Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: NanoFated Adoption

I’ve talked about Seven Arcs’ Nanoha franchise twice before. Today, I’ll be looking at the third series, StrikerS. First, let’s do a quick recap. In the original series our heroine, Takamachi Nanoha, gained powers and used them to help her ferret friend, Yuuno, find artefacts called Jewel Seeds. Her rival in this endeavour was a young lady named Testarossa Fate. The two experienced their first feelings of romantic love and Nanoha was eventually able to help Fate escape her abusive mother. In the end, they weren’t able to stay together as Fate had to face trial over her part in her mother’s scheme. The second series saw the pair reunited under less than ideal circumstances. Yagami Hayate, no relation to Light, found a magic book that unleashed four guardian spirits who were stealing magic power from mages to fill the book in a desperate bid to save their beloved Hayate’s life. The two were able to find the truth of the book, save Hayate, redeem her knights and, in the process, Nanoha and Fate fell even harder for one another. But maybe I’m over-stating it. It’s not like they’ve adopted a child together or something. Let’s look at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS and see what comes next for the pair and their friends.



A decade after the events of A’s, Hayate forms an experimental unit, Section Six, supposedly to deal with relics. She’s joined by Nanoha and Fate as well as a group of four promising recruits, Subaru, Teana, Erio and Caro. Nanoha begins training the troops with the help of Vita, but their time is limited and the unit is quickly dragged into a mess involving a high level criminal named Jail Scaglietti and his maniacal machines. After a slight altercation they find a young abandoned girl named Vivio, whom Nanoha and Fate adopt. Canon relationship status achieved. The main narrative deals with the threat posed by Scaglietti and his minions.


I don’t really have anything negative to say about the story. It’s strongly paced, using slower character moments and faster-paced, dynamic action moments really effectively. It also has some great moments of heart-warming, particularly when it comes to Vivio. The series is also really good at keeping sources of tension and producing high stakes with credible threats to our heroines and it’s good at using that to keep the audience invested. The build up for the various plot points is quite effective, being vague enough to keep you guessing but also concrete enough that you can trace where the hints were once something’s been revealed.


The characters in this are really compelling and complex. With the time skip, Nanoha, Fate, Hayate and the others have change from the last series, but it’s done in a way that’s believable and you can see how the girls they were became the women they are. Similarly, you can fully understand how their relationships developed into what they are. The new major characters all get their own story arc, which informs and develops their characters. Vivio is adorable, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t normally find children remotely cute. The character interactions are really good too. The villains are well crafted characters as well, albeit less sympathetic than the ones the franchise has previously provided. Particularly Scaglietti who basically comes across as a crazy person. Although, I will give them credit, he’s not unrealistically or exaggeratedly crazy. He’s the sort of nutter who has verisimilitude.


The art has a lot of good qualities to it. The character designs are really well done and there’s a lot of attention to detail for the backgrounds. The action sequences flow really nicely and have a high level of intensity, in spite of the occasional slower, larger special attack. The big flaw with the art is the same one we’ve had with this franchise, the transformation sequence. Unlike most magical girl series where the characters’ genuine shapes are obscured by whatever sparkly effect they’re using, the Nanoha franchise lovingly details the bosoms so that you can pretty vividly tell what they look like. At least in this one most of the girls are grown women so it isn’t quite as gross on that level, but they also make sure that the undergarments are really detailed for both Nanoha and Fate so that we can see what they’re taking off of one another later. Seven Arcs, we don’t need to know what kind of panties they wear. Even the sort of people who draw pornographic doujin have seen enough women’s underwear that they can pick a design for their work. Okay, maybe they haven’t, but I would still argue that those aren’t the types who should be catered to.


The vocal cast in this is stellar. Mizuki Nana, Tamura Yukari, Ueda Kana, Yuzuki Ryouka, Shimizu Kaori, Ichijo Kazuya and Sanada Asami reprise their roles. They all give strong performances. In addition to them, Nakahara Mai, Inoue Marina, Saito Chiwa Takahashi Mikako and Mizuhashi Kaori all deliver their own strong performances. Narita Ken makes a good villain too. Really, the entire cast from primary to secondary characters is superb. The music is fantastic as well.



This has a lot of les-yay, even for the Nanoha franchise. In addition to Nanoha and Fate sharing a bed, going on vacations together and adopting a daughter, as wives are wont to do, you have some really strong les-yay between Subaru and Teana. There’s a little bit between Vita and Hayate as well, although not as much as there was in A’s since they’re less of a focus in this one.

Final Thoughts:

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, is a really strong series. While there are some things it could have done better, and it’s transformation sequences are just awful, it presents a compelling story, strong characters, a stupendous cast, excellent music and great artwork aside from the transformations. My final rating on this one is going to be a solid 9/10. Next week I’ll look at Wooser no Sono Higurashi.

Gankutsuou: Based on that classic novel, The Isle of Dr. Moreau

Let’s talk about classic literature or, to be specific, anime based on classic literature. Most anime are based on manga or video games or light novels. Any of which can be literary but they generally aren’t thought of as such. There are some rare cases where an anime will come along based on an old work of literature like Journey to the West or Romeo and Juliet or today’s subject, The Count of Monte Cristo. The story was co-written by Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet. It was originally serialised in eighteen parts in a French newspaper, the Journal of Debates, in 1844 & 1845. The story has been re-released and adapted a huge number of times since then, because it’s really interesting, complex and well-written. It’s not really surprising that, in 2004, Gonzo would decide to try their luck with a twenty four episode series. It actually ran at the same time as another Gonzo series, Sunabouzu. Let’s just hope that that means all their good people were working on this because if we can expect the same level of “quality” in both of these series, this is going to be painful.



Let me start by saying that I’m not going to worry about spoiling the original novel. It’s been around for a century. It’s been referenced and adapted a lot. If you’ve gone this long and, somehow, don’t know how it goes you may want to stop reading this.

Gankutsuou follows the same basic narrative as The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantès, a young sailor with a promising future, is sent to the Château d’If for a crime he didn’t commit. Betrayed and framed by people he trusted. He escapes and gains wealth, returning as the titular Count to mete out a terrible revenge against those who wronged him. There are three significant differences between the book and Gankutsuou. To begin with, the anime starts with the Count approaching young Albert de Morcerf and his friend, Franz d’Epinay instead of starting with the build up to Edmond’s arrest and showing his time imprisoned. The second difference is that the narrative here focuses on the younger characters who get a lot less focus in the original story. The third is that the anime has a sci-fi twist with interplanetary wars, mecha star ships and ll sorts of other lovely sci-fi elements. As such, the basic plot is the same but the stories are also very different.

I really only have two criticisms about the narrative here. The first deals with themes. For the most part, Gankutsuou is really good about retaining the themes from the novel with only some basic adjustments to better fit the shifted focal point and sci-fi elements. There is, however, one theme that’s not done justice. Oddly enough, it’s the theme that the younger characters were integral too. Mainly, the way the children of the Count’s enemies were shown to be fundamentally better people than their parents without the moral failings that led to them betraying him. Their relative innocence is still a factor, but it’s not nearly as strong of one. My second criticism is with the ending. I don’t want to spoil it since it is actually different from the original novel’s, but I will say that it has a bit of an ass pull.

Let’s move on to more pleasant things. To start with, I actually really like the decisions to focus on the younger generation and add sci-fi elements. They allow Gonzo to do something legitimately different while maintaining the essence of the original story. With the aforementioned exception, the series is also really good at keeping the novel’s themes. The parts leading up to and otherwise pertaining to the Count’s revenge is really awesome and intense and seeing it from the more naïve perspective of Albert actually does add quite a bit. There are some really emotional moments in this too, many of which are actually scenes that got changed from their novel counter-parts which does help keep things fresh for those of us who have read the story twice or thrice. And, somehow, they manage to do all that while still doing a really good job at adapting the story.


In focusing on the younger characters, Gankutsuou also gives a lot of them layers of development that they didn’t really possess before. Let me stress, these aren’t bad characters in the original story they’re just weaker characters who have verisimilitude but don’t do much. There is, however, one younger character who is actually far superior in the original story. Let’s talk about her for a moment.

In the original story Eugénie Danglars is a determined young woman who eventually goes against her parent’s wishes to pursue a career in music and be with the woman she loves, Louise d’Armilly. Keep in mind, this was in the mid 1840s when that sort of thing was really strongly frowned upon for stupid reasons. Having a character like this, especially one who was portrayed positively, was practically unheard of. So, what do they do with Eugénie in this? They turn her into a generic love interest who’s totally in love with Albert, the fiancée her parents chose for her. Louise isn’t even in this, unless they hid her in the background somewhere. Eugénie still ultimately goes against their wishes and goes after a career in music but she’s a lot less free-spirited and needs her man to inspire her. Because, clearly, we need more generic love interest characters and less interesting ones. This change irks me.

Aside from Blanda there, the characters in this are really well done. The Count is a spectacular character, both here and in the original. Franz and Albert are both really good characters in this as well. Franz in particular experiences a huge upgrade. I also like that the Count’s entourage defers to him but doesn’t blindly obey him. I also like that they included a trans-woman while giving the people around her realistic reactions. Some act badly about it, others are okay with it and the distinction is generally that the people who really know her tend to be completely comfortable.


The visuals in this are really striking and impressive. The style is quite superb, particularly the way they use patterns. The various sci-fi gadgets look really impressive, possessing some real scope, and the character designs are fantastic. This anime just looks lovely. This series is also really good at using angles and character blocking effectively.



There are some really strong actors in this, but the performances that really stand out are Nakata Jouji as the Count, Hirakawa Daisuke as Franz and Yajima Akiko as Haydée. Out of all the strong performances in this, those three are the best. The music is also really good.


There’s a bit. It’s heavily implied that Franz is in love with Albert and there are some moments where Albert seems to have a thing for the Count. Still doesn’t make up for what they did to Eugénie.

Final Thoughts:

Gankutsuou, is actually really good. There are some areas where they could have done better and they really dropped the ball in turning Eugénie into Blanda, but it still succeeds in providing a strong adaptation with its own unique twist. It also does have really good visuals and vocal performances. Overall, I can recommend it whether you’ve read the original story or not, even if it’s not as good as the original. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Next week I’ll move on to Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Little known fact, that one was inspired by a Sappho poem titled “Hecate employs girls for the pure love they share.” That’s translated of course, and not something I just made up for fun.

Why review old anime?

Here’s a question some people always have when it comes to reviews of old series. What’s the point? After all, a series that’s two or even three decades old is pretty antediluvian at this point, so why bother watching, analysing and discussing it when I could be focusing my energies on the latest releases?

Well, for me this one primarily comes down to a simple factor. No matter how old or even obscure an anime is, there are going to be people who haven’t seen it and may be curious about it. In fact, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for anime that are a decade old or older. Plus, I like to draw attention to older series that may merit looking into. After all, newer does not equate to better. There are plenty of good old series out there and reading my reviews may make someone curious about a series they missed, even if the review was negative overall, I do encourage all of you who read these reviews to make those judgement calls for yourselves and it’s fine if you end up disagreeing with me. Or the opposite may be true. You may very well read about a series and decide that the premise or narrative don’t sound appealing even if I liked the series. In which case, glad I could save you some time.

There are other factors involved, I like to review series that are completed even if they’re set-up for a sequel. It gives me a full impression of what it’s doing and how well it’s doing it. Which is true even when a series is clearly leaving room for a sequel series. I may think the sequel improves or detracts, but I can still judge that first series. If I were to review an ongoing series I might find that the final stretch of that series ends up changing my perspective on it completely. It’s not common for an ending to be that bad or good, but it happens

What I’m curious about is why some people think I shouldn’t bother with older series? I think it’s really two factors. The first is the fascination we have with the things that are shiny and current. There’s a mentality that those works of entertainment that came before are over and done with and they’ve been exhausted, except for those works we’ve decided are the best and “everyone has to see.”

That brings me to the second reason I think this gets brought up. A lot of the older works people really remember are the ones they either really hated or really loved. My taste isn’t always representative of the popular opinion and some people would really prefer that I not stomp all over their nostalgia by frying their proverbial sacred cow. Oddly enough, people seem more accepting of you liking something they didn’t than hating something they liked. At least, that’s been my experience talking with my readers.

Feel free to leave a comment about whether or not you enjoy seeing reviews of old stuff. Remember, Gankutsuou review this Wednesday. That one’s a little over a decade old at this point. I’ve also got requests for Code Geass, Nanoha Vivid, Golgo 13, Stand Alone Complex series 2, Overlord, Gangsta, Kekkai Sensen, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, & Kannazuki no Miko. You can also feel free to leave a comment adding your own request to the queue. Although, it will probably be a while before I can get to it.

Kyattou Ninden Teyandee: Goofy characters doing formulaic things

It’s been a while since I looked at a series for kids. Usually the anime I get requests for are for a more teenage audience, if not older. Enter Kyattou Ninden Teyandee, an anime from the early 90s. It was brought to us by Tatsunoko Production. You may remember them from my review of C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control. You may also know them from that game they partnered with Capcom to make. It was written by Sekijima Mayori & Akahori Satoru, the man behind Bakuretsu Hunters. If the pink cat girl strips into bondage gear to fight I’m going to be very unhappy but not surprised.


In the great city of Edoropolis, a bunch of animaloids go about their everyday lives. Unfortunately for them, part of that life is mecha attacks from the crow ninja faction in their ceaseless efforts to overthrow the shogun and install the economic Minister Korn as the new shogun. Fortunately, they have the secret Nyanki ninja trio on their side. The Nyanki trio, comprised of Yattarou, Pururun and Skashee, shows up to wipe out the darkness and ensure another fine day in Edoropolis. The episodes generally follow the basic pattern of Korn and his right-hand crow, Gennari, sending their crow ninja and some variety of mecha under the command of Karamaru to execute some plan to overthrow the government only to have the Nyanki show up to foil their plan. The episodes do have an order to them, but it’s largely unimportant since most of them are pretty self-contained.

Let’s start by discussing one of the odd things about the series. It’s not really bad, it’s just strange. Mainly, Edoropolis would probably be better off if the villain won. Here’s the thing, Korn is transparently evil but the shogun is a blithering fool and Princess Usa sends people away to prison island because they mildly annoy her. If Korn knew how to use PR he could probably get the public on his side pretty easily, even while still being obviously evil. Something like: “Hello, Citizens. Our fair city has the potential to be one of the greatest in the world. Are you tired of being held back by an incompetent shogun? Are you tired of having to be on guard so that you don’t get arbitrarily sent to prison island by his daughter? Edoropolis deserves better. We deserve a leader with a strong intellect. A leader who can’t be bothered to send people to prison island unless they actually commit a crime. Support Ktulu in overthrowing the government. He may be an evil, eldritch genius, but he’s also mentally stable and a genius. Ktulu, because evil is better at leading than stupid.” The point her is, it wouldn’t be difficult to make yourself look like a better choice than the brat who sends people away on a whim and the village idiot. Plus, acknowledging that you’re evil would be refreshingly honest for a politician.

Let’s talk about the things that the series doesn’t do well. I’m not going to criticise it for being simple or even formulaic, given the target audience, however, there are still problems with it. First we have the narrator. Basically, he chimes in almost every episode to explain the obvious and repeat the same titbit about Yattaro’s special attack. Hate to break it to you, but kids are not that stupid. They don’t need this character. Admittedly, there are some funny fourth wall breaking scenes with him, but they’re few and really not worth his dragging things out. Moving into the subject of humour, there are two reoccurring “gags” in this that really don’t work. The first is that Korn cross-dresses. There are circumstances in which cross-dressing can be amusing. The “Some Like it Red” episode from Due South, and the whole Bob scenario from Blackadder but if you look at those you’ll notice that there’s more to the scenario than just a guy in women’s clothing and that’s the entire joke in this. Maybe they were trying to dumb it down for children, but in doing so they also lost the potential for humour. Let the dude wear a lady’s kimono, it’s not a big deal. The second is the dirty old man joke. After a while, the Nyanki go to enlist the aid of a “great scientist” named Nekomata and, it turns out, he’s just a dirty old man. It’s funny because he… gropes women and makes them uncomfortable? There are also way too many recap episodes in this. Why do they even need recap episodes in a series where there’s no over-arcing story?

On a positive note, the comedic aspects of the series do mostly work pretty effectively. I also like that they can make fun of themselves and that they try variations for most of their reoccurring jokes in order to keep them fresh. The series is pretty entertaining too. If I were watching this as a kid I’d definitely like it more, but even as an adult they have some clever and entertaining parts. I appreciate that every single member of the Nyanki group, including their non-combatant support, Otama, gets their own chance to shine and act as the hero for at least an episode.


There’s not much to most of the characters. They follow basic tropes or, if they’re a side character, they might be used for a running joke or two. To be fair, that’s adequate given the target audience. The major exception is Karamaru who, surprisingly, gets a story arc where he legitimately develops and grows as a character. Even the main heroes don’t have that. When they need to power up they just go a place and acquire a thing. Their characters stay the same. I also like that Karamaru shows hesitation over what he’s ordered to do and questions whether or not it’s for the best. Honestly, it makes him the most compelling character in the series.


Let me start by acknowledging that the art is really dated by today’s standards. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s try to look at it more from the perspective of its time. The biggest flaw is just that the studio is kind of lazy. There are a lot of recycled scenes in this series, and not just the transformation and special attack sequences. Maybe they just thought that kids wouldn’t notice. In spite of that, however, there is a charm to the art style and a lot of the enemy mecha designs are pretty creative. The character designs are pretty interesting too, although this is one of those series where the characters don’t bother hiding their secret identities except by slightly changing their clothes and that works, somehow. I’ll still give them credit on those counts.


They got a pretty decent cast in this. Yamaguchi Kappei, Orikasa Ai and Kosugi Juurouta take on the roles of our main trio and they all do well. The best performance comes from Yamadera Kouichi as Karamaru. He gives quite a splendid performance, but that’s balanced out by Sawaki Ikuya’s performance as Korn. It sounds like he swallowed something and its kind of stuck in his throat. I’m sure he was told to sound like that, but it’s still pretty grating. The music is decent enough.


There’s a little bit. It’s implied that Korn has romantic feelings for Gennari. Especially towards the end of the series. This is largely treated as humorous, for some odd reason.

Final Thoughts:

Kyattou Ninden Teyandee is a pretty decent series. There are certainly parts that don’t work and are kind of problematic but it’s still a fairly enjoyable series overall. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. Next week I’ll look at something a bit darker and more adult, Gankutsuou.

Fu-Fu: Her Beloved Wife

Fu-fu is a manga serialised in Comic Yuri Hime S. It was written by Minamoto Hisanari, a man who also contributed to Kantai Collection & Di Gi Charat anthologies. I happened to stumble upon it and decided I’d review it for all of you.


Two young ladies, Sumi and Kinana, move in together in order to live as wives. The manga covers their daily lives as they enjoy their relationship and encounter other quirky lesbians, including Kina’s sister and the couple next door. This one s really light on the story. There’s a definite order to the events, but the chapters are mostly fluffy, cutesy romance with some comedic elements. Overall, both elements are pretty solid. The romance is largely really adorable and most of the humour does work well. There are some strong lines of dialogue as well. Just don’t expect anything beyond those two elements. I do appreciate that they subvert the abusive relationship comedic trope by having a girl who play hits her partner while making it clear that she doesn’t actually hurt her but I also think it gets over-used to the point where it loses its impact.


The series has pretty basic characters. They aren’t basic to the point of being archetypical but they aren’t incredibly complex either. In spite of that, the cast works well for what the series is doing and there are some strong interactions among the characters. Not just the romantic banter, either. There’s some good stuff between the siblings and with several other characters who aren’t romantically linked.


The art is mostly decent. I will say that Minamoto is really good at drawing animals. I will also give him credit for keeping things classy and not delving into fan-service. However, he is also pretty lazy at drawing backgrounds. A lot of the panels don’t bother having them or they’ll have something very basic. The manga also suffers a bit from characters who look really similar to each other, and not just the twins.


There’s a heavy emphasis on flirtation and the girls getting cuddly with one another. You know that they’re doing more than that beyond closed doors, but the most you ever actually see are some kisses.

Final Thoughts:

This manga is pretty good. It’s a quick, entertaining read with lots of cute moments and some really funny ones. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, this may very well be the romance for you. I give it a 7/10.

Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou): The Saga Continues

When I reviewed the first Kara no Kyoukai film, I thought that would be the end of it. I had no intention of continuing through the other six, but I changed my mind because the fan base was surprisingly cool and reasonable. I’m glad I did because the next five films ranged from decent to really superb. This week let’s look at the seventh film in the series, Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou).


Japan’s been experiencing a series of grisly murders with scattered body parts being left mutilated and strewn about. For Kokutou Mikiya, the incidents remind him of the series of murders four years ago. The ones that Shiki’s now dead second personality seems to have been responsible for. To make matters worse, Shiki is acting strange and disappears from her apartment without leaving any way to contact her. Mikiya heads for the area where the crimes have been occurring to investigate the incident. He’ll find more than he bargains for as he seeks answers.

Let’s start with my issues with the film. The first, and more minor gripe, is that this film uses a lot of flashbacks. While it’s obvious that they’re being used to connect this film and the second more intimately, they also go overboard with it, spending more time with the flashbacks than they need to. My big gripe with the film, however, is with the philosophising. The film makes an effort to comment on the nature of killing. The problem is that its commentary is overly simplistic and really not well thought out. Basically, the answer we get is that murder is done when someone’s emotions for another person overflow and need an outlet and that slaughter happens when a being that no longer qualifies as human kills a bunch of people. Really? Because I’d love to see where people who kill in self defence land. Soldiers, for that matter. Someone who kills a relative, not because of any feelings they harbour towards that relative, but because they stand to inherit money, where do they fall? How about Asagami Fujino from the third film? You may remember her as the one who completely justifiably killed a bunch of guys. She wasn’t inhuman, nor did the film’s narrative treat her as such. If anything the rapist bastards she killed were inhuman. This philosophy is bollocks and yet the film treats it as though it’s profound and significant.

Moving on to the positives, the film is really well paced and it excels at building tension. The first third is dedicated to Mikiya’s investigation and then it proceeds very naturally from there. The story, overall, is really well done with mystery and suspense elements that work really effectively. The climax is really good working on multiple levels. There are also some skilfully done creepy moments, particularly towards the end. The film also brings several plot threads from the prior six films to their own resolutions and does that really well. The romantic tension between Mikiya and Shiki being the one that gets the most focus.


One thing this film is really good about is building off of the characterisation from the prior films. One of the positive aspects of the flashbacks is that we get to see where the characters were when this whole affair began and how they’ve developed since. There are some really strong character moments for both Shiki and Mikiya. There’s not as much with Touko and Azaka but the stuff that Touko does get is really good. If anything, the weakness here is Azaka since she shows up for all of one scene and only slightly contributes to Touko’s character arc. Aside from that she does bugger all.


The artwork and animation are as stunning as ever. Ufotable does a stellar job at using the artwork to build the atmosphere in this. When they want to show something disturbing, it looks really disturbing. When they want to show an amazing & intense action sequence, they deliver an amazing and intense action sequence. When they just want to draw a background, they give you a really detailed and impressive background.


There’s a strong cast in this. Suzumura Kenichi, Sakamoto Maaya, Honda Takako and Hoshi Soichiro all give strong performances. The music is really good and atmospheric as well.


Really isn’t any in this.

Final Thoughts:

Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou) is actually a really good film. There are certainly issues with it and there are some things that could have been better, but the story and characters are still really well done and accompanied by some really strong vocal performances and artwork. My final rating on this one is going to be an 8/10. Next week I’m looking at a series that was requested quite a while ago, Kyattou Ninden Teyandee. So, join me in looking at a series intended for children.

Writing Extremes: The Inane light and the unpleasant dark

Today, I thought I’d talk about two types of writing aesthetics, both extremely unrealistic but on opposite ends of the spectrum. To be specific, the light-hearted work that’s over the top and goofy compared to the excessively grim and gritty work. Now, you can have a light-hearted work that has a realistic scenario and characters just like you can have a dark and edgy work that’s very realistic. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the ones that go overboard.

To begin with, let’s talk about the overly goofy. To use an anime example, Heroman is like this. With villains who are one-dimensionally evil and a goofy super hero story with no sense of realism. Alternatively, consider Galaxy Angel. A zany comedic work with only a tenuous relationship to reality. Is that a bad thing? I would argue that it’s really not. A series like Heroman can be fun and entertaining in its absurdity. It may not have verisimilitude, but it’s also not trying to. This silly, over the top aesthetic can work for comedies or for more light-hearted action works.

Let’s move on to the area where I’m going to spend a bit more time. Namely, the excessively grim and gritty work. It’s just as unrealistic but, in my opinion, it’s worse. Why? Well, that’s because the overly light and fluffy aesthetic has some genres where it works and the overly dark stuff really doesn’t.

Think about it. Whereas the overly goofy stuff can be comedic or entertaining, the overly dark stuff is meant to be dramatic and serious. The problem is that it doesn’t work on either of those levels. In trying too hard to be dark and adult, it ends up going outside of any realm of believability for there to be a real drama or connection with the characters and no connection means no dramatic tension. Take Cheesesteak Suppository (Aku no Hana) or Midori Shoujo Tsubaki. Both works try to shock the viewer with how extremely dark they are, but neither one works because their characters read more as exaggerated parodies than as people. Which doesn’t work for a serious dramatic piece.

Compare them to something dark and well written like Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin or even BerserkBerserk may have fantasy elements, but the characters are complex and the dark moments are balanced with normal, everyday scenes that show the characters acting as normal, everyday people. In contrast, the excessively grim and gritty stuff has to constantly emphasise that its characters are abnormal and dark to the point where their characteristics are so far to that extreme end that there’s nothing about them that’s relatable or realistic. For a goofy comedy, having completely absurd and exaggerated characters can work. In a serious work, it just ruins any potential for immersion and makes it seem like the writer’s trying too hard.

Of course, I think the biggest problem with the excessively dark end of the spectrum is that works in this category frequently try to handle serious issues. Abuse, Sexual Assault, Murder, Insanity and so on. These topics get thrown in not because the writer has a good story use for them, but because they think it’ll make their work seem more adult. The trouble is that it, like the rest of the dark content, gets handled in a very over the top and rather puerile way. Rather like a young teenager trying to sound “adult” when they clearly have no real conception as to what they’re talking about. Bringing these issues up in the way they do just illustrates how far removed these works are from reality and comes across as disrespectful to those serious topics.

Let me emphasise, once more, that things can be either goofy or gritty without going to the extremes and those works are fine on both sides. But, when discussing the extremes, I am personally a lot more okay with the overly light and goofy than I am with the overly grim and gritty. Both are completely outside of any realm of reality, but the goofy stuff can be entertaining in certain arenas & the gritty stuff just comes across as unpleasant.