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Friday, August 2, 2013

Kitakubo in, Howl's Moving Castle Out:

After watching the 4th episode of Kitakubo Katsudou Kiroku (otherwise affectionately known as KKK), I can't resist the appeal any longer and had to include it in my top anime rankings.  The show is ridiculously hilarious, and in such a creative way that I can't help but sit back and marvel at the creator.  How does he come up with so many jokes, about so many things, that last for so long while still being funny?  There's this running gag that goes for like five minutes where characters communicate solely through facial expressions before a pitch in a softball game, and no matter how long you wait, not a single pitch is thrown, it's pure communication!  The tension just keeps rising and rising as you keep asking yourself, "Seriously?  You're still not going to throw???"  In the hands of any other author but this one, it would have come off as incredibly boring.  But here it was perfect, because the lines are just that good.

The self-referential jokes are great, it shows a lot of confidence in the show when they openly mock it to the audience like that.  The characters are lovely both in form and personality.  This show is amazing!  It has no budget, no big name stars, no popularity, nothing going for it, it's just pure quality fighting all on its own to the top.  Like the Rocky of anime.  The story has no plot, no romance, nothing but jokes.  It lives only for the next punchline, which machine guns in throughout the course of an episode in a non-stop rally.  How does the author even think up that many jokes?  Even in a lifetime, it would be difficult thinking up just one or two this good, but each episode has thirty or forty crammed in that are all laughing out loud funny.  The anime is surreal in its focus on humor, I don't think any other show has dared to go so far.  Even Seitokai no Ichizon, another show about people gathering in a room and talking, had a romance story to fall back on.  KKK lives or dies by its jokes.  The moment it ceases to be funny, the show is over, because there's no other reason to watch it.  So it just stays funny every second, thirty minutes a week, and keeps the audience coming back for more.

As I simply had to include KKK in my rankings, I was suddenly faced with the predicament of kicking another series out of the rankings.  It certainly couldn't be one of the ones I just put in, they fought hard to finally be recognized and it would be too cruel to strip that medal away after just a couple weeks.  So I looked a little further back and found a good victim to take the fall for me -- Howl's Moving Castle.  As I already have tons of studio Ghibli films in the rankings, one more or less wouldn't hurt them much.  Mononoke Hime, Kiki's Delivery Service, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away all do a fine job of telling the tale of gutsy kids put in enormous predicaments but summoning the strength from within to overcome them.  One of the things I value in a series is its uniqueness, that it stands out from the crowd and hasn't been done before, or is the best to do it even if it has been done before.  Howl's Moving Castle is neither unique nor the best in its field, so I can safely discard it without losing any structural integrity to the beauty of my assembled collection.  Aside from the gimmicks of the cool looking house and the trials of old age, it's still the same story of a young girl using guts to overcome a violent and unfair world.  However, the plot of Howl's Moving Castle never really made sense, unlike in the other movies, and the magic kept changing things so randomly that it didn't really feel like the characters were in control of their own destiny.  Of all the Ghibli movies I had this was definitely the weakest.  KKK is far more mesmerizing and memorable than Howl's.  Minute for minute, KKK is better.  Plus, it's going to be at least three times as long overall, so really there's just no competition.

Speaking of the critical weakness of movies, the Hunter x Hunter movie also sucked.  Movies of popular long running shows always suck, so I don't even know why I was surprised.  The story, like usual, occurs totally outside of the timeline of the TV series.  There has been no gap in time in which this could've happened, as we've been following Gon's adventures every day from the moment he left whale island.  As such, no chain of causation leads into the story or out of it, its a completely closed world.  And the problem with closed worlds is they don't matter.  If something happens, but it has no effect on anyone or anything, did it even really happen?  The answer is no, it didn't.  That's why it's called filler, non-canon, etc.  There's nothing more boring than a lot of sound and fury but no actual results anywhere to be seen.  Plus the idea of using old characters as 'doll copies' is really stupid.  It just screams of a lack of creativity or effort put into the story when you just scoop up a bunch of old characters we've already seen and throw them in to the fight, using their same old techniques as before with nothing new to get excited about. 

Furthermore, any story based around raising the dead sucks.  This is because one of the fundamental rules of what makes life and humans interesting is that actions have consequences.  If people can freely die and live again, then life doesn't matter, because there's no cost to anything.  You can kill people, then just bring them back, so no harm was done.  You can waste your whole life on video games, then just get revived, be immortal, and never regret your lost chances.  You can courageously sacrifice your life to save a  friend, then be brought back to life the next day good as new.  There's literally no good or evil anymore, because everything can just be fixed up good as new.  There's no arrow of entropy, no arrow of causation, no arrow of time.  It's no longer a human story we're talking about, and therefore no longer relevant to humans.  Any story that people can't relate to or learn from is a shit story.  Reviving the dead is a red line that should never be crossed in any story.  It was a mistake with Dragon Ball and Naruto too, but that conversation is for another time.

Sadly, Zettai Bouei Leviathan was not well received by the Japanese public and failed to sell practically a single copy of its first blu-ray volume.  It just goes to show that popularity isn't always right.  How could anyone fail to love the cuteness, humor, and fight scenes of this beautiful fantasy world?  It has transforming dragon girls, what more could you ask for?  Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

The Saimoe prelims have been fun so far, especially in that almost every winner is someone I've already showcased in my own lineup of what I consider the most beautiful girls in anime.  That so many people agree with my tastes is quite encouraging.  Nodoka Haramura, Homura, Onjouji Toki, Sena Kashiwazaki, Eru Chitanda, all the girls I like are performing well.  As for the girls I don't approve of winning, I tend to dislike them for their personality or just that they are in bad stories, I'm not about to deny the beauty of Azusa from Warawanai Neko.  She, and her co-star, are undeniably beautiful.  If only they had been in a better story, I would be praising them to the sky, but to me, looks aren't everything even when it comes to a beauty contest.  I guess the Japanese are less concerned with such hangups than I am.  From what I've seen so far, however, it looks like older series are going to steamroll all their younger competition.  Saki or Madoka are going to win again, and nobody can stop them.  This will be the first time ever the same franchise wins a second time in Saimoe, which I think is a pity.  The competition will get pretty stale if the same people win every time.  But then again, Michael Phelps has been to three Olympics in a row so why can't Saimoe winners do the same, neh?  Well, it is what it is.  Even if Homura wins the Saimoe contest, there's still plenty of chances to win consolation prizes like 'winning the prelim,' 'winning the first round,' or 'reaching the quarterfinals.'  There's still plenty to cheer for, for the other guys, if you just lower your expectations you can still be happy for them, even if they're all doomed to die against the Madoka Magica onslaught.

And that's a wrap of all newsworthy items.  Everyone, go watch Kitakubo!  It's definitely worth it, my rankings never lie.

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