Sunday, September 15, 2013

Anime Season for JACT, part 1

            I belong to JACT, a club at Florida State University based around watching Anime.  The full title is "Japanese Animation Club Tallahassee".  I cannot call myself a fan of anime, because anime is not a genre, it is an amorphous and arbitrary grouping of animation from Japan (though seeming all animated in Korea), and I mostly watch it when I am looking for a show that has very uncommon subject matter (uncommon for an American, in Japan this stuff could be seen as an everyday thing).
            Last night was the first meeting of the club and they previewed 7 different shows, the first episodes of their respective series and everyone voted on which they would like to see more of (the 7 were chosen by the club officers).  I have chosen to give my two cents here because I didn't bother to go to Chili's after the meeting so as not to spend money.

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
            This is the biggest pop culture thing in Anime since "Full Metal Alchemist".   "Titan" was a popular choice to display, and I will give it this credit: SHIT HAPPENS.  In the first episode the series establishes the cultural dynamics, some religion, some politics, and some allusions to deeper mysteries, then the 200 foot tall skinless monster blows through the defenses and unleashes an army of creepy faced, people eating giants on the denizens we spent the last 15 minutes getting to know.
            Complaints: This show has a problem with pacing, the first thing shown in the entire show is the giant skinless monster, the second thing shown is one of the smaller (but still giant) creepy faced people eaters.  When making a monster movie/show, you don't immediately show the monster, you build to the revelation, showing it off the bat has the same issue as premature ejaculation, the monster is the money shot, you don't start with the money shot.

This is like the first thing you see.
            Also the first episode has five episodes worth of material in it and the condensing robs a lot of what happens of its dramatic weight.  A person's legs are crushed by a falling building and the heroes have to be pulled away from trying to save this person, if we had spent more than one scene with this person (no exaggeration, she was there and her next scene is being crushed) then her death at the hands of a creepy faced giant would have been shocking on an emotional level rather than just gore soaked (she could have been the Ned Stark of the series).
            In sum: poorly paced but never the less intriguing introduction I want to watch more.  Kind of reminds me of the movie "Starship Troopers".  And it is a keeper, JACT will be watching an episode a week for the semester along with the other regulars (only three of the initial seven become regulars).

Bullet Rebuttal (Dangan Ronpa)
            Based on a videogame, this is a "Battle Royal" knock off in which all of the victims look like they were stolen from either a terrible "StreetFighter" rip off, or possibly an episode of "YuGiOh!" (Look at the hair).  The villain of the story communicates with the victims via a robotic teddy bear.  For the most part each "character" acts in accordance with how they should act, the thug threatens, the fighter picks his punches, and the fat guy is an asshole.

I guess when you have 15 characters your designs have to move past the usual, Green, Red, Blue hair coding.
            Complaints: real problem is, they are not characters, they are arch-types, at least at first, I am sure the show and game flesh them out. Since the main character of the show is based of the main character of the game, the player, he is a blank slate openly telling the audience through voice-over that he is not special in anyway.  The art style as I mentioned is really over the top to the point of self parody, and the premise has become too commonplace in pop culture that this seems like a tremendous waste as it does nothing interesting with the concept to call its own.  Think about this, the concept of children being confined and forced to murder each other has become too prevalent in pop culture for me to find it intriguing.
            In sum: it looks bad, is overshadowed in its premise, its characters are one note by design, and while it might have worked as a game allowing the interactive element to explore things give it a gimmick to break out, this is just a show that has to boil down the concept out of necessity.  Unfortunately it is one of the shows JACT voted to keep watching.

            The logo looks like "Final Fantasy XIII", and... This show is a mess.  The first episode is actually 47 minutes long so for the sake of time we only watched the first half of it, so it is possible the second half makes it come together better, but what I saw had unnecessary and distracting flashbacks, pretentious dialogue, and it explained both way too much and way too little.  There was a glimmer of hope for this series when it focused on a student character, that was basically arguing for the overthrow of the aristocratic/old-money themes that the world endorses, but that is swept away for a gloomy protagonist whose story is convoluted and very poorly presented.

Look at this Logo.
Notice any similarities?

            More Complaints: the blocking on this show is insanely incompetent.  Massive rooms in which the main character stands at the center (I am not joking this next part literally happens) two characters then walk circles around him for no reason while they explain to him the gargantuan blocks of text that are the rules of this setting, dropping terms and nomenclature that mean nothing to the audience and explaining nothing in any way that can be understood, humans don't behave like this.  The scene actually shows chairs and a table that they could comfortably sit and explain things maybe with cut-away visuals to epic magic battles or still images of what they are talking about, you know, visual storytelling.  Instead the "camera" focuses on one guy as he walks and talks, then the other guy walking and talking, then on the protagonist who doesn't move or say anything and is unnaturally still.
            In sum: maybe the budget for the show's animation was trim and they needed to save it for the things they allude to but it is boring to watch, confusing and boring to listen to, and when it was over I did not miss it.  It was not voted to be kept.  (We watched a bit more, and it did not improve the experience, here is a much more lengthy review.)

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