As anime reviewers you kind of have to sometimes be pretty harsh, or just not review anything you didn’t like which makes no sense and kind of defeats the purpose. But there’s being harsh and then there’s falling into the habit of mocking stories for their efforts.
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.
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?
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.
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?
We could also look at the regular criticisms of shows like Attack on Titan and Tokyo Ghoulas 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.
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.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
In case it hasn’t become clear as I work my way through the anime I watched during the 2019 Winter Season, I’m jumping back and forth between anime I enjoyed a lot and anime that kind of had a bumpier ride. Last week was the slice of life delight My Roommate is a Cat so unfortunately this week we’re crashing down to the unintentional disaster of a narrative that is Grimm’s Notes. Admittedly, I am running low on anime I actually enjoyed last season, but I do still have reviews of The Promised Neverland and Endro to come out so there’s a few delights still in store.
What should be obvious by now is that I don’t really want to write about Grimm’s Notes and yet I feel I kind of need to. I did in fact watch the entire season and while we had an intriguing premise and an entire minefield of potentially interesting questions to ponder about morality and the human condition and free will, the anime literally does nothing with any of that. Instead it becomes an exercise where the protagonist’s are right because they have to be and they don’t even try to convince the villains, let alone the audience, that they have any grounds for that conviction.
Basically the story involves a whole bunch of story zones where every one living in them has a book that essentially tells them what is going to happen in their life and that is the script they follow. Our main characters are all characters who, for whatever reason, have blank books. They travel from story zone to story zone and stop chaos tellers from messing up the stories.
However, where that becomes problematic is that they set Red Riding Hood back on a path to be devoured by a wolf, set Snow White and her step-mother up to repeat a tragedy, and basically override any one’s objections that maybe the story shouldn’t be followed.
These are the characters we are supposed to support.
I wouldn’t mind so much if they ever explained the consequences of not getting the story back on track. We get an ambiguous statement about story zones collapsing but are never told what that looks like or what happens to the characters in the story. Do they all die? In which case, sure, maybe keeping the story on track is a good idea. But it isn’t established, nor does anyone actually ask.
Even the villains don’t bother to make their case for why giving characters free will might be a good thing. For once the villain’s actions are actually something that seems kind of logical even if there are dire repercussions, and they never even try to justify themselves.
Instead we get the heroes saying they’ll set the story right and the villains who stay in the shadows and make ambiguous comments but do little.
So the plot is a bust, and the characters are worse. Visually this is fine. Not good or great or particularly interesting, but I’ve certainly seen worse and some of the fights are actually kind of fun to watch even if the motive behind them is lacking. The music is unexceptional and honestly completely forgotten almost as soon as the episodes end.
Honestly, this was such a great concept and handled so incredibly poorly. The biggest issue is the crushing disappointment of realising that the writers clearly had no clue what to do with their own idea when it came to the anime. I have no idea if the source (which I think is a game) did a better job or not, but I do know this anime is incredibly skippable.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
There were almost no expectations riding on this episode. Given after eleven episodes Grimms Notes still hadn’t really properly explained its own premise or really justified the motivations of the group I guess we’re supposed to care about there seemed little point in hoping that this final episode would do much to bring things together. If anything, Grimms Notes managed to miss even those low expectations.
Perhaps the worst thing this final episode does is give the villain about two seconds to explain their motivation and then have the heroes dismiss it without further consideration or discussion of the implications. It really demonstrates that this anime never intended to actually care about its own premise or the underlying reasons. The group of heroes are saving story zones because FEELINGS and that is GOOD and anyone destroying story zones must be BAD. Don’t ask any questions beyond that because the story is utterly uninterested in them.
Outside of the overall plot of this anime being completely toothless, this final episode does well enough with a fight against the Jabberwock and then Loki (Curly somehow vanishes and is never seen again so why she bothered to even make an appearance is something that might be questioned). However, the heroes get royally taken down by Loki.
At which point Ex here’s a voice and uses the weird power we kind of got told he had to connect with heroes he hasn’t met, but we’ve never seen outside of the episode when we’re told he’s special, and he connects with Ludwig Grimm.
Now I’m stumped. Given the title and references to fairy tales and folk lore (though a large number of the story zones have not been based on Grimms tales at all), I kind of would expect a twist that maybe Ex could connect with Jacob or Wilhelm Grimm but Ludwig? Unless there’s some grander plot where Ludwig is apparently seeking to steal control of the story-zones from his famous folklorist brothers that just makes no sense. And if there is some grander plot, why on earth didn’t we get to watch that?
And true, maybe the source does explain all this nonsense but as is my usual stance, if I have to seek the answer outside of the anime, the anime isn’t very good.
So I’m left confused, and mostly indifferent to the mess that ultimately was Grimms Notes. Now, it isn’t unwatchable. Not even slightly (and I apologise for the quality of the screen caps but that is definitely an internet/streaming issue on my end and not the anime). The thing is though, that in the vast sea of anime, there are significantly better anime out there to spend your time on. So unless you are in the mood for nothingness peppered with story references, maybe don’t bother. That said, I’ll get around to a full review of this one later.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Well, the villains finally take the time to speak with Ex regarding their ambitions in Episode 10 of Grimms Notes. Curly asks Ex whether it is more important to protect Jeanne D’Arc’s life or her fate and Ex utterly fails to answer, mostly because despite 9 episodes of dashing into story zones and correcting fates, Ex has never really addressed the big question of whether or not his actions are right.
Just when you think he might be developing something resembling a reasonable character who at least contemplates his actions, he throws aside thinking it through or the consequences and just accepts that Jeanne is committed to her fate, as written in her book, and so he’ll trust in her feelings.
The problem with that argument is that we don’t know how much Jeanne is actually in control of those feelings. Her rising up and leading the French was written in her book of fate. As was her acceptance of their ultimate betrayal and her death. So trusting in the feelings of someone being controlled by fate as a justification for defending that fate is at best a flawed argument and is more likely a form of self-deception so that Ex doesn’t need to ask himself the big question of whether or not he’s actually the one doing more harm than good by assisting Reina in tuning story zones.
The ongoing avoidance by this story of looking at this big question is really starting to bug me because exploring it and having the characters really deconstructing their motives could have been a really interesting affair. Instead the good guys are good because they are and no matter how logical the villains seems they are the villains of the story. The nebulous story tellers have so far escaped being questioned for their questionable morality in creating characters who are clearly sentient but are then forced to live out lives that involve avoidable suffering.
It all just seems like a strange premise if the story isn’t willing to actually address any of these issues.
But hey, another story tuned and back on track. Jeanne can lead that army, at least until she is killed.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
I keep wanting the next episode of Grimms Notes to be the one that turns it all around. The one that reveals the motive of the heroes and presents the villains in an actual menacing light. The one that explains why story ones exist and who these mysterious authors are who are inflicting such pain upon their creations. And yet, seven episodes in and there’s still no sign of that.
We did get a slightly more detailed look at one of the ‘villains’ as she inserted herself into the story to meet with Ex and the others but even then, other than a cryptic comment or two she provides nothing in the way of new reveals. The story of the week is much the same as any other though as always you have to wonder if resetting things to how they are ‘supposed’ to be is actually the right things to do.
Our heroes never question their actions. That is what bothers me more than what they are doing. But even when asked about their actions they don’t pause and reflect for even a minute. They seem utterly convinced that keeping stories on track according to the books of fate is the absolute right thing to do. Yet they haven’t provided a convincing argument to the audience to make us want to get behind that motive.
Otherwise there is little to note here. The story is ongoing in much the same pattern it has been with no real ups or down in animation or any other area. This show kind of just exists at this point.
Grimms Notes Episode 8 Review
Alright, so by the end of this episode Ex actually does ask if they are doing the right thing but the question is quickly dismissed under ‘no choice’ and ‘too late’ comments so it doesn’t actually get explored.
Outside of that, this week the focus is on Tao and kind of Shane as we visit their story zone. And this is a bit of an issue because it really does prove that these story zones are literally just looping round in circles which makes you wonder why anyone sees the point. I mean why defeat the oni if you know that as soon as that is done there will be a new hero and a new oni threat and the whole thing will just rinse and repeat.
The other issue being that neither Tao nor Shane are particularly complex characters so the backstory on them and how they met and ended up deciding to leave their story zone is pretty weak, as is their resolution to keep a story on track that doesn’t exactly seem like it is doing anyone any favours.
Grimms Notes continues to not really do anything particularly note worthy but nor is it unwatchable. All and all, this one isn’t showing any sign of improvement but it isn’t getting any worse.
Alright, no chaos teller appears this week so without the token villains stirring trouble, what does this episode of Grimms Notes bring us? Well, yet more questions about what is motivating the main group who I suppose are the heroes and yet I seriously have to question that.
We did learn that not every story zone has the same writer, which is lovely given the fact that a number of stories haven’t been Grimms tales so at least that discrepancy is not sorted. In point of fact, Shane and Tao comment on the fact that the writer of Snow White’s story zone must have been twisted, which I can only agree with, given these characters are looping through an absolutely tragic set of circumstances. However, despite acknowledging the ‘crappy’ fate these characters have been dealt, when Ex inadvertently upsets the path of the story, they work to put it back on track.
Again, I’m wondering how people with a book of fate, who know what is going to happen to them, allow themselves to go through the things that are written. Like, if you are told that your daughter is going to come back after you poisoned her with an apple and is going to make you dance wearing red-hot iron boots until you die, surely you just wouldn’t poison her with an apple. It is almost insane that these characters continue to follow their prescribed path even though they know exactly what is coming, and it makes me much more sympathetic to the villains who offer these characters another choice.
Then again, maybe that is the whole point of this episode. To ensure that we do feel some sympathy for the villains’ cause.
However, when the episode ends with Snow White declaring she is going to try not to change her fate too much but wants to save her mother, you can’t help but think that she is going to fail. So far the books of fate have been pretty set and when they aren’t followed bad things start happening (you know, potential collapse of an entire story-zone which we still haven’t been told what the impact of that would be – like does everyone in the zone cease to exist?).
Anyway, our main party’s questionable motivation aside, this anime is still pretty average to watch. Some ideas are interesting but the execution is all just kind of ‘meh’. It isn’t actually bad, but neither is it something that you have to see.
I’ll start by admitting that this was my favourite episode so far of Grimms Notes. That isn’t saying much given how incredibly flawed the anime has been up until this point, but this episode was actually genuinely enjoyable. The story of Treasure Island is inherently fun and when you throw in some transforming, gender swapping heroes who end up in swim suits and with a bow that looks like a dolphin, there’s all kinds of amusement to be found (sorry, no screen cap of that my internet connection was fritzing and the image was just too fuzzy).
However, what this episode highlighted more than anything else was that I just can’t back the ‘heroes’. I know we’ve probably got some deep explanation coming at some point (or at least I hope so) but as Silver pointed out how futile he felt his existence was when he knew from the beginning he wouldn’t get the treasure you couldn’t possibly argue. Even Tao didn’t bother and just threw in the ‘that doesn’t make it right’ comment that so many heroes on shaky moral ground end up using.
Think about it. In this universe you are given a book at birth that tells you your whole story. It doesn’t matter if that story is good, bad, or otherwise, you will follow it. Doing otherwise can only seem to happen when a Chaos Teller gets involved and then this group of adventurers will come in and ‘reset’ things so that the story follows its ‘natural’ course. If you were on the losing side of a story, wouldn’t that seem a bit pathetic to you? Silver sums it up best when he points out that it was such a ‘waste of a life’. I really hope this anime does eventually address this point because if it doesn’t there’s just no saving this plot at this point.
Still, if you want some island filled with traps shenanigans, some team spirit, and just some general enthusiasm, this episode has it in spades. It is difficult not to get caught up with the characters as they go about their business. That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws. Reina obviously falling for a tripping every trap around was a gag I could probably have done without that many repeats of. But despite that, it was still really fun.
If anything, this episode gave me a little bit of hope that just maybe we’re heading somewhere reasonable with this and hopefully we have a bit of fun. The post credits scene seemed to indicate that the ‘villains’ are going to be more active in the future so hopefully that leads to some exploration of the ideas surrounding the books of fate.
I’d like to thank Scott for tagging me, though I’m going to point out the thought of trying to write part of a story I don’t know the end of is kind of terrifying as I don’t have a clue if what I’m adding is actually helping the plot along. Still, this has been a fun project to watch develop and I had quite a bit of fun trying to figure out what should happen.
THE RULES FOR THIS STORY TAG:
Copy the post you’ve been tagged from the rules down (with the links)
Write your name and link it to one of your posts (The main character is called NoGender, and as the name indicates, does not have a gender, so if you want to speak in the third person use the word “it”)
Write your paragraph (max 300 words with 100 words margin, so basically you can go further until 400)
Tag someone’s post who wasn’t tagged before and say the following rule in the same phrase “You have 3 days to accept this tag”
If the person you tagged doesn’t answer or doesn’t want to participate tag other person (again, tag a post and not a page)
Write the Title “Let’s All Write a Book | Chapter 2 | Part X”, being X your paragraph
If you are writing Part 10 link it to Arthifis again
Copy and paste at the end of your post all the people who have already been tagged in chapter 1, unless it says the contrary you can’t tag them again;
People who said they want to be tagged again, if you do get tagged and write a part for this chapter delete the part where it says that you want to be tagged again in the list, the idea is to have only one tag for each chapter.
The seven maisters had created a circle with NoGender and Ligeia in the center. They also had diminished the light of the room and now the only light present was coming from the 7 candles positioned at the front of each maister making scary shadows in their faces.
Below of NoGender and Ligeia was a complex diagram written in blood, its center starting where their bodies finished. NoGender was scared, he didn’t know what was happening and it had received zero explanations. Ligeia had used all the time for explanations arguing and saying she didn’t want to do this, that she didn’t know NoGender and they were asking too much of her. However, after a while she understood this was an argument she wouldn’t win, she accepted defeat and decided to go along.
– Very well! – One of the maisters said, NoGender could not pinpoint which one – The time is near, you need to strength your bond before the time runs out. What you did in that library is just too rare and in the timing that happened… We can’t just say this is a coincidence. I’m not one to believe in destiny, but maybe you will prove me wrong. In conclusion, we can’t let this opportunity pass by, you need to become one before the time runs out and your wavelengths stop being in accordance.
– You will do the test of the tests. However, I’m afraid to say that it will only become harder from here. We will transport your souls to the spirit World. There you will need to find your way, work together and be able to come back. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s imperial for you to reach plenitude and reach your full potential. Water and Soul need to become one.
After this being said, everyone went silent and, without warning, all seven maisters started mumbling in unison some kind of spell in a language which NoGender did not recognize.
Wind, water, fire and earth, the four elements appeared and started circulating NoGender and Ligeia. It started to get more condensed and closer to them until the moment where anyone from outside would only see a multi coloured ball in the center of the diagram.
NoGender didn’t know what he was feeling, he just knew that it was not good! When he though he would not be able to take it anymore and just throw up, everything went black.
The shroud of black that enfolded NoGender and Ligeia D. Mortem slowly began to disperse, revealing to NoGender that they were both still standing in the circle. It looked around confused, it seemed as though nothing had happened, until looking down it could see both of their unconscious bodies laid at their feet. Feet that were no longer quite touching the ground.
A hazy mist had separated the two of them from the maisters and NoGender couldn’t hear anything they said, even though it was pretty sure they were still speaking or chanting. Where are we? NoGender tried to ask the Necromancer, but rather then actually speaking it felt like its words were snatched away from its mind and blown away in a fierce wind.
Her head snapped around sharply and she glared at NoGender with her sharp green eyes. Her words too, came from somewhere other, Did you not pay attention in the one class that I teach! We are in the spirit world! She pointed upward towards the ceiling, but as NoGender looked up he saw that the ceiling was no longer there and that instead it was replaced by a seemingly infinite expanse of great lights. They were not stars, they were too large, or perhaps to small for that.
Ligeia reached over and grabbed NoGender by the arm, which now appeared to be attached to a shoulder that was whole again, and began to pull on it as she moved upwards towards the lights. When they began to move, any sensation of being solid left NoGender and if it had still had a working stomach, any leftover breakfast would have left it.
Where are we going? What’s Happening? It asked.
Without stopping for an instant, Ligeia’s soundless answer traveled back to NoGender, to see what we must do to begin the trials. I would like to get home as soon as possible and I ask you to do your best to not get killed.
Ligeia heads towards the room’s exit, leaving NoGender behind to catch up. Once at the door, NoGender reaches out to grab the handle. A silent gasp escapes NoGender’s lips as its hand goes straight through the solid object.
NoGender hears a scoff coming from somewhere. It glances up to see a head shaking with disapproval, sticking out through the middle of the door. “Where’s rest of your body?” NoGender mumbles, voice echoing around the room and averting its gaze from Ligeia’s floating head.
Ligeia’s head just snickers, “You’re sure taking your sweet time. Keep this up and you’ll be dead within the hour.”
NoGender freezes at the mention of death, again. It shifts awkwardly from side to side as it tries to purge its mind of dark thoughts about its corpse being mangled, tangled, or anything else.
“You coming or not?” Ligeia prompts, gesturing with a swish of her head for NoGender to follow.
So, ignoring the strange tingling sensation now in its hand, NoGender pushes its entire body through the door.
“We have to go into the forest first,” Ligeia informs NoGender once NoGender’s through the door. “That’s where the first trial will be.”
“But I’m a water-bender!” NoGender interjects, its voice now resonating more in the open hallway.
Ligeia snorts, “Any idiot can bend when they’re surrounded by their own element. It takes actual talent for someone to complete their trials in different elemental places though.”
But before NoGender can argue the point further, Ligeia ushers NoGender towards an open window at the end of the hall. NoGender peers out over the sill and sees the forest that surrounds the west wing of the school, stretching out for miles.
“Here we go!” Ligeia calls, and dives out of the window.
“Wait!” NoGender cries. NoGender leans out over the sill, feeling its eyes widen and its forehead crease together with worry. NoGender searches for any signs of Ligeia.
“You’re not in your physical body right now!” Ligeia calls up at NoGender from the ground, seemingly unharmed. “So nothing from the physical world can hurt you here! I mean, of course your physical body can still be damaged… But don’t worry! The maisters will look after them for us!”
“That’s reassuring,” NoGender mutters darkly under its breath, before jumping off of the sill.
NoGender landed with a jarring impact. It cursed under it’s breath, “I thought you said nothing can hurt me Ligeia!”
Ligeia’s head smirked at it from above, “Well, what’s the point of a trial if you can’t feel the pain of your mistakes huh NoGender? Don’t worry, the injury won’t be there, you’ll only feel the pain. Now, stop dilly dallying and start walking already.”
‘Dilly-dallying?’, NoGender frowned and followed Ligeia’s bobbing head. ‘She’s enjoying this a little too much….’
After walking for what seemed like an hour, NoGender finally lost it’s patience, “Ligeia is this trial a test of patience or wha-”
It was interrupted by a shrill scream. “DEMON! GO AWAY!”
When NoGender looked around to see who it was, it came face to face with a pretty young girl on her knees, trembling with fear and trying to push away Ligeia’s floating head.
“H-Hey Ligeia! Get away from her!” NoGender pushed Ligeia’s head away and offered it’s hand to the young girl, “Don’t be scared, she’s not a demon.”
The girl, her eyes wide stared at it’s hand before grasping on tightly. A little too tightly.
“Y-You! You’re a water bender right? P-Please. Give me some water. I beg you! I’m going to die! Please!”, she began to sob and beg NoGender.
Surprised, it turned to look at Ligeia for some help.
“If she’s here, it’s for a reason NoGender. You should leave her.” Ligeia’s face was grim.
“NO! PLEASE! I’M SO THIRSTY!” The girl began to scream and fell to NoGender’s feet, “Please! I’m begging you! Water! Water. Please.”
NoGender noticed her hoarse throat and her slightly shriveled skin. It looked to Ligeia again. She shook her head (Or rather herself), “You shouldn’t. Leave her and come.”
The girl sobs grew more desperate and NoGender shuddered, “I- I have to. It would be unfair not to….”
Against Ligeia’s warnings NoGender concentrated on the ground beneath it’s feet. It took every bit of it’s effort and concentration but a rivulet of water broke the ground.
The girl gasped in joy and jumped towards it, gulping and drinking with deranged intensity.
Ligeia tsked, “Idiot.”
A sharp pain came from NoGender’s side. It yelped and looked only to find the young girl gnawing at it’s skin. It’s blood ran down her chin and her eyes were bright with lust.
“More. More. MORE!”
“There’s a reason some people shouldn’t be helped. Take this as your first lesson.”
No Gender looked on in utter shock as the girl began to lick the blood as if this was her last life line. When something is taken away from someone for so long and then they are given but a brief taste of it, their response is always the same; they desire more. What No Gender was seeing wasn’t just lust or desperation. This was something more akin to a forced fed addict whose supply had been cut off only to be given the briefest taste of heaven.
No Gender forced the girl off of it and took a couple of steps back as horror masked its face. The girl was on all fours now, hair covering her face as she began crawling towards him, still chanting her mantra of “More, more, more”.
The horror of what it witnessed only stayed a while as No Gender began to understand what it had done as the words from earlier echoed in its head. It had been told countless times that the water created by a water bender is different to natural water that is part of the earth. As a water bender, No Gender had the ability to control all aspects of water in all its states but there was more to it than just that. The element created by any bender is infused with their personalities, making each water bender’s water different. In colour and in taste. No Gender knew this. It also knew that because of this, drinking water created by a bender, though not forbidden, was inadvisable. After all, the taste of the water can be anything. It can be sweet like honey, intoxicating like alcohol, or even lethal like poison.
That was not all. How did this girl, someone it had no recollections of ever meeting or seeing, know that it was a water bender? It hadn’t mentioned it and neither had Ligeia but somehow this child, this girl, knew. And yet, she displayed a thirst, an addiction, to a water she had only ever tasted once.
NoGender stared, eyes wide and quivering, as this demonic creature—for could it truly be called human?—suddenly stopped and rolled upward like a corpse reanimated. The disturbing fluidity with which it reared called to mind something from a long forgotten nightmare. NoGender swallowed once, and the creature pinned an eye—once blue, now a hollow, iris-less black—on them from behind its tangled mass of auburn hair. It howled in unholy anguish, clawing at its own neck with nails suddenly grown so very long, and through the cacophonous sound still echoed remnants of a single discernible word: more, more more.
How could they have made this costly mistake after being warned so many times to stay away from reliance on their power to meet another’s mortal needs? How quickly had NoGender forgotten this most important of lessons in light of a sweet, young face in agony?
The creature’s claws drew blood as they dug deeper into its throat when, without warning, it launched itself at NoGender, flying forward with force enough to move the ground beneath it. It slammed into NoGender at breakneck pace, and the two went tumbling to the solid earth below. There was no time for acclamation as the creature bit deeply into NoGender’s neck and began to suckle greedily on their life’s blood. NoGender screamed, a long and painful echo through the twilight-dusted trees.
Through the haze of pain and their own howls of anguish—distinguishable from the burning of the creature’s now protruding teeth buried deeply into NoGender’s flesh—they could feel on their face an altogether different sensation.
Their burning cheek was wet.
This creature—the inhuman thing feasting obscenely on their blood—was crying.
With the creature sucking, it didn’t see a way out of this. NoGender’s strength was slowly leaving it as the creature was slowly digging further and further into it’s inner body mass. There seemed to be no way out of this for NoGender. It was still young and there were so many things NoGender wanted to achieve still. Death from a creature that was seeking its own death seemed ironic and inevitable at this point. It prepared a final prayer for itself in it’s seemingly final moments.
That was until NoGender felt heat out of nowhere. NoGender’s face was on the ground, so it had no way of knowing where it came from. Things got better, because the creature on NoGender’s back started shrieking in pain and then the creature’s weight was gone. There was nothing else consuming its flesh anymore. Maybe it will live after all.
With the removal of the weight from his back removed, there was a soft but firm grip that helped NoGender to it’s feet. Having expected its savior to be Liegia, because that’s the only person NoGender knew was in the spirit realm, it was surprised to see their speckled classmate Fernelle.
“Fernelle, what? How did you get here?”
“Well, um, that’s ah um, a complicated story. Something about me dying and slowly returning to the normal realm.” Fernelle shyly adjusted her glasses.
“Whatever the reason is, thank you. Thank you so much.” NoGender started crying.
Fernelle looked around not knowing what to do for a few seconds, but she decided that the best thing she could do was just put an arm around it and provide comfort. They both turned to the dying creature burning up on the ground. There was an odd beauty about the thing having a smile on its face while burning into ash. NoGender nodded knowing that this is what the creature wanted.
“Let’s get you back home.” Fernelle motioned toward a vague direction to their left. She felt something calling her back to the mortal realm in that direction.
“No yet.” NoGender had a determined face under it’s tears. “I still have to pass my trial.”
“You can’t handle this on your own. At least let me helped you.” Fernelle urged.
Unsure where to go, NoGender and Fernelle slowly walked to where it first met the creature. A few minutes later, Liegia ran up to them completely out of breath.
She looked at Fernelle with a confused look.
Karandi – Chapter 2.8
“Unexpected,” Liegia murmured more to herself than to NoGender, but it seemed as though she’d made a decision as she’d uttered the word. “Up ahead, take the path to the right,” she instructed and then promptly disappeared.
Looking around, Fernelle’s eye’s widened. “Could she always do that?”
“No idea.” NoGender peered at the trees ahead of them and wondered whether it would be wise to follow Liegia’s counsel this time given the disaster last time NoGender had ignored her advice. Still, there was something about her tone that had NoGender concerned. “Are you coming?”
Fernelle nodded and the two of them pressed forward. They soon found where the path split, with the left side winding into the trees and disappearing from sigh and the right side angling down and seemingly disappearing into a cavern.
“Would it be too much to ask that common-sense prevail and we don’t go traipsing about a cavern in the dark?” NoGender demanded of the sky. Naturally it didn’t respond and NoGender was almost disappointed by that.
“Come on,” Fernelle whispered but grabbed NoGender’s arm as she started moving forward.
“I don’t suppose you could give us a light down there?” NoGender asked.
“Sure. I certainly could do that. But, you know, things that live in caves tend to not really like it when you start illuminating their home.”
“Wouldn’t that only be true if this were in the physical world? I mean, I’m not exactly worried about running into a bear in there.”
Fernelle giggled. “Bear in there.”
The path was slippery so they didn’t talk again as they concentrated on reaching the cavern entrance without slipping and then they simply stopped and stared. The cavern mouth stretched open wide and was lined with vines that draped part way down. There was the sound of water trickling within and that was the first time NoGender felt even a little optimistic about entering the cavern. Inside there was water. And from the smell, probably a lot of it.
NoGender was about to suggest they enter when a sound rumbled from within the cavern and enveloped them. It shook NoGender to the core and NoGender felt its limbs turn to jelly. Then the sound came again and NoGender collapsed onto its knees.
I’m going to throw this over to Lita Kino(you have three days to accept this tag – let me know if you pass). Hopefully you can have some fun with it. Or at least figure out where it is supposed to be going, which is something I think I still failed to do.
Those who have been following my episodic reviews will know that I’ve been increasingly less than thrilled with Elegant Yokai Apartment Life this season. And what is interesting is that this is a sentiment shared by most people who are watching it (or at least the ones who seem to be reviewing it) and we’re all just kind of scratching our heads as to what has gone so horribly wrong with the show.
But then I went back through my episode reviews and what I realise was that outside of the boy finds out that yokai are real and has to learn to live with them set up which is kind of inherently interesting, nothing else in this show has been impressive, interesting, or well delivered. Even back in my episode 5 review I was being pretty harsh about the delivery of the ‘poignant’ moments the show attempts to foist upon its audience.
This show thinks it understands what makes these kind of slice of life, feel good, healing stories work and on paper it kind of does. What it does not understand is how to deliver it to the audience in a way that makes us care in the slightest about what is going on. – Epsiode 5
Admittedly, this show was going to struggle with comparisons to significantly greater works. Boy learning to live with yokai? Go watch Natsume. Want something a bit darker? Try Nurarihyon no Mago which I’m currently rewatching so that I can review it. Want a real slice of life supernatural story? Flying Witch. I didn’t even like Flying Witch and I would still recommend that as a watch over this one.
It is a pretty dull episode really, just going through the motions of introduce new character and weird object and then have the cheap comedy of the spirits in the book. – Episode 6
Because Elegant Yokai Apartment Life has no soul. When I finally have to review the show, it is going to be a struggle. The show should work. Fundamentally it has everything it needs to work. You have the two world’s colliding, coming of age story with boy who also has a childhood friend and their relationship should be evolving, and then you have as many yokai and yokai related problems as you need to actually inject the occasional bit of conflict into the show if you get sick of real world problems… and yet this show has not managed to do anything.
There’s a minor moment of maybe something will happen when the book guy brings another weird thing into the apartment but that is a moment of tension quickly killed off and then we resume the nothing happening tone that kind of predominates in this series. – Episode 8
While I’d like to believe this one is just a slow burn what I have to concede is that it has nothing more to give us. The show had a premise but the narrative choices all the way along have been to the detriment of character and plot and the show can’t even manage a consistent atmosphere. I don’t think anyone in the audience knows if we are actually supposed to be worried about the yokai or if they are all just happy go lucky drunkards. The one ghost of note turned out to really have nothing in the end and even the currently probably possessed teacher (ep 9 – 10) isn’t really enough to convince me that something is going to happen.
Things just kind of happen and some of it might end up being significant and some of it is just stuff. – Episode 9
Unfortunately, Elegant Yokai Apartment Life isn’t the only show to suffer from this lack of energy, soul, or just ability to deliver the story they are trying to tell. Knight’s & Magic at least feels like someone has a lot of love for the project (or at least Ernesti) but the delivery has been increasingly poor and it has gotten to the point where you just can’t overlook how little the show seems to respect its own audience. It wants to tell us things but it seldom shows us and even when it does let us be involved in one of the critical moments it is usually done in a flash and then the narrator sweeps us along to the next event rather than dealing with the fall out.
Summer 2017 hasn’t been a great anime season for me. I haven’t dropped very much, but there are a lot of these shows that are seemingly tolerable but not good. Which is a shame because there is so much potential in the premise of so many of these shows and yet they’ve really not managed to deliver.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the shows this season or any anime where you loved the concept but the show just came across as hollow.
Thanks for reading.
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I’d suggest that those who haven’t watched Your Lie in April and haven’t read yet what happens, that you might want to try one of my other posts and come back after you’ve either watched the end or someone else has spoiled it for you.
It’s a common criticism of television shows, movies, and of course anime, that the storyline is old. We’ve seen that before. Oh, it’s just like such and such. However, is this a fair criticism? Depending on which theorist you’d like to believe there are only between 5 and 10 storylines in the entire world and we’ve just been recycling them and giving them make-overs for thousands of years. So should originality really be an issue when writing a story?
That said, the main purpose of most stories being made into television shows, movies and anime is to entertain (there are other purposes but that’s the main one – unless you are cynical enough to believe that the only purpose is making money) and in order to entertain there needs to be an element of novelty. Can you be novel and unoriginal at the same time?
And that’s where we have to start looking at the quality of the story telling and the way the elements have been combined. A simple fairytale can feel like a masterpiece in the hands of someone who knows how to weave it into something magical whereas an epic story might feel like the longest and most boring time of your life in the hands of someone who just doesn’t get how to tell a good story.
Let’s look at Your Lie In April. With 22 episodes to fill you would think we could cover a fairly complex plot in that time. Over the course of 22 episodes we meet and get to know four characters (and only two of them are really developed). We have the initial refusal by Kousei to accompany Kaori and then we see them getting closer and in the process we learn more about Kousei’s trauma, and then we have our hearts broken into tiny little pieces by a death that was incredibly foreshadowed and obvious but still emotionally crippling to watch. That’s it. They meet. She makes him face something he doesn’t want to face. They grow. She dies. The end. There’s some other moments with some of the support cast and while the characterisation of the main pair and emotional weight of the story is well developed, the story itself is that straight forward.
Do we have any other stories that follow this path? Well, lots if you really start looking but the one that immediately jumps out is Love Story from 1970. No, it isn’t exactly the same however the impact of two characters meeting and growing together before a death that leaves the survivor with a new direction is kind of the same. And no, I’m not suggesting that Your Lie in April is a rip-off of anything. But we have seen this pattern in stories before. The events themselves aren’t new.
So why is Your Lie in April effective as a story? (Okay some of you will say it isn’t but everyone has their own opinion and that’s fine.)
If you were to ask the viewers what they like about the story, you will get a whole range of different answers. The music and the way it perfectly complements the themes. The visuals and the way they show Kousei’s anxiety on the stage. The relationship between Kousei and Kaori. The connection they felt to the characters as the story played out. For me it was the connection between the character’s mental state and emotions and the sound of the music. It’s the way this story has been told and the way the different parts have been put together that draws the audience in. That said, all of these other elements could still be there and if the writers had decided not to let Kaori die (after all that foreshadowing) I’m pretty sure most people would have ended up feeling rather indifferent. Despite the ending being obvious fairly early on, and by the half-way point outright inevitable, the way this story is told makes the journey memorable even if it doesn’t pull a last minute twist of any kind or really seek to break new ground.
Then what if we consider something more complex like Baccano. You might argue that Baccano has a unique storyline and there isn’t anything else like it. And it is true that when you watch Baccano it certainly feels novel and different. But that isn’t because of the story. What Baccano does is combines multiple storylines together and then presents them in fragments with each story interconnecting with every other through either a character, object, or event. If we were to untangle each character’s story we actually get a whole lot of fairly simple plot lines. Again, this is not a criticism of Baccano. The presentation of the story (or stories) is really interesting and there is rewatch value in that some of the connections are missed the first time through.
What do you think? Are there new ideas for storylines or are there just new settings, new characters, and new ways to deliver the story? And does it even matter?
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