Feature: On Bad Romance in Anime

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Last week I looked at some of the common elements of anime romances from the positive point of view. This post I want to look at some of the more problematic aspects of anime romance that seem to crop up again and again from personalities to full on stalking and imprisonment. Yep, these are definitely the marks of a bad romance. As always I’d love to hear your point of view in the comments below.

What features commonly appear in bad romance?

01. The guy doesn’t just come off as being a bit of a jerk, he is actually a jerk. Maybe there’s a reason for his damaged and warped personality but what he does is emotionally destructive to his love interest. Yet somehow, we’re supposed to be convinced that the girl will put up with this and should actually pursue this character despite the emotional trauma she’s dealing with, and that this is romantic.

While I know that there are many, many people trapped in emotionally abusive relationships it would be nice if so many romance stories didn’t glorify this. For a non-anime example we could most definitely point straight at Twilight. Edward is a controlling bully and his leaving Bella caused her to become nearly catatonic. This is not healthy. However, let’s go back anime and look at Wolf Girl and Black Prince. Whatever redeeming qualities Kyoya Sata may have or may develop later in the series he is a bully and the argument that Erika got herself into the mess with her lying doesn’t make it any better.

Of course there are plenty of other candidates out there for girls putting up with guys who manipulate them. Then again, we could easily turn that around and look at some of the truly horrendous girlfriends anime has given us over time.

02. Following on from number 1, we have the guy who wants a more physical relationship than the girl and is willing to push for it even when she clearly isn’t comfortable. While in comedies the guy in question will usually get slapped and dropped to the floor or beaten with a broom (hilarious, really) in serious romances what usually happens is the girl allows herself to be convinced. Generally speaking I avoid anime that goes down this road.

One I did watch was Say I Love You. While it isn’t too far over the line, Say I Love You definitely hovers on that borderline during the earlier episodes before the relationship starts to balance out a bit. For the most part Yamato is a generally nice guy (with a couple of rough edges) who helps Mei out and seems to like her but he is definitely more experienced in relationship and at times he is clearly pushing for more than she is willing to give.

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Though mostly this is nothing compared to what happens to some guys in a lot of BL so maybe we should just be thankful for that and move on to the next point.

03. Anime romances tend to normalise stalkerish behaviour. Secret photo taking, finding out someone’s entire schedule, likes and dislikes of food, their home address and phone number, it seems nothing is off the table for some determined would-be partners in romantic anime. It would be an adorable display of affection if not for the creepy real world consequences of actual stalking.

However this particular behaviour has been normalised to the point where it is now parodied in comedies and played for laughs. Momokuri last year with Kurihara took this to extremes and while in the show it was played cute and for laughs with Kurihara having no ill intentions, one has to wonder what would happen if Momotsuki had ever tried to break up with her.

Of course, we see the far darker side of this behaviour in Mirai Nikki through the notorious Yuno Gasai who will genuinely do anything to keep Amano ‘safe’ including tying him to a chair and holding him in captivity.

This is probably my least favourite trope in anime romances.

04. The characters know nothing about each other but declare they are in love. How many times do we see the scene where the girl confesses to the guy having never actually spoken to him before? Why are you in love with someone you don’t know? There are so many assumptions being made here and it really makes me wonder how they expect a relationship to last when they can’t even speak to the guy properly.

Of course, there are just as many male characters confessing to girls they’ve only ever admired from afar so this isn’t exclusively a problem of the heroine of the story. I love it when they follow this up with an internal monologue that says they’ve always been watching that person. Yeah, because that will tell you everything about them, or you are journeying into the stalker territory from number 3.

05. The girl starts changing herself entirely based on the guy’s preference. She asks his opinion on everything and ceases to actually make any decisions on her own. It is like being in a relationship was akin to lobotomising the character and suddenly their brain has stopped functioning independently.

I know this one isn’t fair but a character who pretty much has no identity outside of her relationship is Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess. Realistically, what little we see of her before Keiichi makes his wish doesn’t really reveal much of a personality to start with (other than sweet) and then she’s bound by his wish for most of the rest of the show. In this instance it kind of works but I still find these sorts of characters frustrating.

Belldandy - you are sweet but this is a bad romance.

That’s it from me on bad romance trends but feel free to suggest your own or provide more examples of the ones above.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Am I Being Too Judgemental Or Is My Hero Academia Season Four Just Not Good?

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The answer here is that there’s probably a bit of both going on. I am being incredibly judgemental of My Hero Academia Season Four and that’s because it gave us two phenomenal seasons (season one and season two) and a third season that had an emotional peak that deserves to be remembered and season four just hasn’t stood up to the predecessors.

However, given the high quality of some of those early seasons, is season four actually a pretty alright show that is just being judged harshly? Given I’m still watching Darwin’s Game, would I argue that My Hero Academia Season Four is actually worse? I decided to step back a bit and take a more objective look at the situation and why I’m finding season four so hard to feel interested in.

What is it about My Hero Academia Season Four?

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Note: I will only be discussing anime in this article. I have not and probably won’t be reading any of the manga for these anime.

The Problem With Long Running Shounen

I’ve previously made it clear that the only long running shounen I’ve ever really gotten into was Bleach. I love Bleach. Partly that was because it was one of the earlier anime I watched as an adult and the thrill of being able to find the next part of an episode on YouTube with English subs that made sense was always pretty great.

I also started watching it once it was well on its way so was able to binge most of the earlier seasons though did have to skip parts of some episodes just to not being able to find them. The whole ten minute maximum video length on YouTube at the time was not particularly friendly to anime episodes that were 23 – 24 minutes in length and so various people cut the episodes at various points and fan subbed them in a variety of languages.

Bleach also exemplifies a lot of the problems with long running shounen. The first three seasons are fantastic and have a wonderful character arc for the protagonist as he goes from ‘average guy who can see ghosts’ to the guy who fights his way through Soul Society to save the shinigami who gave him her power from being executed.

It’s nicely done, though even those three seasons have an excess of characters, long running fights, and padding in the form of cuts to Ichigo’s sisters and other side characters that break up the flow of the main narrative.

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From the end of season three on, the filler becomes the main story at times meaning there are entire seasons that can be skipped because they actually add nothing to the overall narrative and the fights become more overblown and prolonged, the character count keeps escalating, and ultimately you aren’t really sure why any of the characters have any stake in the matter other than bad things happen and good guys get to work beating the villain who caused them.

Keep in mind, I really like Bleach. I own the box sets of the DVD’s and regularly binge whole seasons of the show over a weekend just to relax. That doesn’t mean I’m blind to its flaws, just that for me it was the first of its ‘type’ that I watched and so it holds a special place for me.

The other big shounen titles have largely been misses for me. I never finished season one of Naruto. One Piece barely got a few episodes before I just kind of shrugged. I have watched segments of Dragon Ball but I’ve never been a fan. It’s watchable and if someone else wants to watch it I’ll join in.

Somewhat ‘shorter’ stories like Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood and Soul Eater fare a great deal better as they tend to demonstrate the characteristics of that first arc of Bleach. They tell a story, bring their characters to a nice resting point and then let things come to a close. We know there’s more to their stories but they don’t just stretch on and on adding further complication upon complication just to try to engage an increasingly jaded audience.

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Hunter x Hunter is perhaps the one other long running shounen series that I’ve made significant headway through. After repeated recommendations I started watching it and for a time was reviewing episodes two at a time when I found the time, but it’s now been twelve months since I watched my last episode of it (that sounded almost like it belonged in an AA meeting).

I haven’t finished it, though I’m close-ish. I actually enjoyed various bits of the story, but again, it started to feel like it had said everything it had to say and now we were just going through the motions.

So let’s bring this back to My Hero Academia.


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My Hero Academia’s Diminishing Returns

Back when season one of My Hero Academia was airing, I originally didn’t start watching with everyone else at episode one. It was another shounen title and I was already aware they weren’t my favourite kind of show. Worse, it focused on super heroes and with the plethora of Hollywood movies even back then coming out on the topic (not to mention the various TV series) I was just kind of over it. The rave reviews of those first few episodes though made me want to give it a try at around the episode five mark and so I binged all the available episodes and was hooked.

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What worked in My Hero Academia was that it was a beautifully animated show with a central character who exemplified the underdog trope while still holding onto that can-do shounen spirit and, as the story progressed, it seemed to have a lot to say about how we define and view heroic acts and those who commit them.

Outside of the story being very generic in that we have a bunch of would-be super-heroes attending a training school and the main character starting powerless but telling us he’s going to become the strongest, there was almost nothing to complain about in that first season. The pace didn’t go too fast but nor did it dwell on things too long. It all just flowed in a nice looking, easily digestible package. However, it was the tone and feel of the anime that made it stand out. From the beginning, I’ve always loved My Hero Academia’s energy.

With season two dipping into a sports tournament arc, my heart initially sank. Foolish really given that group of episodes ended up being amongst the strongest that My Hero Academia would deliver over all four of the seasons that have currently aired. Character growth was logical and well delivered during this sequence and so many of the characters we’d grown attached to in the first season had a moment to shine.

Also, All Might and Midoriya’s relationship also further developed as Midoriya moved less from being a fanboy to actually being a protege. They took the opportunity to identify again some of the problems with both the school and the society and then they built on that with the arrival of the best antagonist the series had ever produced (and that remains true even now) with Stain making the scene with his interesting philosophy on the heroes of society.

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Unfortunately, season three ended up being a mixed bag of ideas as the League of Villains rose up and the various characters continued their various journeys to get stronger and get their provisional hero’s licence. The mid-season peak, where All Might gave his everything in one final fight, was perhaps the best moment My Hero Academia has ever produced, but it was surrounded by a season that couldn’t meet the standards of what had come before it.

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And now we have season four. A season that manga readers kept insisting was going to get better, that we’d get to the awesome, it was just around the corner. Now that the whole fight with Chisaki has fairly generically drawn to a close without really raising an emotional response the chatter has switched to saying that what is coming next in the story will be amazing. Yet, My Hero Academia, as it stands, is perhaps at its lowest point in terms of being entertaining, well animated or well paced.

You Can’t Expect Gold Every Time

Taking a step back, My Hero Academia season four isn’t actually bad. It’s just in that weird mid-phase that a lot of long running shows go through. That peak with All Might passing the torch to Midoriya was right up there with Ichigo finally rescuing Rukia, and it is taking the show some time to set up the next big stage.

When I’m not annoyed at the anime for feeling dull, I can see that The League of Villains is continuing to work away at things, that the society is changing in how it views heroes and the occupation of being a hero, and how Midoriya is trying to grow strategically instead of just frantically running to catch up. All of these developments (and dozens of others) continue throughout season four and very likely will lead to something amazing further down the track.

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But right now, having watched 17 episodes of reasonably unimpressive fight sequences and character moments that don’t really go anywhere just yet, I’m feeling fatigued. A binge watch of this story would definitely have been better as it wouldn’t have prolonged this phase of the story over months of viewing but rather have been watched and done.

However even then, the fight between Midoriya and Chisaki didn’t have the emotional stakes of any of the previous fights so can’t be the stand out moment that previous fights have produced and that leaves season four so far without any real climatic moment for the audience to remember and just think: “Awesome!”

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When we get more critical and start thinking about the visuals of season four and the lack of screen time for so many fan favourite characters, the cracks in this franchise become more pronounced. Again, this isn’t a My Hero Academia exclusive problem. Long running shounen stories crowd in characters but they can’t all be involved in every conflict so there are large spaces of time where they get sidelined. It just feels here like that was to the detriment of the tone of the story. That energy I mentioned before.

I could also mention something about the treatment of female heroes but to be honest that deserves a whole post all on its own and I’m definitely going to get to it at some point.

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Curious though as to whether it was just me being contrary or whether my feeling that My Hero Academia had already peaked and the latest offering was somewhat sub-par I naturally turned to Twitter (you know because Twitter gives you great insight into things without any knee-jerk reactions). Over two days 147 people votes in the poll and while ‘Still Fun’ won out, the vote was a lot closer than I’d initially expected. Ultimately only 54% of respondents thought it was awesome or still fun while the remaining 46% said it was only watchable or they were losing/had lost interest.

Imagine if I’d asked that same question about season 2 or 3. I’m thinking we’d have had at least 75% of respondents being awesome or still fun and far less in the lost interest category.

So is this just a lull or has My Hero Academia had its day?

Honestly, I feel like while the story still has a ways to go, my interest in it has gone. All Might passing the torch is that significant plot moment that allows the story to rest and I would have been satisfied with that as an ending. In fact, let’s change it up a bit. Let’s have All Might point saying its your turn but let’s leave Midoriya in the scene. All Might publicly passing the torch to the still green but hard working Midoriya. While he’ll need protection and mentoring from other heroes for a time, he can continue to grow into his power and eventually take the place of All might. The end.

My Hero Academia Season 4

That there are heaps of other characters still unresolved and that there are plenty of complications that can come up and be explored is not disputed. However, if the story isn’t going to be fun while exploring them, wouldn’t it be better to let it all draw to a close and end on a high note?

But I’m aware I am biased. I felt Buffy should have ended at season three and then again at season five. That is clung on to season 7 always kind of made me roll my eyes. So many TV shows just keep stretching their ideas and adding complications to the detriment of the overall narrative but for the sake of getting another season (and I am assuming more money). While some fans may be delighted by more of the characters, for me, if there’s nothing more to say, no interesting point to add, or if what they are doing is undermining what I enjoyed in the first place, I just don’t see the point.

So am I being judgemental or is season four of My Hero Academia just not good? The answer is definitely both. There are problems in season 4 of My Hero Academia. It is in an awkward transition phase and there’s been a lot of down time and less than stellar moments. Can it improve? Sure. Will I wait for season five to do that? Possibly not. Am I being judgemental? Absolutely. And it is a judgement I’ve delivered on many a story that I felt stayed past its welcome.

However, I’d love to know your take so share your thoughts below and let’s discuss the latest My Hero Academia (anime only – no manga spoilers).


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Deep Blue Sea Movie Review

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Overview (Spoilers):

Medical research into a treatment for Alzheimer’s is underway in a science station out in the middle of the ocean. Of course, the scientists have genetically modified sharks to increase the size of their brains in order to harvest enough material of a particular protein to succeed. As one of the characters puts it: “As a result, the sharks got smarter”.

Amazingly enough, smart sharks don’t really want to hang around a scientific research lab where they are the guinea pigs and so embark on a ridiculous scheme to sink the facility and escape into the “Deep Blue Sea”.

Review:

Deep Blue Sea is one of those movies you know you shouldn’t like. It’s riddled with clichés and is kind of self-aware that it is a poorer imitation of other movies that have done sharks and ocean horror better. There’s a few moments when you might actually believe this is supposed to be a parody rather than a horror/thriller in its own right, however there are insufficient of these moments to accept that it was ever intended to be viewed in that light. So what you end up with is a mish-mash of moments that might have been tense if handled better, a few genuine jump scares, the occasionally well delivered character moment, interconnected with some really cheesy dialogue, lame special effects, and a plot that essentially makes you wonder if you haven’t seen this movie a thousand times before.

With all that said, I’ll be honest and point out I love this movie. I love terrible horror and this ticks all my boxes for a fun-filled weekend of bad horror watching. While the story is incredibly predictable and very little of the horror sticks, there’s something comforting and entertaining about formulaic cinema delivered tolerably well. And while none of the character performances are going to be nominated for any kind of award (except Samuel L Jackson who you have to wonder why he was in the movie, and the only award I’m nominating him for is most inappropriate place for delivering a monologue), none of the performances are so bad as to be painful.

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Probably the weakest part of the story is the plot itself. While they try to set it up that the sharks are thinking and planning their way through this ‘escape’ very little of what they do seems sufficiently reasoned to justify this and a lot of the sharks’ ‘success’ is entirely dependent on the actions the humans take to escape and relies far too much on coincidence.

From the very beginning we see that one of the sharks has escaped and been retrieved. The shark wrangler worries about the height of the fences and so they are raised preventing further escapes. Okay, the sharks have motive. However what follows is incredibly reliant on narrative convenience. First there’s an ‘inspection’ by an investor about the progress being made. Also, it’s the weekend so almost all the staff are leaving and there won’t be another way out until after the weekend, plus a storm is coming in making rescue extremely difficult. Why is this inspection happening on the weekend? Wouldn’t he want to see the facility actually doing what it normally does?

Anyway, convenient storm and character who knows nothing allowing other characters to explain how various things around the facility works aside, we then have the demonstration of the experiment where the apparently sedated shark does this:

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Apparently part of its master plan to get the humans to call for a rescue in a storm which then leads to a winch malfunctioning, dropping this guy while strapped to a gurney into the shark tank, allowing the sharks to use him to bludgeon the glass of the underwater facility and begin the process of sinking the facility. Excuse me? Run that one by me again because no matter what else happens in this plot, I am not buying this as a master plan.

Still, it wouldn’t have been a problem if the shark wrangler had shot the shark here and now, except that the crazy obsessed researcher saves the shark dropping it back into the tank. You wouldn’t want all that research to go to waste.

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Oh the irony given later that is exactly what happens later when the data gets fried. Yeah, the plot is rubbish so if you are looking for a compelling storyline, pass right now. There’s no way I can recommend this story on plot.

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Which is why the characters are so important. Each character in this story serves a purpose (and yes most of them serve the ultimate purpose of dying tragically or amusingly to inject some emotion into the story and to remind us it is a horror) but while they are alive they play an important role. The interactions between the characters are fairly formulaic and the dialogue is nothing revolutionary, but it moves quickly and the exchanges are entertaining. There’s some highly entertaining one-liners as well as some more forgettable moments of reflection, but all and all the characters work. The performances are decent enough with the material given to be delivered. While it is pretty obvious which characters will make it through to the final confrontation and which will survive, the timing of some of the deaths will still make for a reasonable jump scare even if you see it coming.

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All that aside, it can’t be helped that a movie about killer sharks will be compared to Jaws yet there is really no point. Jaws has a slow build up and goes for sheer human drama of man vs beast. This story is really reaping what you sow and from the very beginning they bring gore and shock. Plus, they really want you to get a good look at these sharks as regularly as possible. There are few moments where they actually play with the idea of them being hidden under the water.  So other than the shark thing, there’s genuinely very little similarity in the way these stories present.

My recommendation on this is pretty basic. If you like bad horror movies where the plot is obvious, character deaths will involve more blood than is necessary and will usually occur on screen in front of other characters so we can see those extremely over the top reaction shots from teh survivors, and you are in the mood for something that doesn’t seem ot be taking itself too seriously but isn’t a tongue in cheek parody, you will probably have fun with this film. I personally recommend watching it at the same time as Anaconda and Lake Placid and then you can wonder why your brain has turned to mush but you’ll have probably had a fun afternoon.


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