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]
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.