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Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer 2013 Anime First Impressions, Part 1:

It's the start of the new anime season, finally, which means a ton of new series are coming out of unknown worth.  Since there are so many series being released over the course of multiple weeks, waiting until they've all aired would take too long.  Instead I'll break the first impressions up into manageable segments and handle these shows in small blocks as they arrive.  So without further ado, lets talk about the new shows:

Free:  This show is extremely gay.  And not in a good way, like, it depicts complex gay characters dealing with the trials and tribulations of being gay in a straight bigoted world or whatever.  No, it's just guys acting utterly unnaturally, repulsively, in public, that's simply an eyesore to watch.  As far as I know, none of these characters are technically gay, so why are they constantly draping themselves over each other, walking into each other's bathrooms to observe each other bathing, falling asleep on each other, skinny dipping together, and doing every other repulsive public display of affection together possible?  Ten seconds wouldn't go by before someone was stripping in front of someone else, grabbing someone else's hand, or doing some other repulsive act that no boy would actually allow another boy to do to them in public if they weren't a dating couple, and even then I think most gays have better taste than to gallomp about together like deer in heat like these four 'friends' were doing.

This may seem hypocritical considering how much esteem I hold Yuru Yuri in, or K-On for that matter where the girls are constantly touchy-feely.  But that's just how girls are.  There's a completely different rule for how men should act in society than women.  It's okay for women to show their affection for each other physically, cuddle up, grab each other's breasts, hug or kiss each other.  It always has been like that.  Since the beginning of time, women have been affectionate and no one considers it to be sexual in nature or untoward behavior.  They're biologically programmed to cuddle, whether with kids, husbands, or peers, it's just in their nature.  Honestly, I think girls are more touchy-feely than anime depicts, rather than less, and therefore simply depicting a realistic scene when a bunch of girls gather alone together is in no way offensive from an outside viewpoint.  However, most men wouldn't be caught dead doing what the men in Free were doing without a hint of hesitation or shame.  It was a bizarro world where not only were these men acting horribly gay in public, they weren't even embarrassed about it and acted like this was how men normally acted around each other every day.  If they had at least given some explanation or consideration for how aberrant these main characters were, it would have been easier to swallow.  But the idea that what they were doing is simply normal and natural and we shouldn't even notice the ridiculousness of what was going on in front of us is a bridge too far.

This series has no redeeming traits.  It creates a group of totally unrealistic, unbelievable characters, and has them continuously flirt with one another, while constantly nude or half-nude.  They act more like girls than boys in all ways, except when they get hyper competitive with one another about swimming, where they suddenly start acting like total a**holes to each other.  This is not an improvement over their pure female personas.  It just adds one more thing I hate about them, this male lack of kindness and stupid pecking order strutting, gorilla chest beating crap.  Who the hell cares who's a faster swimmer?  That says nothing about whether you can make other people happy, be relied on in a pinch, or guide yourself down the right path of life.  It's the stupidest thing on Earth to get arrogant about or strut around like a God damned rooster over.  Why is it that the character, Haruka, said all he wanted to do was feel the water when swimming, but suddenly when around Rin he suddenly wants to beat him in a race?  Within seconds his character is already contradictory and a total mess.  Is he just a typical boy who only cares about winning, not playing the actual game, or does he just want to have fun playing the game and winning is unimportant?  He's said both statements now so his character is just a total mess, he's just a walking paradox.

What annoys me so much about this series is that even if you compare it to the most straight-out 'for viewing pleasure only' anime series geared towards men, it fails completely.  High School DxD has a better plot than Free.  Queen's Blade has a better plot and far more interesting characters than Free.  No matter how graphic the fan service of some anime series have been at assiduously showing off naked women for the sake of male viewers, they have never stooped so low as Free has by not including even a semblance of a plot or empathetic characters.  Free is just straight out 'men who randomly strip and cuddle' the anime.  Compared to that, Queen's Blade is Shakespeare.  And to think that Kyoto Animation, who once animated such emotional masterpieces as Air, Kanon, and Clannad, are now animating this drivel instead of the Little Busters Key asked them to animate, fills me with boiling lava level rage.  As if Chuunibyou wasn't enough, as if Tamako Market wasn't enough, now they're just a 'porn for girls' company animating a series beneath the level of Queen's Blade, dragging their own reputation through the mud and making a mockery of what their company used to be and used to stand for.  Kyoto Animation made anime great, and now it's making gay porn.  Are you kidding me?  Obviously, this series is dropped.

Danganronpa:  This series is obviously trying to be weird, unique, and stylish, and it more or less succeeds.  In such a strange world, things that you normally wouldn't find believable suddenly become natural.  Why students would all be wearing totally different outfits while supposedly going to a school together (which, in Japan, requires a school uniform), is just something you can ignore.  For the same reason, you can ignore how a bear can talk, you can ignore how many people it would take to set up this death game, you can ignore why the conspiracy hasn't leaked to the outside world yet, so on and so forth.  It's an extremely ridiculous story, but if you just accept that from the beginning, you can start to enjoy the situation for what it is.  What we've been given is 15 quite original and unique characters and a murder mystery/survival game that lets us see the best and the worst in the entire assembled cast.  By driving people to extremes, we get to learn more about them than if they were just leading ordinary lives.  So we get the most extreme people possible and put them in the most extreme situation possible and then observe the fireworks while eating popcorn.  This is pretty brilliant if you ask me.  How can it not be fun to see what happens with all of these people next?  There are plenty of favorites to choose from and someone anyone can identify with somewhere in the cast.

This story isn't aiming for greatness or any deep commentary on human nature, it's just an excuse to have fun watching crazy people do crazy things together.  But that's fine, entertainment doesn't have to go any further to be good, so I'll be looking forward to this series in the future as well.

Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku:  A comedy slice of life of cute girls being cute together, with nary a boy in sight to spoil our fun as male onlookers.  It's a formula that's been done before, seemingly into the ground, but so far this version of the genre is exceptionally good.  The comedy aspect of this story is the total emphasis of the story, the cuteness taking a total back seat, and the comedy so far has been hilarious.  Weaving together the story of a martial artist challenging bears for fun (something frontiersmen in America actually did do for basically the same reasons), with the plot of a typical video game or anime where each bear you beat has colleagues in the shadows who laugh and say, "so 1 of the 4 bear emperors has been defeated, but he was just the weakest of us, kukuku," was utterly brilliant.  Other jokes, like the ending continuously coming too soon, or the rich girl getting way too much animation for no reason, impoverishing everyone else back into mere storyboards, also worked well.  The ridiculousness of the 'going home club' actually being a club was another great joke.  So long as the humor stays at this level, I have no complaints.  In fact, the series would be amazing if it stayed at this level.  I just don't believe it can do so.  The problem with every comedy is it quickly runs out of jokes and ends up repeating itself.  Any comedy series that doesn't have a serious plot (generally a romance) that can keep changing the situation in the background, so that new jokes can arise instead of just poking fun at characters for the same foibles as they've always had, risks stagnation and pointlessness.  Galaxy Angel solved this problem by just changing the environment and situation drastically every episode, so it always felt new.  Working solved it by having romance sub-plots everywhere that we could enjoy instead of the humor.  Hataraku Maou not only has romance but also battles and politics thrown into the mix.  Does Kitakubu have any plan to save itself like these genuinely good comedies had?  That remains to be seen, but judging how narrow the 'going home club' setting is, I kind of doubt they have any way to continue changing things up.  I'll keep watching until I'm no longer laughing, we'll just have to see how long that takes.

Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C3-bu:  Another comedy slice of life of cute girls being cute together, with nary a boy in sight to spoil our fun as male onlookers.  This one takes a different tack from Kitakubu though.  In an all girls' school, it at least makes sense that these girls only hang out together and have no romance on the brain.  Also, these girls have a much better reason to hang out together than Kitakubu, they all share the same hobby.  Their hobby is airsoft survival battles, a sort of variant of paintball where plastic pellets are used instead of paint as the basic ammunition.  It looks like a genuinely fun hobby, and the girls seem well practiced at it and serious about their passion.  It throws off a lot of good vibes seeing them play together like a well oiled machine.  Our main character, who just joined the school and has no idea how to play airsoft, is a girl who's too shy to make friends well and therefore has missed many opportunities to fit in with her classmates.  The airsoft club, by aggressively going out of their way to recruit her, is giving her a chance to make friends for basically the first time in her life.  I hope she takes them up on their offer.  Not only is airsoft fun, but being accepted as a part of a group you can talk to about anything, being relied on, and making other people happy is fun too.  Clubs, hobbies, roommates, they all seem like great excuses to push people together who would ordinarily never meet and create socialization and friendships that would ordinarily never form.  There should be more activities like this, that help people find each other and get together.  School is a great platform for forcing people to interact, but really this sort of thing, these clubs based around hobbies, should extend into adulthood too.  In an age where church is a farce because no one believes in God or sin anymore, there's no place for adults to gather and meet each other anymore.  Ball room dances died out hundreds of years ago.  An airsoft club is just the sort of thing modern society needs.  Clubs for everyone, and no one left behind, should be the motto of the future, for kids and adults alike.

Servant x Service:  From the maker of Working, we get another anime about the adult working world.  This time they're low level bureaucrats that help people file their paperwork and interact with the government.  The equivalent would be the people you have to meet to get your driver's license renewed.  It's rather humorous that the workers themselves know that they're hated by their clients.  Not only do they get an easy job of simply filing paperwork, but they get paid in tax dollars, and on top of all that, the people employing their services are only there because regulations force them to do so against their will.  But none of this is the fault of the employees, who are just doing their jobs and following laws written by politicians far above them.  In fact, the workers at this welfare office are victims too, as they have to take all the hatred of the public onto their shoulders, none of which they are to blame for.  A sympathetic look at a despised group of people is always a fun and solid storyline.  In addition, there's good humor between the employees and they have comical traits residing within their souls as well.  Like the girl who can't stand up for herself and thus ends up listening to old grannies natter on about nothing all day while crying, or the girl whose first name is Lucy, hates being called Lucy, but ends up being called Lucy by the whole office anyway.

It was a solid first episode, but I find it hard to believe much can happen or change from here.  It will be fun, sure, and slightly funny, and slightly heartwarming, but really, what can happen in a story about filing paperwork all day?  This isn't a cop drama, a hospital drama, or a lawyer drama.  We're talking about a paperwork drama.  That's pretty thin gruel to work with.  I could see Servant x Service getting boring quickly.  At best, it will stay funny until the end, but never amount to anything special.  Naturally, I'll continue watching until it actually becomes bad, but I wouldn't be surprised if I gave up on this show later.

Sequels to old series need no introduction.  Obviously Tamayura was good, and so on.  Clearly terrible shows aren't even worth watching a single episode of -- like Inu to Hasami or Brothers Conflict.  Which means this ends the first portion of our first impressions.  Still to come:

Kiniro Mosaic, Kimi no Iru Machi, Gatchaman Crowds, Genei wo Kakeru Taiyo, Fantasista Doll, Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi, Uchouten Kazoku, Love Lab, Hyperdimension Neptune, Silver Spoon, Blood Lad, and Watamote.

4 out of 5 new shows being good is an excellent scorecard so far.  As I expected, the summer season is starting well and looks to have many more fun shows than the spring season had.  But it's unknown whether any of them will be great shows like Hataraku Maou or Leviathan ended up being.  It seems more like a lot of watchable mediocrities and less of a 'great' or 'worthless' like the spring season ended up being.  Between the two, I prefer having a few classics than a lot of forgettable series, so I'd say the spring season still has the edge.  But there's still a lot of guns left in the summer season's arsenal, so we'll just have to wait and see.

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