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Mob Psycho 100 II: And I still don’t care

I talked about the first series of Mob Psycho 100 over two years ago. I wasn’t planning on going further with it, since I was, to put it charitably, less than impressed with the series. But I do take review requests and someone really wanted to see me look at the follow up. So, here we are.

Mob Psycho 100 II.png

Story:

In the wake of the last series, Mob has, unbeknownst to himself, become a religious figure. In an attempt at getting him more personality to base his cult around, his school mate, Mezato, pressures him into running for Student council since he might get the attention of that girl he likes. This does not go well. Meanwhile, he’s still working with his Master, Reigen to scam people out of jawbreakers and occasionally perform actual exorcisms.

Like the first series, this one has a very dull, under-developed sense of comedy. There are occasionally moments that are a little funny, but it’s not often and there’s never anything really uproariously funny.

Also like the first series, a big issue here is that you get a lot of build up for the action sequences and then Mob ends things with ridiculous ease. With One Punch Man, that’s the whole shtick. With this, it comes across more as the writer not being able to write confrontations all that well. The closest Mob comes to facing a worthy adversary is an evil spirit of a dead medium who manages to actually trap him for a time. Which is definitively the most interesting segment of the series since Mob does have a bit of an ideological crisis and has to struggle a bit to retain his sense of self. The natural problem being that an event like that should result in some growth but things pretty much go back to the status quo afterwards,

Characters:

The area where I can give this series some credit is that it is strongly hinted at that Mob actually does know Reigen isn’t psychic. So, even though he still comes across as dull-witted and bland, that does give him a little more of a character.

Overall, though, the characters are pretty stale, uninteresting and just a bit annoying. Mob’s friendship speeches may be the most cringeworthy part of the anime. About the closest we get to a compelling character dynamic is the way Mob interacts with Reigen. And even then, there aren’t that many moments that elevate their dynamic.

Art:

I’m sure I’m going to be repeating a lot of the points I made with the first series here. The character designs are ugly and look like very little effort went into them. Similarly, the backgrounds are pretty low effort. The action sequences are mixed. On one hand, they incorporate some creative visuals. Since they’re basically battles on a psychic field, they can get by with illustrating that in a lot of different ways. On the downside, they can go way overboard with bright, flashing colours and some of the scenes are pretty difficult to follow. Not just because they’re a bit of a disconnected mess, but because they hurt your eyes.

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Sound:

The voice acting suffers from extremes. There are the actors like Sakurai Takahiro who just overact like hell. And I say that as someone with a lot of respect for Sakurai Takahiro. I’ve heard fantastic performances from him in most of the anime I’ve seen him in. This is an exception. You also get actors like Itou Setsuo who may as well have found an old phone book and be in the middle of trying to read it out loud for how bored they sound. It’s like Mob is supposed to have the emotional depth of a pair of tweezers and Reigen is supposed to counteract that by going full Brian Blessed. The in music is fine. Not particularly good, but it’s okay.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any in this series. Which is all well and good since its idea of romance is Mob having a crush on a girl with no personality.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Some nuance to the acting. Going with extremes for performances just emphasises how flat the characters are. Speaking of..,
  2. Flesh out your characters. I know I’ve said that comedic characters don’t necessarily need complexity so long as they have strong comedic potential. The problem here is that the characters don’t have either and the series does have a good number of more serious scenes which would necessitate some depth to work well.
  3. Give Mob some challenges. The series comes its closest to being interesting when he actually does have some difficulties.

Final Thoughts:

I have to say, this might be a little more tolerable than the first series. I still don’t like it. I still wouldn’t call it good, but it does have a bit more intrigue and a small measure of improvement for Mob as a character. So, I won’t call this one bad like I did the first. I’ll settle for calling it sub-par and giving it a 4/10.

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Dororo: Retrieving Limbs from Demons

Dororo is a reboot of an anime from the late 60s. The original was from Mushi production. The reboot is brought to us by a combination of Tezuka & MAPPA. We know MAPPA from their involvement with such underwhelming works as Garo: Honoo no Kokuin or Sakamichi no Apollon. The latter of which was also a collaboration with Tezuka. This does not give me a lot of hope.

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Story:

We open with a Samurai lord, Daigo, entering the Hall of Demons that resides in his domain. You know, the ordinary kind you can find in any area. We have ours across the street from my apartment complex. He beseeches the demons to give him prosperity and, in exchange, they can take anything they want from him. Cue him dropping his trousers and really emphasising the “anything.”The Hall gets struck by lightning, leaving him with a scar. Later on, we see his wife give birth only to have the building struck by a flash. He finds that the demons have taken his son’s eyes, ears, skin, arms, legs and possibly tongue since he can’t talk. But maybe they just took his voice in order to sing fabulously.

He’s thrilled that the deal’s been accepted and orders the midwife to drown the baby. He reassures his wife that he would never survive and they can just make another one. Which I’m sure is exactly what she wants to hear in that situation. The midwife takes pity on the hideously deformed baby and sets him loose in a boat. We cut to years later where a heavily prosthetic young man named Hyakkimaru is wandering in order to hunt demons and reclaim the parts they’ve taken from him. He starts journeying with a young street rat named Dororo and there we have the plot.

There are a couple narrative issues I have with the series. The more pervasive one is that There’s not a satisfying explanation for why the demons want these body parts. There’s a half assed statement about them wanting to be closer to humans and later they introduce this idea that they’re somehow using the parts to awaken but we meet a lot of monsters that are running around and they clearly have enough power to rip a child into pieces seconds after its born while also being powerful enough to summon lightning storms but we’re supposed to believe they need human parts to manifest physically? Wouldn’t that be a bit like me being able to cause explosions with my mind and levitate but not being able to open a jar of pickles without help?

There are also some cases of overly convenient circumstances. For instance, there’s a scene where Hyakkimaru gets pretty horribly injured fighting a demon, but he’s able to repair all the damage immediately by going back and killing it. Don’t you wish you could do that in a war situation? Get shot multiple times, just quickly kill the guy who shot you and watch the bullet wounds vanish. I’ll give it a pass when the parts that were stolen reattach due to him breaking the curse, but mending injuries he sustained in battle is far too convenient. The old priest also shows up at just the right moment quite a few times. I know he has an actual name, but I’m calling him Steerforth.

With that being said, the premise is a very compelling one. I also appreciate that it can be more than a little dark without going too far. Legitimately, this is a far more optimistic series than you would expect. And I always appreciate it when something can be on the darker side but incorporate lighter elements and make them work. That’s rare. Dororo is also a compelling series. It has something of an episodic formula but with a definite sense of progression. The ending is pretty nicely handled too.

Characters:

The biggest issue with the characterisation is that there are quite a few one episode characters who are just very basic and don’t have any real depth.

I appreciate that Hyakkimaru’s family is not solely portrayed negatively. It would be easy to just make them one note villains who struck a deal with demons for their own gain. Instead, we get a lot about the conditions of Daigo’s lands before he made the deal and we see some real positive traits from him. Especially where Tahoumaru is concerned. The series also brings up the legitimate question of whether Daigo and his people would be better off if they did sacrifice Hyakkimaru. Which really helps you understand the antagonists. And his mother is very conflicted, wanting to protect Hyakkimaru but also feeling that her duty to her husband is to support his decision.

Dororo & Hyakkimaru are pretty great characters too. Hyakkimaru has a very compelling inner clash with his humanity conflicting with his more guttural, violent tendencies. Dororo is a very street smart child but is still, in many significant ways, very childish. We see them in their better moments, worst moments, vulnerable moments and moments of strength. Which is a significant level of depth.

Art:

The big issue with the art is that some of the scenes that are supposed to look horrifying do come across as goofy. Like, when Hyakkimaru regains certain parts or the demon shark. I’m sorry, it looks silly.

The teeth and feet can look bizarre at times too. There are points where they’ll show a character’s bare feet and they’ll look like they have two toes, one significantly bigger. Like they’re supposed to be wearing socks with their sandals even though no one would do that and they clearly aren’t. The teeth just frequently have that weirdly sharp, jagged quality.

But when they get the designs right, they really get them right. There are quite a few very strongly designed demons in the series. The action sequences are pretty bloody but also nicely intense and interesting to watch. The backgrounds are very well detailed too.

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Sound:

I have to give credit to Suzuki Hiroki, Suzuki Rio, Chiba Shoya, Matsuda Kenichirou & Munakata Mariko. While all the performances are solid, the five of them are exceptional. Ike Yoshihiro’s sound track is pretty nicely done. The only aspect of the music I didn’t really like were the theme tunes. Especially Kaen.

Ho-yay:

There’s not really any. There’s not much in terms of romance in general.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Give the demons a more satisfactory motivation for wanting a child’s body parts. Maybe human parts freely given grant them more power or, maybe integrating human flesh into them allows them to flawlessly disguise as human. You’d just have to rework some stories involving other monsters to give their human forms a clear flaw.
  2. Let Dororo & Hyakkimaru solve their problems without Steerforth coming to the rescue so often.
  3. Lose the magic recovery of battle wounds. I get it, there’s magic in this world. But it’s never really shown to have curative properties except, somehow, when a person kills a demon that injured them and gets the wound immediately repaired. It just comes across as a lazy way to let Hyakkimaru have more grievous injuries without them mattering in the long term.

Final Thoughts:

With everything considered, I did enjoy Dororo. It may have faults, but it also has quite a few admirable qualities. It’s an entertaining adventure with demons, sword play and a pair of non-blood siblings who have very little just trying to make it. If you’re a fan of that kind of story, you’ll probably enjoy it. For myself, I’m going to go so far as to give it an 8/10.

Escaflowne: Van is a Tsundere Princess

Escaflowne was a franchise conceived of by Sunrise. They released a twenty six episode anime, multiple manga with different writers, some light novels, a video game that never saw an international release and, in 2000, this film. Sunrise was pushing this one hard. Maybe I’ll get to the main anime later, but for now let’s critique the film.

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Story:

We open with a lone swordsman raiding an airship and slaughtering everybody. Clearly, this is a family picture. We cut from the fantasy setting and go into the real world where a teenage girl, Hitomi, is going through some depressive issues. Her friend tries to cheer her up only to be spurned. She probably should have suggested that she see a professional therapist and get some medication to sort her out instead of just playing around. Not that you can really fault a teenager for not knowing better. Hitomi sees a vision calling her the goddess of wings and beckoning her. She quickly finds herself inside a mecha in another world.

The big problem with the narrative of this film is that things are wildly inconsistent. This goes for character actions, tone and even the atmosphere around Gaea. I’ll talk about the character inconsistencies and atmosphere in a moment, but for now I’ll focus on the tone. The tone is largely dark and brooding but it occasionally throws in something more goofy and comedic out of nowhere. It’s like they were ashamed of how dark the film is and wanted to reassure people that the franchise does know how levity works. Which doesn’t work well with the brooding tone but does make me wish I was watching the not brooding version.

It doesn’t really help that everything symbolic is pretty heavy handed. Escaflowne’s colour changing, the animal people talking about how “denizens of the forest stood no chance against battle hardened humans, Hitomi contemplating suicide only to find herself in a world where she gets to decide whether to annihilate everything or preserve it. It’s very not subtle or nuanced.

The film also defines a king in a weird way. I get it, it’s a fantasy story and they aren’t using the term the way it’s used in the real world, but it’s still odd to see a real term used in such a counter-intuitive way. Basically, as a king Van has to walk alone and kill all his enemies. But real kings, even shit ones, are surrounded by loyal soldiers and advisers. Whether that loyalty is based on equating the king with the country or on a desire to advance their own position. And a good king needs to understand the fine art of diplomacy. So, it’s a bit weird that everyone around him just acts like his faults are just an ordinary part of being a king.

To its credit, the film does move at a decent pace and it has enough going on to keep your attention.

Characters:

There are two major issues with the characters. The first is the inconsistent characterisation. The second is that the bulk of the characters are pretty superfluous. Like, Van goes from bowing to Hitomi and offering to do anything for her to calling her a spy and threatening her in the span of a couple minutes. He then goes from not wanting anything to do with her to having her as the most important person. It’s like he’s a tsundere and wants her to know he doesn’t like her or anything. The mole guy goes from worshipping her as a goddess to trying to get money out of her for no apparent reason. And our antagonist, Folken, shifts from torturing Dilandau for failing to smiling at him and acting like he needs him. It’s like everyone in Gaea has severe bipolar disorder.

It doesn’t help that there are very few characters in this film who we actually need for the film’s plot to work. Most of them seem to be here because fans of the longer series will recognise them. You could pretty much get rid of Van’s entire entourage since most of them have no real personality and do maybe one thing. Dilandau’s men are pretty pointless too. To the point where there’s a sequence where they’re trying to retrieve Hitomi from Van and Dilandau is the only one who actually steps forward to engage him. Does he just keep them around as a glorified cheering squad? I mean, that could work if the film were more comedic and they actually cheered while he went into action. Not so much with what we actually have.

The major characters do have their own arcs with Hitomi learning to have hope and Van learning to let go of his past and move forward. They aren’t particularly well executed but they’re basically passable.

Art:

The big problem with the artwork is the whole atmosphere around Gaea. You get some stuff that looks a bit idyllic and gives Gaea a more typical fantasy setting but that’s superimposed with these grim, heavily industrialised scenes that showcase the world destroying mecha and other science fiction technologies. You could legitimately take scenes from the small beast folk village, put them against scenes from the city where they have the final confrontation and persuade anyone who hasn’t seen the film that they’re from two different films.

That being said, there are some nicely done action sequences. The character designs are pretty well done too. This would be a pretty nice looking film if it had a more consistent look.

Escaflowne1.png

Sound:

The acting is fine. Seki Tomokazu, Sakamoto Maaya, Takayama Minami, & Nakata Jouji all do fine in their roles. If the film was better directed and the character writing was good, I could see them giving some much better performances. But, as is, they’re okay. Kano Yokko & Mizoguchi Hajime make the sound track the best part of the film. It actually is really good.

Ho-yay:

There are a few moments where things get a bit homo-erotic between Hitomi and her friend. Nothing significant.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Have some actual arc behind shifts in how the characters feel about each other. It would be fine to have Van be suspicious of Hitomi from the start but when you precede that with him kneeling to her and don’t have a discernible reason for him to start trusting her, it just comes across as clunky.
  2. Tone down the dark, brooding aspect. You can’t have a work that loves to hint at being more light-hearted but also revels in being dark and brooding and expect it to work well. This film would benefit a lot from less drastic shifts to its tone and atmosphere.
  3. Fewer nothing characters, better executed arcs for the important ones. That may seem callous since there are people who watched the TV series and loved the characters who don’t contribute anything to the film, but when you’ve got a little over an hour and a half, you have to make some choices about which characters to include and how to spend your time with the ones you have. And this film would definitely have benefited from spending less time with under-developed characters who contribute nothing and using that time to better flesh out the arcs of characters like Van and Hitomi.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, I think calling Escaflowne a bad film would be going too far. It’s certainly clumsy and has quite a few issues stemming from that. Which is why I’m giving it a 4/10 and calling it sub-par.

August Bonus Review: Pokemon Snap

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Pokemon Snap was first released in Japan in early ’99. A year and a half later, we got to play it. It’s been a fan favourite of the franchise since. Let’s take a look and see why.

Story:

You take on the role of a Pokemon photographer challenged with travelling through various locations to get wildlife shots of Pokemon. So, not a story driven game by any means.

Characters: 

There are two characters, the photographer who barely speaks and Professor Oak who looks through your pictures and measures them to make sure the Pokemon you photographed is in the exact centre. Honestly, Oak comes across as kind of an anal old shite in this. You can take a very nice sideways picture or action shot and have him complain because “the Pokemon wasn’t in the centre” or “Wasn’t facing the camera on account of being sideways.” I suspect he might not be much of an expert on photography.

Gameplay:

The game controls very simply. You’re on a rail, going at a consistent pace through various stages. As you progress you unlock items like apples, pester balls and the poke flute to make it possible to get better shots of certain Pokemon, unlock new paths and find secrets.

That’s one of the game’s strong points. There are a lot of secrets to uncover. And, to its credit, there aren’t any that are overly obtuse or finicky. About the most difficult they get is “use an apple to get Pikachu into position, play the poke flute, quickly photograph Zapdos.”

There are, however, enough to make the six main stages highly replayable. Yeah, I know there are technically seven stages. But the last one is just a stretch where you’re getting photos of Mew so I’m not counting it here. You also want to go through stages multiple times to get shots of specific Pokemon since you only have sixty possible pictures per stage and there’s always a certain window you have to get shots of any given Pokemon or special event. Some of which you can’t get in the same run. For instance, if you’re really going for pictures of the Charmander horde at the Volcano, you probably won’t get pictures of Moltres. Or if you’re going for the Arcanine pictures at the end of that stage you won’t get the Charizard pictures.

It really is impressive how much content they crammed into those six main stages.

About the worst thing I can say for the gameplay is that Oak’s ratings can be a bit stupid at times. He basically looks for a few things, the size of the picture, whether the Pokemon is facing you, whether it’s in the centre of the picture and if there are other Pokemon of the same type in the shot. Which can mean some nice looking shots get low ratings.

But it is a very consistent rating system, so you shouldn’t have trouble taking pictures he approves of. And there is the option of saving pictures even if you’re not using them for his Pokemon Report. So, you can keep the nice shots that he isn’t going to like.

Art: 

For the Nintendo 64, this was some very nice artwork. By modern 3DS/ Switch standards, it can look a bit polygonal but for back then, this looked fantastic. For comparison’s sake, when this came out Generation 2 hadn’t been released and the 3D models we were used to for the franchise were from Pokemon Stadium. Which came out shortly before this and looked nowhere near as good.

Sound:

The music is nice and fun. The Pokemon make noises both when they move around and when they cry out. They pretty much nailed the sound design. One interesting aspect is that the poke flute actually plays different melodies at different points. Which is a nice bit of variety.

Final Thoughts:

Pokemon Snap is a fantastic game. The photography element is pretty unique and the exploration is surprisingly deep given the limited stages. I’d give it a 9/10. That being said, I’m sure you all noticed the lack of “Areas of Improvement.” That’s not because the game has none and there’s a reason I’ve been wanting to discuss this game in particular.

In early July, an interview with Game Freak director Masuda Junichi resulted in him basically saying there wasn’t a sequel to this game in the works, because they can’t think of something very unique to do with it. After all, they can’t make the same thing again.

Now, putting aside how absurd that is when the Pokemon franchise itself is built on very small, incremental changes from generation to generation and the most unique they’ve gotten was trading gyms for trials that are basically like gyms only with fewer trainer battles.

We’ll ignore all that and focus on ways they could change up the Snap formula to make it more unique. Now, if anyone from Game Freak happens to see this, these ideas are free. Use all or some of them to your heart’s content. Which is why this time around I’m trading the usual “Areas of Improvement” segment for

Sequel Ideas:

  1. Add in various filters. Here’s the thing, I hate all those stupid filters you can put over your photos on your phone or when uploading them. However, a lot of people absolutely love them and I could see people sharing their in game photographs online using the in game filters and just having a grand time.
  2. Have various Pokemon in stages that you can feed to befriend. At this point, they can follow you around throughout the stage and do various special things. Imagine having a Growlithe following you, doing backflips and other various cute things you could snap pictures of.
  3. Have actual branching paths. I know, the N64 hardware wasn’t really at the level where you could do this. But on the Switch, you could absolutely have points in a stage where you could go down different routes for pictures.
  4. Give the photographer a partner Pokemon. I’m not going to say that this should be transferable to other games, but if you had a partner Pokemon they could help open various paths, be sent out to interact with wild Pokemon. Hell, you could even let players dress it up in little outfits. Eevee would be good for that. So would Vulpix.
  5. Have a Transforming pod. Here’s what I’m thinking. Give players a ride pod similar to the one you’re in in the first game, but this one can transform into a submarine for underwater stages/ stage segments or into a zeppelin for aerial parts.
  6. A proper zoom lens. The first game pretty much has no options for sizing pictures. In this one, let players zoom in a fair amount. This could be used to get some nicer close ups or get good aerial shots of Pokemon on the ground.

So, there you go. Any two of these ideas will give you more of a difference between Snap & Snap 2 than most main franchise Pokemon games have from their closest sequel. You’re welcome.

Golden Kamuy Series 2: Second Verse, much like the first

I talked about the first series of Golden Kamuy about four months back. It was a piece with an interesting premise and some solid moments. When we left off, Sugimoto and his group were competing with Tsurumi and his soldiers as well as Hijikata Toshozou and his former prisoners. Unbeknownst to Sugimoto or Asirpa their comrade, Shiraishi had made a deal with Hijikata and was playing both sides of the street. Let’s see where things go from there.

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Story:

When we open, Tsurumi is meeting with a grave robbing taxidermist for what I’m sure are completely sane reasons. Meanwhile, Sugimoto and his group are on their way to Abashiri prison to meet with Nopperabo. Which also seems to be the goal of Hijikata’s group. Back in Asirpa’s village, Inkarmat persuades Tanigaki to help her find Asirpa. They’re joined by an Ainu boy who’s just starting to take an interest in boobs.

This series suffers from the same big issue as the first. Namely, it can be overly slow with overly long scenes about how to hunt different game or how to prepare it. I’m sorry, but if I wanted to know how to prepare snares for this particular bird or how to properly cook Salmon heads I’d watch a proper hunting or cooking show.

The series also continues to have some jokes that don’t land very well. At least they stopped having Asirpa refer to miso as faeces. In this series our not really funny comedic moment is Asirpa referring to Ushiyama as “Chinpo-Sensei.” Next season, she’ll probably call Inkarmat vaginal squirt woman or meet a dog called prolapsed anus or something. Since all the worst, most drug out jokes in this franchise are just Asirpa referring to something in a toilet joke fashion.

That being said, the narrative is still interesting with a strong concept backing it. I also appreciate that it doesn’t drag out events. Yeah, it has its other forms of padding but at least the plot moves briskly when the series is actually covering the plot elements. The more comedic elements do largely work. This one has some very morbid humour, mostly involving the taxidermist but that works for me. I’m a fan of well executed macabre elements. This series also follows the first one’s example in that it stops off at a very good point. We get some closure for some major plot points while also having plenty of intrigue to carry another series.

Characters:

Our big three are still Sugimoto, Asirpa & Tanigaki. This series gives us some more development for Shiraishi, Ogata, Inkarmat & Hijikata. But the characters aside from that core group still gravitate towards the weaker side. They’re lucky to get some very simple motivation and hints of something more to them.

Art:

Honestly, the series would look better without the goofier character designs. I understand that it’s not entirely serious but it’s hard for the more serious elements to have the full gravity they should when you’ve got goofy looking characters like Tsurumi or Ushiyama floating around in the middle of it all. On the positive side, the nature scenes look fantastic, the action sequences are appropriately intense and the backgrounds are nicely detailed.

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Sound:

The acting remains a very strong element. The performances are beyond what they need to be. Particularly for those characters who don’t have that much depth to them. Suehiro Kenichiro gives us another strong soundtrack.

Ho-yay:

It’s heavily implied that three of Tsurumi’s men have the hots for him. I don’t see the appeal he has personally, but I won’t judge them for what they’re into. There’s also a scene that gets really homo-erotic in a way that borders on being a gay joke but with clever execution that actually makes it work quite well.

Areas of improvement:

This is honestly pretty much the same as my list for the first series. Since this one has basically the same issues.

  1. We don’t need long explanations of how to hunt and cook. They’re just padding.
  2. Can we have a series of this where Asirpa doesn’t drag a semi-dirty joke into the ground? First it was confusing Miso for excrement Now it’s the Chinpo-sensei thing.
  3. Rework the goofy designs.

Final Thoughts:

The second series is on par with the first. It’s a strong, well crafted anime that has the definite potential to get stronger. I’m giving it a 7/10, like the first series. Maybe the third will raise that score a bit when it comes out. We’ll find out.

Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou: Lost the plot at the end

Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou is an anime from the late 90s released by Gainax & JC Staff. It was based off of a manga by Tsuda Masami. And, apparently, she was unhappy with the way Gainax handled it which resulted in it not receiving a full adaptation. So, what exactly is wrong with the adaptation? Let’s take a look and see what went wrong. Or maybe she was just being overly picky. We’ll see.

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Story:

Miyazawa Yukino excels at everything. She’s an outstanding student, a strong athlete and is well liked by everyone. There’s just one problem. She doesn’t show her true personality to anyone outside of her family. She puts on a mask because she loves to be praised. One day her major rival, Arima Soichiro, uncovers the truth behind the mask. The pair become friends and quickly go beyond friendship. The narrative from there goes into their ups and downs as well as their relationships with those around them.

The big narrative problem with this anime is that the last third is really atrocious. Here’s the thing. Roughly the first two thirds have a strong comedic aesthetic where problems come up, get resolved in ways that are pretty entertaining  and things flow from there. Roughly the last third throws that out and adds a bunch of terribly written angst and poorly thought out drama. This causes the series to devolve from an entertaining romp to being virtually unwatchable. The ending is trash too. Most anime that aren’t going to cover an adapted work entirely have the decency to give some closure and end with some pressing issue getting wrapped up. This one takes the rubbish heap route and leaves every single plot point unanswered.

There are some lesser problems before that. Yukino’s friend, Maho, talks about dating a dude who’s almost thirty and no one finds it creepy except the people in the audience who have sense. Hate to break it to you guys in your late twenties, early thirties, but if you’re chasing after high school girls you are objectively a complete fucking creep. Same with those of you in your mid twenties. Even early twenties is pushing it given the developmental difference. The anime is also pretty lazy. It features a lot of long recap segments, a full recap episode and two episodes that are half recap. To an extent, I do understand it since the economy was doing poorly, but it still does impact the quality of the work when it wastes your time rehashing to that extent.

On the positive side, the first seventeen or eighteen episodes are enjoyable, except for the recaps. The high levels of humour work quite well. To the point where you can almost completely forgive the lazier elements. If it had maintained that momentum, this could have been a very solid anime. But some incompetent moron working on the adaptation lost the plot. It was probably Zach. No one likes that guy.

Characters:

The characters were never super complex. Even before Zach ruined everything. But this was a more comedic series and the characters did work well in that regard. Then we reach the shite segment of the series and Arima gets obnoxiously angsty and drags the whole cast down with him. They also introduce a male love interest for the girl who has spent the entire series showing interest exclusively in cute girls. Which actually makes me mad. Like, I haven’t entirely forgiven Fire Emblem Fates for pulling that shit with Soleil and I liked that game considerably more than I liked this anime.

It’s also a bit annoying that they basically get rid of all Tsubasa’s character after wrapping up her arc about her dad remarrying. It’s like they couldn’t think of anything for her character to do and didn’t know how to work her into the friend group. So, they gave up and had her just go feral.

Art:

This is another area where the obvious fiscal problems resulted in a lot of laziness. There are a lot of scenes where characters will be talking and they’ll just show some still images of street lights or some other nonsense that doesn’t matter and is just boring to look at. They’ll also just cut to quiet scenes of the same kind of scenery for no narrative reason and just linger on it to pad out the episodes. The series uses a lot of boring still images and recycled animation in general. It doesn’t help that it has one of the worst drawn dogs I’ve ever seen in anime. How do you have a dog that isn’t even a little cute? Honestly, most of it looks pretty bad.

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Sound:

Here’s where the director royally failed. The acting in this can be pretty damn bad. Shintani Mayumi, Fukui Yukari, Kiyokawa Motomu and several other actors sound really stilted in their delivery. There’s also a lot of over the top comedic exaggeration that might be fine in more moderation but gets grating when it’s employed this often. I’ll give the series credit for having some theme tunes that are pretty good, musically. The imagery isn’t. The rest of Sagisu Shirou’s soundtrack is pretty mediocre.

Ho-yay:

There’s Sakura and her thing for cute girls. There are also moments where both Asaba & Tonami seem to have a thing for Arima. And there’s an episode where Yukino’s sisters seem to pick up female admirers solely for cheap jokes. Naturally, this episode is at the point where the series has already gotten bad.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose the badly written, ill conceived angst. There’s a place for angst. Preferably, as a temporary shift due to some major events. But it doesn’t work in a mostly comedic series. Especially when it just keeps going.
  2. Do not give the one character who’s been portrayed as not straight a hetero love interest. Yes, we get that bisexual people exist. However, there’s also this terrible tendency in media to have one LGBT character to earn some “representation points” and then give that character a hetero normative relationship so you don’t actually have to deal with any of that queer stuff. Fuck that. Fuck it with something long, awkwardly shaped and covered in literal spikes.
  3. Have a satisfying conclusion. I get it, Zach is an awful writer and screwed up, thereby making it so the series had to end prematurely. At least give us some closure. End the emo Arima phase and show Yukino’s play. Just give us something to make it feel somewhat satisfying.

Final Thoughts:

This is, honestly, a bit difficult for me to rate. On the one hand, I did enjoy the series for about two thirds of it. And if it had maintained that standard, I could somewhat forgive the lazy, rubbish artwork, the lazy rehashing and even the poor directing. If not for the way it ends I’d be going with a “6” maybe slightly higher. However, the final third is utter tripe and those elements that worked get heavily bludgeoned to the point of being nearly unrecognisable and a whole slew of problems come in to make sure they stay damaged. And if the entire series was like those last eight episodes, I’d be giving this a “1” and making rude gestures in its general direction. Still, I can’t bring myself to call it bad given the way it started. So, I’m going with a 4/10 for the whole thing. Maybe I’ll go read the manga and it won’t have the same problems at the end. Maybe that final stretch is what made Tsuda unhappy with the adaptation. In which case, completely justifiable response there.

Mahoutsukai Tai! OVA-

Mahoutsukai Tai was released as an OVA in ’96 & ’97 from Production Reed. The OVA spawned a whole bunch of follow up media including manga and a thirteen episode anime. The good news is that this is the same studio that brought us Nuku Nuku. The bad news is they also brought us Nuku Nuku Dash. So, I have no idea how this one is going to turn out.

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Story:

Our story begins with invaders from space. They declare themselves in charge and defeat the forces sent against them. They proceed to hang around, doing nothing unless provoked and just kind of observing. They even obey traffic laws. Well, that’s a convenient invading force. They don’t care if we keep governing ourselves and going about things as normal. They just want to hang around. Our protagonists are part of a High School magic club and they accidentally draw the aliens’ attention when they’re going to attack their Bell-like base because their leader wants to impress the girls in the club.

I could poke into all the dumb elements of the plot, but the OVA is ostensibly a comedy. So, the dumb stuff is pretty much by design for comedic effect. What I will criticise the OVA for is that the humour is fairly lacklustre. This is one of those comedies where the best it gets is being “kind of funny” with the potential to be funnier if there was a stronger build up. Take, for example, Akane decide to inflate a dude because he’s, supposedly, being creepy. That’s kind of funny. If they had more set up where we could see what this guy did to deserve being inflated like a balloon, it might have very well been funnier.

And that’s when the jokes are at the high level of “kind of funny.” A lot of the time, they’re just not funny. There are a lot of “jokes” that basically boil down to Takeo acting pervy towards the girls or Ayanojou making unwanted advances towards Takeo. Basically, a lot of shit that’s a bit uncomfortable. At least they don’t delve into full gay joke territory, though they border on it at times.

Characters:

The characters are pretty one note archetypal. Which would be fine since you don’t need incredibly deep or complex characters in a comedy. You just need characters with strong comedic interactions. Which doesn’t happen in this series. The dynamics are just generally trite and kind of boring.

Art:

The artwork is basically passable. It can be overly crass with the fan-service at times and the alien designs are boring. They’re just a lot of circles, mechanical tentacles with eyes at the end of them and vaguely humanoid androids. Other than that, it’s functional.

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Sound:

They got some really good actors like Koyasu Takehito or Iizuka Mayumi but the performances are pretty mediocre. Probably because this is one of those comedies where they try to compensate for the lack of strong jokes with a lot of exaggeration. Oshima Michiru’s music is decent enough. It’s a bit more standard than her tracks usually are, but it’s better than the soundtrack for Kaze no Tairiku, at least.

Ho-yay:

There’s all the stuff with Ayanojou flirting with Takeo. It’s very clear that it’s one-sided though.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Stop the fan-service with adolescent girls. Somewhere, some dude named Donald who never bathes, is in his forties and on a government watch list is into that. But it’s still tawdry. Plus, it does limit your audience when you get really fan-servicey with teenage girls. Teenagers may get excited for it. Donald is into it. For the rest of us, it’s just trashy.
  2. Better set ups for the jokes. Having Sae decide she’s going to be less clumsy only to immediately fall over isn’t all that funny. Having her decide she was going to be less clumsy, last a while and then fall over when she’s feeling proud of herself would be funnier. Either way, it’s obvious that she’s going to fail. The second method just gives some build up to it instead of an immediate pay off because they think the people watching this will forget the set up if the joke stemming from it isn’t immediate.
  3. Take more advantage of the magic. For a work with magic as a central element, they don’t do much with it in terms of the comedy. About the furthest they go is Takeo accidentally shrinking himself. And even then they barely do anything with him being shrunk. You could do all sorts of crazy comedic stuff with magic as a tool. And I feel that’s where this OVA could have shined, if they’d done a better job taking advantage of it.

Final Thoughts:

This is another one I can’t really call bad. It has a lot of problems. It’s certainly not good. But it does have its kind of funny moments and it is only six episodes long. So, if you like the idea of aliens fighting wizards, you might enjoy it. For myself, it was sub-par. I’m giving it a 4/10.