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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost World Anime First Impressions: (Part Eight)

Oku-sama wa Joshi Kosei:  "My wife is a high school girl," the title really says it all.  I fully approve of girls marrying early.  The fact is, their hearts, bodies, and virtue are all at their prime in their teens, so marrying any later is like biting into a wormy apple.  If you don't marry a high school girl, your options are only cheaters, sluts, dumpers and frigid professional climbers.  Only teenagers have even the possibility of true love embedded inside them.  Once you fall in love once, sleep with someone once, and break up, you're already through.  There's no future for you and anyone who ends up with you will eventually repent of his mistake.  This is why virgin brides were so prized in the past.  Not because it meant the child would definitely be yours, and not because it meant you could avoid STD's.  Those are just side benefits.  The real advantage was that it meant for sure that she didn't have a treacherous or fickle heart, but was genuinely willing to invest her entire heart, soul, and life into her marriage with you and only you.  It meant you were special to her.  Call it 'married' or not, the moment you've had premarital sex, sleeping with the guy you marry is no different from all your previous boyfriends.  You can change the title but you can't change the reality, that you've already done the same, felt the same, for many boys before, and likely will do the same for many boys afterwards as well.  There's nothing special about marriage if it doesn't also include virginity and being with your first love of your life.  Of course, I'll give an exception for the girl who was cruelly deceived and dumped by the guy she gave her heart to, and is forced against her will back into the dating market, but that's such a rare occasion these days that it's not really worth mentioning.

A show that puts early teenage girl marriage in a positive light is therefore a wonderful show.  Sort of like Oreimo, it's fighting against a stupid taboo that has no basis in ethics or science.  The fact is girls were meant to marry early, and they're happier doing so, and their children are healthier than the girls who put off marriage until much later.  This is just biological reality.  They put a nice spin into this story to give it a dramatic tension, however.  It appears that in order to marry early, you need parental consent.  The only way our male hero teacher got the consent of the parents to this wedding was by promising not to have sexual relations with her until she graduated from high school.  So they married early and live together, but they can't consummate that marriage.  As a matter of honor, even though they are legally wed and he can do as he pleases with her, he cannot touch her.  That would be breaking the agreement that allowed him to achieve his love and happiness in the first place, and furthermore, it's a test.  Is his love genuine or did he just lust after one of his particularly sexy students?  If he sleeps with her now, that just proves in the eyes of her parents and society that he's a degenerate motivated not by love but only by base instincts.  If he resists temptation, however, this proves that he held only the purest and highest feelings for her from the very beginning.  Ironically, if he doesn't sleep with her until the promised time, this proves that it would have been harmless and innocent for him to have slept with her from the very start -- but the only way he can prove that they should have been sleeping together is for them to not actually do so.  Words just aren't strong enough to prove anything, only actions count, and this is his personal war to show society that love is the overriding factor in his decisions.

The girl is dissatisfied with this and thinks he should just break his word and get it on, but girls aren't expected to understand the importance of honor or keeping your word.  A man's word is worth more than his life, in comparison having sex a year or two early is nothing more than a dishrag.  She only wants him because of her overflowing feelings though, so you can forgive her impatience.  They also need to keep it secret from school, because if word got out that he was married to the girl he was teaching, there would be a scandal and he would lose his job, and perhaps even be blackballed from the profession.  As such, it's critical for their happy future together that they pretend not to be in a relationship around anyone else, while only acting like a couple once they're safely at home.  This causes a lot of trouble as both of them are still getting hit on by other boys and girls, because they cannot say they already have someone they love.  It's a wonderful bit of dramatic tension to a story that should just be 'happily ever after.'  Because of the bigotry of society, this already completed love story still has enough drama and suspense that you can't look away, unlike virtually every other romance story that ends at the wedding.  It's a really fun twist, and it's so nice getting to see a happy married couple just living together and loving each other.  I don't think there's virtually any other show which does that except Clannad.  When you're being compared to Clannad, you're doing something right.  Pass.

Ookiku Furikabutte:  I don't much like the attitude of the main character pitcher.  Still, I think it's interesting to have a story about a pitcher with only breaking balls.  Major was about the glories of a fastball pitcher, as was Cross Game.  This is a different take on baseball and thus a valuable addition to the lineup.  It's really too soon to tell if this story is watchable or not.  The coach's comedy routine is just dumb, and the catcher being a dominant to the pitcher's submissive is a little over the top fanservice for the shojo audience.  But the art looks good and the down to earth, no nonsense plot is refreshing.  This show could go either way, so just have patience and watch on for now.  Pass.

Pani Poni Dash:  This show was also done by Shaft, so it of course resorted to weird directorial devices to present the show.  Unfortunately, unlike the genius direction seen in Bakemonogatari or Madoka Magica, the directorial choices made here just made the story incomprehensibly random, the art distractingly bad, the animation non-existent, etc.  There's so much chaos both in the dialogue and the character introductions that I can't honestly tell you what I even just watched.  I have no grasp of who people are or why they are that way.  There's way too many people on screen for a first episode, which should work hard to establish the main character and maybe one or two others before even attempting to add anyone else.  This is just breaking known rules of good storytelling for the sake of breaking them.  Of course if you violate everything that makes a story good you'll just end up with a bad story.  Similarly, if you draw a girl with ugly features from head to toe, she'll end up ugly, even if you say it was a daring experiment into a new beautification project.  I hope the creators of this show enjoyed themselves, because the audience certainly can't.  Fail.

Peace Maker Kurogane:  When I saw that this anime was about the Shinsengumi, I got my hopes up.  Rurouni Kenshin only briefly touched upon this legendary group, and other series about them are all shojo-oriented dating sims.  Unfortunately, the search goes on for a decent show about this organization.  The idea of taking a historical group with a real history involving real people that were alive just a couple centuries ago, and adding in a silly fantasy character with a bunch of lame shonen action tropes who looks like he just jumped out of the 21st century due to his rude and rambunctious behavior. . .it's just so anachronistic and ahistorical.  This anime should have been about the actual shinsengumi group, and the characters should have all been the real people in the history books, and it should have told the real story of these people.  I won't accept fictional additions that have no place in the history messing that history up.  If a kid really did show up to a Shinsengumi post and hit a samurai on the head with a sign, he would have been executed.  The idea that he would just be let off as a silly prank is absurd.  The world didn't put up with bullshit back then, especially when directed against the nobility.  Instead of watching this travesty of fiction, just watch Rurouni Kenshin, which perfectly captured the feeling of ancient Japan as a beautiful, well-mannered, but cruel world using real characters from history.  Also, you simply cannot combine gory slasher scenes alongside awful comedy routines like sentient pigs or other lame jokes.  It would be like throwing in some stupid practical joke in the middle of Ushio's death in Clannad.  There's a time and place for humor and it isn't on a god damn war front, have some respect for the dead already.  Fail.

Planetes:  The first ten minutes or so of this show, I was convinced it was bad.  I was happy to hear Satsuki Yukino's voice playing the role of the main heroine, as she doesn't get nearly enough credit for the great work she's done, but aside from that the show had so many negatives.  A)  Any show about work is inherently boring.  Work is by definition something people do against their will.  If it were willing it would be a hobby, which would automatically make it interesting again.  But work is the thing people do because they have to, not because they decide to.  As such, given that a story is about decisions, there can never be any story centered around work.  This is why America, with all its awful drama stories about hospitals, courts, policemen, teachers, etc, are all so worthless.  It's just people doing their jobs for money.  There's nothing noble or interesting about it.  If they weren't paid, they wouldn't do it.  Furthermore, if they were paid more to do something else, they would immediately quit and do that instead.   Astronauts are a different breed, to be sure, they're people who pursued an unrealistic dream in order to do extremely dangerous work.  But astronauts in this fictional story are already normal salary workers with nothing special going on.  In 2075, apparently, space is no further away than, say, Alaska in terms of difficulty of approach.

Another problem with work is that by definition, everyone is able to do their jobs.  People work in fields where they are so unlikely to make a mistake that if they do it even once they're normally fired.  Think about that for a second.  It means work is so easy that people go their whole lives without making a single mistake.  In high school and college, it's hard as hell to maintain a grade A average, but in work it's almost impossible to fail.  You're always overqualified and overtrained before you're entrusted with anything important.  You always have coworkers who can cover for you.  If you're being bullied, you can sue, or take them to court -- unlike in school where children are left to their own devices.  In a situation like that, how is it possible to maintain any drama or suspense?  We know they will do their jobs right -- everyone does, everywhere, all across the world.  So what is there left to watch?  What are we supposed to care about?

This is why we concentrate our entertainment in fields where things aren't certain or simple -- like sports, war, or romance.  There's tons of drama and suspense when you focus on the right subjects, but work is basically the worst possible choice to base a story around on Earth.  Just look how boring Servant x Service became, or Gin no Saji, or Space Brothers.  Any story about work becomes so stale, boring, and pointless that you just want to claw your eyes out rather than watch any more.

B)  The comedy really didn't work.  The idea that any company would allow that kind of half-assed behavior at the workplace is unbelievable.  You couldn't act like that at a minimum wage establishment, you'd be fired within the day.  The idea that people would trust valuable equipment in your hands, or give you a serious salary for it, is absurd.  People who aren't dressed, who are messing around during work hours, who defy their bosses openly and intimidate them into silence again, who bring pets into the workplace and break things. . .it's so absurd.  I don't care how low down the rung these astronauts are, you couldn't work anywhere with that kind of attitude or behavior.  Like usual, comedy thinks it can get away with anything just by labeling itself as comedy, and like usual, it completely undermines the show because what happens is unbelievable and offensive instead of ironic and surprising.

Even so, even so, by the end of the episode I liked the series.  For one, I liked the male and female leads, and their interesting interactions.  Secondly, I liked the beautiful animation of how it is when you're in space.  It felt very realistic.  It costs tons of dollars for live action people to be filmed in zero gravity, but for anime it's free.  Just draw whatever you like and it looks real.  I also thought the whole argument about what's proper and what's good was well spoken and well thought out.  If the show keeps displaying this kind of philosophy, it might develop into something more meaningful than just 'the chronicles of space workers.'  It seems like there's more going on in this plot than just meets the eye.  If I could watch three episodes of Servant x Service, an entire show about clerks filing paperwork for the government, then Planetes deserves at least as much support.  Pass.

Polyphonica:  I had high expectations for this series coming in, and they were met.  Coathicarte is a real beauty once she's in her downsized form.  She has a good, serious personality.  Furthermore, the male lead isn't some loser who got this spirit unearned.  Rather, he started off as a great singer that attracted her attention, and later became a serious, professional, kind and confident man fully worthy of her love.  Not only that, but he outright says that he's not lonely because he always has her around.  That's a great honest, but not desperate confession he so naturally gave in the midst of normal conversation.  I really like their relationship.  I like them.  I like the art, and the music.  My only problem is the plot seems kinda overly fantastic and unbelievable.  There's a bit of slippage into random terminology that just overcomplicates things.  It reminds me of everyone speaking in Norse during Fafner just 'to be cool.'  Also, the setting seems rather random.  It's modern in some ways but not others -- for instance, there are no cell phones.  Things like that always grate on me, like Heinlein predicting warp drives while the people still used slide rules inside the starship to navigate.  According to fans of Polyphonica, this anime is terrible and a complete disservice to a much better series of light novels, or visual novels, or both.  The anime seemed good to me though.  Nothing special, hardly Kokoro Toshokan or the like, but solid.  If that's the case, I wonder how good the light novels are?  I wonder if any of that material has been translated into English. . .  Well, for now just watch the series, and if you're a fan, the journey for more can always start there.  Pass.

Puchi Puri Yuushi:  Given the silly name, I didn't expect much from this show.  Nevertheless, it was fantastic.  Literally.  ^_^.  It's a fantasy land without any creeping interference from the modern world, no sliders from modern Japan, nothing but fantasy.  It's so nice!  So far only Lodoss War and Tears to Tiara have pulled off that trick.  Yuushi is this cute foundling girl with a mysterious power and past.  But more importantly, she's really cute, sweet, and has a great, adventurous and assertive personality.  She's irrepressible, but also a champion of the weak.  She reminds me a lot of Gon from Hunter x Hunter -- innocent, but by no means harmless or helpless.  I love her fashion sense, her hairstyle, her voice, really everything about her.  The show flew by and it only felt like seconds before it had already reached the ending credits.  As a first episode, it took the correct path of storytelling, slowly introducing our heroine and the setting without putting too much in the picture that we just feel overwhelmed and confused.  But due to that slow pacing, it will take a while before we fully understand the quality of this show.  The later episodes will be crucial to see if it can stay at this high level.  For now, it's an obvious success.  Pass.

Rakugo Tennyo Uyoi:  Ancient magical warrior maidens from the samurai era are defeated by a powerful bad guy.  As such, the magical medallions decide to recruit some new girls from modern Japan to fight in their stead.  These modern girls are all really boring and lifeless people you could care less about.  Oh, and there's some guy at the middle who commands all these ancient-future warriors, because hey why not.  I don't understand the appeal of this story.  It's not a comedy, because it isn't funny.  Nor is it an action show, because the fight scenes lack tension.  Nor is it a romance, because I don't see any hearts throbbing.  What is it?  Why does it even exist?  Why would anyone consider this entertainment?  We'll never know.  Fail.

Rocket Girls:  What a great show.  The girls are lovely.  Just gorgeous.  They're fearless and assertive people, but not in a way that imposes on others.  They just have a lot of personality.  Meanwhile, this demonic space agency is perfect.  It has just the tinge of rationality to make their humor ironic instead of unrealistic.  The show ends up being hilarious, while still making sense.  The easiest way to cut costs on a rocket is to lower the weight.  The easiest way to lower a rocket's weight is to hire lighter astronauts.  And the lightest astronauts you could possibly hire are teenage Asian girls with slender builds!  This makes so much sense to me, it's a wonder we haven't done this before.  This anime is really on to something.  I also love the contrast between the primitive useless islanders and the high tech, modern Japanese.  Civilization is so great, it's what separates us from the animals.  Primitive islanders look more like beasts than men, naked and lacking any modesty, it's just grotesque.  To have a girl from that culture realize how inferior they are and aspire to join the other side is really cool.  Good for her.  Instead of this PC crap where we should have left 1/2 of the world to primitive stone age Amerindians, we get the message we should be trumpeting to the skies, that we took a worthless hellhole and turned it into the most prosperous and developed nation on Earth.  (Canada's #2 by the way).  If the Amerindians had had any sense, they would have welcomed the settlers and changed their culture to our own, assimilating without quibble.  It's only because they chose to resist the march of progress that they were smashed underfoot.  The girl in this show chose the wise course to switch sides, and now she'll be rewarded for it.  While the rest of the tribe can just go hang for all I care.  Go Rocket Girls, teaching the true history of the American frontier via Solomon Islander surrogates.  Pass.

Run=Dim:  The entire show is in CG.  Therefore, by definition, it isn't anime.  I don't even have to watch this episode, it's simply disqualified.  Furthermore, the CG is so bad, it was done so long ago, that it's just unwatchable anyway.  Even today a CG show is pretty suspect, like how bad Aikatsu or Pretty Rhythm looks when they try it.  But to try such a travesty in 2003 or whenever is just madness.  They didn't have nearly the computing power to make anything look remotely realistic.  Fail.

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