And With This Monologue I do Progress the Plot

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During the Autumn 2018 anime season, it occurred to me that there are some narrative devices I just don’t take seriously anymore. They may have at one point served a valuable narrative purpose or been written with thought and care, but now it seems as though every example I run across is either tongue-in-cheek satirising itself or is just an example of lazy writing. That isn’t to say there aren’t good examples of them, but the problem is that when a narrative device is used well it almost seamlessly fits into the story in such a way that you barely notice its existence.

Some spoilers below.

However the villain’s monologue is a device that you just have to wonder if it has outlived its usefulness. Or perhaps it is more the case where you have to wonder if writers even try anymore. It is almost as though we get to that almost climatic moment and in order to just get to the smack down as fast as possible they have a character just narrate and vomit exposition at the other characters to tie everything together.

It almost reminds you of that moment in Space Balls where the characters after explaining something to one another turn to the camera and ask the audience if ‘everybody got that’.

Spaceballs (movie) - Everybody got that.

Though, I will make one correction to what I said earlier. It wasn’t actually a villain who decided to monologue and exposition dump that really got my attention last season (mostly because I stopped watching Index and to be fair every character in that show is prone to lengthy exposition). No, it was Mei from Release the Spyce.

Yes, Mei had revealed herself to be a traitor to the rest of her posse of adolescent female spies and gone to the enemy. And then – here’s the big reveal – it turns out it was all part of a plan to double-double cross and actually bring down the bad guys (like we didn’t all see that one coming given the strong themes about the power of friendship and the like).

Release the Spyce Episode 12

However, despite this being revealed in about two lines of dialogue, Mei then proceeds to explain how it came about and was planned and executed, eating up valuable screen time, giving the villain time to prepare her next move, and more or less killing any pacing the episode may have had (so the theory that a monologue gets you to the fight faster doesn’t hold weight in this example). It was a disappointing choice in a series that had great potential early on but never could figure out its tone or characters and then didn’t manage to deliver a climax memorable for anything other than this particularly poorly delivered monologue and a villain whose kimono like outfit was strategically slashed mid-battle.

Now why this particular monologue isn’t necessary comes down to a few points. Firstly, Mei’s motives and actions aren’t that complicated. There’s nothing revealed that is actually necessary to understanding the plot or gives more insight into the character. Sure we get some particulars about when the plan started but that’s largely unnecessary noise and could have easily been left out or revealed later. Secondly, these characters all the way along were about not making stupid choices in battles. And gloating to the villain rather than actually doing something is a stupid choice. It just doesn’t make any practical sense.

Now, if we were to compare that to something like Death Note where both Light and L get numerous monologues (both internal and external) we can see why the ones in Death Note work better. Firstly, it is a consistent narrative device throughout the whole series. Secondly, the information revealed and the insight it gives to the characters is usually not something the audience could determine otherwise. I mean, realistically L doesn’t give a lot away with his actions or facial expressions. His expository moments are highly necessary to provide some context.

And finally, Death Note uses the monologues and exposition to really push the tension and drama of a scene. It isn’t a delaying tactic nor does it break the mood of the piece. It sets the tone and drives the scene rather than hindering its progress.

The Incredibles (movie) - "You Sly dog! You had me monologuing!

Basically, monologues get mocked, a lot, in stories. And a lot of the time they should be. They are intrusive, poorly conceived and barely useful. Ready Player One is jumping to mind right now given the sheer amount of internal monologues we are subjected to as the world is explained to us as if we couldn’t just see it on the screen – fully understand why they were needed in the book but they certainly weren’t once the story was moved to a visual medium.

However, it is important to remember that occasionally when a character starts a monologue, there’s a real reason behind it and there might be a solid narrative purpose. Just because we see this device misused so often doesn’t mean we should throw it out altogether. It just means we need to think about how it’s being employed and whether or not it is doing its job.

And let’s remember: if it’s in an anime, the main job is to entertain us. So I ask, are you entertained? What anime monologues have stuck with you? Were they good, bad, or somewhere in-between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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What Were The Worst Anime of Autumn 2018?

I’m going to say, this is the last Worst Of the season list I’m going to do. While I do like looking at the other side of the coin, I made my blog to celebrate anime and I kind of feel this particular vote and round up doesn’t really contribute to that all that much. Still, it is fun sometimes to look at the mis-fires of the season so perhaps I’ll just need to figure out a different way to go about it.

In the meantime, here are my picks for worst of the season and at the end you will see the results of the poll and the reader’s choice. The rule is really simple, I have to have watched the anime without dropping it to declare it the worst. I don’t make judgements about shows I don’t finish.

Still, if you read my best of Autumn 2018 post you would have seen my rankings for the season already and know what my least favourite anime was.

Worst Story – Jingai San No Yome

Alright, I’ve watched all of this short anime and other than the premise I still don’t know what the story is with this one. It probably doesn’t actually have one and is meant to be a slice of life or something, but nothing is ever explained and things don’t really go anywhere. What was I expecting from three minutes a week? Probably about this, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is the most pointless thing I watched in Autumn in terms of story.

Jingai San No Yome Episode 6

Worst Visuals – Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary

Okay, I like Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary, but there is no denying it is ugly to watch and the animation is just this side of terrible, when it isn’t actually throwing hideous CG at us. Fights suffer particularly and given we’re watching a show about a war between the empire and rebels, the fight scenes kind of need to be solid. There’s not a lot more to say about this one other than wishing it had been given more attention and more of a budget because the story was actually pretty interesting.

Worst Opening – Release the Spyce

Don’t get upset with this one. This is my personal list and honestly when an opening is so flashy with its visuals I actually have to walk away from the screen or turn down the lid of my laptop until it is done to avoid a serious headache each and every week, I don’t care how good the song is. This one is an eyesore (quite literally) and well and truly became the thing I hated most this season (even more so than a certain show that took out my worst of the season). Honestly, this opening was nearly grounds for dropping at the mid-season but I was kind of curious about where the show would go. Knowing now where it goes, I wish I’d just dropped it.

Release the Spyce title

Worst Character – Mana

Considering I threatened this character with a paper shredder fairly early in the season, and I may have suggested using a nail gun on her (though I may also have sensibly edited that out of my rant review), I’m pretty sure I hate this character. The rest of Conception is at times slightly amusing, a little bit interesting, largely bizarre and unfocused despite setting up a potentially interesting plot, but Mana manages to make each and every scene a pain to watch. Forget worst character of the season, Mana may be the character I hate the most out of any character ever (and that includes Excalibur from Soul Eater who used to be the single most irritating character I could think of).

Conception Episode 11 Mana

Worst Anime of Autumn 2018 – Conception

Yes, no doubt about this one. Conception was the worst anime I watched this season. Part of that is because it isn’t exactly a genre I’m a big fan of. And it relies on fourth wall breaking comedy, which I’m not a big fan of. And it has the single most annoying character I can think of as a major character who is with the protagonist in almost every single scene. But, I did watch this show from beginning to end. Even when I decided A Certain Magical Index was boring me too much to continue, I kept this one on the list. So while it was the worst anime I watched, I think for people more into this genre, while it still doesn’t exactly stand out as particularly good, there’s probably a lot more entertainment to be found in it.

Conception Episode 9 Itsuki mad at Mana

Reader’s Choice

This one also had a clear ‘victor’ this season with one anime title being both fairly well watched and being riddled with problems. Yes, that was Conception.

The rest of the votes were kind of scattered, though part of the problem is that I ask people to have actually watched the show they vote for and most people are sensible enough to drop anime that aren’t very good (I really should learn that skill at some point – I drop boring anime but not bad ones).

However, that wraps up the final ‘worst of’ anime post for the blog, but just remember the best of the year poll will open on the 1st of January and you will have two weeks to vote. The top three choices from the best of polls each season will be available to vote for and I’m looking forward to seeing what wins best of the year.

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Karandi James
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Sugar and Spyce and All Things Nice

Release the Spyce Episode Review Title

Release the Spyce Episode 12 Review

And so no-one is actually a traitor and no-one is actually dead, and no-one is actually surprised. This toothless ending fits the tone of the show and allows everyone to be all sweet and nice and become friends and trust in others and it is an utterly flat narrative. Given the characters never really went anywhere, I was hoping the plot would eventually pick this one back up but tragically that hope went unfulfilled as this final episode wraps everything into a neat little package.

Release the Spyce Episode 12

What that means is Release the Spyce has managed to be competent. Nothing more or less. The ending defeats the bad guys, sees the heroes wrap things up, and if the story was primarily Momo’s journey (or at least that is how the series has been book-ended), then that narrative at least is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Release the Spyce Episode 12 Momo

Still, there was a lot more potential in this series and these characters. So while what is here wasn’t particularly bad it was a little disappointing that the show could never rise to be more than what it became.

Release the Spyce Episode 12 - Villain

However, brainwashing machine go boom, the city gets a new pretty flower, and the girls all get on with their lives or with spying. Can’t really argue with it even if I wanted more.

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON
NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON

Things Are Getting Spycy As Time Runs Out

Release the Spyce Episode Review Title

Release the Spyce Episode 11 Review

For all that this anime hasn’t really gone as well as expected from its premise, I do have to compliment its sound design this week. That was actually a thing of beauty and the whole series has actually had remarkably good sound effects and a pretty awesome soundtrack. However when I’m reviewing the penultimate episode and my major compliment goes to sound design that probably spells trouble for the rest of the episode.

Release the Spyce Episode 11

Firstly, Hanzomon isn’t dead. Which I guess we all knew. And given Goe hasn’t accepted her mentor as being dead either I’m guessing she’s going to make an appearance soon. So all the dire outcomes of last week are more or less swept away. Particularly if we consider the apprentices escape in about three minutes without all that much effort because the villains are dumb enough to try torturing and breaking their spirits rather than just killing them (and they don’t even hang around to do it themselves but leave it to an underling taking any potential suspense right out of the scene).

Release the Spyce Episode 11

About the only thing that stuck from episode 10 to this one is that Mei is still working for the bad guys. Only I’m still not convinced it isn’t some kind of ruse or that she won’t change her mind again. Given they backed out of every other major plot point I’m pretty sure this isn’t the kind of story where she’s actually going to betray them and that is going to stick.

Release the Spyce Episode 11 - Brainwashing device

And therein lies the problem. Release the Spyce isn’t exciting enough or cute enough or anything enough to be the kind of story that doesn’t commit to its plot on top of that. What we’re ending up with is a fairly watered down affair that has zero tension or stakes and I’m not attached enough to the characters to just buckle in for the ride. While it isn’t bad, not even close, it has become one of the least interesting stories I followed this Autumn.

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NENDOROID NO. 1028 RELEASE THE SPYCE: MOMO MINAMOTO
NENDOROID NO. 1028 RELEASE THE SPYCE: MOMO MINAMOTO

This Week They Really Spyced Things Up

Release the Spyce Episode Review Title

Release the Spyce Episode 10 Review

I don’t know if I’m ever going to remember how to really spell ‘spice’ after this. It is almost like ‘Parasyte’ all over again where it took months to retrain my brain to actually spell int correctly.  Whichever way, episode 10 of Release the Spyce decided to take the position of killing off crucial characters and having the rest of the cast either betray their friends or get captured in order to plunge us into what I assume will be the climax next week.

Release the Spyce Episode 10 Momo

And while it is all well and good to go for super dramatic and embrace the usual scenario with spies, Release the Spyce hasn’t proven itself all that capable of delivering on the actual spy elements so given it leans heavily on teamwork, friendship, and cute girls, I kind of suspect everyone is actually fine and we’ll realise this is all a ruse to get access to the enemy headquarters. Which kind of takes some of the cliff-hanger anticipation out of the wait for next week.

Release the Spyce Episode 10

I could be wrong. Maybe characters really are dead. In which case, I’ll be pleasantly surprised that the story took it that far and will enjoy where-ever it goes with that. Still, far more likely it is all just part of the plan.

As to who the traitor is, well I’m wondering if we were given any hints earlier only I’m not quite interested enough to go back and look. I certainly hadn’t guessed it. 

Release the Spyce Episode 10 Mei

One thing I do respect is they didn’t try to create some angst ridden story as to why she betrayed them. While it might seem like a weak motive, it kept things simple and fairly believable, even if I don’t believe it.

Guess we’ll find out next week how real any of this was.

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Karandi James
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RELEASE THE SPYCE (TV ANIME) ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
RELEASE THE SPYCE (TV ANIME) ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Autumn 2018 Week 9

Update: This will be my last weekly overview post. I’m not sure what will replace this but I feel like the post in its current format has outlived its usefulness.

Here we are at week 9 and with only three weeks to go on some of these anime we know it is time to start voting for the best and worst of the season. The polls are now open and I’ll soon put out a post with more details about the vote, but just remember the top three from this round of voting will join the top 3 from the rest of the seasons this year to be voted on for anime of the year.

I’m excited. 

But for now, let’s look at what happened this week in each of the shows and as always I’d love to know your thoughts on the anime that aired so leave me a comment telling me what you liked, what you hated, and what just made you ask ‘what’.

A Certain Magical Index Season 3

A Certain Magical Index Season 3 Episode 9 Touma and Misaka

Episode 8

Almost as much as Conception, this anime is the one where as we continue along I just wonder why I am watching it. I’ll admit, this one is still more appealing in terms of content than Conception, but from a narrative execution point of view, it is more or less on par. Really not enjoying this right at the moment.

Banana Fish

Banana Fish Episode 22

Episode 22 – Not Reviewed


I’m heart-broken. I’m a crying mess. I kind of knew this couldn’t end well but with two episodes remaining I didn’t expect to have my heart ripped from my chest and then stomped into the ground this week. Oh wow, that was harsh. This show makes no logical sense but it hits you in the feels every single time and I love it for that.

Bloom Into You Episode 9

Episode 9


The sports carnival really got our characters fired up, but more than that it made it clear where Yuu is standing. Her firm denial of her own emotions, or at least her misunderstanding of them, is incredibly heartbreaking to watch and I’m really wanting to know how this will end. Patrons can access the post using the link, password on Patreon.

Conception

Conception Episode 9

Episode 9

Conception seems to realise that it isn’t really playing its A game. Or even it’s B or C. And while it might be fine to focus on humour, that might be easier to take if I actually found it amusing. Then again, I guess someone is finding it funny. I’m committed to finishing this one but it is getting a little harder each week to muster enthusiasm for viewing.

Dakaichi

Dakaichi Episode 9

Episode 9- Will be reviewed with Arthifis

Episode 9 takes us back to Japan and Takato’s play is now on. However, he’s starting to feel a change in how he is performing and it all comes down to his relationship with Junta. Really loved this episode even if it looks like it is leading to an upsetting episode next week.

Goblin Slayer

Goblin Slayer Episode 9 Goblin Slayer and Sword Maiden

Episode 9 – Will be reviewed with Arthifis

The brave adventurers have attracted the attention of the goblins after their explosive end to the beholder last week. High Elf Archer is visibly shaken but the team come together to repel the hordes in a fairly understated and matter-of-fact kind of battle. But then it is time for Goblin Slayer to figure out what was actually going on and the episode gets a little less interesting.

Jingai-San No Yome

Jingai San no Yome Episode 10

Episode 10- Not Reviewed

Another fairly pointless episode. Apparently it is white day and so the various ‘wives’ are receiving various gifts and being all happy about it. And as usual, that’s it. There’s nothing else going on in the three minutes we have here. So, cute enough but fairly pointless, as normal for this one.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10 Nodoka in Mai's body

Episode 10

This anime just remains consistently solid. While this episode did feel like it had a bit more roughness to its story, it also feels very much like it was supposed to. There’s a lot going on with these characters and they continue to be consistently interesting and the writing here continues to be fairly impressive. A definite must watch from the season.

Release the Spyce

Release the Spyce Episode 9

Episode 9

I think the problem with episode 9 is it gave us a taste of what this show could have been if we hadn’t spent so much time just fluffing about. However, this one does give us some fun moments with the current cast as well as a flashback of Hanzo’s mentor so all and all it was pretty fun.

Run With The Wind

Run With The Wind Episode 10 Kakeru and Prince

Episode 10

Who would have thought that Kakeru would finally get caught by team spirit? It was a marvellous transformation and one that actually feels kind of earned, even if we did have the cheap plot ploy of another character collapsing to trigger it. It worked, it was fantastic, and Prince is most definitely still the MVP.

Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 9

Episode 9

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San continues to be entertaining enough without actually having much in the way of substance. Still, those who love books will find plenty to relate to this episode and will probably have a great time with it. While not overly memorable, this one remains pleasant enough.

Sword Art Online Alicization

Sword Art Online Alicization Eugeo

Episode 9

The Eugeo focused episode is really welcome as I’ve been wanting Eugeo to get a chance to spread his wings a bit. While at this stage he is still very much guided by Kirito, it is cool to see the gears starting to turn in his head and I wonder just how far Eugeo will go as a character. Really looking forward to finding out as the series progresses.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 10 Gobta

Episode 10

New characters keep pushing this story along but at the same time it feels like we’ve barely gotten anywhere. I know, that’s a weird contradiction, which seems to be what this show is full of tonally. It feels like stuff should seem dire but it is so casual about it all. I’m enjoying it but it is a bit of an oddity.

Tsurune

Tsurune Episode 7

Episode 7

This show hits some fairly solid emotional notes this week as they team go into their fist match. While there’s lessons to be learned by all the characters, this episode still tries to maintain the sedate tone, though that actually makes each moment somewhat more poignant and uncomfortable to watch. It is an odd mix, but one that works.

Voice of Fox

Voice of Fox Episode 8 Hu Li on phone

Episode 8

The drama continues this week but I’m really enjoying it. Hu Li continues to be a character with just enough tragedy about him to be sympathetic, without crossing the line into completely pathetic. Not to mention, he’s working hard even though he doesn’t believe he deserves anything. I really just want him to have a happy ending at this point. Really enjoying this.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 10 Zhao

Episode 10

I finally caught up and these past three episodes have really been something. Very much enjoyed the turns in the plot and wondering now how this series will end (fingers crossed it does end and doesn’t just stop mid-story for a season two that doesn’t exist). While this one is hard to recommend due to the rough animation, the story has really been great so far.

Character of the Week

Dakaichi Episode 9 Takato
I’ve been loving Takato as a character since the beginning, but episode 9 really did an excellent job with him. Dakaichi has its issues, but Takato is fantastic.

Episode of the Week

Bloom Into You Episode 9 Yuu and Nanami
For the second time this season, Bloom Into You has delivered an episode I just can’t fault and it even managed to over take Bunny Girl Senpai in my personal enjoyment ranks. Beautifully done.

Dropped or On Hold

  • Anime Yell!
  • As Miss Beelzebub Likes
  • Bakumatsu
  • Between the Sky and Sea
  • Himote House
  • Hinomaru Sumo
  • Merc Storia
  • Ms Vampire Who Lives in My Neighbourhood
  • My Sister, My Writer
  • Radiant
  • Space Battleship Tiramisu Zwei
  • SSSS.Gridman
  • The Girl in Twilight
  • Ulysses: Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight
  • UzaMaid
  • Zombieland Saga

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Karandi James
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NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON
NENDOROID NO. 1041 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON

The Disastrous Day The Mentor Character Died

Release the Spyce Episode Review Title

Release the Spyce Episode 9 Review

This week, Release the Spyce turns its attention to the driven Yuki Hanzomon as she attempts to convey to Momo the story of her mentor. I guess timing wise this makes sense given Hanzo slapped Momo last week for being rash and they never have revealed the story behind Hanzo’s scar so with only a handful of episodes to go, this one feels purposefully placed.

Release the Spyce Episode 9

The problem, I feel at least, is that we really could have skipped a whole bunch of steps between episode one and here without appreciably being any worse off. It just makes some of the episodes earlier really feel more fillery than they did while watching, and some of them felt very fillery while watching.

Release the Spyce Episode 9

I don’t really like to review by comparison, but I can’t help but feel Princess Principal took this basic idea of team of teenage female spies and did a much better job of building them up as characters while continuing to draw the main plot together.  Release the Spyce has a more modern setting but otherwise comes off as a fairly pale imitation, and that may not be what they were going for and it may not be how others see it, but that’s more or less how it has settled in for me.

Release the Spyce Episode 9

Still, that doesn’t really review this episode and to be honest, once we got into the flash back and actually saw the girls and their old mentors parachuting in and doing spy things, it was actually really fun. There was some genuine drama around revealing how Hanzo got her scar and what happened to her mentor and it was perhaps one of the better sequences this anime has given us since its first episode.

However, as a whole, Release the Spyce hasn’t quite packed the punch I’d really have liked from it, and even looking at it from the perspective of a cute girls show where they just happen to be spies, it isn’t overly great.

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Karandi James
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RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON
 RELEASE THE SPYCE: YUKI HANZOMON