Friday’s Feature: Awakening the Dreamer Inside

Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions - Rikka

Warning: The post this week is just a little bit of a ramble. It does get to a point but my apologies.

There’s a reason so many people love Rikka Takanashi as a character. It isn’t just that she’s a moe high school character with an eye patch and a cute parasol (making her perfect for cosplay). It isn’t that she is a lead character in a coming of age/romance story where she gets her happy ending. Admittedly, both of these traits make her pretty appealing.

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No, what draws viewers to Rikka is that she is someone who has fully unleashed her inner dreamer. She is someone who is firmly rejected a reality she dislikes and is actively trying to shape a world where she feels she can be who she wants to be. It might seem selfish for her to simply push those who are worried about her away and it might seem childish. It might also seem at first glance that this is Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions is about putting aside your childhood dreams and moving on, but I think a lot of viewers get a very different impression from the story.

Certainly Rikka does tone down her behaviour as she grows closer to Yuuta Togashi in the story. For a small portion of the story, Rikka does even completely reject her delusions in favour of experiencing ‘normal’. However, it is clear by the way the story presents this section with Rikka looking abjectly miserable and everything that made her sparkle essentially sucked out, and Yuuta feeling incredibly guilty  for being the one responsible for guiding her to being ‘normal’ even though it was who she was that caught his attention, that this story doesn’t endorse surrendering to reality.

Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions

Instead, this anime seems to firmly ask the audience to question the expectations of normal even while ending up with a compromised ending where the characters learn more to curb their delusions to within a certain acceptable boundary. And a lot of that resonates with people in the audience.

People want to feel like they are being ‘true’ to themselves. They don’t want to feel like they’ve given in to society or had to compromise on who they are. At the same time, it is an essential life skill to learn how to get along with others and live in the world. However, I feel this show makes us wonder if some of us have surrendered too much and given up too much of who we were in the process of finding some solid ground to stand on.

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It is something I’ve been thinking about lately as I go about my day. How much of what I do and say exists only because it needs to? How many of my choices are made because to make another choice would be to cause a disruption to others? And do I still see myself when I look in the mirror?

I’m not actually having an identity crisis mind you. Just wondering if somewhere along the line my inner dreamer got beaten over the head by practicality, rationality, and a need to just get on with things. And I don’t dislike my practical and rational side that allow me to get on with things. These are traits that help me to set a course based on what I want to achieve and find the path to get there. Without these very sensible traits it wouldn’t matter what dream I conjured up I would never get closer to achieving it.

And that’s the pure beauty of Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions. Rikka has taken on her persona and has continued for a fair length of time searching for the Unseen Horizon but she herself knows she can’t get there. She has no clear idea of what it is or where it is or how to accomplish her goal or what comes after. It is Yuuta, who stands with what foot firmly in reality and utterly refusing to move and the other foot hovering over the line, that manages to plot the course. Rikka is the dreamer, the one who determined the destination, but it is Yuuta who takes them there.

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At the same time, Yuuta couldn’t go anywhere on his own because he was essentially treading water. He had a single goal of becoming normal and then just wanted to maintain a status quo. He was completely without a destination which is why Rikka’s will completely overwhelmed him.

The perfect balance of dreams and reality with the understanding that without dreams there is no destination in mind. Without a destination actions simply keep us bobbing along. However, without a firm grip on reality, we can’t reach the places we dream about.

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I love that anime makes me consider my own life and the choices I make. I love the way it makes me question who I am and who I want to be. Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions is an anime that really hit home for me and at the centre of it all is this questions about whether or not we should find our normal or whether we should embrace our dreams. Quite happily the story finds the happy middle ground and that seems like pretty solid advice to me.

Still, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on the show and the idea so please leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Why We Need To Stop Mocking Stories For Trying

It’s become a fairly common criticism of a number of shows. It’s trying too hard to be…It’s just trying to be edgy…It’s trying too hard to be deep…And this week we added the question of whether or not Banana Fish was trying too hard to be shocking.

As I read these sorts of comments and questions, I just have to wonder if we’d all prefer writers didn’t try. If they all just settled into a generic status quo where you never stick your neck out, never take your plot too seriously due to fear of someone accusing you of trying too hard, and where every character has that knowing and self-deprecating personality so that they could never be accused of trying too hard.

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Honestly that doesn’t sound like such a fantastic alternative and even while I might agree that some shows miss their mark for what they were attempting to achieve or came across to ham-fisted in conveying their emotional angst rather than providing a nuanced watching experience, I still find the comment ‘trying too hard’ to be fairly meaningless. Of course they were trying. They may not have succeeded but you can see what they were aiming for. And that is where more useful criticism can come into the equation. Why haven’t their efforts hit the mark? Why aren’t you moved emotionally but rather being critical? Was it all too far removed from reality or was it more that they hadn’t developed the characters sufficiently for you to care about their overwrought experience?

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So do we address the question of whether or not Banana Fish is trying too hard to be shocking? Not really. What we need to ask instead is does Banana Fish succeed in being shocking or has repeated rape attempts, violence, and torture of characters we’re still only just getting to know (because the plot hasn’t slowed down for even a moment) diminished the impact of the shocks? Opinions will vary on that and that’s just fine but saying the show is trying too hard to be shocking doesn’t help. Quite clearly it is trying to shock. Whether it is succeeding is the question of the day.

Your Lie in April

Likewise, do we address the question of whether Your Lie in April is trying too hard to hit audiences’ in the feels? Again, that is exactly the purpose of the writing, the narrative, and everything else in the show. Of course it is trying to make audiences feel. So let’s ask instead, does it succeed? Given the huge fan base (and my own personal experience in tears toward the end) I would suggest for the most part, yes. Then again, there will still be viewers who are either more cynical or just don’t connect with these particular characters would say no. And there we can have a discussion about what does and doesn’t work. When we just accused the show of trying too hard didn’t further the discussion in the slightest.

You mean they tried to do something?

Shocking Truth

We could also look at the regular criticisms of shows like Attack on Titan and Tokyo Ghoul as trying too hard to be dark, edgy or whatever else the buzz word of the week might be. Now, those two descriptors in and of themselves (dark and edgy) have been used to the point of almost meaninglessness and again you have to ask whether or not it is succeeding at making something that is dark in its themes that is still enjoyable for you to watch or whether the need to repeatedly throw blood and violence at the screen is something that detracts from the viewing or not. And again, answers will vary and these are ideas that can be shared and discussed with evidence and reasons.

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I don’t mind shows that try. I want them to. I want them to aspire to achieve great things and to tell their story with conviction. I want the writers and directors to have a vision, commit to it, and bring it to life. I want people to try so hard to produce something and then I want them to try some more. The end results may not hit the mark. They may have more ambition than talent. Their aspirations may rise far above their budget.

But you know what?

If they stop trying we’re going to have a lot more bland stories out there as no one is game to take a risk or to try to be anything.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Portrayal Of Bullying in Anime

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 31

I’ve really come to hate the word bullying. It isn’t just that acts described as bullying are morally repugnant, it is more that the term gets thrown around to cover everything from excluding someone, minor pranks, staring at them, talking behind their back, openly harassing them, directly sabotaging their person, profession or possessions, to full on violence and acts that most definitely should be classified as criminal assault and never be given the cop out title of ‘bullying’. Bullying has become a catch all phrase to cover all those things we dislike about societal living where we realise that while humans do like to herd together we don’t really like to herd with everyone and while teaching tolerance and acceptance are lovely ideals the evidence strongly suggests they haven’t gone that far in reversing this culture. It has also become the excuse as people try to excuse these vicious and horrendous acts as misguided rather than malicious.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 31

But that’s all just my personal view on bullying and it is one of those major social issues that most societies need to take a long hard look at the causes and why on earth we allow people to get away with it and tolerate it as ‘a part of growing up’ or part of ‘workplace culture’. And that’s not really within my blog’s scope so instead I want to look at how bullying has been portrayed in anime.

This kind of got inspired by a recent episode of The Master of Ragnarok, of all things, as in this very ancient world our out of time protagonist has decided to develop a school system to educate his population and build skills for the next generation. Such an admirable goal and yet from opening we instantly have a situation where a slave girl is being excluded by the other girls in the class. The reason: the patriarch of the clan, our protagonist himself, took her to school on the first day and dared to pay attention to her. I mean, how dare he. Such an unforgivable act being taken to school by someone who cares about you.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

This episode moved me to title the episode review Create School, Create School Bullying and I realised after writing the episode review how I genuinely believe that these days bullying is ingrained in pretty much every institution despite decades of anti-bullying policies and ‘education’. There are a huge number of societal factors at work that drive this but anyone who has been to a school or workplace knows full well that bullying, in one form or another is prevalent there.

Then I started thinking about how this episode portrayed bullying. Effie, the slave girl, has so far been portrayed as a victim. At no point has she been seen in any other light. We met her when Yuuto, our wonderfully kind protagonist, came across Effie and her mother in the market place being sold as slaves. While creating sweeping social reform like universal education is easily enough done off-screen in the space of an episode, apparently ending institutional slavery isn’t and so rather than address the issue of the people suffering, he buys them and gives them jobs at the palace. At least I assume that’s where the mother is working because we never see her again.

Instead we see Effie getting dragged into the harem even though she does not fit there. They dragged her to the hot springs which sounds nice but then she was subjected to watching all the other girls flaunt their superior relationship with their ‘father’ while she was isolated and fairly uncomfortable with the situation. While she’s invited to eat with them, it is only after she’s delivered the food and after Yuuto has personally requested it. Effie remains on the outside of this harem at every turn separated by a class divide that no amount of ‘kindness’ is going to bridge.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

So by the time we see Effie feeling pretty miserable about being ignored at school we as an audience already have it in our heads that Effie is a victim. And while at first I thought she was being ignored because of her class, it turned out she was being ignored because of Yuuto’s attention and petty jealousy, which was just as bad really. By the time a third party intervened, Albertina, it was obvious that Effie was not going to take any action to resolve the situation, that the other students were happily observing a status quo they themselves had assisted in creating, and the teacher never even got screen time so who knows if they were even aware of the situation.

While it might seem cathartic that in this case Effie’s bullying issue is resolved, this representation of bullying is all kinds of problematic. It almost trivialises the problem. My main issue with it includes the fact that the victim is seen as utterly blameless but without agency. Effie did nothing to deserve being picked on, did not retaliate in any way or do anything to draw attention to herself.  She doesn’t even report the situation or mention being upset and it is only through Yuuto’s super sensitivity that anyone realises something is wrong.

But I also take issue with the very quick and easy resolution Albertina comes up with and how easily she reverses the situation. More importantly, solving one case of bullying through isolation by creating another doesn’t seem like much of an improvement. Maybe there will be some in the audience thinking ‘serve you right’ as the bully gets a taste of being ignored but switching the target from one character we like (or at least are supposed to) to another character isn’t really solving the problem so much as sweeping it under the rug. Then of course Effie does the sickly sweet thing and reaches out her hand to the former bully bringing her back into the group. Effie has just been victimised and hasn’t solved the problem on her own but has had someone else intervene on her behalf. There is no way she’s in a state to reach out to someone else.

Emotionally it just smacks of a desire for the show to finish off with this side show and move on. Which made me wonder why even address the issue at all – only that is all too easy to understand. Bullying is a universal and in Japan particularly it is something that is understood by pretty much anyone. If you ever watch your isekai, military, harem story to ‘relate’ to your audience, throwing in a bullying subplot is one way to do it. Does it give this dire social issue the development it probably deserves? No. But it isn’t the main point of the story. So maybe this shallow dive approach is fine, only I just found it a little annoying.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 27

I couldn’t help when watching this to compare it to Hina’s arc in March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 from the beginning of the year. While watching that arc I felt it was such a great representation of bullying, and I still believe it is one of the best anime bullying arcs I’ve ever seen. There Hina is given agency as she actively takes steps to minimise the damage to first her friend and then herself. She eventually reaches out for help and while others certainly do play a part, Hina continues to have to stand on her own and fight (not physically).

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We also see a teacher who has been destroyed by the weight of so many instances of bullying where there are no simple solutions that she ultimately has a full emotional collapse, and then we get the comparison to two other teachers. One takes over the class but has experience and a level head and addresses the problem head on. Even then it doesn’t instantly mend the damage but his actions create a space where the students can start to turn things around and at least he holds people accountable for their actions. The other is Rei’s teacher who listens to Rei as he vents about Hina’s situation and outlines the complexities even while feeling frustrated that there is little that he can practically do for either Rei or Hina. I do slightly object to the fact that the female teacher is portrayed as emotionally fragile and breaks under the pressure becoming hysterical where the two male teachers are more level headed about it, though realistically with only three teachers in play it is just nice that there was a mix of approaches to the issue and each one felt real in its own way. As in the audience might remember the teacher who was like A, B or C.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 35

Bullying in March Comes in Like a Lion is treated with a great deal of respect and the ripples created by it in Hina’s life are observed as every character connected to her is impacted in some way by her situation. This arc is given an enormous amount of screen time and at times you could almost forget that this is Rei’s story as Hina and this situation takes centre stage, but it allows the situation to really be brought to life.

However, on reflection, I have to say that at least at the beginning Hina has the same issue Effie does. Hina is portrayed as the girl who did nothing wrong and just became the target. At all points throughout the arc Hina’s innocence and the unfairness of her situation are made clear to the audience. Where Hina becomes more palatable as a character is that she is given agency (even becoming the victim was a result of her standing up for another student) and that she doesn’t quietly accept it. She gets angry and she gets upset, even if she tries to hold those emotions in there are times when they explode.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 36

Honestly, I’d love to see more series deal with bullying giving it the time and attention it needed to actually make it feel meaningful. I’d love to see more like March Comes in Like a Lion. I would really love to see bullying tackled by adult characters and more insidious forms of bullying on display rather than the overt cases on display here. Though more than anything, I’d love for societies to actually do something about this problem. What are your thoughts on bullying in anime?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Value Of Rewatches

I’m no stranger to rewatching shows. Even when I was a little kid, I would play VHS’s literally to death. I’d watch my favourite shows and movies time after time, getting to the end of the video and instantly hitting rewind and beginning all over again. Once DVD’s became a thing there were many titles banned from being played in the house usually when I could identify the film from the five seconds of sound. I will admit I’ve watched some films to death to the point where even I won’t watch them anymore and I’ve done the same with more than a handful of books where I start reading them and realise I can literally recall the entire story in vivid detail to the point where I’m not even paying attention to the words anymore.

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This is in stark contrast to some other people I know. A certain relative of mine used to be a great source of novels, mostly because he would read science fiction but he only ever read a book once. Then he would give the book away and knowing I loved to read I received quite a number of these books to add to my own collection. When I asked him if he would want the book back he asked me, “Whatever for?” He genuinely could not understand the point of reading something a second time, let alone a third, tenth or fiftieth time. Whereas for me, the point of trying something new is to see whether it belongs in the permanent collection or not and my greatest lament is that I don’t have enough time to bask in the books, movies and anime that comprise my ongoing collection and explore new media, and actually live a life that involves real human interactions and work.

That said, if you were to ask me what I get from a rewatch or reread my answer would vary depending on what I had recently returned to. It seems to come down to a few basic things.

01. The Rewatch To Understand

Darker Than Black

In the case of something like the original Steins;Gate, Darker than Black, or Evangelion, the rewatch is usually needed to try to get the plot clear in my mind. While I didn’t not get it the first time (way too many negatives there), it is more that a lot of the enjoyment isn’t there the first time because you are spending so much time reasoning and puzzling rather than actually absorbing. It also means you miss substantial amounts of character work, visuals, music, etc because the plot is all encompassing. Repeated rewatches, taking a break and coming back to it, watching in chunks or binge watching, all bring something new out of the experience. Even after the plot is clear, there’s so many other questions and aspects that you can turn your attention to that it never feels like the anime has gotten old.

02. The Rewatch To Relax

Akagami no Shirayuki

There’s a great feeling that comes from crashing into the couch cushions and hitting play on a DVD that I’ve seen a thousand times before. One that I know won’t tax my brain, isn’t going to ask more of me than I can give, and at the time has the exact tone I am looking for. You can’t get this from a series you’ve never seen as you never know what to fully expect and part of your brain stays on alert. Whereas, I know exactly what I’m in for when I press play on Snow White with the Red Hair, Ouran High School Host Club, or even Inu x Boku SS which are all some of my favourite binge and sleep anime that I put on when I just want to crash out.

03. The Rewatch To Share

Yuri on Ice Episode 4

Of course when you come across a great title you want to share. you want someone else to watch it with and to laugh and cry and discuss each moment with it. One of the best things that happened the first time I watched Yuri on Ice was that just after it finished airing I visited a friend and told her she needed to see it. Two days later we’d finished a binge watch of the series and the two of us where happily humming history maker in her kitchen together. There’s something about watching a show with someone else that really elevates the enjoyment of it, plus you have someone to talk about it with once it is done so this is perhaps the most satisfying of all rewatches.

And then we have the new one.

04. The Rewatch to Analyse

Yuri on Ice Episode 6

I’ve never really done this before, but recently I started yet another Yuri on Ice rewatch with the express purpose of reviewing each episode in far more detail than I had before. It’s a new style of watching I’ve never tried and I’m loving it. Admittedly, a lot of the enjoyment is coming from the subject matter, but it is making me want to give other much loved shows a similar treatment. What I have noticed is that it is taking a very long time to get through a single episode and it isn’t a single watch of the episode I am doing. The other thing that makes this different from any other rewatch is I am only watching a single episode at a time. This viewing is not being binged.

While I do get that some people are happy enough to watch something once and move on, I am as well for shows that are enjoyable enough but don’t grab me. However, the whole point for me is finding those shows and stories that I will never get tired of and want to watch and read again and again.

What is your stance on rewatching anime?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Is Anime Doing Its Fans a Service?

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 2

Fan-service: Essentially something added to a work of fiction for the sake of pleasing the audience. Now that means fan-service isn’t limited to nudity, groping, and other things of a sexualised nature that most people immediately think of when we talk about fan service, but it does include those elements. I’ll hopefully get back to what else fan service is in a future post, but today I’ll probably just be discussing what we mostly think about when the term fan service shows up.

This season brings us How Not To Summon a Demon Lord, The Master of Ragnarok, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs, Free, Harukana Receive and the list of anime that would immediately spring to mind when someone mentions fan service just goes on. Now before you think I’m about to launch into a rant or a tirade against the various half-clad girls flouncing about the screen (or equally shirtless men who are striking a pose while flicking their hair about), I’d like to reassure you that while I’m not a fan of fan service, nor do I deny that there is an audience for it and that it serves a purpose within stories.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 6

Let’s move the discussion momentarily away from the current season of anime. We all know Hollywood movies have used these kinds of gimmicky moments forever to draw the audience. There’s little reason for the various Bond girls to be shown so often in swim-wear, formal wear, or wearing very little while in bed (or for the Daniel Craig scene where he emerged from the water). There’s practically zero reason why Amanda Hunsaker (Lethal Weapon 1) makes her only appearance in the movie wearing an open robe that is blowing open in the wind before she takes a dive off the balcony. And anyone who watches a lot of bad horror and slasher films will know that there’s definitely going to be a sex scene at some point and inevitably the girl who participates in said scene is going to die fairly soon after. That’s been done so often it is now a running joke in self-aware parodies of horror.

But while I say there’s no reason for these scenes, we all know the reason. Even if that isn’t the part of the film appealing to you, someone out there was waiting for that scene and they enjoyed every second of it. Whether that girl or guy was hot or not will make or break their enjoyment of that film. And while sometimes these scenes are fairly well integrated into the plot, Amanda’s death worked because she was working as a hooker, she was on drugs, and the whole scene played into the tragedy of her death, others are clearly there just so they have something to put into the trailer to get audiences to watch.

If you were advertising a movie, wouldn’t you want the shot of Daniel Craig walking out of the water wearing that?

Daniel Craig - James Bond - Swimwear

It plays great for the trailer, gets people talking online, gets images shared, and while no one is talking about the plot of your new Bond film, everyone knows there is in fact a new Bond film and Daniel Craig looks hot (if you are into that kind of thing – personally I’m all for Antonio Banderas in the Mask of Zorro, but to each their own).

Now anime may take things to a whole new level, but it more or less does the same thing (save for when a show is entirely built around fan service moments and the plot is entirely jettisoned – there’s a commitment there but I’m not sure I’m interested in the end result). This season I’ve been watching How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and The Master of Ragnarok. Both are essentially isekai stories and as normal they are both filled with fan service moments. And this is something that in individual episode reviews I definitely take a negative take on but this isn’t actually condemning the existence of fan service itself but rather speaks of what I’m looking for in an episode.

For me I’m looking for moments that move the plot or help flesh out or develop the characters and the issue with the way fan service seems to be delivered in these kinds of shows is it not only doesn’t do either one of those things, it actively eats screen time which could be used for parts of the show I’m actually interested in.

The other issue I find, and the reason I probably seem fairly negative when I discuss fan service as part of a review, is that so often it is females being seen in this light and it is regularly extremely sexualised content even if it is played for laughs. The boob grab, the rubbing breasts against the guys arm, the low camera shots, touching other girls; I’m clearly not the target audience for this kind of content so while such sequences don’t make me instant drop as they would some people, they certainly aren’t adding to my engagement of the story or helping me to actually care about the characters as people. That doesn’t necessarily make the show or the fan service bad, but it does mean that I’m less likely to really be drawn in as a member of the audience.

How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 6
I’m certain someone somewhere is thinking ‘damn she’s hot’. I’m mostly just wondering why her skin has random glowing patches and whether or not she’s used double sided tape on that top.

Of course, I’m certain there’s a writer somewhere who is now all upset and about to lose sleep because Karandi isn’t interested in his content (heavy sarcasm there). Because of course, for every viewer that determines that the weight of fan-service is just bringing the story to a screeching halt there are clearly plenty of viewers happily checking in.

If I ever needed evidence of that (and I didn’t mind you), then this season really did prove it to me. In the last 30 Days, How Not To Summon a Demon Lord episode reviews have been my most viewed posts. Also most searched for terms to find my blog via search engines.

Top Posts 30 Days

However, even looking over the last three months, the first three episode reviews which have only been up for perhaps a month and a half at most, are the most viewed posts.

Top Posts 3 Months

Then if I look back over the entire year, the first episode review of the show is now the second most viewed post, surrounded entirely by Killing Stalking reviews (and I don’t have to wonder what fan service that particular title was delivering).

Top Posts Year

So here’s a show I started watching out of curiosity because I don’t mind isekai stories, but wasn’t really thrilled about. It delivered two episodes that had me sitting on the fence before it finally launched into its actual plot. Episode six took us back to nearly sixty percent of the episode being fan service focused moments rather than plot and I wondered once again whether the show was really worth my time or not. But it most definitely appeals to its target audience. It has left the other isekai fan-service filled title, The Master of Ragnarok, for dead.

Which of course made me wonder why?

In terms of actual plot, both stories are more or less the same. They both have an interesting idea, potentially interesting directions they could go, and both have regularly come to a screeching halt because they’ve wanted to show off the numerous girls in the show in various states of undress.

How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 6 - Diablo and Shera

In this at least How Not To Summon A Demon Lord tried to come up with a semi-plausible explainer linking all that grinding on the bed action to some kind of magic that may or may not eventually free Shera from being a slave (I’m not sure I buy magical boob gropes, but whatever). Still at least they tried. If the scene had been a little shorter and there had been a little less orgasmic panting, I may have even not felt distinctly uncomfortable while watching it. Master of Ragnarok didn’t even really bother. They just had another character tell the MC to take a break and go to the hot springs where the girls then pounced upon him.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 6

It was thinking about this where I realised the difference in these shows really lay. Even with its non-fan service moments, The Master of Ragnarok isn’t subtle. The main character always just explains his battle plan to someone, usually waving his phone around to remind us he’s from the future, and usually making a reference to the fact he’s a cheater using future knowledge. And it delivers fan service in an equally blunt and matter of a fact way with the girls just coming straight onto him and declaring they want to be his wives. Its very much like they have a tick box list of events that they need to shove into the narrative and so they’ll just have the character say whatever is needed to progress us from A to B. As such, despite the more interesting setting, the Master of Ragnarok is actually a fairly sub-par show even when compared to How Not To Summon a Demon Lord, even if it does have more girls of more types and so far a lot more nudity.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord - Episode 5 - Diablo

How Not to Summon a Demon Lord has several advantages. Firstly, Diablo as the main character also provides some fan service as he has been shown on more than one occasion to be shirtless or posed very dramatically. While there are less girls (so far – the harem has been growing however) the characters of these girls are infinitely more developed and entertaining than the girls in Ragnarok. For instance I even remember Rem and Shera’s names and what their motivations are and the why they hang around the protagonist. While the story isn’t all that rich and deep, it is logical enough and there’s a lot of fun to be had with the idea of a socially awkward over powered demon lord who is role playing his way through his current life. And then the fan service itself has often been used to build connections or tension between the characters, and while there are plenty of other ways the show could have gone about it, we all probably have to admit that Rem’s ‘torture’ session where she ended up confiding in Diablo definitely kicked both the plot and character development into gear.

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Though I think we’ll just leave aside the whole issue of slavery and ownership for a whole other discussion because there’s a lot of that going around this season as well.

So I’ll get back to the question from the title about whether anime is doing its fans a service through the inclusion of fan service? The answer, whether you individually like it or not, is probably yes. It sells and there’s clearly a market for it. Does that mean everything needs these elements in it? Not really. Does it mean you have to watch them? Also no. There’s plenty out there without these sorts of scenes, and yet, I know that there are some people who haven’t watched Dan Machi because of Hestia and I can’t help but feel that perhaps they missed out on a fairly extraordinary adventure because of one element. And while there are plenty of shows I have dropped because the balance of fan-service to plot tipped too far away from plot, provided I’m getting some decent character moments and plot development, fan service isn’t likely to make me turn something off.

Though depending on how loud the girl is moaning I may end up muting the episode.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 6 - Shera

What are your thoughts on fan service in anime?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Baiting the Hook

There’s been a lot already said about the proliferation of anime, seasonal watchers, and the general idea that there’s just too much content so I’m really not going to get into that. However, in that sea of content, creators know they have to get the attention of their very fickle audience and then they have to catch us and reel us in. Mostly because seasonal watchers tend to demonstrate a number of common traits: a short attention span and limited tolerance for ‘filler’.

While previously shows have had episodes to build a world and characters, now many viewers make snap judgements with some cutting episodes before the first scene is done. Where the three episode rule used to hold true, and current narratives seem to be well aware of such a rule with more and more shows either moving a mini-climax to episode two or making episode 3 a two-parter to draw their episode back (How Not To Summon A Demon Lord), less viewers seem to actually hold to this rule these days. To be honest, they just don’t want to sink an hour of their lives into something they are ultimately going to drop.

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As such we are getting more and more first episodes and more and more characters with quite distinct traits designed to draw the audience in with the hope that then the rest of the story will hook the in for the season. While sometimes this works beautifully as the audience is dragged along on a wondrous adventure before being cut loose to go and bite some other line, other times it leaves the audience feeling like they got reeled in and left high and dry.

This isn’t exactly new. Entertainment has always been competitive and most shows have always realised they needed something to distinguish themselves from other titles. Yet in the age of streaming and simulcasts this has become more important than ever and it is starting to show in the way first arcs are feeling more and more compacted and rushed and mid-seasons are feeling a little bit empty before we escalate toward a climax.

Now, there are some obvious baiting moves. If we look at Darling in the Franxx, well we already know how they baited their hook, the glorious Zero-Two. She was such an energetic enigma of a character in the first episode. Throw in some nudity, a bit of danger, and a sense of her rebellious nature, and you have the perfect bait for a community to go crazy on social media. And so they did. I also really loved Zero-Two’s initial characterisation particularly the way they built up the idea of her being a partner killer. However, this was definitely a case of bait and switch as little came of the partner killer idea beyond the first arc and Zero-Two became a progressively less interesting character as the season continued.

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Clearly the writers knew how to grab the audience’s attention but then they didn’t know what to do with it. They’d created this perfectly researched, tantalising character, but had no message, point, or even solid arc for her to travel on. By the time she literally became a hollow shell before turning to stone while staring at the sky a lot of the love for Zero-Two had worn down and many viewers realised that they’d been hooked onto a show that ultimately didn’t suit them and what they wanted from an anime.

Other obvious baiting moves include the flash forward or flash back to some kind of massive conflict that may or may not become relevant later. The issue with this is it has been done to death and when done poorly, it mostly just eats up screen time with characters no one knows running around or shouting and there’s little reason to care what is going on (Lord of Vermilion – looking at you right now). However, this can be highly effective bait.

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Look at the opening sequence to season one of Attack on Titan. The birds slowly flying over the city to the wall where we suddenly see the titan emerging. The close ups on the character’s eyes as they widen in fear and horror. This sequence is brief enough that it doesn’t feel like wasted time and yet sensational enough to have an impact. The audience wants to know. When is this going to happen? What happens next? And fortunately, Attack on Titan knew what to do after baiting the hook. It delivered the titan by the end of the episode. No waiting an entire season just to get back to the original bait. For all that Attack on Titan might be criticised for some of its narrative choices, it knew exactly how to capture an audience and that really explains why its popularity exploded the way it did, even if the longevity of that massive fan-base wasn’t so set in stone.

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However, bait isn’t limited to first episodes. Supporting characters introduced later in their series need bait as well otherwise they get crowded out or forgotten. There are many shows where viewers would struggle to name any of the support characters even a month after the show finished its run. Yet a memorable support cast can really elevate a viewing experience.

That word memorable might be a bit of a double edge sword though with some shows simply giving characters insane designs or making them needlessly crazy but forgetting to actually characterise them in any meaningful way. The Musicians from Caligula would fit this bill. They were definitely visually distinct and yet their characters rang very hollow and ultimately I couldn’t tell you anything about any of them, except one of the guys had some complex about another guy being prettier than him. That isn’t exactly leaving an impression.

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My Hero Academia excels at building its support cast and baiting their individual story-lines so that when the main narrative turns its attention to one of these characters it doesn’t feel like filler but rather like a much anticipated story thread. Who didn’t want to know the story behind Todoroki’s scarred face? Who isn’t curious about Tokoyami’s dark shadow? And let’s be honest, if Twitter is anything to go by, Tsuyu is a character who has captured all the fan’s attention and the filler episode of season 2 was entirely a show about everyone’s beloved Froppy. These characters each have something about them that makes the audience want to know more and feel satisfied when they finally get it. They are talked about almost as much as the protagonist’s, and they are an intrinsic part of what makes the show feel like more than what the basic narrative of Midoriya becoming a hero really should warrant.

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When a show does baiting right the audience feels satisfied and happy with the experience. When the baiting is just that and there’s no substance to back it up, then the audience feels cheated. When the baiting is poorly done the audience looks at the hook and then turns away looking for something better.

Of course, that does leave us all with the question of whether or not this is going to have a positive impact on how stories are told? While grabbing a reader’s attention has always been an important goal for a story, usually there was more time to do this. As we get increasingly more gimmicky, more violent, more zany and more over the top premises clamouring for our attention (and longer and longer titles on light novels) you have to wonder where it is all going and whether we’ve already gone too far. Has narrative integrity been abandoned for a series of point in time sensational moments that will be shared on social media?

The more cynical would say yes, but that is ignoring some fairly fantastic stories that have come out in recent times. However, there is definitely a shift occurring in the way stories are presented and as always it is the audience driving this shift, whether we’re doing it intentionally or not.

Over to the readers then: What is the worst bait an anime has used to hook its audience?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Appreciating the Transformative Journey of All Might’s Character

I’ve been wanting to write a bit more about My Hero Academia for awhile now but have been tossing up how to approach it. The last time I explored this issue I looked at the idea’s characters such as All Might and Stain represented within the context of My Hero Academia in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

And after much contemplation I’ve returned to All Might, because as of episode 15 in season 3, the main theme that continues to capture my attention in My Hero Academia is this idea of what happens when a society is built around a single pillar and that pillar cracks or falls.

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In my previous post I looked at the fact that All Might’s deteriorating condition was ultimately worse than if he took a fatal hit. While dying in the line of duty would be tragic for All Might and those close to him, for the world it would leave a lasting symbol that could not be tarnished by reality. However, season three chooses to push further with the idea of revealing to the world the very human weakness of All Might and his final moments as a hero are put on display in the most public of ways.

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This serves multiple purposes outside of just being another plot point on the road to Midoriya rising as a hero.

Firstly, the audience is already aware of All Might’s condition the consequences of him using his power the way he does in the fight with All For one. The audience, and Midoriya, have been in on this secret for two and half seasons and finally all of the characters inside the My Hero Academia world are in on it too. And their reactions are interesting.

For the police and law enforcement it immediately becomes a crisis of how to keep things standing when the central pillar has been removed. We see the awareness that they now have that the way their society was structured, around a single individual held up as a larger than life symbol, was inherently flawed. Something that should have been obvious from the beginning given even All Might had admitted he couldn’t save everyone because he couldn’t get to everyone, and yet the basic premise of this society is that All Might’s mere existence kept villains in check.

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The reaction of the public initially was more positive than anticipated, mostly because of the feat All Might had just pulled off and the fact that the public weren’t yet aware that All Might wouldn’t be fighting again. However, the ongoing reaction to this change in the world has yet to be seen, though if My Hero Academia’s history can be counted on, I’m certain that we’ll eventually see this idea explored further.

For the students with their ambitions to be heroes it brought home the reality they were entering into. While Midoriya was already aware of All Might’s secret, the sheer weight that fell on his shoulders in All Might’s final moments was phenomenal and while the other characters in the series may not be fully aware of the implications of All Might’s ambiguous message, Midoriya certainly was.

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My Hero Academia - Your Turn

And let’s consider that message. All Might wasn’t just talking to Midoriya, even though his message to Midoriya was clear. For his whole life, All Might has lived as a symbol, and even at the end he passed the torch of preserving the peace not just to Midoriya, but to everyone who was watching and everyone who had ever been inspired by him. He made a call to action to uphold the justice he had protected for so long and he made it in one of the most dramatic ways possible on the battlefield with the dust barely settled.

Now, All Might’s survival at this point contradicts the basic idea of passing the torch and the like in that as a mentor you would think his role was pretty much done and in most shonen or fantasy stories it would be. He had found his successor who had that one quality he was seeking. He had set that student on their path. While the student wasn’t yet ready, All Might’s death would definitely have stirred Midoriya to greater heights and levels of determination and it would have been a nice clean break.

We should have known My Hero Academia would take the general mentor archetype and push it that little bit further. Because what do you do with a living legend who has outlived their use as a symbol? What do you do with someone who was once the greatest who is now essentially without a quirk and weak?

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In the follow up episodes to All Might’s chilling victory, we see that he himself is working to find a new place in the world for himself. He isn’t just passing a torch to Midoriya and checking out. He is aware of how far the road still is for the young student and he is determined to help him all the way. And it isn’t just Midoriya. Again we see that All Might really does have a wide view of people and it is all of the students that All Might has turned his attention to, even while he does still work to see Midoriya master his quirk.

One of the very nice touches amidst training episodes was when All Might visited the training centre and spoke with each student. He didn’t give direct answers but used his vast experience as a hero to guide each student in small ways to an answer. This by itself was a great moment as it showed us exactly what All Might does have still to offer in this world: knowledge of what it is like to be a hero. However, once again My Hero Academia didn’t leave this moment at just this, it then showed us through Aizawa that All Might had a book in his back pocket about teaching.

It is a small detail and a very small scene in a much larger narrative and yet it speaks volumes. All Might himself is at a loss after a lifetime of being a hero. He knows what he wants to do now and that is to prepare these kids for a future that is looking bleaker by the minute, but it is a different skill set to the one he is used to using. But All Might isn’t afraid to look at his own weaknesses and work to overcome them. While he may now be physically weak (and I’m still guessing that at some point he is going to pass on) his mental fortitude and resilience are top notch. He’s finding other ways to contribute and to meet his goals.

Despite that, very soon after Bakugo unleashes an attack that sends a rock hurtling toward All Might. While he is defended by Midoriya, the reality that he is now someone who people feel the need to protect hits home. We see a very small All Might standing alone as this realisation really sinks in. While he doesn’t see himself as weak, he realises that this is how he is now viewed and while he doesn’t resent being rescued, it is a hard mental shift to make.

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All Might’s fate is something that I’m watching very closely because I really am curious to see how this world will react to their fallen symbol in the long-term. I’m curious as to whether All Might can maintain his optimism and continue to focus on the future without succumbing to bitterness at what he has lost. I’m curious as to how his colleagues will react to him as he is a living reminder of their own human frailty.

All Might’s character journey has so far been one of the truly stand out things about My Hero Academia. While a shallow glance at this character might make him seem like a Superman rip-off there’s some complexities to his character that make him truly interesting. However the best thing about All Might is that even when he was the symbol of peace, the audience was always in on his hidden secret and that made him always seem very human. And it is the human aspect of his character, rather than the heroic ones, that make him memorable as he continues on his journey however long or brief that journey may be (no spoilers if you’ve read the source).

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What do you think of All Might’s journey as a character over the two and a half seasons of My Hero Academia?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Truth About Blogging (Or How To Raise a Blog From Ravenous Beast To Loyal Pet)

Sit yourself down as I’m about to reveal the biggest secret about blogging. It will change the way you view yourself and the world. I’d be surprised if the evil blogging fairies don’t run over here and steal half my post and banish it to the dark beyond of cyber space because nobody wants this secret getting out.

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Okay, maybe not.

Because the only secret to tell you is that there is no secret. No one answer that will solve all your problems and launch your blog to stardom and success. No quick fix for writing all those posts and finding the time to interact with the community.

Fact: Blogging is hard work.

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Whether you blog everyday, a couple of times a week, once a week, once a month, or once whenever the fancy takes you, writing a blog post, formatting it, proofing it, posting it, promoting it, and following up with comments is all hard work. You might enjoy it and let’s face it, I certainly do or I would not still be doing it, but it is hard work. Most of us probably don’t ever want to work out the number of hours we’ve sunk into our blogs and while those who continue long term will say they love it (and it’s true), it is a labour of love. Blogs are built on the blood, sweat and tears of the blogger (or at the very least the very smooth finger-tips that have spent far too long pounding on a keyboard).

Fact: Despite your hard work, your blog may very well go unnoticed.

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There are quite literally 100’s of millions of blogs online covering every available platform and more that are created every single day. And while you aren’t competing with every blog in existence for a space in people’s awareness, you are still competing with thousands of blogs on similar or related topics. And while you may not think of it as a competition and are just writing for your own sake and the sake of a handful of followers, at the end of the day you started a blog to write on a public platform. Part of you somewhere, wanted to be noticed, even if only a little bit and by a small and select group.

Fact: Neither of the above points matter.

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While there are some days where I definitely feel weighed down by my own intense schedule of multiple posts every single day, there are far more days where I turn on my computer with glee at the thought of seeing my blog. Seeing a post take shape, reading through and making sense of my draft ramblings on posts from the previous day, finding the perfect image or capturing a spot-on screen cap can make me smile with delight. Seeing a comment from a dear friend that I met through blogging, or a comment from someone I’ve never heard from before is usually all it takes to give me a warm inner glow and make me want to spend another hour or two or more working away on the posts for next week.

My blog has become something that has allowed me to take joy in writing again, to express myself, to meet other people who have a passion for anime, and a space where I can speak. My blog has become so much more than what I ever thought it would be which was just a collection of writings about what I was watching (more akin to an online journal than anything else).  My blog is impossibly dear to me at this point in time and I am so proud of what I have created even as I strive to make it more than what it is.

And that is another truth about blogging.

Fact: It is never enough.

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Blogs are hungry, ravenous beasts. The more words you feed them, the hungrier they become. As they grow so does their appetite. It is insatiable.

At this you might become despairing or feel it is an uphill struggle with a stone that is just going to roll away before you ever reach the top.

But that isn’t necessarily the case. This beast is yours and yours alone. It is loyal to you and while it would happily eat up every word you ever wrote, it will also wait for you to take your time, and perhaps develop a more refined palate wishing only the best of your writing.

It all depends on how you choose to raise your blog.

And that is the one hard truth. Your blog is yours whatever may become of it.

Do you agree?


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Angels and Demons in Anime

One thing all anime fans know is that if it exists as even a vague idea, somewhere, someone has made an anime about it. Probably more than one someone. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that many stories in anime are built on some of the trappings from the Christian and Catholic church. While some of these stories might attempt something resembling a realistic representation, more often than not, in true anime fashion, an idea is borrowed and then it gets the full anime treatment. And while some people might dislike the way various religious icons and ideologies end up being represented, the end result has been a range of interesting stories that might not otherwise have existed.

Now using religious ideology as the basis of a story, or borrowing heavily from religious texts for characters, themes and ideas, is nothing new, there’s something quite interesting in the way anime tends to do it. With only around 1% of Japan actually identifying as Christian, writers can take quite a few more liberties with the subject matter they are borrowing from without as much fear of audience backlash as writers in more western countries. And while movies like Dogma and the like show that even western writers can get away with subverting the original message, there’s a much greater risk involved.

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And while at some point I’d probably like to get more into the various influences of religion within anime narratives, today I’m really just wanting to look at how angels and demons have been represented in a small section of the medium. There are far too many stories that have borrowed these iconic characters to really generalise across the board, but there’s a definite trend that has surfaced in how angels and demons are being depicted.

The trend I really have noticed is that angels are getting a really bad reputation in a lot of these shows (a trend that also seems to be taking place in the west with fallen angels being a trend that bubbled up after the success of Twilight and the market over-saturated with vampire romance and so people jumped on the fallen angel bandwagon instead). While it might be a little earlier than that bubble, Angela/Ash from Black Butler is a prime example of the type of character and depiction that angels regularly get given.

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Cruel, sadistic, and slightly crazy, Angela is very driven by her goals which may or may not have anything to do with a higher will power. Her actions are justified as righteous in her own mind even as they leave the audience wondering who the real demon in the show is. And that isn’t to say that Sebastian comes off looking saintly given his violent and predatory nature is well known. It’s just that when you compare him side by side with the angel there’s definitely a question of which one is supposed to be in the right. Even the neutral Grim Reapers end up siding against the angel toward the end of the season as their plan threatens to upset the balance of the world.

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If we look at something more recent and comical, Gabriel Drop Out gives us essentially a lazy, drop-out of an angel who’s inherent good nature is so easily corrupted by the pleasures of earth (gaming) and very quickly abandons her original mission. While I didn’t get far into the series, I found this to be an interesting depiction of an angel. It didn’t paint Gabriel into shades of gray, but simply had her become a slacker, which really doesn’t fit with the image of an angel but at the same time didn’t necessarily make her bad either. Throw in the fact that the ‘demonic’ characters in the show seemed to be genuinely sweet and there’s a mess of ideologies going on here that are played for laughs and humour but have probably strayed a fair way from the borrowed religious themes.

Even The Devil is a Part Timer works on subverting the audience’s expectations. It sets up a standard Satan versus Hero situation and Lord Satan (Maou) is corrupt and trying to take over the world. There’s no question of his evil nature in the first episode or of the hero’s righteousness. However, as the series progresses, Emi (the Hero), resorts to stalking, petty rumour spreading, jealousy, and other underhanded tactics while Maou pretty much conforms to the new world’s rules and laws. We also learn that Emi is part angel which begins to subvert the idea of what an angel is before Mitsuki shows up.

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Despite being an angel, Mitsuki is very much on par with Angela from Black Butler. He kidnaps characters, he tortures them while laughing about it, he’s petty and vindictive, and ultimately he’s overwhelmed by the power of Maou. And at that point no one feels even slightly sorry for him because he’s a complete an absolute jerk who totally had it coming.

One anime that takes a different approach is Angel beats where Angel (or Tachibana) is originally portrayed as a cold and efficient killer, but later it is realised she is acting in the best interest of others she’s just a really, really bad communicator and no one had ever taken the time to ask her what she was doing. Turns out she isn’t an angel anyway which kind of makes the title of the show a bit odd (unless you count the fact that the computer program she’s using to generate some of her weapons is called Angel Player). Ultimately though, Tachibana is actually trying to help the other students live a happy school life, make peace with their previous life, and move on. Which is probably the most angelic sounding character I’ve mentioned so far.

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Demons in anime go anywhere from being mindless beasts hell-bent on destruction, to articulate and savvy romantic interests. The defining trait of being evil is questionable in most of these characters and a lot of them are portrayed as being very human or having very human motivations. And regularly there is no connection between demons and any specific religion as they come across more as random monsters then creatures from the pits of hell. Frequently demonic characters are ones a human audience can sympathise with. It’s an interesting trend though it does make you wonder where all the ‘evil’ demons went. You know, the ones that actually wanted to devour human souls and lead us into ruin.

Now as I said at the start, there’s nothing new about the borrowing of icons and ideologies from religion in narratives, and trends in narratives come and go. But it will be interesting to see what sorts of angels and demons we get from here on out.

And on that note, I’d love to know who some of your favourite angelic and demonic characters are from anime so please be sure to leave me a comment below.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: The Power of Clichés, Archetypes, and Being Predictable

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord - Episode 1 - Diablo

We all know about anime clichés, archetypes and tropes and we’ve all kind of come to accept that there are certain characters and events that we’re going to run into again and again. However, for some people, the existence of clichés and archetype characters who don’t break the mould are enough for them to scorn a show and turn away from it. They label it unoriginal or boring and might claim it offers nothing. And yet there are a lot of good reasons for stories not to go off script or venture into new waters.

That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be nice occasionally for things to be changed up a bit or presented in a new way, nor is it excusing the lazy use of clichés for laughs in exchange for actually writing a story or considering the purpose of the characters but it does mean that just because something is entirely cliché does not mean it is bad just because it is. I think we need to consider the context and the execution (as well as which cliché it is because there are some clichés that individuals will accept more readily than others) before making up our minds.

It is kind of timely to visit this topic with so many new shows starting for the season. It is inevitable that first episodes will be riddled with clichés. And for those who consider that a death sentence on a story that is something you will have to accept.

Why?

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First episodes need to get their point across, set up what their tone is going to be, introduce characters and give the audience some impression of who they are, as well as do some basic world-building. And they need to grab the audience’s attention so there are going to be some bells and whistles thrown in. All of this in some twenty minutes. It is a lot to ask and while some shows put off some of these attributes for later episodes and choose to either focus on world building, tone, or characters rather than all of them in one episode, with the short attention span of viewers these days that’s a pretty risky move. That’s where clichés and archetypes come in.

Archetypes are recognisable and memorable. They also cut through a lot of explanations because people already know what is on offer. In a first episode a female character might come across as the ‘manic pixie girl’ and a male character might be ‘generic self-insert isekai protagonist’ but it instantly establishes where this character is starting and the tone the audience can expect. Depending on which character archetypes we have on display the audience can begin making predictions about the kind of narrative path we’re about to walk and what is on offer. They may have seen it before, but they haven’t seen this version, so as long as the quality of how things are being executed is there, or there is some reason to believe that things are going to get shaken up in future episodes, there’s no reason to dismiss something just because it seems like it might be similar to about a thousand other stories.

Cliche events and actions such as first meetings, finding a secret power, some sort of misunderstanding, and so on serve much the same purpose in these first episodes. They may not be terribly original but as long as they are presented with integrity, that isn’t a huge problem. The issue isn’t from the archetypes and clichés themselves, the issue comes from the lazy way these are sometimes rolled out.

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If we take a look at the current anime season on offer we might look at something like How Not To Summon a Demon Lord and begin with the take down criticism of it being horrendously unoriginal, derivative, and the same as about a million other stories. And certainly it isn’t exactly ground breaking as we’ve seen a player trapped in his in game character that is some sort of demon in Overlord, we’ve seen transported to another world about a million times, and a world based on a game fairly recently in Death March to a Parallel World Rhapsody. We’ve certainly seen ordinary socially awkward guy instantly surrounded by bunch of girls of various types who for whatever reason all end up in love with him (more times than I can count).

The set up is incredibly generic, and then the events in the first episode are incredibly cliche. We have more fan-service moments then I’d care to recount right at the moment, an obnoxious jerk who wants to teach the protagonist a lesson and consequently gets beaten down, and the cute girl who eats a lot. Then the main character who is so incredibly recognisable as a gamer with no social skills or ability to talk to other people without assuming some sort of in game role (No Game No Life and about a million others).

All of this might be enough reason for some anime viewers to pass on this show entirely and I’ve certainly seen a fair number of reviewers who have thrown all isekai offerings this season into a basket and if that basket had been more than just metaphorical they’d have set it on fire (much the same to how I feel about idol anime really). However, not all isekai anime are created equal and while episode 1 of How Not To Summon A Demon Lord certainly didn’t blow my socks off, it did a decent job of setting up a potential story of interest with characters that have most definitely started out as cookie cutter archetypes that we’ve seen before but they all have growth potential.

This is where it gets tricky. The anime now has a short window of time to convert viewers like me from ‘maybe’ into definitely following the show. While generic cliches and archetypes work well enough in first episodes to establish ideas, if the show doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to do anything more than walk the well tread path of other stories, or worse, it has established the characters and then it leaves them exactly where they are, then the show becomes utterly deserving of the criticism of being unoriginal, derivative and not worth the time. But a first episode isn’t enough to make that judgement.

Though episode 2’s opening act with Diablo waking up with his hands on the boobs of both of his female companions probably indicates where this show sees character development.

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While comparing first episodes I’m really looking at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord or The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar to add to this season’s watch list (but not both because even I draw the line on isekai at some point). At the moment How Not To Summon a Demon Lord is slightly edging out The Master of Ragnarok for the simple reason that I had more fun with the first episode and the potential story set up looks like it will have a better pay off. Also, cool explosion (sorry, deep down I’m six years old and I know it) and the reference was cool even though I never watched the anime being referenced (memes do wonders for filling in context sometimes). The Master of Ragnarok didn’t get an immediate skip though because despite the overly harem qualities, the overt sex jokes, and every other poor generic idea this genre likes to throw at us, it does have the slight intrigue of not being another world but potential the past earth and the protagonist isn’t just arriving, he’s already there and established. It gives it just enough points of interest to earn a second episode consideration despite all the flaws with the first episode.

Regardless of which isekai I end up watching, the point that clichés and archetypes aren’t all bad can be made pretty clearly through an anime that also aired recently, Cells at Work. Outside of the concept that the characters are all anthropomorphic cells doing jobs within the body, there’s really nothing particularly original about the first episode. While AE3803 might be a truly adorable red blood cell, she’s your stereotypical naive and shy girl on her first day at work. She’s confused, she gets lost, after a chance encounter with a guy who saves her she literally clings on to him as he shows her around before he saves her again. If we took out the fact that they are blood cells, it is pretty much the script of any romantic comedy anywhere or even an action flick (actually, take out first day on the job and we’ve more or less got Temple of Doom working here).

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Yet most viewers would agree that Cells at Work presents itself in such a way that it feels original, fresh and entertaining. The change in setting and the clever way that is integrated into plot and character development allows them to execute a fairly ordinary and familiar story in a way that people appreciated and enjoyed. Something isekai stories might start doing if every ‘other world’ wasn’t generic fantasy land type B (why are no other worlds ever technologically advanced or just completely different from anything we’re familiar with – pseudo-medieval settings have been done to death, move on).

As a reviewer, I’m not above calling something cliche or generic, but at the same time, that isn’t reason enough for me to condemn a story and stop watching. As a fantasy/horror/action/sci-fi fan (in movies) I am well used to seeing very familiar characters and plots time and time again. What I want isn’t something that reinvents the wheel or revolutionises story telling; what I want is a quality story with a purpose and passion behind it that lends integrity to the work. Though that also might be asking too much sometimes and maybe I should just stick to wanting to be entertained for twenty minutes because that is something I’m more likely to achieve.

Alright, over to the readers. What do you think about the use of generic plots, tropes, cliches and archetypes and what do you think about the start of the Summer anime season? Be sure to leave me a comment letting me know.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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