Friday, April 24, 2015
Violence Jack is an incomprehensible melange of the absolute worst aspects of human nature none of it is good but the first episode is of the three volume OVA collection is the least awful of them. While episode two with it's vile depictions of rape and cannibalism is the worst and by episode three I was left emotionally numb and craving something pure and kind to wash the experience from my mind. Based extremely loosely on a Manga by Go Nagai (with the original Violence Jack Manga being loosely tied to Nagai's Devilman mythology you would never know this watching the OVA though.) While often thought of as a inferior version of Fist of The North Star Violence Jack predates that series by years. While the overall ethos of Violence Jack is a cynical depiction of mankind stripped of social order and people reduced to bestial violence. Jack himself is a one dimensional force of nature who reigns violence down on worse characters as Jack himself is morally ambivalent when it comes to killing. While artistically this is a rough and grungy looking 80s era OVA with serious corners cut to the extreme in episode two having some fights reduced to rough sketches. While blood animation at times looks like cherry kool-aid. A noxious relic of an earlier time in Anime when ultra violence, sexual violence, and gore where marketed as entertainment and while it's been released unedited this is little more than an version of something like Faces of Death, A Serbian Film, or Human Centipede in short "torture porn." Violence Jack is foul in the extreme and should really only be watched as a "museum piece" and even than probably only watched once.
If volume fourteen lit the emotional fuse in Souichirou, volume fifteen is the explosion and after shock of that bomb. It's honestly a near perfect portrayal of the emotional toll abuse not only takes on someone warping their perception of whether they are worthy of love. But also the fact of in Souichirou's case if his own darkened heart can give actual love and not simply the shallow play acting at it he's been giving to Yukino and his Aunt and Uncle. This is not only captured in his dialogue which becomes increasingly terse and gruff with Yukino pushing her away when she tries to be his support. It's also shown in a nice bit of visual story telling in his character design and movements becoming tenser his overall posture and almost menacing gait mixed with an almost emotionally wounded tendency to envelop himself in his own arms by hugging them to his body as if he's trying to disappear. While the most emotionally painful scene is the aftermath of Souichirou's implied rape of Yukino (Yukino doesn't see it that way though). In which Souichirou drives an box cutter through his hand in a attempt at penance for what he perceives as deeply hurting one of the few people that really care for him unconditionally. This leads the Yukino cutting herself intentionally on some broken glass in a scene that is not only sweet in showing how far she is willing to try and show that no matter how twisted or evil Souichirou may think he is she won't leave him. While the implied rape could have been a moment that made Souichirou morally irredeemable and very well may still make him so to many, it's his drawing inward and that Yukino and that Asaba (who for me is the male version of Minori from Toradora) are willing to stand by Arima in his darkest hour . Asaba may play at being a Casanova but he is more sensitive and emotionally astute than he probably knows, he could have been a one note comedic character and yet he's very much the heart of the small group of friends. While if any message can come from this volume it's a deep testament to Grace and love while important thankfully is not treated as a cure all or the most important thing ever. Souichirou may have hit his emotional “rock bottom” but his birth mother still waits in the wings like some ghoulish harpy from a V. C. Andrews novel,drunk on her own self-pity and resentment. I also have to give Tsuda a lot of respect for keeping the flash backs of Souichirou's abusive childhood , understated and making it less about “oh look at the horrible things that have happened to him!” and more about how Arima felt and his dawning emotional awareness. Along with implying horrible things instead of outright stating or showing them as than it simply becomes exploitative or child abuse for shock value's sake much like the really poor use of rape or other traumatic events in people's pasts in other works of fiction. Although a bit of the emotional impact is lost due to Tsuda's marshmallow light side bars about clothing and favorite snacks, I can really hope if this series ever gets reprint the sidebars will be excised but I digress. As is this volume gives some closure to Souichirou and Yukino's relationship, while also showing the importance of not only having a special love but friends and family, In short a good support structure and no you're not going to get better instantaneously but thankfully with others to support you you'll be able to move forward even if on halting steps. The next volume can't come soon enough, as this is a series that is a great Manga series not simply a great Shojo Manga. But a great Manga series filled with heart and pathos now where it was once filled with humor and gags. Without feeling like a harsh mood whiplash either.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
It's another adorable episode while Takeo clueless tries to set up Yamato and Suna. Unable to read her feelings yet also showing that deep down he's a good guy it's nice to see something that can both play with and subvert the conventions and cliches found in Shojo Manga. Honestly each new episode is a high point of my week from the odd art style that ranges from puppets in one flash back to dramatic representations. It's fun to see it in color and changes from the Manga and while the pacing is slow it doesn't feel overly slow or overly dragged out in comparison to the sprightly pace of the manga.
This volume covers what was my favorite arc in the Anime adaptation with the battle between the Terraformars and Division Five. While many of the bad habits of Yu Sasuga's writing style continue from exposition heavy dialogue and use of internal monologue as a narrative crutch. Along with the tendency to kill off female members of the Division in question to establish that things are serious now the death of Isabella is particularly galling because I barely got to know anything about her and she is punched into hamburger chunks by one of the Terraformars within the first two pages of the volume. At least Adolf Reinhard (who was my favorite character in the series,) gets a chance to go out like a hero and defend his surrogate family in Division Five in a epic use of his Electric Eel based powers. Replete with biblical quotes from The Book of Exodus, it's an impressive lavishly drawn fight that jumps back and forth between Adolf's tortured inner monologue over his wife's adultery and his own inability to express his emotions or connect with anyone. While Eva's fruitless attempt at saving Adolf is admirable and a little tragic the sheer senselessness of the slaughter feels again like trying to make things too serious by using gore and a massive body count and those things do not make a series serious only violent and dark. Sasuga still doesn't seem to understand this which is a pity as it's a legitimately moving scene marred by the overly violent dispatching of Division Five Kenichi Tachibana's art continues to be great at showing the intensity of everything from punches and decapitations to the bleakness of space, in short the art is the main attraction with the writing never really getting better but never becoming awful either although some of the drawings of Adolf mid battle boarder on “derp face” or feel overly scratchy and blurry. As a depiction of a large amount of long drawn out fights this series succeeds as a purely visual action tableaux, yet with little to no characterization it's hard to care much when anyone dies with a few notable exceptions. As it seems that the characters are mostly divided in to brooding or cocky fighters or red shirts simply only there to establish the bleak and lachrymose existence of the characters. While the Terraformars are seemingly developing actual social cohesion along with being able to appropriate the abilities of dead crew members along with some semblance of strategy. While the explanation of why the Weevil Terraformars' exoskeleton is so hard helps clear up some technical questions I had. It's still too much show and not enough tell that the volume leaves with promise of a fight between the bio-armored Terraformar and Keiji Onizuka in the blackened depths bodes well as far as action for the next volume. While the further explanations of what the virus the crew is trying to find a cure for adds some flavor to the text it also feels like a side track to the main story and the few attempts at trying to be philosophical or “deep” are sophomoric at best. I still enjoy this series and look forward to each new volume as the characters I care about do mean a lot to me I'm also waiting to Michelle go all out on some Terraformars again.
Another series from Okayado dealing again with monster girls and the hapless male lead who has to deal with them, yet unlike Monster Musume which was content on being sleazy harem comedy with sometimes better characterization than it should have had. 12 Beast is an action series involving slacker ninja in training Touga Eita and how he ends up in a world replete with monster girls that is also under attack by mysterious Mecha known only as the Gigas. Eita for his part is a goodhearted slacker not wanting to “rock the boat” but also up for a fight if the cause seems just or it seems like the path of least resistance. leading him to become the “chosen one” for a group of scatter brained harpies who are convinced due to the influence of Anime, Manga and Bad Kung-Fu movies that being a Ninja means you can do all the ridiculous found in Ninja Scroll or Naruto. This of course introduces us to our first Monster Girl Aero who is kind of Ninja Otaku and has some sort of past relationship with Eta's womanizing older brother who is the one that ended up getting Eta into this predicament. As a first volume it's very workman like nothing too exciting enough hints of future crisis to be carried out. While Eta is mostly a withdrawn and spineless hardcore gamer, the few attempts at humor are hit and miss with most being sort of in joke references to dating sims or Eta's perverted Grandfather getting knocked flat by a door. While action feels repetitive with a use of the same placing for the Gigas, while the adaptation into English is riddled with slang and Manga references that it feels like an attempt to be funny or to put as much strained attempts at cynical humor although a reference to Dark Stalkers did make me smile (nice to know I'm not the only one who vaguely remembers that). Making it comparable to Keith Griffen's work on Battle Vixens. Most galling is the use of the term “Weeaboo” as it's a extremely notoriously poorly defined word and is by most records an English neologism. Now I don't have the original Japanese text (and couldn't read it even if I did), so I can't tell if this was the intent of the author. Yet still even if it was it feels too “try hard” in interloping slang. While character design is the same Okayado design of same faced simplistically designed females with large breasts. There's no Loli yet but I bet that will only be a matter of time. While the Mecha design is clean, menacing, and really captures the impending doom of the invading Gigas hordes. As Okayado is mostly known for drawing Bishojo it is nice to see him try something outside of his usual range of T&A . This is not a series that will make to many people happy those looking for the jaunty sleaze and heart of Monster Musume will be better served by that series than 12 Beast. As there is very little fan service some clothing damage and an instance of accidentally arousing Aero when he touches the feathers on her head. It's mostly hot blooded pride of the warrior race ethos with the harpies and Eta having to learn to deal with a world that is not his own. Still even the action is not that exciting and feels like the same attack patterns where used again and again this is standard in Battle Manga yet it feels lazy and anyone looking for inventive layouts or use of perspective will be out of luck although the battle with Captain Jawea is one of the few places that doesn't feel repetitive and actually has Eta use some strategy to win. I can only hope that volume two is better as this feels stuck while still trying to find a tone, mood, or even building the world the hero now lives in. In short this volume has promise of a much better story down the line it's simply trying to find it's footing at this point flailing about trying to ground the story making it more frustrating than outright bad.
Monday, April 20, 2015
UFO Table continues to tie the Unlimited Blade Works storyline together with the Fate/Zero storyline, in an episode that is almost all about Ilya. From her relationship with Berserker to her past going from the pampered daughter of loving parents some the most chilling scenes in the episode are the long flash back of Ilya slowly being mentally broken by the remnants of the corrupt grail which has taken on the form of her dead Mother. Slowly warping her into the cold blooded vengeance obsessed little girl we know in UBW. While the Einzberns are shown to see her as only a tool after their defeat in the previous grail war. Being perfectly okay with vivisecting her to implant magical crests and even leaving her to almost certain death in the woods as a final test to see if she's "worthy" to be master for Berserker. It's a harsh unsparing look at the politics behind the Grail War much like Caster's back story. While this also mixes in some truly impressive action scenes in the Berserker versus Gilgamesh. While feeling over written at some points with over explained power attacks. The over all tone of the episode is painfully sad, while also causing me to sympathize with Ilya who as a character is not very sympathetic. In short this was a truly tragic episode. While even worse is Shirou he has to be physically restrained by Rin and watch while Gilgamesh blinds and mocks Ilya all while Ilya thinks Berserker is by her side. Shirou's ideals are going to be put to the test next episode while Rin seems to be pushing him to a less suicidally heroic way of thinking. Still this is going to be a hard episode to get over. Solid writing if sometimes overly larded with exposition and relent on narration yet this is to be expected from an adaptation of a Visual Novel. so while I'm not happy with it I can at least accept it as par for the course in the adaptation process. Real emotions and gorgeous and well shot animation make this the best episode so far of the second half of UFO Table's reboot of Unlimited Blade Works. While the only real misstep is Shinji being his cackling hammy villainous self he's thankfully shooed away by Gilgamesh and the rest of it is perfection. This is the episode that makes Ilya a character and not simply some "loli love object" for certain sectors of the fan base. Still this is a hearbreaking episode and it's going to make that opening scene of Ilya skipping through the flowers even harder next week.
The first half of this episode is an insufferable cliche riddled attempt at comedy that uses jokes that have been seen or done many times before. With this episode Tsukasa and Isla are made roommates in an effort to forge closer ties of camaraderie. This is of course made harder by two things Isla's socially withdrawn personality which leads to all the horrible jokes because Tsukasa keeps getting bad advice from his coworkers and contrived situations that almost always lead to Michiru coming in finding himself in some kind of compromising situation and presuming the worst or punching him out. Michiru has become a insufferable one dimensional Tsundere, while the Tsukasa trying to gamely engage Isla is more fruitful as far as character development and saves the episode form being a complete wash. Yet I feel robbed having had to sit through the awful comedy of the first half. This is a series that if not careful could quickly become emotionally schizophrenic and unwatchable if this kind of abrupt tonal shifts continues. I can only hope that the tone goes back to being more serious in episode four.