Phew, If I’m not careful I’m gonna use up all my obscure cultural references on these titles too fast. I haven’t caught up on Maoyuu yet, but I’ve caught up on half of Sasami-san. Let’s jump in.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure 20-21
Last week I mentioned that I thought shirking narrative convention was being used in Jojo’s favour. I’d like to expand on that a little. Jojo’s takes typical tropes, undertones, and narrative flaws of shounen shows and exaggerates them to the point of self-parody. I mean, a shounen protagonist literally fighting with his balls? That shit can’t be accidental, can it?
However, this isn’t to say that it always works in the show’s favour. In general it tends to fall apart in the occasional section we’re meant to take seriously. Most recently the death of Caesar. I love the over-the-top narrator in Jojo’s, especially when Speedwagon used to be filling the role. It really does work against the show at points though. At the point just before Caesar is killed, the narrator tells us exactly what is going on. It tells us that Caesar blocked that light as he leaped in and that this was his fatal error. The basic question we have to ask ourselves is ‘would that scene have been better without the narration?’. Absolutely, I believe. The show did a good job of conveying this visually, as it should, this being a visual medium and all. We saw Caesar’s shadow creep over Wham, the camera emphasised it, the slight slow-mo emphasised it, it would have been that much more tragic and effective had they not outright told us at this point.
To be honest I kind of wish this show would never get serious, but I don’t really expect that. The team adapting this; however, really do need to think about how things should be handled differently when things get serious. Understatement is almost always going to work better in these scenarios.
Zetsuen no Tempest 20
Ok, I promise I won’t use that emoticon every week, but help me out here, anime.
Not that I have much of an issue with predictability, but is there seriously anyone who didn’t see the big reveal at the end of this episode coming a mile off? Also, I can’t have been the only one to laugh at that big fuck-off sword she summoned at the end. It was so ridiculous. Also, did what Hakaze was saying about how she may have to kill Aika whatever the case make any sense to anybody else? Sure made none to me.
That aside, I really am interested to see where this is going. We’re clearly heading for the climax and I get the feeling we’ll be seeing Xanatos gambits and having the central mystery of the trees come to some light. Unfortunately my favourite part of this series, the fascinating dynamic between Yoshino and Mahiro has taken a back-seat to pretty much everything else this second cour, but I’m willing to let it go if we get back to some halfway decent mystery.
So despite that first episode that managed to be simultaneously incomprehensible and boring, I picked this one back up. Not up-to-date on it just yet, but with any luck I will be by next week.
Things were hardly off to a stellar start with my watching plans when the 2nd episode proved just as boring as the first. We were, at least, given some explanation of what the hell was going on in the 1st ep, though the notion of show, don’t tell, clearly eludes the writers. Still, hints of an overarching narrative are better than nothing.
After watching the 3rd and 4th episodes I have to say this show…. has the most perplexing pacing and storytelling structure I’ve seen in a long time. 1st ep, introduction with no explanation. 2nd ep, exposition followed by filler. 3rd ep, serious business story that could well have been a finale ep had there been any real build up. 4th ep, quasi side story tying off loose ends from the previous ep. I get the feeling they’re trying to get all the plot over with so they can get onto a meandering slice-of-life affair, but I guess there’s no point making predictions when there’s still another four episodes to watch before I’m up-to-date.
After the first two episodes I was sure I was gonna hate this, so the 3rd and 4th episodes must have done something right, cause I’m not dreading watching it anymore. I’d go so far as to say episode 4 was genuinely funny. I’ve always thoughts chekhov’s gun is at least as important to comedy as it is to thriller and drama, and the 4th episode of Sasami-san used it well. Bad comedy will have a bunch of largely unrelated gags that never build to anything. Good comedy builds a bunch of seemingly unrelated gags, each reasonably funny in its own right, up to one or several large comedic payoffs. Just look at Black Books , or, for a more anime example, Detroit Metal City .
All that said, Arakawa shows that the best thing a quirky comedy can have going for it is an undercurrent of actual commentary and real character growth. If Sasami-san can’t muster up either of these, it’s going to have to get a damn sight funnier to not come off as a shallow, unfulfilling show come finale.
Psycho Pass 19
I’m probably going to come off as excessively negative about Psycho Pass no matter how much I clarify that I like it. It’s just that what’s wrong with Psycho Pass right now is a lot meatier and more interesting to talk about than what’s right about it. It’s that tragic irony that the better a piece of fiction gets, the more glaring its flaws become. So again, for good measure, I really like Psycho Pass and I look forward to seeing where it goes as we come up to our finale.
Alright, now, just like we did with Jojo’s, let’s ask ourselves a basic question about recent developments. Would Makishima’s latest plot have more weight and interest had we known more about the way this society operates prior to this episode? I think the answer has got to be yes. Imagine these hyper oats had been introduced in one of the earlier, standalone arcs as a tangential piece of information to the main thrust of that arc. Makishima’s plan to bring down the society through this basic vulnerability would have had so, so much more impact. I blame Urobuchi being popular. Now he has serious time restraints on him he probably doesn’t have the time to put together a story as carefully as he did with Madoka . Also, it has to be said, clonally propagated crops? Is future Japan completely retarded? It’s like the Irish potato famine all over again.
I’m sure the excessive quotation in this show has been lambasted enough, so I’m not gonna go too far into it. Long story short it’s a lazy writer’s way to make their characters seem intelligent, it doesn’t really add anything to the narrative. Quoting relevant phrases from great thinkers on the current topic is fine, they’re referred to as great thinkers for a reason, but drawing attention to the fact the character is quoting them doesn’t serve any purpose other than to make your character seem like a smug douche. Let’s also not forget that any time spent on quotations is time not spent on that character’s original dialogue, which hurts characterisation.
Little Busters 21
Again, I’m not particularly hung up on predictability, but was the twist at the end of this episode actually meant to be surprising? If not, then why make it a cliffhanger, it doesn’t make any sense. It was foreshadowed like crazy all episode.
Nitpicks aside, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this episode in particular after last week’s diatribe, so let’s delve into another more general aspect of Little Busters; the harem aspects that usually leave a bad taste in my mouth with these sorts of shows. With the possible exception of Kurugaya (we haven’t had her arc yet, so she’s difficult to call at the moment), all the main female characters in this show are given some serious weakness that fatally undermines their strengths. This is the central conceit of Little Buster and the many shows like it, that the female characters all need to be “fixed” by the protagonist, and so we have these engineered weaknesses for the format to work.
Taking a step back from this for a moment, this really is a pretty sick reality of the harem format. We’re told that Kud is basically very intelligent, but that’s not what we see, because she completely lacks common sense, and this is the most common of these engineered weaknesses which attempt to retain the facade that the characters aren’t just completely incompetent. They’re inbalanced in such a way that they need help. None of the male characters in this show have comparable flaws, except maybe Riki, but his issue is one of complete misfortune, his narcolepsy.
This episode also brings us the second, even lazier device to undermine their characters; quasi-random tragedy. This issue is less insidious, since, like Riki’s narcolepsy, it often comes off more like a challenge that presents an opportunity for the character look strong in the face of hardship. It’s still lazy writing, though, and it’ll probably be Riki that snaps Kud out of her inevitable broken bird routine, rather than Kud herself.
Alrighty, besides catching up on Maoyuu and Sasami-san, my next objective is to catch up on Tamako Market. Well, KyoAni…