Posted on 23 May 2014 with categories: Captain Earth

Captain Earth had a really good first episode, so I was psyched to coninue with it, purely based on storytelling reasons: it knew how to deliver its plot in an interesting way by throwing in many flash-forwards, flashbacks, hints and whatnot. Now that I’ve seen about four and a half episodes of the series I’ve got a bit of a better image of what the actual storyline is about, and I’m dropping it. There are many reasons for this, and I did feel compelled to write about them.

First of all, the self-referencing? The hints? Well, they’re gone. Like, completely. Episode four was very straightforward and didn’t really leave anything to your imagination: the aliens want their kin back, purple-haired kid is part of their kin, and the main kid has this really powerful robot that can kick their asses. Where the presentation was so interesting in episode 1, I felt myself getting really bored here.

What was the straw though, was the underlying story which became clear to me about halway through episode four. When you ignore the mood, then Captain Earth is really a cross between Eureka Seven Ao and Star Driver, and its underlying themes are a combination between the two: on one hand we have the focus on childish innocence: children should be protected, and on the other we have the themes of adolescence and sexuality in the way it talks about libido and all.

When I started to think about them, they just didn’t mesh. One one hand this series wants to be like Eureka Seven Ao, in its themes that no children should be forced in adult situations, and when you do you had better take responsibility. The thing here though, that the themes of parenthood are much better explored because of how good the characters of Ao’s parents are. What do we know about the main guy’s parents at this point? Heck, has the existance of mothers actually been alluded yet? If it did then I totally forgotten about it, which is a bad sign for both my memory and the series itself.

Also adding to the themes are the villains here, who feed off the libido of humans. Okay, so this could mean that this show is a social commentary on how children are way too often sexualized and the main characters are trying to fight that idea. I actually really like that because they do have a very big point… only the show completely screws that up with the lame bellybutton joke and sexualizes their children anyway.

So with that my only conclusion is that the villains represent adolescence: the characters are young and they are about to change majorly and experience sexuality and stuff. So yeah, it’s a coming of age series. It’s a theme that’s been done many times before, and by series that had much more interesting first four episodes. Take Utena for example, Enokido there actually wrote a setting that’s interesting, imaginative and full of symbolism that wasn’t overdone. I know that we’re fifteen years later, but even by those standards Utena’s opening episodes stand out as unique while Captain Earth combines many things that have been done to death now.

I’m a fan of the mecha genre because it offers intelligent series, if doesn’t matter how old the characters are:
– Bokura no is a fascinating story about putting huge weapons in the hands of children.
– Patlabor is a hilarious and personal look at the police in a day in which mechas are standardly used.
– Fafner in the Azure actually asks the question of who you should fight for
– RahXephon explores coming of age with actual human characters who talk at least a bit normally.
– When you really want an over the top series, go for Giant Robo, the New Mazinger or Star Driver which are made to be flashy and over the top and enjoyable to watch.
– The good Gundam and Votoms series are good for a realistic look at war (War in the Pocket, Turn A, the Votoms TV-series)

You can do a lot with the genre, and you chose the most boring one. That’s a problem I have with a lot of anime nowadays. You can do better than this, I know that of everyone involved in this project.

Posted on 25 April 2014 with categories: Captain Earth

Bones is a studio that does many different types of series,but their one niche they keep coming back to is the mecha shows. It’s a good thing that they manage to do mecha series really well and keep doing enough things to make it interesting, otherwise I would have called lazy. Of course, I can still do that, because even though Captain Earth is a good series, anime still needs to branch out. It’s one of the many things holding this medium back.

But yeah, you know what this series really reminds me of? A more laid-back Eureka Seven Ao. The themes are basically the same: DO NOT LET CHILDREN PILOT MECHAS. The big difference is that the cast of Eureka Seven consisted out of a bunch of hotheads, while the cast of Captain Earth…. there really are many introverts among them. Heck, the only real extraverts are some extras, the bad guys, plus that one hacker girl Daichi is a bit inbetween, but apart from that this was surprisingly composed. That lead to some awkward moments especially in episode two, but still these episodes were quite good at making us read inbetween the lines: saying things with other things than just words.

In terms of pacing episodes 2 and 3 are very different from episode 1: this show changed from really fast pacing, to a relatively slow pacing in order to let the characters play themselves out. Okay, that works for me, as long as they don’t make this last for too long. We now actually have a good feeling for the characters. A lot of fast-paced series fail to do that.

My favorite character so far is the uncle. A lot has to do with his charisma, but he’s also the main guy in charge and he does what he can to both protect the earth, and allow the main cast to be children as much as possible in this constrained environment in which only they are able to actually do something against the aliens.

Posted on 13 March 2014 with categories: Kill La Kill

So, the past week I put my effort into catching up with Kill la Kill, hoping that it at least would show how to tell a story correctly. And yeah, as much as I’d like to stay positive here, it turned out to be yet another hit on the list of the disappointments of the past Fall Season. Not a total disappointment, mind you. Still I’m not gonna recommend this one.

However to offset all of the negative things I’m going to say next, I do have a few positive points: I like that this show doesn’t really have a clear main character anymore. Sure, Ryuko still is really powerful and sortof in the center and all, but it’s not like she got the most attention here. She spent so many episodes out of the loop, to the point where the guys from Nudist Beach and the Elite Four had to push the story forward. Episode 21’s ending also finally brought in some good emotions. Not great, but I did enjoy it. The main villain also has a great theme song, and the side characters are quirky in a way that works.

Is that enough though… let’s start with the thing that you’ll firstly notice about the second half of this series: the OP sucks. I often say OPs suck and all, but let me go into a bit more detail, because this is something I just keep hearing over and over again: THE MELODY IS EXACTLY THE SAME as every other OP out there. The way the opening starts, with the short jingle, then followed by the sound that plays over the main credits: that exact melody gets used in every single OP with only slight variations here and there. After that you have this fast-paced base while we look at the main characters: again you hear that everywhere. After the introductions, the music intensifies again while we see the main characters fighting: yet again something that has been beaten to death. I thought that Kill la Kill meant to set conventions? What’s it doing with so many dead horses here?

The good news is that the new OP IS the worst thing I found about the second half so far, however there were other things that… just did not sit quite right with me. Here is the thing: Satsuki was an interesting villain. She was built up, she stood there, having built up the school, and she had this fun rivalry with Ryuko. On top of that she had some fun underlings which made the first thirteen episodes varied, and fun to watch. In the second half, she is replaced with the main villain of this series, who in all honestly is a really boring villain. She’s just another all-powerful villain who wants to destroy the world, blah blah blah. However, the biggest problem is that she only has one underling. So for like, the past eight episodes we had to watch mostly fights against her and that underling. There’s only so many times that you can show them easily pwning the good guys until it gets boring, especially when all these fights are so one-sided. Every time they’re scratched they just pull these magical life threads out of their asses (or boobs in this case) and they’re completely fine as if nothing happened. Once or twice this is fine, but they just keep doing that.

I know I’ve gotten more cynical, but here’s one thing that also bothered me with especially the past few episodes that’s something that I’ve hated ever since I started this blog: brainwashing. Ryuko is reduced to a mere shell who doesn’t think for herself at all, she’s not responsible for her actions, she is just this big robot who is nearly invincible until she’s saved by rules that are conveniently very loose. And she gets brainwashed twice. And I get that she’s losing control of her emotions and sanity. That was built up. What wasn’t built up is her suddenly becoming the slave of the main villain.

Kill la Kill was fun because it kept us entertained for every episode with over the top action scenes that knew how to be fun and varied, using the backdrop of clothing as their setting and symbolism, but to me it seems like the second half just needed half the episodes, and the characters have been running around naked for a bit too long now, not really knowing what to do. I mean, I did not hate these episodes or something, but I noticed quite a few points at which I was just bored by what was going on… did I really make the right decision to prioritize this series over the new season of Hajime no Ippo?

Posted on 11 January 2014 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Oh, Samurai Flamenco… what are you doing? I used to praise this show for being so well put together. Obviously I can’t say that anymore, but still it’s quite a ride to see how crazy the show can get next time. This episode was this really weird combination between the first half of the show and episode 11. The Flamengers were all kinds of cheese, while Goto… he actually stayed normal.

Having said that though, the fight in this episode sucked. I’m not sure whether that was intentional or not, but the thing rather fell apart when that army of Miyamoto Musashis appeared from out of nowhere and were like “Oooh, let me slightly wave my sword at you! That will teach you!” – That completely defeats the purpose of having large numbers in the first place! I get that the budget isn’t that big for tis series, but there’s a difference between cutting corners and simply not trying.

But then again, it can also be a very deliberate jab at the super sentai genre. I mean, one gets large and they defeat that one with the Flamenbot, but the rest… magically disappears? Also those new weapons were completely ridiculous.

Also. The Flamencar. Really?

Posted on 21 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

I think my brains just exploded…

I knew that this series would spiral out of control. Just not in this way. In one episode, the creators YET AGAIN completely changed the genre of the entire series, along with the feel, mood, themes and everything. At this point the only similarity between episode 1 and 11 is the way in which Samurai Flamenco appears in it. Even the mood-swings of Guilty Crown and Code Geass weren’t this big!

Seriously, from out of nowhere Jouji Kaname reveals that he has been preparing to fight the invasion by aliens for over a decade and to do that he created unbeknownst to anyone an incredibly stereotypical power rangers base, complete with power rangers, basically revealing that the first seven episodes were pretty much one really big lie and that they weren’t set in modern-day Tokyo in the slightest. What follows is a really weird discussion on who should be the leader, followed by a staged death scene, and a freaking giant robot! I mean, is this really real?

I have to say: this show is unique. It’s currently trying to do something that no other show has. Whether it’ll work is an entirely different matter though, and I do believe that it’s too early for that, so for now I’ll withhold judgement on the big picture. However, I will say this: I hated Code Geass and Guilty Crown because it really felt like it they were written as the creators went along. Especially in Guilty Crown’s case. In Samurai Flamenco though, this isn’t the case. It’s got a lot of Deus ex Machina, however the creators very clearly had the intention right from the beginning to escalate things into the ridiculous proportions that we saw in this episode. It’s episode 11, and only now we’ve been introduced to everyone on the promo art. Sure, it could have been less sloppy, but right from the start it wanted to transition from the ordinary to the absurd.

Now let me stress Robotics;Notes here. A series that wasn’t as extreme as this one, but still is one that this series needs to learn from: you can have a really good build-up, but that isn’t worth anything if the second half is crap, like what happened with that series. Writers, you need to stay and don’t you dare to just get lazy next year.

Also, it’s nearly the end of the year. 2-cour Noitamina-series always have a few weeks of hiatus. I assume that the next episode will air in a few weeks, though no concrete date seems to be known yet.

Posted on 14 December 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

So finally, we’ve got the first big hint at what the second half of this series will be about. In this case, it’s in the form of a bunch of characters who just showed up from out of nowhere. Okay, that can work. It’s typical that everything about them screams fashion, and this indeed is a show in which clothing plays a very important symbolical role. The way in which that girl claied to just be Ryuko’s father’s killer is probably some sort of lie (otherwise I have no idea how they’re going to explain the killer’s silhouette that Ryuko saw), but i’s a good start for a solid second half that will indeed move things beyond the school and let things escalate.

It’s also good that they didn’t go the formulaic route and they just skipped the last fight against the student council, however these two episodes did have a bit of an unfortunate effect on the four of them, in the way that at this point it stopped taking them seriously. They’re in danger of becoming like Krillin from Dragonball Z: characters who are just there for comic relief and can’t keep up with the incredible rate at which the main character powers up. That’s the downside of not killing off your enemies: you’ve already put a lot of development into them, so itd be a shame to not use that later on.

Still, this was a really fun episode. I think it helps to have this battle split up in two episodes with other stuff around it, rather than just dedicate one episode to it. It helps keeping things fresh and also prevents formula.

Probably not going to do ratings again, because they became pointless at this point. They were useful when I blogged like, 12 series at the same time, but now they’re just redundant. They only had one purpose left, which is something I do want to stress: the amount of criticism I have for a series does not equate how much I disliked it. It’s a very common misconception I see, but some series just aim really high, resulting in lots of flaws, while the worst series are the ones so unremarkable that there’s hardly anything to say about them.

Posted on 13 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

Usually I blame writers lately. This time however, the writing was fine. I see what this episode was trying to do, and it had me at the edge of my seat. Perhaps a bit fast-paced, but I see what the writers were trying to do. This really could have been an amazing episode. But god, the delivery.

Okay. Whoever is in charge of the suspense of disbelief: for the love of god, try a little harder here. You already have a series in which this is very important, and this episode in particular depended on it with all of the gore. You could have really helped that with some actual good animation, but what stood out for me the most is how characters kept teleporting all over the place in this episode. Characters take huge leaps from one place to the other without any build-up whatsoever, leading to a lot of Deus ex Machina. I can understand timeskips and all, but there is a limit. Not to mention that showing characters actually travelling from A to B adds a lot to immersion. You need to worry about that, as much as you’d like to focus on your characters!

I read somewhere once that Manglobe is the kind of studio that doesn’t have many in-house people: for all of their projects they look around the industry for the right people. They’re basically outsourcing a lot, or at least they were around the time of Ergo Proxy and Michiko to Hatchin, and back then they were really good at it. This episode though. It just screamed outsourcing problems. Otherwise it just would not have looked so rushed, especially for such an important episode in the plot. I mean, something really went wrong in the production schedule.

Anyway, about the plot: this was where the series went even more out of control, by showing elements that were even more obviously supernatural, yet at the same time they’re all human: King Torture is just a man who managed to get ahold of strange powers that allowed him to create all those monsters. He too basically is just another person obsessed with superheroes and fiction, but he spiraled into the other side of the spectrum.

For the rest of the cast, I really liked how they used the build-up: people started to realize how they underestimated what it really means to be a superhero. That it’s not just about kicking ass and looking good. They started to look beyond the glory.

But damn, you’d better make up for this episode with the second half. There’s still plenty of potential left and all, but this execution isn’t the kind that a story like this deserves!

However, someone singing really badly? Hell yeah! Finally. I mean, who is expected to sing well after such a trauma?
Rating: 4.5/8 (Good)

Posted on 12 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

My reaction to this episode: okay, they are starting to stretch that annoying manager who keeps calling. I’ve seen enough anime to know where this is going: he keeps bothering her and she suddenly develops feelings for him and they become a couple and HOLY CRAP WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO HIM!

This really is a deconstruction of the Superhero genre, or should I say Supervillain-genre, because the premise of this series is: what if earth was attacked by stereotypical supervillains”? They just identify the most visible superhero at the time to be their main adversary. But the way in which this series does its things is particularly clever, and really plays with your expectations.

The generic goons were used quite interestingly. This series acknowledges that these monsters are just a dime a dozen, and that they’re easily beaten, luring us into a false sense of security that everything will be easy. And even the random monsters that explode have a tail left behind, in the form of the dust that their explosion covered.

And then it comes with these huge mood-whiplashes that are actually really effective. The question is whether this show will keep that up for the entirety of the airtime. Shock value needs to be balanced and can only get you so far.
Rating: 6/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 7 December 2013 with categories: Kill La Kill

With this I understand the purpose of the previous episode more. It really was meant as a build-up episode for what was to follow. We needed a “normal” fight, from which things could escalate afterwards. It was built up to be this really big deal, but in the end its biggest purpose was to show Senketsu that he could change shape. This episode has him experimenting with that, on a far bigger scale than what I expected.

It helped for the first fight of this episode to take so slow: that really brought back the pacing in this episode, and it also showed that Senketsu is already becoming close to over 9000. It also was a pretty hilarious fight and I think necessary for the overall balance: you have so many over the top fights here, you need one that is a bit silly. And it’s good that the creators didn’t use the token silly character for this, but instead a guy who just wasn’t fighting serious (note how he didn’t appear to be BIG to Ryuko at all).

Then the fight with classical music was glorious, and really entertaining. The fights themselves in this episode are more what I expect from the creators. Standard fight scenes in which there are only people hitting each other don’t work anymore. You need to spice things up, and this episode did exactly that. It probably also helped that the banter between the characters was better than ever in this episode. The student council really works well together with the rest of the cast.

But yeah, it’s episode 10. The point where things will spiral out of control has started. Something will happen, and the second half of this series will be completely different. Let’s see if they can pull this off.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 4 December 2013 with categories: Samurai Flamenco

So after the previous episode dropping that huge bomb, the question of course would be what would be this series’ idea of how to follow it up. This episode on itself gave us some interesting answers to that. I’m not entirely happy with this episode, but I’m most definitely intrigued.

What I didn’t like about this episode is how it ditched some of the realism here, most notably one event: the one where Samurai Flamenco kicked that giant crocodile with metal armor outside of the bus. I mean, this series has always stressed that Masayuki has no superpowers: all of his powers come from gadgets. That is one part that they need to keep in this series, otherwise that will pretty much go against a lot of the build-up of the first seven episode. And that was some really great build-up!

However, what surprised me was how fast this episode went. You’d think that the creators would want to let things sink in and take their time for this, but instead this episode really developed Masayuki and having him change. At the end of the episode he already was consumed by his own fame and had sold out. He had already beaten like… four more goons from King Torture?

What most struck me about this episode was what it was building up for. The way with which most people have already forgotten about all of the policemen that died (and this show actually acknowledges it, rather than making it a writing flaw). Something is going to happen, and knowing episode seven, it’ll again be big. It’s now up to the creators though, to actually use this build-up. You can have such good build-up, but if the actual delivery in the end disappoints then you’re either way stuck with a nasty aftertaste.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

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  • Asuka111
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:23 AM)
    @Eeelo Erhm, what? We shouldn’t be sad that a fellow Canadian died on our own soil? Those conditions you listed, that’s exactly why we’re sad. This isn’t a combat zone.
  • Eeelo
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:21 AM)
    Well, that isn’t my fault for wanting people to think. Getting mad at the politicians don’t do anything
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:16 AM)
    @Eeelo If you’re talking about the masses, it’s your fault for expecting anything. You’re getting mad at the wrong people, m8.
  • Eeelo
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:12 AM)
    The lack of that ‘equal scrutiny’ you talk about is what I’m speaking out against.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:07 AM)
    You simply cannot say it is insignificant just because it happens to a larger extent somewhere else. Is hunger in the West not important because it is far more severe in Africa? No, you’re supposed to look at both sides with equal scrutiny.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:02 AM)
    @Eeelo Listen up m8. Sure this happens every other day in other parts of the world. Iraq, to name one among many. However, Canada is not Iraq, and the victims were not expecting to die guarding a building in the capital of their own god damn country, unlike the men in Iraq. Therefore, not only is deeming their deaths insignificant completely illogical, it is retarded.
  • Eeelo
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 04:51 AM)
    Also, the soldiers who died shouldn’t be touted as heros. They were doing their job standing outside the building and they got killed. Its not like they jumped on a grenade or saved a burning baby or something. What, do I get to be called a hero if someone kills me at my McDonald’s cash register?
  • Eeelo
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 04:40 AM)
    Two soldiers or one, it doesn’t really matter
  • Eeelo
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 04:40 AM)
    I don’t mean to sound cynical, but that happens every few months. Politicians just yell stuff at whoever we’re supposed to hate right now, and we give money to the red cross or something. Nothing to fret over because two soldiers died, they die in attacks in the middle east every other day. Where is the coverage for them?
  • Friend
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 04:21 AM)
    @Asuka I honestly do not know what is on the mind of those lunatics. Storming into a government building, murdering innocent soldiers, and they think they’re accomplishing anything? It boggles my mind.

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