a continuation of the Adventure series, despite the controversial epilogue in 02 that wrapped up the series in a nice little bow, fans would much rather forget that flash forward (and for good reason) in exchange for a third Adventure series. In 2014, they finally got their wish, cue Digimon Adventure Tri. Tri promised to show the adventures of the now teen-aged Digidestined and their Digimon partners in an all new television series set to air in the spring of 2015! Except it didn’t air in the spring, nor did it even air as a series, instead it was delayed all the way until fall and was suddenly announced that it would be a series of 6-movies instead. Once more was the announcement that the director of the infamous School Days anime would be in charge of the films. with all this combined with a slew of other announcements, fans were suddenly split (what else is new?). Some were mortified, some were skeptical, others remained optimistic, and the rest just wanted the damn thing to air and get it over with. Now that Tri’s first movie has finally aired, was it worth the wait? Well, that depends on who you ask.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, general reception has been mixed, and it’s not hard to see why. While the more mature tone and storytelling and Tamers-esque focus on how dangerous Digimon can actually be in the real world is much appreciated, the actual character drama leaves much to be desired. The infamous broken cell phone instantly springs to mind, not only does the movie beat us over the head with the image, but it’s not even a particularly good image for the emotion and drama it’s used to convey. It’s obvious the cell-phone was used to signify civilian casualties, so why not just show an actual dead body instead? It’s no secret that Digimon has undergone an audience shift in recent years, now being targeted at an older audience, with recent games being aimed more at adults. So why the pussyfooting? It doesn’t even have to be a particularly gory image, just a shot of an outstretched, lifeless arm protruding from some rubble would be an adequately powerful image. As it is, it just makes Tai’s doubt throughout the movie look unfounded, as if someone’s broken cellphone is the most traumatic image ever, and as a result makes Tai and Matt’s obligatory lover’s quarrel conflict seem forced. All of this comes to a head in the climactic battle with fan-favorite Alphamon (which also not only marks his traditional animation debut, but is also his first anime appearance since X-Evolution in 2005!) where Tai flashes back to the damned cellphone for a half-dozen times before finally getting his resolve. At that point the audience would just want the movie to get the fuck on with it.

Another point of contention is the fate of the 02 cast, Davis, Ken, Yolei, and Cody, shown in silhouette being defeated by Alphamon, and aren’t mentioned again for the entire movie, leaving many people to wonder what the fuck happened to them. Now let’s not fool ourselves here. These characters aren’t dead, and if they are, they’re not gonna stay that way. However, the fact that Davis and the others aren’t even so much as mentioned is incredibly jarring. With Imperialdramon slated to show up next movie, we can only hope for answers then.

And therein lies our next problem: the inevitable schedule slip. It’s no secret that Toei is notorious for not delivering things on schedule (just ask Sailor Moon fans), and with Tri being a movie series, episodes will be delayed, even the biggest optimist can’t deny that. And that will be Tri’s biggest obstacle. When all is said and done, will the audience still care enough to tune in?

Personally, I found Digimon Adventure Tri to be enjoyable in spite of all its faults. Visually it’s everything I wanted out of a Digimon anime, and as far as Toei’s revival attempts go, it’s miles better than Sailor Moon Crystal and Dragonball Super (but below Battle of Gods and Resurrection F). I’m interested in seeing where the plot goes, I want to see more interactions between these characters after so long, I want to know what the deal is with newcomers Meiku and Meiccumon, I want to see more of Alphamon, I want to know what role Hackmon will play, and it vexes me that I’ll probably have to wait 5 years to have any of these questions answered.

2015
12.19

Shimoneta and Prison School made plenty of controversy this year involving obscenities, sexuality, and a certain dub line that I’ll decline to talk about. They were made to challenge controversies to the point where even fans of this comedy style would get annoyed at how much their excesses invaded the screen. Subtlety was unheard of as episode after episode of these two shows pumped out meat for Sankaku Complex articles while some couldn’t tell whether or not these shows were meant to criticize societal norms or just be exploitation for its own sake. There hasn’t been any definitive word on how one should view the subject matter. Even long after those names are forgotten, anime fans will still discuss love nectar and Kana Hanazawa getting pissed on with sick interest. These shows being more victims of abundant censorship does not help.

Shimoneta for the most part had an indecisive run. The first episode felt like an overeager Catholic school giggling because she heard the word ‘fuck’ for the first time. Swears and phallic objects were considered jokes in and of themselves, which is less what you expect from a satire and more from a kid who masturbates to a pair of oranges. Maybe it can be justified through Japan’s tyrannical censorship laws, but I’ve seen better dirty jokes from anime. I’ve laughed at hentai before, so this show’s platform was already in question from the beginning. Then, the show revealed Anna was a crazy-ass ho. She pushed the innuendos that we had all seen a thousand times into insanity by pissing out a rainbow of love nectar when falling down a cliff. She was the perverse insanity that Kajo and the rest of SOX wished they could be, encapsulating the kind of society that bans sexual education in favor of faked innocence. By constantly trying to rape Tanukuchi, she gave Shimoneta the kind of abhorrent subject matter it needed to show what it fought against. Otherwise, it would have been an argument without much of a point.

Prison School was more visceral, if only for the more realistic designs aside from Andre. Some people straight up called this a feminist work, whereas critics accused the series as nothing but more exploitation except this time for the dominatrix demographic. If you wanted to see hot women assault men over and over until they were red in the face, you needed this anime in your life. Otherwise, when does any anime ever portray women being the doms in the situation? Like Shimoneta, it was a refreshing take on on-screen sleaziness, yet it strikes me how this show received a live-action adaptation just after the anime ended. That just leaves me dumbstruck.

2015
12.18

Well I finally did it. I have watched the entire 2011 version of Hunter x Hunter. It had always been on my series bucket list years back, but never really got into experiencing because of other commitments. The trudge could be daunting at times, and I had to remind myself I watched much longer series to get ahead, but all in all, the binge has been a net gain in my eyes. Nevertheless, there is that one headscratcher I have after watching the last episode, and something that I believe with no doubt other fans suffer. And that is how there is not a chance in Hell the majority of those lingering plot threads will ever get resolved.

You will never get to see Gon win a battle against Hisoka. You will never witness Kurapika killing all of the Phantom Troupe. You will never watch Illumi finally leave his brother the fuck alone. Anyone hoping for anything resembling a final showdown should not watch Hunter x Hunter if that’s all they want. Even when the last episode finally has Gon meet up with his dad, they open a whole batch of other stuff involving the Dark Continent, which I’ve heard will take longer than the Chimera Ant arc to resolve and will most likely dawdle even more so thanks to Togashi’s infamous breakdowns. By the time your grandchildren are old enough to read hiragana, they’ll go on an illegal manga site and find out only half a dozen chapters came out between now and then.

And yet, one of Hunter x Hunter’s crucial strengths lie in avoiding conclusions. I don’t think Togashi ever intends to finish Hunter x Hunter, because he would have done so by now. Stories with the Chimera Ants and Greed Island are examples that he would rather appreciate the journey in the moment than the endgame. The show is all about how you can never be certain about the future, so you have to enjoy what’s going on right now rather than fret over what could happen next. One moment, you’re looking for something important. The next, an army of giant bugs show up and try to kill you. Even when the battle’s over, the war never truly ends. Personal arcs like Kurapika’s in York New City are left open to contemplation rather than closed off with a sure climax. And so on. “As one door closes, another opens” is the theme running through the show. Major events in real life never get resolved decisively, so is the same with Hunter x Hunter.

Plus, I like to think the story’s open-ended nature is meant to drive the reader or the viewer to imagine what could happen next. Hunter x Hunter doesn’t spoonfeed you everything, but expects you to come up with your own conclusions as to what connects to which. Yeah, it can be infuriating at times, but it’s also probably why the manga’s had such a dedicated fandom after all this time. Admittedly, this could all be bull and Togashi really is struggling to figure out how to close his series the same way Kishimoto didn’t know how to kill off Madara, but an article about that wouldn’t be as thoughtful now would it?