Posted on 30 April 2019 with categories: Anime Reviews, Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense, Paranoia Agent, Reviews by Lenlo, Throwback Thursday

In an era of the mundane, where every series is the same moe blob, the weird sticks out. Even the most mediocre series can get attention just by being weird. Paranoia Agent is not mediocre, and it is far beyond simply “weird”. Written and Directed by Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent is one of his last works before his untimely death. With only Paprika and Good Morning coming after it. Known for a radical style and a penchant for the odd, Satoshi Kon was an extraordinary director, unique to any other. Paranoia Agent lives up to this reputation, being unlike any other series I have ever seen. Its horror is Lovecraftian, its style chilling though as interesting as it is, this isn’t always in it’s favor. For the most part, the series is a joy, but when you try something new, it doesn’t all stick.

Welcome to Paranoia Agent, one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, lets jump in!

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Posted on 19 April 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

Welcome all to the finale of Paranoia Agent! People grow up, Shounen Bat is defeated and absolutely nothing makes any sense. Lets dive in!

Starting off, visually, it worked very well as a finale. Lots of awesome shots, action and moments throughout, all blending into just a joy to watch. Really, it just flowed well. From how the Chief’s slow realizations were portrayed to the actual final set piece action, I thought was gorgeous. One interesting thing about it all though are the reused shots. The actual art and scene contents are changed of course. But the shots/locations/angels are the same as the opening episode. Showing us how much everything has changed, and how it all goes back to being the same after everything is over. There are parts where I think it was very dim, and hard to see lighting wise. But because of the availability of the series, I don’t know how much of that is my source and the actual series. But enough on that, lets talk story.

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Posted on 18 April 2019 with categories: Anime Reviews, Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019), Reviews by SuperMario

Just like the titular character, Boogiepop Phantom the series has become some sort of urban legend itself in this medium. Its Light Novels are amongst the first Light Novel ever released, dating back to mid-90s. Moreover, the franchise has endured the test of time, as it inspires anime, live-action adaptations and Boogiepop is a well-known face in Japan. This new version intends to adapt the Light Novels more faithfully as it goes through several arcs from the source. All in all I consider this an average adaptation to its classic source. It has tons of issues, both production-wise and character-wise, although the arcs themselves are all quite decent.

There are reasons why Boogiepop still remains in the conversation of the medium till this day. The most distinguished feature lies in its non-linear, puzzling narrative. There’s a saying of “style over substance”, but for shows like Boogiepop it’s the styles that become the substance. Introducing dozen of characters within an arc, some have more significant roles than the others, floating in and out of time, sometimes within a dream; Boogiepop’s narrative is like a jigsaw puzzle. There’s bits and pieces the show throws at us during the arc, but until the last pieces fit in, should viewers see the full picture. This narrative style demands viewers’ attention throughout, and if you miss one bit of information you might feel at a total loss, hence I can see why viewers would turn off by it. But it’s a rewarding process for those who decide to stick with it as the story starts to add up and sink in the more we explore its universe.

The very strength of this disjointed narrative is that it provides multiple points of view, each character has different issues, they have different ways to view the world and all add up to bring the multifaceted layers of this universe. I also appreciate how each characters have different goals in mind, even the ones who don’t contribute much to the main plot like repressed homosexual feeling from one character in “Vs. imaginator” arc, or Makoto’s feeling of his father in “The King of Distortion” arc. They might not be relevant to the events of the arcs they are in, but they all speak to the same theme that Boogiepop trying to address since the first episode…

And that theme is adolescent growth. In Boogiepop universe, there are supernatural beings that exist beside us. These supernatural beings, however, are products of teenagers’ insecures. People’s fear and myth that form a physical manifestation of these beings. While I certainly approve this underlying message, the way Boogie presents these themes are both obvious and hazy at the same time. As for the former, the speech between Suema and Aya Orihata in “Vs. Imaginator” arc when Orihata about to jump off the balcony are way too heavy-handed when Suema tries to explain the whole “what does this series mean” speech to convince her not to jump. On the opposite spectrum, sometimes this underlying message can be too unclear and pretentious for its own good. I still can’t make heads or tails what progress Shiro Tanaka the Archer been through in the last arc since there’s little to no emotional attachment whatsoever. Indeed, this is the main weakness of Boogiepop, it’s more interest at being intriguing and not much about building up emotions or characters we can care for.

Boogiepop consists of 4 different arcs and an unusual 18 episodes airing. Out of these arcs I would say that the first arc “Boogiepop doesn’t laugh” is its worst (and the premiere isn’t the good way to introduce the show), not because the source isn’t strong, but it condenses the plot to much it becomes too linear for the show’s nature. Take note that none of these arcs are bad, they are messy, yes, but they all hold up well at the end and they bring the right atmosphere to the show. The only issue I can point out, is the visual where sometimes the characters go off-model, and CG crowds that stand out like a sore thumb. The score is at least intriguing and unusual. It uses electronic score with sometimes just stop abruptly in the middle of conversations, which again bring out the off putting nature of Boogiepop.

Finally, as I mentioned briefly before, the characters unfortunately isn’t the show’s strong suit. Part of it because of the disjointed narrative, and part of it because there are no real protagonist in this show. That is the reason why “Boogiepop at Dawn” arc fares so well because Nagita is the clear main character who drives the events. The worst of the cast, unfortunately, is Touka Miyashita. We learn little to nothing about her own character (except from she having a family issue as well) and for the character who supposed to be a vessel for the titular character, this is just not enough. Boogiepop is a mess, Boogiepop is emotional distance, Boogiepop can be frustrating to watch at times but its puzzle-like narratives can sink in and be rewarding for those who have enough patience.

Posted on 12 April 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

Hello all, and welcome to the Galaxy Brain episode of Paranoia Agent. Apologies for the lateness, but I really needed to wrap my head around this. Threads are brought  together, more questions are raised, and I am somehow entertained, confused and enlightened all at once. Lets jump in!

Now I have so much I need to talk about this week, let’s just skip animation and production. It looked fantastic, lots of awesome movement, onto the episode itself. And what an episode it was. I feel like I understand so much more now, all the narrative threads are coming together. Yet at the same time, I am confused and have absolutely no idea what is happening. That these two states can coincide, that I can understand nothing and still be wholly satisfied, is amazing. I am unsure how much of this was intentional by Kon though. Large portions were clearly foreshadowed early on, such as Maniwa or Maromi. However with the 2 or so episodes of filler, you also have to wonder, how much of this just… fell into place? Thats question for next week’s finale though, for now, onto specifics!

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Posted on 4 April 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

And so Paranoia Agent gets back on its weird tracks! This week week see what’s happened with Maniwa and the chief, Shounen Bat gets one upped and Kon get’s a little weird again. Lets jump in!

I have to say, this was a unique episode. All of Paranoia Agent’s episodes are unique in some way, but that’s not going to stop me from pointing it out each week. This time, Kon give’s us a closer look into Shounen Bat himself, which is a very welcome surprise. I made a point last week of explaining my worries with the series. That it was moving away from the characters and towards Shounen Bat, when he had no character of his own. That there wasn’t a clear plot to actually end in the first place. Kon apparently realized this, knowing from the start if the setup is anything to go by. This week give’s me that characterization, that sort of plot hook, that I so desperately wanted last week. So credit where credit is do, Kon has assuaged one of my biggest worries. But what about the actual content?

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Posted on with categories: Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense, Yakusoku no Neverland

So this series ends, or to put it more appropriately is put on temporary hold. A second season has been announced to follow much to the surprise of no one. But this episode acts as a good climax to the first arc of the story along with the thematic end of Isabella’s character arc. Of course this also marks the end of Promised Neverlands best arc which makes the announcement of a second season to be met by myself with rather lukewarm yays. What is to come after this arc isn’t what i would call bad but it is a downgrade when the story loses an antagonist like Isabella and the tension that the farm brought. The kids are still in danger but that danger seems much further away when their circumstances have switched from certain death to potential death. It’s up for debate whether an anime adaption could improve these chapters but I think I will sign off here as I just have other things to get though.

Yes yes, I lied about Phil. It’s sort have been a meme that the manga community suspected him so much due to him constantly appearing in the background which lead to him being regarded as some secret mastermind. In reality he really was just another kid, a fairly clever kid but no more a mastermind but rather just situationally aware. I do at least like how things have resolved with Isabella with her final confrontation with the children not turning into a battle of brawn but her appealing one last time to their emotions. Isabella has always been a psychological opponent so it makes sense that her last moments were like a metaphor for children leaving the coup. With her last action to hide evidence of the kids escape and to go back to the children with her most certain death awaiting her. In her final moments with her hair down almost feels like the first time she was ever able to truly be herself around them. Couple this with the flashback and reveal that she was Ray’s biological mother as thanks to fetus memories Ray learned a song from Isabella while he was in the womb.

Okay, I still think the whole fetus memory plot point is remarkably dumb and it does seem like the main reason it went with that instead of a more logical reason is for this twist and this twist alone. I think something like a birthmark would have been better to showcase this twist however. Isabella is the character I cared most about during this whole show so it’s nice to see her get some development when she about to say farewell forever. It leads her to becoming someone whose more understandable in her actions even if it doesn’t negate her wrongdoings in her job. You can make arguments that she didn’t have a choice and that she did the best she could within the limits of what the world would allow. I would argue that she traded her humanity for survival and when you look at things in perspective was never truly happy with her circumstances. She was so preoccupied with staying alive that she forget the reason why she did so. Tragic but evil deeds done remain evil, she still threw children to the guillotine to ensure her own survival.

I am having a debate with myself over reviewing this series as it is by general policy that I forgo a review if a second season is announced. As I feel that a series should be judged by everything that it puts on the table rather than a teaser. Still if I was to give my thoughts on how I felt about this series it would be that it is well directed, animated and features a great soundtrack but the story is a bit of a one trick pony. I stated before that when it came to the manga I began to lose interest once I completed the first arc but here I began to lose interest much faster which my response to each new episode turned to indifference. Again I reiterate that the series itself isn’t bad but it is a story that depends heavily on not knowing what comes next. If you do know what comes next then you know all the misdirection and suddenly the show becomes a showcase of fakeouts. Take note that despite the bleak setting that only two people actually died during this series. Connie in episode one and Krone in episode eight.(And I suppose Norman if you consider that “death” to be legitimate) Not saying we needed to see a massacre here but I feel it betrays the intent of the majority of the tone when you show that the only ones in danger are those whom are disposable plotwise.

Of course as the writer of Higurashi and Umineko put it, stories can be enjoyed twice but the fault with Neverland is that it depends so heavily on that first time experience that upon rewatch there really isn’t much to see. The characters are fine but the story almost is a waiting game to the eventual escape and in watching this anime I came to see how one note that approach is. I honestly can say the only character I truly cared about was Isabella and would you look at that, she’s gone from the story forever. An argument can be made that a story doesn’t require rewatchability in order to be considered great and indeed there are plenty of mystery stories that make for fantastic first time reads but diminish upon rereads. But I think that for something to be regarded as a classic is a quality that make you want to see it again and again, even when you know how it ends. A quality which for all the advantages it has, Neverland lacks.

Posted on 29 March 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

Welcome everyone to the most enjoyable episode of Paranoia Agent in a while. This week we get a peek into the anime industry, Shounen Bat appears once more and our death count skyrockets. Lets jump in!

Starting off, I not only have to but want to talk about the animation. Paranoia Agent got very inventive this week, wowing me multiple times. It really embraced the focus on the animation industry to have some fun with its eldritch premise. There are two instances of this I specifically want to mention. The first comes right at the start, by cutting to the various stages of the animation process. Complete, to Genga, to Storyboard it was an interesting look and really set the focus for the episode early. The second, and much more impressive, was about mid-way through, as Saruta is basically reverse animated. Losing his color, his line-work getting rougher and rougher. It was simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, fitting Paranoia Agent’s unique brand of horror. This is exactly what I have wanted these past few episodes, so its good to see the series return to form.

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Posted on 25 March 2019 with categories: Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense, Yakusoku no Neverland

Its safe to say that this series has been building up to this moment for a long time and it’s finally here. The escape has begun and for once Isabella has been put on the defensive. As far as this episode is concerned I feel it was pulled off excellently. Though I do feel that some choices were made that way solely for the sake of drama. The big thing here being that Ray revealed that he never intended to leave the house alive and fully intended to use his suicide by fire to distract Isabella long enough for the other kids to escape. His fatalistic notion seemly born more out of a sense of revenge rather than desire to end his own life though he does mention it as a sort of atonement for all the kids he sacrificed to get to this point. But alas this is not to be as it appears that Norman could really see through Ray’s intent to sacrifice himself and already gave Emma a note to ensure that this didn’t happen. But here’s where my particular gripe with this scene comes into play. For you see while this makes for a good twist, it also puts Emma’s actions into question as she reacted to Ray putting his plan forward as though she was hearing it or the first time. At no point during that conversation did Emma seem like she was ready to jump in as stop him. I must ask, if Emma intended to fake Rays suicide and had kids on standby ready to do so then why did she wait to the point where Ray drops a goddamn match?

In fiction I understand that some leeway must be made in order to accommodate the audience like villains vocalising their plans so that the audience can know of them. Here however it just seems ridiculously out of character that Emma would just stand back, let Ray douse himself in lighter fluid, light a match and drop a lit match before she interjected. Ray gave her plenty of time to do so so you cannot blame this on the usual concept of “Anime time” wherein the scene shown is not relative to the time it actually took place in. Ray laid out his intentions perfectly for a few minutes and not once,not once, did Emma speak up and let him know that she was ready for this. The only reason that could be given for Emma waiting that long is just to give the fake out to the audience and the dramatic flair of Emma catching the match at the last second. I feel that it would be better if Ray moved fast and did all this in a few seconds as we didn’t need him to spell out what he was planning as Norman does so within his letter. At least this scene would make more sense within the context of the story. Indeed this seems to be an ongoing flaw with this series as a whole, that being concessions made to include the audience by having character do illogical things within the context of the world they are in.

I also feel that this series has now demonstrated its unwillingness to kill off it’s main trio. Norman is still unconfirmed to be alive or dead but personally I believe him to be alive especially considering this latest fake out with Ray. These three have officially obtained plot armour so any dangerous situations they encounter won’t have me wondering for a second if they will make it out alive. The other kids of course are up for debate but as far as these three are concerned, I see them as unkillable until proven wrong. For a series that treats life and death as it’s main hook i can say that would be a big detriment to my enjoyment. Other than that I quite liked the music that played when Isabella had been outwitted, quite funky considering the soundtrack has been rather conservative so far. I didn’t really like Isabella going Krone for a bit just to let the audience know what she was thinking as it did seem very out of character for someone so reserved. Having Ray just be pure dumbfounded after the reveal of the true plan was rather comical and it is rather interesting looking back on previous episodes and even seeing signs that other kids were aware of their circumstances. Finally it appears the Chekhov gun to end all Chekhov’s guns has arrived as Phil’s master plan comes into full effect and the masterstoke of three dimensional chess planning of this little smiling demon child.

Posted on 23 March 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

Hello all, and welcome to a very… odd episode of Paranoia Agent. Which, knowing this show, is saying something. This week we tackle public gossip, the inconsistencies that come with it and if there is any truth to it. Lets go!

Starting off, let’s talk about the execution. Normally here, I talk about animation and production, but Paranoia Agent has been pretty consistent on that front to this point. Giving me little to talk about without repeating myself. So instead, how was this executed? In my opinion, it was very interesting to watch. You could never tell, at least at first, which pieces of gossip were real or not or how much so. With how crazy Paranoia Agent has been up to this point, this line of what is or is not believable was pushed very far back. So in that sense, this episode did a fantastic job expanding on the world while staying true to its weird/eldritch roots. That said, just like last week, this feels rather fillery. It doesn’t move the plot forward. At best, it tells us Shounen Bat is more prolific than we though.

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Posted on 20 March 2019 with categories: Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019), Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense

The nightmare never seems to end. During episode 15, we have three separate segments of characters stuck in their own dreams: Makoto’s mother, Sakiko and Kentarou. Play into Boogiepop’s strength, these characters have their own drama and each of their story explores different aspect of this phenomenal, all related to the King of Distortion himself. More impressively, these segments still have a progression. From passively in the case of Makoto’s mother to Kentarou who eventually tries his way to fix it himself. So far, more so than previous arcs, this “King of Distortion” arc is much more surreal and psychological, which very much within my domain. What Boogiepop does right in these individual segment is how it can draw out the drama, the “struggles” in the past these characters can’t get pass even to this day. One thing that both these characters aware is that they’re in a dream and the person they talk with is the King of Distortion. It’s interesting to note that he’s only there as a listener for these characters to confront their own traumatic past, and he appears to do nothing beyond that. He’s just there to open that hole that others hide in their heart. Boogiepop themselves is uncertain whether he’s a foe and not. It’s more that this strange phenomenal serves as a catalyst to something more destructive.

Tracking down the events of these three segments, we have Shizuka, Makoto’s Mom, who reveals that she’s pregnant by an unknown father, which she thought might be Teratsuki’s (although Teratsuki isn’t human hence he can’t impregnate a girl). I like what Shizuka was going through there, she’s a whirlwind of inconsistencies and that makes her utterly relatable. A sheltered girl with insecurities, for example. The way she keeps hanging on Teratsuki and her relationship with her son Makoto. Not until episode 16 with the revelation of Zooragi and what it means for Makoto should we know how her decision impacts him in a profound way. Then we have quite a sad story of Sakiko and her deceased childhood friend Hinako, whom she was looked up to, and was jealous of. Unlike other segments where these negative feelings were much more sinister and uglier, the trauma both Shizuka, Sakiko and Kentarou go through are more of a regret, of something they should’ve done better in the past and that lead to how they become the way they are in the present. For Kentarou, he has a crush with the awesome Nagi, and he immediately realises that the world he is currently experience is within his memory. Well, until he meets Makoto and learns that multiple dreams have merged anyway.

And the we come back to Nitoki’s perspective during the first half of episode 16. She has been a fascinating character to me. She knows about the true existence of Boogiepop, and she does her own research about multiple personalities. Suema does a perfect job of confusing us more by assert her theory that “there is no multiple personalities because we can’t really prove it”. While I don’t necessarily agree with her theory, it informs the attitude of Boogiepop the series – that all these psychological abnormalities, and at large all these supernatural recurring, are all come from within one’s mind. I certainly feel the deadpan remark of Boogiepop when they hand out the bento Touka made for Takade to her rival (and she indeed eats it). Nikoti then concludes that King of Distortion is her alternative personality (that would explain why it functions as a memory) but whether that means in a big picture is still up in the air. The King of Distortion himself refers to all this as an “experiment”, and I have a great sense that none of the character, even Boogiepop and King of Distortion, know how this experiment going to pan out.

All that lead to the big reveal where pieces start to fall neatly into its assigned place. Zooragi the monster. As the Moon Temple starts crumbling by an unknown force, we soon learn that it’s Zooragi who goes berserk. We know about him in the very beginning of this arc, but now we know his significant. He was Makoto’s painting about his father. This single detail can inform you how Makoto feel about the father he has never met or known. It’s interesting to note that Zooragi acts in accordance to Makoto and it’s Makoto who is on the verge of totally losing control. So we have the final showdown between Boogiepop and Zooragi, where they apparently chops Zooragi’s head off, so that Makoto can control himself and falls back to sleep. All this is, after all, just a product of human psyche, just like the King of Distortion himself.

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