Featured Image by Shirow Miwa, Author of the RWBY’s manga adaptation
It was February 1st, 2015. I had gotten back from school and was ready to relax for the night until my friend sent my other friend and I a single text.
“Guys, Monty didn’t make it”
I had already known that Monty was in the hospital for several days, but not one part of me thought he would actually die. My friends and I were heartbroken and while it felt too disrespectful to ask, I’m certain everyone was thinking “what’s going to happen to RWBY?”
It would go on, as it turns out. We got a glimpse of the fight animation from the tournament arc at the following summer’s RTX convention and things were looking pretty cool. Despite that, I was extremely cautious of how well the show would look, how good the fight scenes would be, and whether or not the story would finally start improving. Even when Volume Three ended up premiering on October 24th, 2015, I wouldn’t have a concrete answer, but it was certainly the beginning of a new era of RWBY, for better… or worse.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
I must say, ladies and gentlemen, I’m feeling a bit peeved right now. No one thought to notify me that Studio Bones produced a half magical boy, half mech show in 2010, bringing together an all-star staff list to produce one of the most flamboyant, bizarre and visually enticing works that almost none of my friends know about. A delightful gem by the name of Star Driver.
This staff list alone should garner attention from any Anime fan. The director is Takuya Igarashi, director of Soul Eater, Ouran Highschool Host Club, and Bungou Stray Dogs. The script was penned by Youji Enokido, who wrote FLCL, Redline and (again) Bungou Stray Dogs. Hell, sound director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi has so many credits worth mentioning that I’ll just direct you to his MyAnimeList page.
Impressive staff aside though, how do all the pieces fit together? And considering the pedigree of Bones and the other artists working on it, how has this show not been talked about more in the years since it’s release?
Sequels can be risky. This is true in any medium, but to many, Anime has a particular reputation for dodgy sequels. Some shows see changes in production staff that rob the sequel of what made the first so great, such is the case with Psycho-Pass 2. Other times, we may never even get a sequel due to low Blu-ray sales and miss out on the closure that any good story needs.
Thankfully, some of my favorite shows have gotten worthwhile sequels, but often I just hope that whatever 12 episode show I watch ends conclusively enough that I won’t be heartbroken should it not get renewed. So it’s with great pleasure that I say that season two of Kekkai Sensen manages to continue the show strong, sticking closer to the source material without disregarding the Anime-original story that made me fall in love with season one.
Featured Image by 权- on Pixiv
Last time, I took a long look at the beginning of Rooster Teeth’s Animated Web Series RWBY, both the incredibly promising promotional material and the lackluster first Volume. However, as the title of this series suggests, there are things in this show that I actually like, believe it or not. Volume Two is one of those things that I love. I’m of the mind that there has never been a truly great Volume of RWBY, but of the ones we have gotten, Two may be the closest to fulfilling the promise of the original four character trailers.
With that, I want to spend time focusing on exactly what changed in order to make this Volume so much more memorable and enjoyable. From a much more focused plot to enhanced visuals and direction and even the little tiny details. It’s not all perfect though, and for all its promise, there are some things that make this series incredibly hard to recommend.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
In 2012, Rooster Teeth announced a new web series called RWBY. I had already watched all of Red vs Blue, Rooster Teeth’s other major, long-running series, so the “Red” trailer for RWBY truly captivated me. Soon I realized that its creator, Monty Oum, was the same choreographer behind the action in seasons 8, 9 and 10 of Red vs Blue. It’s safe to say that there was plenty reason to be excited.
One year and three character shorts later, the first volume premiered. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the word, but I was having fun all the same. By all accounts, I am still a fan, which is strange because if you talk to me about it, and you may think I hate it. Of all the time spent talking about RWBY to my friends or to myself, half the time I talk about all the things I don’t like about it.
There have been plenty of problems with this show from day one. The episode lengths of Volume One, an overabundance of characters, insufficient development for the lead character, and plenty more. This is before Monty Oum’s passing in 2015, after which it became clear that RWBY was becoming a very different type of show without Monty.
RWBY is a mess, but it has somehow kept me watching for its characters, it’s concepts and even it’s action despite a dip in quality I plan to address. How it has managed this is a much more complicated manner and since I have miraculously never written about RWBY before now, this is the perfect time to talk at length about everything I love and hate about RWBY.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
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.
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