It’s been two years since the end of Blood Blockade Battlefront, arguably the best show of 2015 and one of my personal favorite Anime of all time. You can check out my review of season one here.
Now, I won’t act like I didn’t have my doubts going into the currently airing sequel. I was cautious after hearing that Rie Matsumoto would not be directing this time around. The loss of one creative mind can mean a big difference in determining whether the ship will sail or sink. Thankfully, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond has not just sailed in its first three episodes, it has soared.
It’s a criminal understatement to say that Superheroes are pretty big in America. The Marvel Cinematic universe alone has been releasing some of the highest grossing films every year since 2008, having released 16 films at the time of writing. Superheroes and what they stand for are integral to American pop culture. America isn’t the only country with superheroes, but it is safe to say it popularized them by creating some of the most iconic heroes ever made.
So it’s interesting what happens when artists from other countries craft stories about Superheroes. How do they view superheroes and what kinds of stories do they make about them? British comic artists like Alan Moore opt for a more grim take on superhumans in alternate timeline stories like Watchman or even in established properties like Batman: The Killing Joke. But recently, Japan has made a few Anime that have captured the superhero market of America in a big way.
One Punch Man by Studio Madhouse and My Hero Academia by Studio Bones are two of the most popular Anime of the last three years. Both produced by credible high-profile studios and both garnering a fair following in the US. The former a viral hit and the latter an ongoing shonen series that is essentially a textbook guide for how to do a shonen series right. On top of all of that, these shows are fantastic superhero stories.
There is a reason I chose to analyze these two series through the lens of superhero fiction rather than say the shonen genre like most people do. The most monumental difference I notice between these two Anime and superheroes in the west is that the government doesn’t just coexist with superheroes, but actively regulates and monitors them.
Keeping this in mind, what would it be like to live in the worlds of these shows or even be a hero in one of them? Are these societies and their systems stable? Most importantly, what do these shows do with the superhero genre that isn’t too common in American superhero fiction?
The benefit of a show like Ergo Proxy is that despite having come out in 2006, most people who watch this show have no idea where this show will go and the bizarre turns it will take with its story. I am no exception as I have been aware of this show and parts of its premise for years. However, upon finishing all 23 episodes, I can safely say that my expectations for the show were proven false after just three or four episodes and I never was truly able to predict where it would go after that.
What the hell IS Anime? Maybe you think the answer is obvious but the topic of the term’s application seems to be a heavily debated one. It makes perfect sense when we are talking about shows from Japan but in the same discussions about shows like Fullmetal Alchemist or Naruto, you could easily hear someone bring up American animated shows like Avatar or Voltron. There are countless arguments online as to the valid application of the term and just as many debating if the term’s use should even matter.
To me, the term “Anime” can be misused in a way that, by no intent of the person who misuses it, can paint a false image of Anime and perpetuate certain ideas about the medium of animation or the sub medium known as Anime. So today I want to lay out exactly what I consider to be Anime, how I rationalize this, and why I even give a shit.
Hey look, it’s one of these things again. Haven’t done one of these since April so the question remains, what the hell am I watching right now? I’ve specified which of the shows I’m watching are seasonal, as well as created categories for shows I’m rewatching and even shows on my backlog I’d like to continue (and hopefully finish) soon. Let’s dig in!
Concrete Revolutio: Superhuman Phantasmagoria
I remember seeing previews for this show back in the fall of 2015 and thinking it was a bit too weird for my tastes. Now with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this show is an underrated gem, like many of my favorite shows. A Studio Bones show with some of the most exhilarating cuts by Animator Yutaka Nakamura and some extremely fun characters. The story seems to jump between two distinct timelines frequently which can be a tad confusing, but I can say with certainty that I’m hooked. Expect a review when I’m finished.
[This analysis contains spoilers for Ghost in the Shell 2017]
Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, is not a great movie. That isn’t to say it is terrible. I feel the need to clarify that in a world where sometimes it feels like things are either great or terrible. No, Ghost in the Shell may not be great, but it is an average, entertaining science fiction action flick.
Many will accuse this film of whitewashing, though I would argue many of those people haven’t seen much of the series. The hardcore fans who have seen the series mainly dislike the film for being a dumbed down, poor adaptation. Is it dumbed down? Certainly. Is it a poor adaptation? Well, that depends on your perspective.
Keep in mind that EVERY version of Ghost in the Shell is significantly different from the other. The characters and lore change enough between them that it is easier to think of them as completely separate universes. Even the original manga creator, Shirow Masamune, said there was no definitive Ghost in the Shell. Hell, the original film was an adaptation of the manga and by all merits, it was nothing like the manga.
So in this analysis, I’m not judging GITS 2017 as an adaptation, but simply a new, flawed take on the series. I want to look at how this film fails to capture the essential elements of the series and even look what makes this film unique and the themes and messages that- if executed properly- could have led to a truly different, but all-together great classic.
As I said in my review of season one, it isn’t often that Anime fans are blessed with a period piece drama aimed at a mature audience. To be honest, given how typically shows like this don’t get a lot of attention, I’m amazed we got a sequel. Now that I’ve found a peaceful Monday morning to finish the series- exactly the type of peaceful scene I think the creators intended this show to be viewed in- I can’t resist talking about this series.
Much like the first season, It feels a bit difficult reviewing this series because it is so much quieter and more reserved than most other shows I watch- even shows that are also dramas. It is a melancholic jaunt through the lives of artists, performers, mothers, fathers, saints, sinners and the children who carry on the legacies of their families. It is one of the most unique Anime I have seen in years and I can tell you right now, it is one that everyone should check out.
My last two posts focused on seasons one and two of Darker Than Black, a niche action Anime that I’ve been obsessed with over the past month for its flaws just as much as what is good about it. However, since the OVA is only four episodes, I may as well make the review short and sweet and then finally assess this series as a whole. If You’d like to read my other reviews to catch up, I will link them below.
With that squared away, let’s get to the good stuff.
I think I may have been a little too harsh on the first season of Darker Than Black. Sure, the story’s structure was a bit unusual, the stories themselves weren’t always that enjoyable and there was a conflicting tone that wasn’t well balanced, but it pulled through for me because the action and characters were very well done and the themes of the story, while open for interpretation, filled me with a sense of real satisfaction at the end of the series that I don’t often feel when analyzing a show. I ended my review of season one calling it average, but after watching season two I almost want to give the first season higher praise.
If you haven’t read my season one review, check it out here…
When we get sequels to popular Anime, the results can be mixed. You either get a sequel like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig or you get a sequel like Psycho Pass 2. The former expands upon the original’s premise and delivers an altogether superior product while the latter is a mess, plagued with new additions at the cost of what made the original so enjoyable. Sadly, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is the latter rather than the former.
Do you ever try to find out why you love a show and then are dissatisfied with the reasons you come up with? Not because the reasons themselves aren’t sufficient, but because it doesn’t feel like those reasons are what typically justify praise when it comes to narrative mediums.
One popular school of thought places the narrative and writing at the forefront of what makes a story good. For me though, it is only the most common reason that people universally agree upon the quality of a story. Visual mediums are the most meaningful to me when the end result is a culmination of effective writing, visuals and especially music.
So what happens when I’m confronted with a show that flaunts a strong visual presence and great music but falls short in consistent writing and narrative. More importantly, why do I love 2007’s Darker Than Black, despite it falling into that category? Continue reading