Friday’s Feature: What Genre Is That?

As kids, when we first start watching anime, we kind of get the impression it is all giant robots and lots and lots of fighting (or magical girls, which are much the same except that they’ll hit you with sparkly hearts instead of a sword and the results will be more or less identical). For me, growing up with Sailor Moon and the like, that is what anime was and while it was cool and all, I probably wouldn’t have become the obsessed anime fan I am today except that there is so much more to anime than that.

As the internet actually became functional for watching videos (believe me if you didn’t grow up being introduced to dial up where waiting for even a single page of text to load was torture you have no idea how painful it was to try to watch or access anything else and even after dial up was a thing of the past slow internet speeds continued to be a major problem for access in Australia) there came the realisation that there were all these other types of anime out there. Suddenly, anime wasn’t just the beat ’em up amusement for when you felt like turning your brain off but was something that could be explored and where stories of all sorts could be found.

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Genre list from AnimeLab.

And that’s where this feature actually gets started because realising that anime wasn’t just about kids beating monsters meant that you then had to say more than just watching anime. You were watching a shounen or a mecha or a romance or a myriad of other types of anime. And then you get those series that you just can’t explain what genre they are at all.

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Let’s look at Angel Beats. I love this anime even if it makes me cry every single time I watch it; even if it is deliberately contrived to pull on your heart strings. So it’s a drama then? Not really. Certainly there are dramatic elements and the conclusion of the series would have you believe it is a drama or a romance but the show itself deals out healthy doses of comedy, action, slice of life, and fantasy. To simply call it a drama would not really get the point across at all and anyone who started watching it expecting a drama would probably hate it by episode 2 because the first two episodes deal very much with the comedy and fantasy elements of the show.

Now mixed genres are certainly not exclusive to anime stories. Many movies and books cross several genres particularly romances. The number of hybrid genres that have become mainstream such as romantic-comedy, historical-romance, and supernatural-romance are clear indicators that while romance is indeed a big genre people tend to prefer their romance paired with something else these days. It helps keep things interesting and moving.

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If we were to look at a show like Full Metal Alchemist defining genre becomes really difficult. MAL lists it as an action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, magic, military, shounen. And yes, all of those genre elements are there. But what genre is Full Metal Alchemist? If we were going to file it somewhere under a genre title which one would we choose? I’d probably go with adventure given the whole thing follows the journey of the main characters but you could legitimately choose any of the other genres listed there and justify why FMA should be there.

So the question becomes, does genre matter? Why classify things if they are going to cross between genres and incorporate other elements?

From my point of view I think it is because regardless of the window dressing, stories tend to follow set patterns and that pattern is embedded within a genre. That is why Angel Beats ultimately is a drama and Full Metal Alchemist ultimately is an adventure story at least from my point of view and I fully accept that other people will classify them differently. Despite the comedy and all the other elements that come in to create subplots, excitement, or just fill time, these stories when broken down follow patterns that we are very familiar with. It is this adherence to basic story patterns that makes something mixed genre rather than just a mess of ideas that may or may not come together into something comprehensible.

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One thing I’m fairly certain of is that we’re going to see more and more stories (anime or otherwise) that will push the boundary of the genre they are in and draw on elements of other genres. Whether they do this well will remain to be seen.

What are your thoughts on genre in anime?


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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 7

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Here we are at Day 7 and we are looking at my favourite animation studio. Given I’ve done two top 5 lists on specific studios it is probably pretty clear who I’m going to pick. Definitely Studio Bones. If you missed my top 5 fun series from Bones you should definitely check out that post.

But why do I like them so much?

Mostly I’m fairly indifferent to the studio that produced something (or at least I used to be), however I noticed that there are certain studios that come up over and over again when I look at some of my favourite titles. Bones just happens to have produced a large number of my absolute favourite anime ever. As a direct result, if someone tells me Bones is involved in something, I’ll at least give it a look. That isn’t a guarantee I’ll like it. There are definitely titles from Bones that have fallen kind of flat for me.

But with titles like Darker Than Black, Soul Eater, Wolf’s Rain, Snow White with the Red Hair, My Hero Academia, Ouran High School Host Club, Noragami, and so many others, Bones was an easy choice for this question.

Which studio would you have chosen?


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Brave 10 Episode 4

Review:

We start this episode with random new character who is clearly after whatever the widget is at the shrine (and based on previous anime I was guessing he was going to turn out to be Masamune and that’s confirmed by the end of the episode).

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We don’t spend a lot of time with him because you know, he’s kind of stuck in transit, and meanwhile we have a Priestess to mourn over the loss of the shrine, a slider puzzle to solve, another confrontation with a previous villain, and then the return of the wind guy who for some reason has now changed sides.

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In the previous episodes there have certainly been a number of innuendoes (and some just outright obvious sexual references) but this episode took it up a notch with the snake lady straddling the prude followed by the wind guy’s obvious fascination with Saizo (pretty much any character that refers to another as a toy isn’t exactly being subtle). While I’m not finding it intrusive, I’m thinking there’s a few people that might not be thrilled with some of the dialogue.

Brave 10 is available on Crunchyroll.


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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 6

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Day 6 is tricky because I actually don’t have a favourite ending theme song. I am going to pick an anime that I really liked what they did with the ending theme and that is Inu x Boku SS. Each episode had an ending theme that featured a different character and some of these songs were quite entertaining and they all revealed or consolidated points about the character.

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Of these my favourite would have to go to Karuta’s Sweets Parade. It isn’t the most insightful song but it just highlights her absolute love of eating and it was kind of fun to listen to. Plus the pastel visuals were a nice contrast to the usual colour scheme the show delivered.

Over to you. What is your favourite ending theme?


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KADO Episode 11

Review:

After episodes 9 and 10, I was starting to really worry about where this show was going for a conclusion. I’m still not 100% sold that this is going to end well, but episode 11 definitely made me hopeful that I should have high expectations.

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Part of what helped was Shindo’s approach in this episode. He is still very much thinking through his options, considering the other party, considering what resources he has at his disposal, and generally doing his job and being quite competent. I really worried that with the introduction of Tsukai that humans would get sidelined during some final smack down that would not fit the tone or nature of the show. Admittedly, zaShunina and Tsukai did have a fight, but its done and Tsukai’s already lost. She’s taking a definite support role (or rather an advisory role) as Shindo puts his plans together.

The other part that made this episode far more promising than the previous two was that we started to put things together from much earlier in the series. Shindo goes back to the metal company he helped in episode 0 for assistance and also calls on crazy science girl for a new device. His plan is simple: surprise zaShinina. While most of those helping him think he is making a weapon, Shindo sees it very differently.

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That said, I kind of thought of a much easier way to deal with zaShunina. He wants to take a human; I’m pretty sure we found a volunteer.

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But that wouldn’t work if he wants to take all people or whatever and they’ve never really clarified given it seemed earlier that zaShunina would have been happy just taking Shindo.

On that note, favourite part of the episode was the ongoing development of emotions for zaShunina. Apparently even he realises that clone Shindo isn’t really Shindo. He never seems overly happy or satisfied when talking to Shindo and his treatment of the clones this episode just kind of makes it clear that zaShunina doesn’t see them as anything but cheap knock-offs.

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I’m really looking forward to how this story will end. It may not end up being brilliant, but I know this anime has really been great fun to follow this season and I’ve loved thinking it through each week and waiting for the next episode.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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Haikyuu Episode 50

Review Episode 50:

Haikyuu has this issue with season endings. Season 1 ended on a low note for the team and a point that would have driven me crazy if season 2 wasn’t sitting ready to go. Season 2 has ended on a high note for the team but we didn’t get to the end of the tournament and the last episode was called ‘Declaration of War’. You can’t declare war and then end the season. Okay, apparently you can but it isn’t nice for the audience.

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Anyway, other than that, this was a good transition episode as we wrapped up the match with Aoba, saw the fallout, the celebration, the pep talks and the resolve and we walked in for the next match with the guy everyone seems to think is all that but mostly I just think he’s a jerk. I’ll do a full review of season 2 directly and then get to season 3, only I have to change from watching on AnimeLab to Crunchyroll because AnimeLab does not have the third season. Little bit sad about that because the streaming works much better for me on AnimeLab.


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30 Day Anime Challenge: Day 5

30-day-anime-challenge

Right, day 5: Favourite anime opening theme song. I’m going to cheat and give two answers to this. Mostly because there’s the opening theme I’ve been in love with for a fairly long time and then there is a more recent one which I really love but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it in a few years time (it could just be the novelty factor working in its favour but I doubt it).

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Long time favourite anime opening is My Soul, Your Beats from Angel Beats. This is a truly beautiful opening and I love the visuals that go with it. Okay, I just love Angel Beats, but I was hooked from the very first few notes on the piano when this song started and every time I hear it I just get completely swept away. If you haven’t heard the song you should go check it out because it is amazing.

The more recent love comes in the form of History Maker from Yuri on Ice. This opening as I mentioned while the show was airing really just got me excited for the show and swept me up in its emotions. I like that it is a little bit different in style to a lot of anime openings, it is catchy and gets stuck in your head like crazy (just mentioning History Maker can get it going again), and visually it was really interesting. Plus, the changes to the visuals as the series progressed were kind of fun to track.

Your choice now. What is your favourite opening?


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Attack on Titan Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Continuing on from season 1 after the fight with Annie, the scouts are trying to investigate when reports of titans inside the walls come in. Then we spend a lot of time running around and screaming. It is attack on titan afterall. I reviewed individual episodes of this while it was airing so if you are interested in my thoughts on the episodes click here.

Review:

This season was very much like season one for me in that I really loved the first half and let myself get swept away with it, and then in the second half the nagging feeling that this show can’t remember that it is actually supposed to have a plot started kicking in. The difference being that season one started with that incredible titan attack sequence that just blew me away and sucked me straight into the story whereas season two’s first episode, while it had its own charm, just isn’t going to stack up. The other major difference being with half as many episodes, things derailed a bit faster this time round then last time.

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Before I get into the positives, of which there are many given despite my complaints I’m still watching this show and still actually hopeful season 3 will come out next year as announced, I am going to go through my major issues with this season.

The first is the pacing and the way plot points are introduced and dealt with. Attack on Titan does not have good pacing. It didn’t in season 1 and it hasn’t fixed the issue in season 2. The Beast Titan makes an appearance early on, we get one other appearance and then he vanishes until the tease right at the end of the series. Delaying information is a fine tactic for building suspense when done right. Something like ACCA did it very well. But in this instance we don’t have any clues or ideas and there’s no reminders of this particular plot point. It just kind of appears and then goes and nobody even seems to mention it thereafter. Much like the titans in the walls who seem important only no one seems to be in much of a rush to deal with that issue. Or what happened to Annie? Or the key from last season? And when did Eren actually become the hope for humanity? Stuff happens or is said but nothing is built on.

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Another problem, the first half of this season deals almost entirely with the side cast as each seems to get an episode focus and then once they are reunited the focus shifts entirely onto Eren and Reiner. And while some of these episodes are very good (more on that when I get to the positives), there isn’t really a lot of cohesion between these stories and when we eventually slam all these characters together only a few actually survive all these plots being crammed together to have any further relevance. It kind of feels like most of those episodes exist only so you stop calling Sasha ‘potato girl’ and can actually distinguish characters from the support cast if you have never read the manga.

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Honestly, the show really only knows how to deal with one thing at a time. There’s never any subtlety in the presentation and as a direct result when we are investigating the titans in the wall, that’s all we’re doing. When we are learning about Ymir’s back story, that’s all we’re doing. While some shows might get away with that, Attack on Titan has created the problem of far too many ideas, and if it is only dealing with one at a time that means it has shelved everything else and the audience is just left waiting. I think Eren’s basement got mentioned once in this second season. Season 1 it seemed like a big deal but apparently it isn’t a big enough deal that we actually need to mention it or even seem to remember it. More importantly, once the action starts, all of the ideas kind of get tossed and instead we just get to see this show be cool action.

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Of course my final major issue is our supposed protagonist, Eren. He says it himself that he hasn’t changed at all and while he might have said that in the midst of understandable depression and desperation, it really rang far too true. He hasn’t changed. He’s the same angry little kid shouting at the world and just kind of demanding that it fix itself in a way that benefits him. While he has had some development over the two seasons, he’s still just plain unlikable. The fact that the other scouts seems to realise he is the single most irritating person in the world doesn’t help. It isn’t exactly surprising that his return to the main group at mid-season marked the down-turn in my enjoyment of the show.

So now that it sounds like I hate the show, I’m going to turn this around and tell you why you should probably watch this season anyway (if you haven’t already).

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For all its faults with story and character, Attack on Titan gets one thing right every single time. It gets into the audience’s head and it moves the audience. Whether it is the visual spectacle and tragedy of Mike getting torn apart at the start of the season, the horrified expressions on the young scouts faces as they realise that the older scouts (the only ones with weapons) have finally lost and are being eaten alive by titans, Reiner’s casual but show stopping declaration that he was the armoured titan, of the final episode of this season where they mirrored the death of Eren’s mother right in front of him yet again, this show manages to make you sit up and take notice. It might be shock, it might be sadness, it might be anger, but while watching you feel these emotions surging through you and these images and the sounds stick in your head after the episodes are done. Plus, the titan tossingmoment in the final battle was kind of fantastic. This season is worth watching just for the touching Eren/Mikasa moment in the final episode. As much as I dislike both of those characters, that was one excellently handled emotional point.

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Part of this is due to the artwork. The world, the titans, and the characters while not beautiful (not the right descriptor) are perfectly suited to the story they are telling. There’s an enormous focus on character reactions to the horror surrounding them and this is told largely through their eyes and they are impressively expressive. The titans this season no longer had the surprise factor that season one gave them, but they still managed to make them suitably creepy and devastating. Even the smaller titans were made incredibly terrifying, particularly when Sasha was facing off with one without and gear. There’s a few moments where the animation might be off, but this show is still incredibly impressive from a visual point of view.

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The music also remains on point. It took nearly half the season before the theme song grew on me but it certainly did and while I still don’t understand the point of some of the visuals in that opening, I actually began looking forward to it as it framed the episode nicely. However, it is the music and sound-effects throughout the episodes that will really just drag you in. They aren’t intrusive but rather add to an immersive viewing experience. The show also makes fairly affective use of silence in the final episode which was a pretty excellent choice.

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So pretty much if you are going to sit a pick faults with the storyline, you will most definitely find them. If you want to pull characters apart and look at whether they seem like real people or have real motivations or any kind of normal reaction to situations, you will probably find it fairly easy to fault this season. If you think too hard about all the story threads that seem to get pulled into the spot light for a brief moment and then tossed aside, you will absolutely be disappointed. However, if you strap in and just watch, you will probably get swept away by the grandeur of the moment and watch some pretty cool fights and some really tragic deaths.

My review of season 1 finished like this:

It’s beautiful, fast paced, and dramatic and when it is at its best it truly shines and those moments will carry you over the slower bits. If we actually get a continuation that matches the feel and quality of season 1 then this could be a very memorable anime. Otherwise I think it is one of those ones that had its moment in the sun but without finishing won’t have staying power.

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My thoughts have changed a little as season 2 was far better during the first half when it did finally focus on some of the more interesting characters. However, it still suffers from a lack of ending and without knowing where all these conspiracies and plot threads are going there’s little other than a wait and see mind set when thinking about how I feel overall about this show.

That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on season 2 if you’ve finished watching it. I know some of the bloggers out there loved this season a lot more than I did but some have been more critical please feel free to share your stance now that it has concluded.


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Brave 10 Episode 3

Review:

Isanami (the Priestess) and Saizo (the ninja), accompanied by Kakei (another ninja) are now returning to where the Priestess ran away from because apparently the bad guys were searching for something there but probably didn’t find it. To me that would indicate it isn’t there, but hey, I don’t get ninja logic so let’s trek back across teh country to the burned down temple and see what trouble we can get into.

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There’s still no real reason for the Priestess’ attachment to the ninja, but he’s starting to warm up to her even if he does not want to admit it.

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Yeah, the Priestess is still pretty much just playing damsel in distress, when she is playing sheltered girl who doesn’t get outside world, or overly happy and sweet character who trusts everyone including inciting the incident in the episode today by insisting that Saizo help an injured ‘woman’.

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Cool fight sequence and a couple of buckets of blood later the episode ends and the journey resumes. This show is kind of fun to watch but only if you don’t think too much about it.

Brave 10 is available on Crunchyroll.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: My Hero Academia Tournament Matches

So as I said last week, this post topic was suggested to me by Kendra Ressler as one of my patrons and I’m going to thank her for the very awesome topic to write about. If you’ve been following season 2 of My Hero Academia, you already know it has been running a tournament between its year 1 students as part of their sports festival and this has led to some incredible character match ups and intense fights. I’m going to say this is my absolute favourite tournament arc ever given I usually find them pretty dull. There is no possible way to describe the events in this tournament as dull.

Anyway, I’d love to know which were your favourite matches on the tournament so please leave your comments below.

Please Note – There will be My Hero Academia season 2 spoilers below so if you haven’t started watching it you may want to pass.

Honourable mentions this week:

  • Shiozaki vs Kaminari
  • Mina vs Aoyama
  • Yaoyorozu vs Tokoyami
  • Tetsutetsu vs Kirishima
  • Iida vs Shiozaki
  • Ashido vs Tokoyami
  • Kirishima vs Bakugo
  • Iida vs Todoroki
  • Bakugo vs Tokoyami
  • Any of the fights I may have forgotten.

Number 5: Mei vs Iida

 

If you read my episode review featuring this match, you will know I found this whole sequence pretty hysterical. Essentially Mei tricks Iida into helping her sell her support devices. Runs him around in circles while pointing out the various features and once she’s finished her sales pitch she calmly steps out of bounds. While I’m not a major fan of comedy, this was really well handled and is one of the more unique fights in this tournament.

Number 4: Midoriya vs Shino

 

This first fight of the tournament between Midoriya and the seemingly weaker general course student was intense, or at least as in tense as a fight can be where one character simply asks the other to step out of bounds and then waits for it to happen. Shino probably should have specified speed on that one. Despite that, this fight was excellent at making the point clear that just because you aren’t in the hero course does not mean that your quirk is useless or that you can’t be a hero. If Midoriya’s quirk had been anything else and he hadn’t been the protagonist, Shino would have won this particular fight.

Number 3: Izuku vs Todoroki

 

For a fight as amazing as this one to be number 3 just kind of goes to show what it was up against. Seriously, my post of this episode was incredibly hard to write because I was just kind of blown away by how intense things got. Keep in mind though, we’ve got broken bones a plenty in this episode, not to mention a near double wipe out explosion. Todoroki seriously let loose at the end there. Absolutely amazing to watch.

Number 2: Uraraka vs Bakugo

 

When Kendra first suggested this list I thought for sure this fight would be number 1. However, like my top females in shonen list, it appears that Uraraka is always destined to be number 2. That shouldn’t deceive you though. This is a fight you need to watch and rewatch and then watch it again. Going in to this match up I felt for sure Uraraka would make a brave showing and then be swept under the rug but instead she really brought the fight to Bakugo. What was even better is that by the end of the fight he respected her for her strength. Also, this episode brings up a lot of the issues with the world and format of the school so you can deconstruct that as well, or you can just enjoy a seriously amazing fight.

Number 1: Bakugo vs Todoroki

 

It might be a bit obvious to pick the final as my number 1 choice, but really, this was an absolutely amazing match up and one that deserves respect. Without stretching out the time, inserting random flashbacks to rapidly build a reason for the audience to care about the characters, unnecessary lengthy dialogue about motive or tactics, Bones delivered one fantastic fight sequence and they did it in less than ten minutes of screen time. This was a truly awesome clash between two characters that in season one were well and truly overshadowed by Midoriya but have now been given a bit of free reign to shine.

Alright, over to you. Which was your favourite match and why? Once again, thanks to Kendra for suggesting the list.


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