Best and Worst Shows of 2017!

As the new year comes around the corner, we must adhere to tradition and sing the praises of the great shows we’ve encountered over the past year. And also spank the shows that we hated one last time.
Speaking of, let’s get those Worst shows out of the way first…

 

Top 3 Worst Shows of 2017

 

#3 – Hanasakeru Seishonen

hanasakeru_seishounen_ostThe political elements of this anime were actually decently interesting. Sadly the romance aspect was pretty horrid. Not just because it was slow, but also because I pitied the guy who ended up with her. The heroine is one of the most selfish creatures I’ve seen in anime without being a full on tsundere (those characters are a whole other can of hate for me) in a long time. The pendulum swing between her being strangely wise and insanely stupid was enraging to witness and I’m happy to leave this show behind me…

 

#2 – 18if

20150316chu_18p002_cs1e1_480xI don’t often watch entire shows and then land them in a WZ, but this is one of those titles that decided to wait until the second half to slap me in the face with excessive sexuality and violence. Not that I liked it before then either, mind you. This is one of the obnoxious shows where the villains are all women and a single guy, who is so average it hurts, comes along and they all fall in love with him while he “saves” them. Is it the worst show I’ve had to WZ? No, but it certainly wasted a lot of my time. Forgive me if I’m a bit bitter about that…

 

#1 Worst Show of 2017 – Your Lie in April

yourlie

This show made me see red. Each episode made me more mad than the last. But I still held out hope until the last, especially as the lead was really amazing and I really did want to see him rise from the ashes. But this show isn’t a romance. It’s a painful look into domestic abuse. The fact that not the show itself, but many of its viewers, see this title as a wonderfully sweet romance only made it all the more painful to witness for me. Hitting people for your own convenience, tsundere personality or not, is just straight up not ok. And when that person had a extremely abusive mother and deep guilt complex? Yeah, no. This show hurt to see and it never got any better. Definitely the worst show I watched in 2017.

 

Top 5 Best Shows of 2017

 

#5 – Tiger and Bunny

tiger_bunny_posterThis show is a bit on the older side now, but this year was the first time I finally got around to giving it a shot. And it really surprised me. Not only were the leads mostly adults, but the main lead is a wash out hero with a wasting relationship with his daughter. And those are elements of the show that do indeed get addressed. While the overall plot wasn’t very impressive, the characters themselves and their relationships with one another were pretty fresh and fun to watch. It was an entertaining show and had some truly heartwarming scenes between the lead and his daughter. It’s an easy top title of the year from me, although I’m not sure I agree with Japan that it deserves to be in the top anime slot of all time…

 

#4 – Voices of a Distant Star

hoshinokoe_8597_7851This is a stand alone animated movie that was crafted single handedly. And while the rough animation and movement might be telling of this, the elegant way emotion is conveyed is pretty stunning. It’s rare to see this level of detail in characters in science fiction, but it’s something I wish we saw more often. The pace is slow, but all the more powerful for it. And what beauty pushes through the older, rougher animation is truly amazing. It’s easy to see how this work landed its artist a more permanent job in the animation industry. It’s an amazing first piece that many studios today could learn from.

 

#3 – Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

moribitoAnother older title (I see a trend here), this show never got half the hype it deserves. Not only is the lead character well written and deep, but the world itself is crafted expertly. The blend of feudal and mythological elements is so tightly woven it feels natural and makes sense. We also see logical character progression and growth, which makes the ending that much more bittersweet and powerful. If there hadn’t been a strange out-of-character bump in the middle of the story’s script, I’d likely have rated this show even higher.
Seriously, if you still haven’t given this show a try, I highly recommend it.

 

#2 – March Comes in Like a Lion

march-comes-inThis show was beautiful to watch and moved like fictional literature put to screen, something we don’t often see in TV series (and is even becoming less common in OVA and film formats). And while this kind of story telling isn’t always my thing, this particular series was just amazing. It was a perfect example of showing, not telling. We are not told how to feel about anyone, but must come to our conclusions ourselves. There’s also no true villain. There are only obstacles for the hero to overcome, the biggest often being himself. It’s powerful and yet gently told. This was a show I loved every step of the way and recommend to anyone who loves literary fiction or is needing a break from typical genre shows.

 

#1 Best Show of 2017 – The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star

magus-bride

The full series that continues the story of this mini-series is just now wrapping up, but the three episode prequel is good enough to stand on its own. While not quite as artsy as March Comes in Like a Lion, it still follows the wonderful rule to show, don’t tell. It also takes its time showing the soft and slow healing of the emotionally scarred lead character. And while truly horrible and dark things happen to her in these episodes, the hope seen at the end is strong enough to make one leave this mini-series with a smile. It also creates a well deserved amount of hype for the full series. The strong world building and unique blend of various mythological creatures are just the cherry on top. If you like magic, mythology/folklore and don’t mind a few tears, this is a great show to jump into. And this mini-series is a great taste test for what to expect in the full series.

 

Well, that’s a wrap for 2017, folks! Thank you all for keeping faith in my blog and I look forward to another year of anime with you! 

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Merry Christmas! (+the “lost potential” shows of 2017)

christmas2It’s not often that this blog’s schedule lines up perfectly with Christmas, but here we are! And as this time of year is always scary busy, you’ll have to excuse my slightly lazy ideas for our last two posts of the season being recaps.
This year has been a crazy one for me. I got a new job, moved and made some very important life decisions that I can’t reveal quite yet. It’s hard to fit shows in these days. But I still enjoy analyzing and, occasionally, ripping the anime industry apart bit by bit, so thank you all for sticking it out with me this year!

As we get ready to finish up some shows for early 2018, let’s look back at some of this year’s biggest lost potentials… Because nothing says “Christmas” like a bag full of regret!

 

a18936-1382072408-1497548231Missed Opportunity #3 – Chronos Ruler 

I swear, it’s like this show was intentionally trying to fail. It had the most amazing set up for a great father/son dynamic. The two LEADS were a father and son. And they just…. ignored it. The show plays up their relationship as if they were classmates in high school more than a parent and their child. Which is a real shame as father/son relationships in anime are petty rare to see, where as the high schoolers getting on each others’ nerves thing? Yeah. That’s sadly common. Really common.

 

6f23cba5886611b854a147890757cdfa1475754586_largeMissed Opportunity #2 – Flip Flappers

This show was beautiful. There’s no way around that. The art was unusual, but lovely and some of the movement was great. Sadly this is one of those shows that had no idea what it wanted out of life until halfway through its run. And that’s sad as once it found what it wanted, it had a few good messages on sexuality. Buuuut, of course, we can’t have nice things in anime very much these days so even while we get those good messages we still got smacked in the face with the female characters being sexualized for an obviously male gaze half the time. It’s such as waste of potential as this series’ very setting of dream worlds was a perfect place to show, rather than tell, female and queer sexuality in a tasteful and deep manor. Sadly, that’s just not what we got…

 

yurionice-pngMissed Opportunity #1 – Yuri on Ice

Before you stone me to death, give me some time to explain. This anime was not bad (the top best and worst of the year post is at the end of this week), but it certainly could have been better. And by quite a bit. And it’s something that could have been fixed in the first ten minutes of the very first episode.
I’ll prove it.

What’s the very first scene we see with Yuri? He’s crying in the bathroom, right? While this is an interesting way to start a series, it also leaves a very unfortunate impression of Yuri as a character. Our first interaction with the lead shows him as an immature crybaby. Of course, this doesn’t prove to be true. We later find out that his dog, who had been with him for years and one of his few companions, had died while he was on tour skating. He never got to say goodbye. While it isn’t said right out that this causes Yuri to fall during his first world’s series (and thus end up in a bathroom crying), it’s heavily implied. And who could blame Yuri for being distracted? He lost someone special to him. But he had to keep skating anyway. He had to at least try. And THAT’S the important bit we didn’t get to see. Him going back on the ice, despite his pain and fear. We don’t see that extremely strong side of Yuri. So his failure and crying in those first ten minutes? The vast unfairness and frustration he feels? They feel pretty empty at best. At worst, they paint a very weak image of our lead, an image that doesn’t fit with his strong imitation of Victor’s skate only a few scenes later.
Considering this show is named after Yuri, it would have been far more fitting, and more engaging, to get a bit more of Yuri himself and his true struggles in those first few minutes. It would have given us a clearer image of both his strength and how painful his fall really was.

Of course, as always, the anime industry is a rough one and having the time (and staff) to go over scripts and scenes to make the most of every minute is a tall order. Still… I would have gladly sacrificed a few minutes of Victor’s naked butt to get a better picture of our hero. Though, as per usual, anime does have to think about what sells… and let me tell ya… the butt sells… It really does…

 

Well, anyway… HAPPY HOLIDAYS ALL!! Hope it’s bright and full of wonderful food and amazing anime! See you at the end of the week for the Best and Worst of the year!!!

Digital Fusion TIFF File

 

RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

As this year closes with continuing technical issues (IT is now convinced my issues have to do with a space anomaly and I have no proof to the contrary), I’ve decided to look over this last year of reviews in an attempt to figure something out that’s been bugging me for months.

What the heck am I even looking for in anime anymore?

Last week Frog-kun posted a piece entitled My Tastes Have Changed and it mirrored many of my feelings on anime as of late. While I don’t share his fondness for Code Geass (lordy I gotta do a review, probably a WZ, for that one), I can completely understand how his feelings towards a show in his past are rooted in who he was in the past and thus how he would feel about it today would be wildly different. While I already mentioned my issues with Crystal, eventually I’ll need to tear into the first TV version of Sailor Moon, seeing as there’s no better picture for how my tastes have changed than my views on the first anime I ever watched.

Frog-kun also mentioned how he wasn’t sure what he was after in anime now, and I gotta say I can empathize. As I went over all the reviews I did for 2016, I noticed just how many I felt were mediocre. Or, more commonly, how many I enjoyed fine at the time, but I have no pull at all to see again. And that’s a big defining factor for me. Would I watch it again? It’s how I can tell the deference between a decent show/movie and a good one, at least for me. A great many shows I wouldn’t ever want to see again. Some I even regret having spent my time on at all. And when I was going over all my reviews I realized that these mediocre shows have a few very important things in common. One of the most glaring being lack of unique characterization and/or development. As a writer, I instinctively crave this element and it’s missing in a vast majority of shows I disliked this year. A great many also lacked the ability/desire, to break free of stereotypes, with not only the characters but also the plots and settings being such horribly bland tropes that the shows ended up blurring together. After a full year of reviews, only four shows stood out to me. And in the spirit of focusing on the good rather than the bad to close the year, as prescribed by Artemis’ Glorio blog post, I’m going to look over these four shows one last time before the year turns. Hey, how about we count down to the best of the year just for kicks while we’re at it?

RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

Shirobako#4 – Shirobako

While I had some vague notions of what went into anime production, this anime actually busted open the door for me to see just how hellish of a system it really was. I gotta say I commend the studio for having the guts to visually show how exhausting and demanding the industry is, especially considering how little the creators get in return.
That said, these facts alone weren’t what made this show really interesting to me. What really stuck were the characters. While they didn’t appear at first to be wildly different from many other shows, they had one major element that set them apart out of the gate and it was the one element that kept me watching early on before the flow of the show could hook me: the main characters were all adults struggling in their chosen field. That alone was enough to set this show apart from the vast majority of anime cranking out of Japan. They were adults questioning their life choices, their career paths and their art. These were real issues being addressed and I really connected with that, despite the often over-the-top comedy elements that pushed through here and there.
You also got legit character development, with the main lead progressing from someone who became overwhelmed easily to someone who could handle large groups and projects on her own, taking responsibility for her errors and putting her foot down when necessary to get the job done, a feat she couldn’t have done at the beginning.

swr_keyart#3 – Snow White with the Red Hair

We really don’t get enough healthy relationships in anime, especially not in fantasy settings. Which is what made this show stand out so much in a genre that is flooded with similar titles. The old trope of prince character falling for ordinary-positive girl is so overused it’d be painful to see if I hadn’t already become so numb to such things already. But this show managed to do something very few shows have been able to do: maintain the unique identities of both romantic leads outside of one another. In other words, both characters can be pulled apart and remain interesting and continue to development without the other being there. This right here is a sign of strong writing. While you could still nit-pick a few personality issues (Shirayuki is a very cliche character, the always positive, everyone can’t help but love me because I’m a hard worker type), I found myself really enjoying this show during its air time and even now I wouldn’t mind seeing a few episodes again simply because I’m a real sucker for romances where the leads really are supportive and caring friends first and and lovers second. Very few shows seem to be able to get that right.

my love#2 – My Love Story!

Considering how well the relationships in Snow were (above), I didn’t expect to see anything that good again for quite some time. Which is why this was yet another show that caught me off guard completely this year. In addition to showcasing a very unlikely male lead, this show also blind sided you with a female character who wasn’t the shy and pure stereotype she appears to be early on. I could probably make an entire post of that little tidbit there, but for now I’ll just leave that be. This show also focused on an interesting angle for an anime. Instead of a show where we see hours of pining and whining all lead up to a confession for the grand finale of the series, this show has the love interests together as a couple right away. So we get to see what happens after the confession. We see them go through dates, introducing them to each others’ friends, and navigating difficult family and friend emergencies as a couple. These are topics rarely ever seen in anime and I was pretty overjoyed to watch them play out for once.
Also, the main lead’s relationship with his childhood friend is amazing and doesn’t get pushed aside when or while he grows in his relationship with his girlfriend. In fact, the couple have more than a few discussions on their relationship with Takeo’s friend Makoto and how they should include and support him together. As someone who is often the forgotten single friend in many groups, these elements meant a lot to me. This is definitely one show I wouldn’t mind owning. And I don’t say that for many shows these days.

amanchu#1 – Amanchu!

Speaking of shows I wouldn’t mind shelling out cash for, this anime was a pretty big shock to me this year. You always hear about “sleeper” shows that sneak up on you and let me tell ya, this one is it for me. The first episode really didn’t impress me too much, but thankfully the bar on this show rose quickly after that.
The real kicker for me was the second main lead, Futaba Oki, who suffers from anxiety. It’s rare enough to see characters who accurately portray mental illnesses in anime, but this show took it a step further and focused on Futaba’s growing relationship with her very first real friend. As someone who also has anxiety, I not only heavily identified with all of Futaba’s hangups, but I also deeply felt for her concerning her experience with friendship itself. Very few people understand or even tolerate anxiety laden behavior and thus finding support can be extremely difficult. It took me years until I met the two close friends I have now who have kept me going through some of the roughest patches in my life. Before I met them I was always feeling disconnected from those around me. The so-called “friends” I had would often either ignore or mock me when I would have attacks. When I finally met the friends I have now it was like the entire world had shifted. I could breathe. The feelings of love and gratefulness I have for these close friends are feelings I can never put into words, no matter how many times I try. Seeing those feelings of joy reflected in an anime character was nearly overwhelming, but also liberating.
While I think most people would agree that friendship is important, trust me when I say that having support, real support and love, after forcing yourself to “just deal” with the opposite for so long is one of the most amazing and wonderful things ever. As corny as it sounds, friendship really is magic. And this was a great animated depiction of just that.

h3And that’s it for 2016 folks! This year sure has been a hell hole of a ride and 2017 doesn’t look like it’s going to pull much better. Even so, I was blessed to encounter the above shows this year and I do have high hopes for some of the stuff coming out next year. So come what may, here’s to the anime of 2017 and another year of reviews!

 

Extra: But it was the past so it’s ok…

rideback rinAs a writer, I have personally run into some really nasty arguments by fellow writers and readers trying to defend sexist texts and media. But probably one of the most common excuses is “historical accuracy.” This kind of response is given to defend all kinds of horrible writing, half baked “research”pieces and outright racism and sexism. But when it’s broken down, it’s an excuse that holds less water than a thimble.

As I mentioned briefly in my review of Joker Game, a very sexist comment by a lead character at the very end left a rather bad taste in my mouth. The line was the leader of the spy devision speaking to his subordinate after closing a case: “Do you know why we only hire men? Because women kill even when it isn’t necessary, for foolish reasons like love and hate.”

My issue with the above quote should be very obvious. However, this is where many would gleefully chime in with, “But it was in the past! During WWII and that’s how people viewed women so it’s accurate!”
That is a lazyass excuse for a sexist show.

You see, while there have been toxic opinions about women on and off for hundreds of years, this particular show was written in today’s world. On one side, they had no reason to have any character voice this viewpoint. It was unnecessary. It added nothing to the story besides making the main heroic mastermind a sexist jerk. And on the other end, if they felt they HAD to include a line that is clearly sexist by today’s standards, they should have shown through the female characters of the show that the statement wasn’t true and that the man who said such was blindly wrong (characters can be wrong, including heroic ones and I’m all for that). But that’s not what occurred. Once the line was spoken I mentally went over every female character in the show. There aren’t many. And, sadly, they are all lead completely by emotions. Not a single one puts their personal feelings aside for the sake of their country/mission. The men in the show, on the other hand, are shown to be capable of both. Many are led by emotion, but some do sacrifice all emotion and personal agenda for their country. And there in lies my big issue with this show (besides the fact that they couldn’t keep to one MC).

See, when your media takes place during an era where a group is discriminated against, you need to take care to make it clear that such sentiments are not true. Yes, women have been seen in a bad light by many throughout history and by many today. But it’s not true. Women are just as capable as men as soldiers, spies and formidable enemies not led by impulsive actions. And if this show had made that clear by having such female characters present, we could then write off the old windbag’s quote as his personal opinion and that such an opinion is trash. But by having all the women in the anime live up to such a sexist statement, this show, a modern creation, establishes that the statement is seen as truth as it is all that exists in that world. In other words, it makes this show sexist in nature.

Again, it’s ok to have incorrect viewpoints and assholes in your stories. But just be very clear in your writing, through other characters, world building or confrontations, that such views are incorrect. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing to justify those sexist agendas.

Taste test for Fall 2016

The new streaming season has fully set in! And as such I’ve tried a grand total of ten brand new shows! Not all will make it through the first pass, however…

moroseThe Morose Mononokean 
Story:
Hanae Ashiya makes a rather large error one day when he assists a youkai on the side of the road. An act of kindness it may have been, but it throws him into the world of exorcism.
Flavor:
Bland. This show doesn’t seem to offer anything anime fans haven’t already seen in shows like xxxHolic or Book of Friends. In fact, those shows might have done it better, although it might be too hasty to make such a call this soon. Regardless, the characters in this show aren’t offensive or annoying as of yet, but they don’t have much appeal either. I foresee this one being a very tame and tasteless ride if the first two episodes are anything to go on.
New episodes every Sunday morning

orange2b1Orange
Story:
High schooler Naho receives a letter from herself in the future instructing her to not make more than a few mistakes she will regret later…
Flavor:
Sweet but with an unpleasant aftertaste. I used to be a super shy kid. I used to never talk to anyone. It took years to overcome my mental hangups and sometimes I still struggle with them. The heroine of this anime is what I used to be times ten. She’s not just shy, she’s near crippling with it. Since I used to be this way, it makes it very frustrating to watch as I feel the anxiety levels I used to have returning to me just watching Naho make mistake after mistake. Honestly, she’s just too much like how I used to be and it makes watching this anime really confusing and uncomfortable for me. So while the story and characters aren’t all that bad yet or anything, this might be dropped if it continues to make my skin crawl this badly. It’s nothing against the creators. It’s just a clash with me personally.
New episodes every Sunday morning

sweetnessSweetness & Lightening
Story:
Kohei is a single father of a very energetic little girl who loves food. Unfortunately his own cooking skills aren’t the best. Enter one of his own students, Kotori, who offers to learn how to cook alongside him and his daughter.
Flavor:
Sweet. This show is almost too sugary, but due to the serious background of Kohei’s wife having recently passed away, the sweetness is not only balanced, but very welcome. The show, so far, hasn’t gotten too dark or serious and it fits considering how a preschooler is one of the leads. As someone who has worked with that age group on and off for years, I find this show pretty accurate and actually a pleasant experience overall. So long as no unnecessary drama pops up, this could be a good one.
New episodes every Monday morning

tabooTaboo Tattoo
Story:
When Seigi saves a seemingly homeless man from some street thugs, he gets a strange “tattoo” as a reward. Little does he realize that what is etched onto his hand unlocks incredible, and very dangerous, power.
Flavor:
Sour. And I don’t mean the good sour candy I can eat in one sitting, I mean that off brand stuff from the dollar store that looks sketchy as hell. This show has a very high violence level and more than a few indecent fanservice scenes in only the first two episodes. I have a bad feeling that, although the plot is getting some political intrigue that could shake things up nicely, this show might be either a drop or WZ-ed for the blood and sexual situations. A shame as, while the set up is dull enough, the world showed some promise.
New episodes every Monday morning

amanchuAmanchu!
Story:
Futaba Oki has just moved to a small seaside town and her timid nature makes it hard for her to make friends. Luckily she’s sitting right next to one of the town’s most outgoing girls, who also just so happens to be a scuba nerd.
Flavor:
Home cooked. This show, so far, doesn’t put anything new or strange on the table, but what’s there is cooked well. It’s nothing to rave about, the characters are pretty standard and the plot is mostly shy girl gains a friend, so there’s little going on. That said, it fulfills its goal as a show well and doesn’t seem to be trying to be what it isn’t. This is a slice-of-life that’s perfectly content remaining so.
New episodes every Friday morning

alderaminAlderamin on the Sky
Story:
Iwata Soroku is a lazy genius who hates war. Unfortunately for him, when a princess sneaks onto his ship everything gets far more complicated.
Flavor:
Spiced. This show was actually far better than I expected. At least, thus far. The world is fully built and the politics sound. The personalities are pretty believable as well. The real question will be if character progression will be constant or if it will dissolve into the usual button-masher like storylines common in these kinds of shows (see Arslan for what I mean).
New episodes every Friday morning

QualideaQualidea Code
Story:
When the world is attacked by Unknowns, children are kept in a cold sleep for a time in the future when things become stable. Years later they are awoken to find they now have powers to assist them in keeping their fragile world safe.
Flavor:
Decent, but not the freshest ingredients. While the music is pretty good in this show, as well as the animation, the characters themselves are pretty common stereotypes. In this show’s defense, at least the dialog flows well despite having such a routine cast. Even so, the entire idea is so overdone that this show is going to have a hard time making a name for itself. Especially when it resorts to getting all the girls in bikinis as soon as the second episode. That’s not a good sign for a show.
New episodes every Saturday morning

b-projectB-Project
Story:
Sumisora Tsubasa recently landed a job as a new A&R for a music studio. Her job may prove to be quite the effort as she is managing three different boy bands back-to-back.
Flavor:
Bland. This is a pretty stereotypical shoujo title. So far there’s little unique about this, although the setup makes that rather obvious, honestly. Especially as the heroine knows next to nothing about music. These kind of setups, where the heroine is a well-meaning, but clueless person, are obnoxious because they keep the “heroine” from being, well, a hero character. They’re never “good” at much of anything besides being positive. I find that demeaning. Girls can be super good at things. We can be better at them than guys. Please, anime creators, give me a heroine who is an expert in her field. PLEASE!
Well, yes, anyway, if I get too busy this will end up as a drop, but seeing as it’s just bland and not super offensive, it’ll stick around. For now.
New episodes every Saturday morning

AngeAnge Vierge
Story:
Magic girls good. Aliens bad.
Flavor:
Garbage. This show is so much crap. In addition to the first five minutes having more clichés and stereotypes than some shows have in their entire run, the rest of the episode is spent with the – entirely female – cast being BUTT FREAKIN’ NAKED. If this show doesn’t get tagged correctly (which it probably won’t since it’s on Crunchyroll), I might make a WZ for it just for anyone trying to look it up later. But, yeah, this show is garbage and it has been dropped and I may be a wee bit upset at the fact that this turd got funded and I’m still waiting on the next season of Yona of the Dawn.
Who cares when new episodes show up cause this show is craaaaaap 

hitorinoshitaHitorinoshita – The Outcast
Story:
Something about the dead rising again and people having supernatural abilities.
Flavor:
Slimy. While I can see that someone had some good ideas as to an intriguing story, they used a real mish-mash of ingredients and it makes for a rather gross taste. The story starts out convoluted as names and places are thrown around willy-nilly as if the audience should already know them. The dialog is stiff and awkward, as is the supposed “comic relief,” which just feels forced and out of place. Then there’s the animation. Good lord. At times it seems high quality, but the quality randomly drops to a very messy, incomplete level. I have a feeling time restraints, budget and a bad mix of very different animation studios is the culprit here. In some cases the frames don’t even match up. For example, in one scene the lead looks to one side, but there’s nothing there. A jump later and he’s looking at the opposite side where there’s a dead body. So, in other words, the close up cut made the eyes go the wrong way. Considering how bad just one episode was on all of this, I have no desire to see any more. This show has been soundly dropped.
New episodes every Saturday morning. Though it hardly matters as this is another drop.

So I started out with a solid ten shows and here we are, only one to two episodes in, and only eight shows are left on my list, with far fewer than that getting good marks. Time will tell how long they stick around…
What are y’all watching this season? Run into anything good thus far? What do you think of these shows?

 

The Sordid Case of Sailor Moon Crystal

mooncrystalI have been putting this off for far too long. In my defense, however, there’s nearly no way to go about this without insulting the older generation anime fans. MY generation. However, I feel like I might smash my head through a window if I don’t bleed out this poison.

But first, some ground rules. What this post is NOT:

This is not me griping about how the first TV series was perfect. It wasn’t.

This is not a comparison with the manga or saying one series was more or less faithful to it. This is an anime review blog, not a manga blog. I will not be talking about the manga here.

This is also not me posting about how much I hate Sailor Moon as a whole. I don’t. But I do have standards and I can’t help but analyze everything that crosses my path. A literature major’s curse.

Lastly, I had a third party who was not a Sailor Moon fan watch Crystal with me so I could ensure I wasn’t just making up reasons to dislike this version. I discussed all the points below with him in detail prior to writing this. So I had a pretty impartial soundboard double checking my work.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the meat of this post: Sailor Moon Crystal is a waking nightmare for feminists.

Now, let me explain. Since my post on feminism in FMA, I’ve thankfully had far better experiences with my fellow feminists. Thus I’ve concluded that while some colleges have a terrifying and judgmental feminist community, all one must do is graduate and the problem is solved. Mostly. The thing of it is, academia has a bad habit of either taking things too far or missing the mark entirely (at least in my state such was the case). Thus what is often belted out as “feminist” rarely is, especially in media. And I’m sorry to report that Japan is far from exempt.

You see, back when the first version of Sailor Moon the TV series came out, it was simply a magical girl show. A rather revolutionary one, as it turned out years later, but at the time just one more transforming girl series. It did not profess itself to be feminist and, as a result, had little to live up to. Thus many were surprised by what they got out of the show, which, despite beginning slow and gentle, had some rather dark moments later on that cemented its status for more than a few fans in my generation. It even had a few instances of true empowerment, specifically concerning Usagi (the MC) defeating enemies and reaching a new level of power either on her own or with the aid of her female companions (friendship is magic, everyone), rather than through her male love interest. In fact, I often forgot Tuxedo Mask was even a character when I was a kid. More often than not his scenes could have been cut without changing the outcome of the fight. And I liked that. It was a show, the only show at the time, where all the characters were girls and they saved the world. As a kid I ate it up. And years later I can still respect that, although under analysis the show has some serious age spots here and there (the age gap between the main love interests, for example, is still rather disturbing).

Crystal, on the other hand, wasted no time in declaring itself to be feminist manna (just check out the English translation of the theme song). And thus, I’m sorry to say, this show pretty much set itself up for failure. Especially as more than a few of the positive aspects of the original TV series were changed into negative ones. Let’s tackle the most worrisome points one by one…

Characterization:
As an author, I’ve always struggled somewhat in explaining how to create unique characters to new writers. But one way that seems to work best is to give them this exercise: if you can switch around the characters’ dialog and your reader can’t figure out that there’s been a switch, your characters are not unique enough. Dialog shows, through diction and sentence structure, that character’s personality. So it stands to reason that what Character A said probably wouldn’t be exactly what Character B would say. And even if they both had the same idea, it’s unlikely they would phrase it the same way.

Yet the cast of Crystal were painful textbook examples of background voices trying to fill lead roles. All of Usagi’s friends (and sometimes Usagi herself) could have exchanged lines and no one would have been the wiser. While this is a crime many anime series commit these days, this show struggled with it the most as the characters in question were all leads and often all in the same scenes every episode. It was painfully difficult to keep the characters apart as they all acted nearly the same with very little variance.

All of this, in turn, impacted the relationships between these leads and the MC. For a show that advertises itself to be about love and friendship, let me tell ya: I probably have a more dynamic relationship with my reflection in the mirror than any of these characters have on screen. With such bland, limp personalities, each one unnervingly close to the next, there’s little real conflict and far less growth. Without these things, there’s little to make me concerned for their well being in a fight, making the battles that much more tasteless (which the poor animation was doing a good job at killing all by itself).

For a “girl power” show, they have one giant strike against them for painting all women with the same exact voice.

Empowerment:
Here’s where the bulk of my bold dislike for this show comes from. In a show where the entire main cast is female, and nearly all the female leads have powers, one would think the point of said show would be for said women to be independent. For their good deeds and accomplishments to be their own.

Sadly, that is not the case in Crystal. Instead, Tuxedo Mask, the only steady male lead, not only saves the day on more than one occasion, but is also the main driving force for the MC’s motivation and “growth” as a hero. She often focuses her desires and goals onto this male love interest and when push-comes-to-shove in battle, he’s the one she leans on.

Now, considering he becomes her boyfriend (and will marry her in the future), that in itself isn’t tooooo bad. What makes this toxic is the fact that she has an entire cast of female friends. All of whom are often completely forgotten in light of her “love” for the male lead. Not only that, but when more power to defeat the enemy is needed, that power also comes -not from her many friends!- but solely from this male character. In other words, she is dependent upon him to win. The fact that her “power ups” (when her abilities as a superhero grow to the next stage) are always direct results of her love for this male character and often have nothing at all to do with her friends, just makes things all the worse.

For a bit of perspective on how bad this dependency became over time, leading up to the conclusion of season one, my friend completely forgot, more than once, about Usagi’s friends. And I must admit that I faired little better on that end. After all, they didn’t impact the MC’s story all that much, so why remember them? The fact that they had no strong presence made it all the worse…

Sexualisation:
Although plot-wise this wasn’t as big of a concern, there’s no good way to ignore how bad this issue was throughout. While the Sailor Moon franchise has always towed a fine line by having fourteen year old girls fetishized (an issue that deserves its own post), Crystal took it one huge step further when Chibi Usagi came into the picture. Besides the strange and disturbing plot elements that kept throwing her and her own father together in couple-like situations, Chibi Usagi was also, on more than one occasion, shown in a sexual manner. In one scene specifically she was shown in a white t-shirt that was see-through. And she had some very detailed curves. Considering that I occasionally work with children that are around this character’s age myself, this scene made me feel ill. My male friend was by no means comfortable with this either. In fact, he was enraged. While anime at large is a constant offender at fetishizing the female form, occasionally bringing children in on it, the fact that Crystal, a show professing to be feminist, stooped so low is disgusting.

No show, no matter the hype or nostalgia, has a free pass to stylize elementary school kids as sex objects. And, in the end, it was this point which tipped this show into the discard pile for me, leading me to stop watching at episode 26, a decision I’ve yet to regret.

And while I, to this day, watch and review shows that could be called worse than this one (stay tuned for my Monday review of Wolf Girl for more on that), the fact that this show tried to market itself as “feminist” and “girl power” while containing the opposite was -clearly!- not ok with me.

All that said, at the end of the day, it’s always your choice what to watch and what to like. This post is not a judgment against anyone who loves this show, a point I want to make very clear.
This was simply my own opinion on this show. The Devil’s advocate, if you will.

Although…. considering that last section up there… I wonder if it’s truly the “Devil’s” side I’m on…..