Extra: A new kind of heroine

[Spoiler alert for the ending of Gatchaman Crowds]

I really wasn’t expecting all that much from Gatchaman Crowds. All I really knew for sure was that I was liking the art style and color pallet. I certainly didn’t expect the story to rely more on showing than telling, a rarity in anime these days. Nor did I expect Hajime. I really and truly did not expect her at all.

Hajime is one of those characters I doubt anyone really expected to see. She’s endlessly cheerful, but unlike so many heroines in anime, her endless joy is not dependent on a male character (aka love connection) or her situation. She loves life itself, fully and without restraint. This isn’t to say she doesn’t feel anger or frustration, but those feelings never completely take over. Instead, even when faced with the worst possibilities, the darkest dangers, she smiles and looks on the bright side.

Before that sounds too forced, here’s a disclaimer: It doesn’t come without a price. At the very end, Hajime intentionally dodges Katze’s more violent and harsh comments and questions, changing the subject without even looking at him (it?) at first. Compared with her face-to-face interactions with Katze in the past, this is a subtle, though important difference. Hajime is upset. She’s upset so many people are scared. That so many are hurt. That anyone, anything, could possibly find joy in others’ pain. Yet she calms herself, focuses on something else, doing something no other Gatchaman was able to do. She seeks Katze’s redemption, wishing him to see joy in life itself and to seek others’ happiness as she does. Despite all his evil (and he is truly a work of twisted art, let me tell ya), she forces herself to look at him and say, “After all this, can we go on a date?”

I’ve talked about heroes before on this blog and for good reason. So often we get caught up in that idea where the hero is a hero simply because he beats up the villain. And while that can be entertaining to see when a villain gets on our last nerve one too many times, it’s not really what a hero truly is. Being a hero is overcoming fear, doubt and selfish desires to better the world around you. It means looking out for others before yourself. Even your enemies. In fact, in a true hero’s mind, an absolute enemy doesn’t really exist. Only lost, scared, sad people that need redemption. And while these people need to be held accountable for their actions, they aren’t monsters either. Understanding that the villain isn’t all that different from themselves is a strong quality in a hero and often overlooked these days.

Hajime was able to do something really amazing in Gatachman Crowds. She looked into an alien’s eyes, one that had murdered countless millions of lives throughout the galaxy, and she still saw it as a living creature in need of something, a thing needing salvation. She believed that fully. So much so that she even took his future in her hands, sealing it within the only safe prison she had: herself. She did not reject the enemy, the reality, before her in disgust, but accepted it with open arms and a smile. And while she does have a natural fear of her current situation (“No matter what happens, I’m just me”), she refuses to give up. She loves life. And she wants others to have that love, too. Even bloodthirsty aliens. She may not be the most popular heroine out there in anime, but she sure has earned a place in my list of heroes, right alongside Relena Darlian and the Elric brothers. Not a small feat, I assure you.

Advertisements

Gatchaman Crowds Review

Story:
Ichinose Hajime is strange by anyone’s standards. But you can’t deny that she loves life and is one very happy young lady. But when she’s chosen to be the newest addition to the Gatchaman hero team, no one is quite prepared for all the changes that come with her. She sees enemies from a completely different light, shaking up the old tried a true Gatchaman ways and questioning everything they’ve ever done.
With a smile, of course.

Violence:
Pretty close to Fullmetal Alchemist level violence in this one. There is stabbing, blood, cuts, slices, screaming in pain and the main villain is completely insane. This is not a show for people queasy about violence.

Language:
Sh-t is the favorite in this show, happening semi-regularly near the end. At all other times it’s normal YA fare of d-mn, sh-t and a few b-words. Nothing overly frequent though.

Nudity:
More than a few shots focus on our heroine’s large bust, though it’s always clothed. One other female character, however, likes to wear lingerie around for no reason. She’s not busty, so we’re spared anything… hanging out… But it’s still kinda awkward. Also, one male character makes a few leading comments now and again while another dresses as a woman most of the time.

Theology/mythology:
You’ll find some pretty stereotypical explanations for the Gatchamans’ powers. Such as their transformation/communication devices being attached to their souls and life force and such. If that kind of thing bugs you, you can pretty much shrug it off though as it doesn’t really mess with the plot too much (aside from it being a weak point in battle). Also God is mentioned in passing, usually to represent something else. At one point the heroine says that if another character is “like God, then he probably won’t do anything.” This may be insulting to some people, but as I’ve said before, Japan has a very different idea about God than Westerners do, so take it with a bit of rock salt.

Personal impression:
This was a pretty enjoyable ride for me, to be honest. It’s usually hard for me to get into transformation superhero shows do to way too much tell and very little show. This series was a very nice counter to that. Most of the time, things will not be explained for viewers. You just have to watch, pay attention and figure it out. Especially the end, which kinda reminded me of Beyond the Boundary in terms of how ambiguous it is about the fates of a few characters.
The art was bright, yet also tastefully pastel-ed here and there, similar to Tsuritama‘s style. It was a nice break from the typical color schemes in shows, even if the CG used for some of the fight scenes was on and off clunky. The music is decent as well, just slightly above average though not quite enough to get stuck in your head for long.
If you like superhero anime, this is a wonderful, though short, show to try out. Just don’t expect the end to be spelled out for you.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, fantasy
Company: Sentai Filmworks
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll 
Screenshots:
 photo g1_zps3e11e4ca.jpg photo g3_zps3ae06a65.jpg photo g2_zpsbb94830c.jpg

Extra: Isolation

[Note: This article contains spoilers for Pretear]

isolationAnime very rarely takes extreme isolation too seriously. More often than not, it’s used as a joke. But I am happy to see, no matter how awkward the attempt, some shows face it head on.

For all its creepiness, and oh how very creepy it is, Pretear did manage to pull of one stunt I don’t often see in shows. How self-isolation pits you against everyone and drives you into madness. Now that sounds pretty simple. Of course you’d go mad if you’re always alone. But you might be surprised how often people pull away from the world, shutting themselves in their rooms, avoiding family and friends, and honestly see no harm in the action.

As someone who is an introvert and thus needs alone time more than some, I’m going to call that out right now. Shutting yourself off for long periods of time is not healthy. I’ve done it myself and let’s just say the person I became wasn’t the nicest person around. Even shallow acquaintances started to notice my attitude. My smile disappeared, I snapped at people when I was around them, I was pessimistic 24/7 and I was flat out unhappy about life. A little alone time is good, even necessary. But isolation isn’t like alone time. It’s when you push people away, usually gradually, with no intention of getting close to them again. Eating meals at odd times to avoid family, telling people you’re busy all the time when you’re not, and feeling like people are always judging you the rare times you are with others. It doesn’t feel like you’re cutting yourself off in the moment, but when you haven’t been interacting with and enjoying time with friends in many weeks and don’t like the mere idea of spending time with your family, those are red flags.

As eerie and, well, pervy, as some of the stuff in Pretear is, they did manage to show us a character who wasn’t isolating herself as a joke. In fact, she had very real reasons for cutting herself off. Her father was gone, she felt he was being replaced by someone she didn’t know or trust and no one bothered to even ask her if she was okay with changing her name, family life and nearly everything else at the drop of a coin. Little wonder she was upset and even less of a wonder why she pulled back and shut the door in her family’s face. And it wasn’t long before her sorrow turned ugly. Now, sure, you might not be taken over by some evil entity when you isolate yourself. But you’re not going to be fully you, either. Numerous studies have shown that humans aren’t made to be alone for long periods of time. We’re built to be loved and to love others. Isolation is in direct conflict with that inner drive. But, for some reason, it’s a topic no one likes to take too seriously. Perhaps because it’s an issue that’s so gradual that many don’t notice what’s happening until it’s too late. Or perhaps it’s because there’s no good solution to the issue unless the isolated individual wishes to change. Like depression and anxiety, there’s no easy answer.

But just because the answers aren’t easy, nor pretty, doesn’t mean it’s a topic to be ignored.

Pretear Review

Story:
Himeno’s used to a simple life with her father, an often down on his luck novelist. But after he marries the love of his life, a rich widow, life changes forever. Now Himeno lives in a mansion with stepsisters who not only don’t understand her, but also dislike her. And if things couldn’t get any worse, she then finds out that she’s the mythical Pretear, fated to do battle alongside the Knights of Leafe.

Violence:
Most of the fighting is “magical,” so there’s not a lot of actual physical damage done overall. That said, when there is damage done, the show isn’t afraid to have a large amount of blood covering a character’s side. It’s not that realist though. Think typical nineties era anime blood here (if this happened in real life these people would be worm food).

Language:
Another reason this got slammed with YA: first episode brings out the b-word. However, it is debatable how often this occurs in the original Japanese version versus the dub. There’s a slight difference in how often this happens. It’s nothing excessive, but it’s not under YA level stuff either.

Nudity:
So, right off the bat, we get a very odd explanation about Leafe (see below) and how, when this power in both men and women is combined, it creates a new power. yeah,t he old “two become one thing.” Not awkward at all. Although we always get the typical magical transformation sequence where the bodies are outlines only, this show sets itself apart for perhaps the most “revealing” transformation sequence in a TV14 show. The heroine always must transform with a knight. The knight becomes light and… she holds it and… transforms. Yeah, it’s very weird and earned this a place as one of the more pervy magical girl shows out there. We never actually see anything, but it’s still very strange and uncomfortable and this title gets slammed with a YA rating just for this awkwardness alone (the ending theme also has naked cherub versions of the main characters which is yet another form of awkward I never thought I’d see. I stand sadly corrected).

Theology/mythology:
Weird stuff here, but common to magical shows. Leafe is like a life force kind of thing, an energy existing in all living things. This is where the powers of the knights and the pretear supposedly come from. There’s also, of course, a great evil that was sealed and escapes. This isn’t really a religion, but it does seek to explain how things in this world work so it’s somewhat a part of the story. Somewhat.

Personal impression:
This show is such a strange combination of amazingly cliche and awkward and, yet, so very dated that I actually enjoyed it a bit. Although, likely for all the wrong reasons. I laughed at things that probably weren’t meant to be funny. Which was pretty much all of it.
That said, perviness aside, this is a pretty traditional magical girl show. Really the only deviation is in one of the side characters. One that becomes more major by the end and tries to address isolation and depression (a turn I actually didn’t see coming simply because I expected that character to magically “get over it” as so many characters do in these stories). So if you like magical girl shows, you’ll probably enjoy this title. But this isn’t the, uh, safest? No. cleanest? No. Well, it’s the not the best pick for a show where anyone can just walk in on. That awkwardness up there isn’t an exaggeration. I wouldn’t be surprised if the animation studio was full of giggling animators the whole time and the show was more of a joke than anything else.
(side note: this title used to belong to ADV Films before it went under and now belongs to FUNimation, although for how long it will be produced on DVD is debatable)

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 13
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): magical girl, romance, comedy
Company: FUNimation
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
 photo p1_zps92432ef9.jpg photo p2_zpsb306f62b.jpg photo p3_zps6ca68e2e.jpg

Extra: Unconditional love?

aoiAh, Valentine’s Day. Or Singles’ Awareness Day. Or EAT ALL THE THINGS Day. Whichever one you celebrated (or tried your best to ignore), hearts were all over and, according to salesmen eying your wallet, love is in the air. And speaking of love, let’s see some sharp contrasts on conditional and unconditional types, shall we? Because, let’s be honest here. The media is just hilarious when it comes to love and often for all the wrong reasons. Of course, the last few decades have given rise to a growing demand for “I love you for you” sentiment (the concepts been around forever, but, like all story elements, goes through phases in how strongly it’s used). Which is hilarious to watch played out in popular media as it’s often done in the most contradictory way possible.

In Maid-sama, despite the slightly annoying habit the heroine has to thank the male lead for everything (even when he doesn’t really do anything), the main relationship actually is rather accepting. But one particular character in Maid-sama is given a deal on being accepted by his family if he can do x, y and z. Now this type of conditional love is pretty common in shows. So common, in fact, that it’s pretty acceptable. As if doing things for respect and love is totally okay. But the truth of the matter is: that’s not real love. Conditional love isn’t love so much as a deal. I’ll do this only if you do that. How many heroines in romance shows are under similar pressures? They’re only acceptable after becoming more feminine or soft spoken or popular. This is not to say personal change and growth shouldn’t occur. By all means, it should. If you’re a prideful person that just isn’t healthy for you or those around you, romantic relationships existing in your life or not. But often these stories do not focus on truly important changes, but superficial ones. Like proving you’re a “real man” through a sport in order to be allowed to wear what you feel most comfortable with.

Although I’d love to see more shows break away from this horrible issue, it sadly happens to be a major misconception in most societies and I see it so often played out in life itself that I doubt any big changes will be taking place with this anytime soon. Making the few shows out there that get stuff like this right all the more precious. They’re defiantly a minority. I mean, would you love and forever stay by the side of a girl when it turns out she’s really just a duck or save and love a girl who nearly killed you and others for her own desires (*cough*PrincessTutu*cough*)? Unconditional love is scary and rarely seen, but it’s sad that the power it holds graces so few tales. Because it’s easy to “love” someone who never does wrong and is what you want them to be. But loving someone who is so opposite of you, so different, perhaps someone who doesn’t even love you back… Now that takes some serious guts.

Maid-sama Review

Story:
Misaki has a hard job being class president to a former all-boys school. She can’t let her guard down for an instant. But actually, she has two difficult jobs. And the second must never be found out. She also works part-time at a maid cafe. No one else is going to help support her family, right? Heaven save her if her male classmates find out. Too bad one already has…

Violence:
You won’t find much of this here aside from slap-stick style, where no one really gets hurt. You might find a character get a small cut with a bit of blood, but nothing to be concerned about.

Language:
We get your typical YA stuff in here. D-mn and the odd-ball b-word every once in a great while. Nothing unexpected for the rating.

Nudity:
Technically we don’t get anything worse than bikini-level nudity. Even so, the male lead is a bit… creepy? In one scene he kisses the small of a girl’s back when she’s only wearing a swimsuit. It’s very… odd. Also, a villain character pins down the heroine, probably for something less than innocent. He gets stopped before anything happens, but it’s an awkward scene. As is the time the male lead kisses another male character to psych out the heroine.
Oh, yes. And one young character, a boy, crossdresses as a female internet idol for attention.

Theology/mythology:
Aside from a ghost story, there’s nothing really to put in this one. Theology really has no place in this show. Pure shoujo stuff here.

Personal impression:
I’m not sure what to say about this one aside from it being shoujo. Yep, complete shoujo title here. Stubborn female lead with bad home life, odd ball male lead with a past etc. And the art and music are really no better, just your run-of-the-mill fare. That said, it was a decent one-watch. Nothing extremely insulting (aside from your usual don’t-ask-first-just-kiss situations), but nothing really uplifting either. The laughs from the comedy were all pretty average, too. But then, if they weren’t, I might not have made it through.
If you like shoujo stuff, this show will be enjoyable for you. You will not be required to think too much and you can just relax in all the cliche-ness of the genre. Heck, we even get the fever episode right off the bat! Just don’t look for a show that was miss named. It wasn’t. Maid shoujo all the way.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 26
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Comedy, romance
Company: Sentai Filmworks
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
 photo ms2_zps922cc70c.jpg photo ms1_zps09ae8551.jpg photo ms3_zpsd0f81fc2.jpg

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑