Thursday, February 23, 2017

Scum's Wish Episode 7 Review

Moka and Mugi's big date make up the bulk of the episode with all of the standard date spots planned by Moka as a final send off to her doomed love for childhood friend meanwhile Hanabi's relationship with Akane's former pupil sputters and stops when he pressures Hanabi to have sex with him. While Moka and Mugi's date ends back at Mugi's house only with Mugi unable to "seal the deal" with a scared and self conscious Moka with the episode ending on Mugi and Hanabi determined to confess their feelings to their intended. Wow I wanted to like this episode parts of Moka's characterization gave me flashes of Ayumi Yamada from honey and Clover but whereas in that series Ayumi hung on to her hopeless love and this gave her some sense of nobility in her fruitless love. Moka sadly like any of the other characters in this series has become yet another self-absorbed solipsist. The entire obvious façade being shown to be just that a façade Moka has constructed. Again I don't writing about this enjoyable but as long as people want hold this type of morally nihilistic drivel is held up as some kind of profound statement about the human condition I feel duty to fight back against that. this series is simply Master of The Martial Heart with love as opposed to an martial arts tournament as major plot device. I really wanted to like this episode but when bitter cynicism is confused for maturity or depth of character writing I can't really say anything good. I hate to sound like a priggish moralist but this series has no moral center to hold it is simply a workmanlike directed series of glimpse into a moral abyss that is neither profound nor though provoking much like Sundome this episode is obsessed with the physical act as opposed to previous episodes in which the characters are so introspective as to be divorced from their own bodies. It goes the exact other wrong way in overemphasis by the time this over I be happy if I even end up with an passible narrative instead of these unconnected interior monologues and overblown symbolism

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gantz:0: Review

Masaru Katou is killed by knife wielding criminal after he stops to help the assailant's victim while waiting for a subway train to take him home to celebrate the birthday of his younger brother. Katou awakens from his precived death to be in an empty room populated only by four people and an omnious looking orb that calls it's self Gantz. Katou along with his team mate the model Reika Shimohira, Yoshikazu "Old Man" Suzuki, and Jouichirou Nishi a sociopathic old hand at the game. Quickly the team is teleported to Osaka and forced to fight nightmarish monsters and aliens while also having to deal with the unstable Osaka team a group of more experienced players who have won the death game they are all involved in numerous times. Gantz:0 is a super condensed retelling of the orginal Manga's Osaka arc. This is a series that has no real discernible world view and is only happy to marinate in it's own gleefully nihilistic form of ultra violence no one is particularity deep or nuanced as far as characterization goes. And the choice to make it in complete 3DCG gives the entire affair the feel of an expansive video game cut scene. Katou is by far the most "human" of the characters doing what is right even if it puts his own self-preservation at risk. While the amount of realism in the deaths, mutilations, limb severing, and pulpifyings is at first stomach churning than slowly a wave of numb malaise as the latest atrocity committed against the human body ceases to shock. It's not a bad way to kill two hours and overall feels lovingly detailed to depict the absolute worst aspects of human nature. Not even including the bizarre scene of one of the aliens transforming into writhing giant made out of millions naked women. In short it's a work comparable to Apocalypse Zero in that it will alternatively confound, bore, and sicken you sometimes in same scene. The technical achievement of the CGI is a wonder to behold only to leave you realizing that what you are beholding is an hellscape of death, carnage, and redicusoly over powered nihilistic sociopaths. With the only moral center being the amnesiac Katou and even than all of his heroics are seemingly undercut at every turn by one character or another with a plea to mere survival nothing is really explained as to why this is being fought or what the ultimate end game it is simply a splattery slurry of CGI giblets and cynicism. It is hard to take serious and honestly the only real way to enjoy this is to go into it with your moral sense shut off and instead gawk at the spectacle. It is not a complete waste due to the amount of loving detail and realism but after a point it simply starts to feel tiresome as the spectacle is the only thing on which the audience is left to metabolize. In an earlier time when exploitative ultra violence was de rigor for Anime releases I could see this finding an audience but as is this feels like a throw back to a justifiably forgotten era of weakly written exploitation Anime. With a fresher coat of paint I wish I could say something more but when the entire cast feels like cardboard archetypes mixed with strange amounts of body horror it's simply a chore that I can only recommend to completest fans of the original Gantz manga or people who have a craving for something on par with Genocyber or MD Geist.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Scum's Wish Episode Six Review

Hanabi now has to process her emotions with Akane's revelation at the end of episode five while Mugi now has to deal with the constant affections of Moka and Ebato is happily continuing the destructive relationship she has with Hanabi and Hanabi tries to beat Akane at her own game trying to seduce one of Akane's previous conquests and tentatively start dating Mugi. While Kanai is relegated to the background and a flashback and dream sequence. While not as solipsistic as the last episode it is very much another episode in Hanabi's head and as I've said previously being self-aware does not make this series profound it instead is one protracted Emo interior monologue that shows very little self-awareness on Hanabi's part sure she realizes she can't be as amoral as Akane but that's part of the problem no matter how hormonal a teenager may be to take it to this extreme reads less like a realistic depiction of the fumbling awakening of teenage sexuality and more like some kind of melodramatic fan fiction or adult misremembering of what adolescence is. The only par that felt real was Moka and her feelings to relegate her confession to the last few minutes of the episode is a disservice because it is really the only real or honest emotional beat in the series everything else being a facial cynicism masquerading as hard truth. Making sexuality depressing does not invest it with any deeper significance. Self-absorbed people using each other is not profound it is a hollow testament to the noetic effect of sin and that is really the only good thing I can find in this episode other than Moka's reappearance even though she frankly got short-shrift.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Scum's Wish Episode Five Review

The episode opens up with a younger Hanabi on a swing while her older self-narrates her thoughts on her emotional life and how Kanai allowed her to be able to feel emotions and the scene fading from black and white to color. only to have Hanabi wake up in the aftermath of her tryst with Ebato making the opening few minutes appear to have been a dream sequence. Hanabi and Ebato share a moment together and Ebato exits for the rest of the episode. Only for it to than focus on Mugi and his past with Akane and his Senpei Mei from middle school as well as his thoughts on his relationship with Hanabi. Than switch to Akane's perspective and how boring she finds Kanai until Akane finds out Kanai's history with Hanabi using the pure hearted Kanai as a new way to torture Hanabi. Scum's Wish continues to be the most morally reprehensible series I have seen in recent memory episode five does nothing to really change any of the characters. Hanabi is still narcissistic and self-obsessed as is Mugi and while the interior monologues make for a more cerebral experience, giving the characters interiority does not nescerily make them that profound or complex. It is the same self-absorbed self-loathing interior monologue that the first four episodes wallowed in. While Akane is for all intents and purposes a sexual predator the charcter I kept finding myself comparing her to is Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov from Crime and Punishment who is known both for his debauchery and also seemingly random acts of kindness. Akane though doesn't even seem to have any kindness in her she simply uses Kanai for her own amusement she is in a word evil and not profoundly so either. In fact for a series that seems to pride itself on being supposedly mature it has no deep understanding of Akane so far. Of the characters Mugi gets the most in the way of interior development and is at least reflective. While Hanabi is seemingly going down the same road as Akane yet never reflects on any of this or practices any kind of moral agency. She is simply drawn to the mutually exploitive relationship that her and Mugi share. In short they are mere puppets on the string of their own character. Of course in the state of nature mankind only desires sin and it's own sinful desires irrespective of harm to others or self. Akane is at least honest with herself Hanabi is only able to be horrified at herself and than run back to the same self-destructive cycle of sex and self-loathing there is no way out and it frankly feels artificial. The entire relationship dynamic between Mugi and Hanabi is an artificial fantasy with characters that frankly feel distanced from their own bodies minds alienated from their own physicality. Evil is hinted at and wickedness is hidden behind the seemingly sweet façade of MS. Minagawa with Kanai poor sweet Kanai only being strung along by this human Succubus. I like Kanai but these characters all lack agency so it's honestly frustrating to watch. I understand self-destructive patterns of behavior but it all feels so forced no one for all the amount of introspection bothers to think outside of the artificiality of their feelings or desires. Scum's Wish simply feels self-important without having anything of any real import to say beyond boiler plate angst about teenage sexuality and an misshapen apprehension of evil without ever exploreing it. Akane's actions are objectively wicked but the series spends far too much time languishing in a haze of adolescent sexuality to answer any of the deeper questions of human evil. I close with a quote originally in reference to the series Boku wa Imōto ni Koi o Suru this pretty sucicnitily sums up my feelings on the series so far if not as a whole. "This smut is repeated over and over until you just want to read some conservative, pedantic pre-Tezuka shōjo manga about how little Chieko became a good obedient wife and waits every day to serve dinner to her salaryman husband because he gets so tired from perpetuating the Japanese economic miracle." – Carlo Santos

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review of Scum's Wish Episodes 1-4

Scum's Wish chronicles the mutually exploitative relationship of Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya who use each other as a way to forget about their seemingly hopeless crushes on unreachable teachers at the school they attend. For Hanabi, it is a long smoldering childhood crush on her childhood friend Narumi Kanai who has become her homeroom teacher while Mugi harbors feelings for his former tutor Akane Minagawa the angel-faced music teacher who has become the object of Narumi's affections while Hanabi has become the object of her friend Sanae's desire. While Mugi has a hopeless suitor in his childhood friend Noriko Kamomebata (who reminds me of Shiho Munakata from Mai-HiME) . On paper, this is a cliché added piece of melodramatic goop filled with tryhard edgy seemingly mature exploration of teenage sexuality and the masks we present to each other. In short, the complicated root ball of romantic entanglements is the worst part of the series. While Mugi and Hanabi are not likeable in the slightest Hanabi is snappish borderline codependent and too busy polishing her dream of an idealized Narumi. Who she even still calls Brother wich to those not familiar with Japanese sibling terminology being used as a term of affection among unrelated individuals will think this has some sort of incestuous plotline it does not. Worry not though there are still plenty of emotionally scarring incidents of the loss of sexual innocence to make you more uncomfortable than any implied incest. The only likable characters are Noriko and Narumi everyone else could die in a fire I'd probably dance on their ashes. While Akane is probably the most reprehensible character in the series. The direction in this series is for the most part great at capturing the dark and murky emotions of the characters. Some choices feel a little heavy handed like the imagined childhood self of Hanabi upbraiding her in rain storm or manga panel cut outs that look like badly executed transitions. Mugi needs to developed more otherwise he is just a libido and teen angst while Narumi feels like a character from a completely different series and Sanae is only defined by her relationship with Hanabi. Noriko suffers the same fate but is at least memorable. Of course, this could all fall apart and If anything I am more watching this for Noriko and Narumi than I am Mugi and Hanabi as honestly I don't care what happens to them . This series is the Shigurui of romance series that is it is an unremittingly bleak look at humanity that confuses spectacle and Misanthropy for being profound or truly mature. Awful people having awful sex does not make a work thoughtful or have any kind of deep underlying message about humanity or sexual brokenness in a more general manner. Scum's Wish is more interested in being superficially clever than saying anything deeper than "hurt people hurt people". Unless we are dealing with Akane than we are dealing with a sucking void of moral depravity that the series feels ill equipped to even analyze beyond it's lovingly detailed depictions of lesbian sex, foreplay, and masturbation while framing scenes in stock cliché romance settings with lighting that looks reused from older romance series.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Response to review of Descending Stories: Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū Episode 5 by Gabriella Ekens,

I hate writing these kind of pieces professional reviewers are hard working and far better writers than I but honestly this review is another place where Gabriella Ekens has allowed her ideological presuppositions to get in the way of reviewing a series objectively. Let it be forgotten this is the same woman who reduced Archer and Shirou's fight in Fate/Stay Unlimited Blade Works to being about her Feminist conception of Masculinity. None of this I think is disingenuous or an attempt to get people to read her reviews out of a desire for controversy to bring up page views. I think she really does believe the things she writes about but this review simply feels like a case of the reviewer reaching so that a point can be made and really this is the problem with Ekens review of this episode. From only allowing the one possible interpretation of The Tale of Genji because it is germane to the point she is making. While also for no reason working in an post-modern understanding of Gender that feels like a thinly vailed reworking of Susan J. Naiper's work on the subject in Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. While the reviewer's obsession with making Rakugo about Kiku's supposed Homoerotic attachment to Sukeroku is flimsy and the text of the series only makes this a fact by torturing it into this mindset. With this episode now Transgenderism is posited there is absolutely no textual evidence for this in the episode it is simply a will-o the wisp manufactured out of the Reviewer's imagination and importation from the Mangaka's other works. Which are not the work being reviewed you simply do not get to import themes from other works an author has written to stack the deck for your pet interpretation especially when your dealing with different genres. In short this all feels like an reviewer looking for a way to build and artifice of perceived facts to defend a pet interpretation of an admittedly complex series. I wouldn't say I expect better because it is a well written piece but a well written piece of illogic is still illogical I can not simply import my own presuppositions and response to the text I must read the text as it is written. This is simply someone unaware of their own biases or aware of them and unconcerned with doing right by the text and interpreting it fairly this doesn't even have to be conscious as often times presuppositions are just assumed. In conclusion a well written review that belies a abuse of the text in service of a world view. In short what does the text say should be the beginning middle and end of the reviewing of a work of fiction not what can I make the text say to fit my world view

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Thoughts on The NYT Best Seller List Removeing Manga and Comics

The New York Times is getting rid of it's Manga and Comics Best Seller list (see link to OASG to explain it ). My thoughts when I first heard it I was mad in all honesty it felt like The Times was taking away a hard earned sign of Manga's mainstream legitimacy and giving with one hand in the form of reviews and coverage and taking away with another. Instead it's back to the days of relying on Diamond Comic sales which for a time didn't even cover any Seven Seas titles and Book Scan which relies on figures from brick and mortar stores and other data. If anything really gets me mad it's how some have used this news as a political football for their ideology claiming that this is a sign of trying to ghettoize work created by women or minorities or calling the NYT Fascist as an invective. In short this is a purely economic choice on the part of the NYT but it still stings because it feels as if something that got names of titles out or showed the commercial viability is again being taken away and instead it's back to the more granular data sources of Diamond Comic sales and other sources. Some are trying to walk it back as if it didn't matter that much but when The Best Seller list was still going people retweeted when a series they liked did well or took it as a vindication of a demographic they enjoyed selling well. To walk the importance of The Best Seller List back frankly feels like sour grapes. While there is also the bigger question of do we as a fandom community even want mainstream acceptance? Yes sales matter but simply because something is popular doesn't mean that it is automatically good and while the reverse is true. How many of the people that where really into Attack on Titan or currently are into One Punch Man or Tokyo Ghoul are still going to be around in two to three years. I've been a fan off and on for almost over a decade so I've seen trends come and go from the Moe boom of the early 2000's to the rise of so called "mature" works such as Princess Jellyfish and Vineland Saga. Now that something that was a gate way for some fans is gone licensors and publishers are going to have to find ways to get new fans and retain older fans with a major barometer of sales now removed. Again I'll see what happened and while I'll miss that little bit of validation when a series I like sold well enough to place on the best seller's list I won't miss the tribalism and grousing that placement on the list often caused online. This too shall pass but I'll see what happens as I always bought what I liked and first week sales and pre-orders do matter if a series is going to be continued to be published by a company but with most publishers having an solid enough social media presence if someone wants to know about a series availability they can just use resources like ANN or the social media feed of any number of English language publishers. In short it's another thing where while I am not ambivalent it still feels like Manga in the U.S.A. can't win for trying. Along with as I've said before a pretty hegemonic Reviewer community World View wise that while not crossing over into a violation of Journalistic integrity sets up a rather boring base normal of approved and unspoken disapproved opinions along with a simply tiresome intermural war that I don't want to be involved in I just want to read my Light Novels, Manga, and Anime not hear how everything is irreducibly political or about some kind of intersectional identity politic. If that's your thing have at it I'll pass sorry that got off topic but I've seen this trend and it's scary because people don't realize they are doing it simply becomes a variation of the "I don't know anyone who voted for Nixon" story. Or the idea of everyone is the hero in their own story. It's more this kind of unreflective thinking than the thoughts held that frighten me. With all this sad American Manga and Anime fandom will change as any kind of subculture will as people age or move on. As always if you like something support it legally instead of not supporting it and complain on social media or pirating it when your able to support it legally.