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: A Brief Reflection on Streaming Anime in Australia

I appreciate that readers from elsewhere in the world probably don’t need to know what streaming is like in Australia, however with Amazon recently ditching Strike and adding their anime to Prime (and Prime being available in Australia even if much like other services the library is smaller than it might be elsewhere), it seemed like a good time to reflect on the access situation in Australia.

It used to be really hard trying to be an anime fan in Australia. Purchasing DVD’s off various websites and usually ending up with questionable quality, watching fan-subs on YouTube, or resorting to Downloads were more or less the only options.

Fortunately, we now have online streaming (and a lot more avenues for purchasing DVD’s once they finally get released).

Sure there are some barriers to online streaming. The two main ones seem to be dodgy internet or the fact that you need multiple subscriptions to access sufficient content to make it worth your while. And they are both legitimate issues still to be addressed, however for me legal streaming sites are fantastic. I’m never without new anime to watch and as much as I complain about various services, ultimately the access I have now is so far beyond what I could have even imagined even ten years ago.

So let’s go through the services I currently use and some points about them (keeping in mind some of the services aren’t for anime strictly speaking, they just happen to have some anime on them). This isn’t a definitive guide nor is it researched. Just my experience with the service. I will point out it might look like I’m tearing into Crunchyroll but it is the service that has the most anime on it so I have spent the most time on it. Obviously I’ll have found more issues with a service I use daily than one I might check in on once a month to see if anything new is out (Netflix). I will point out this is a fairly rambling post. Bottom line, all services have good and bad points and to get access to the largest range of titles you need multiple services.

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Crunchryoll

This is the big one with almost all of my current watch list for the season coming off of Crunchyroll (I have one current show from HiDive that I might drop mid-season, and I’ve picked up one on Amazon but I haven’t picked any up from AnimeLab this season). It didn’t used to have quite that many titles but after their partnership with Funimation they now get the lion’s share of the anime I end up watching. They also have a fairly massive library of older titles and for the price you pay for a yearly subscription you more than get your money’s worth in content. However, probably because I use it the most often, Crunchyroll is also the service I have the most issues with.

01. Some titles don’t get released in Australia even though they are on Crunchyroll. What makes this particularly annoying is that Crunchyroll sends out an email to tell you about this great new title you can watch and when you click the link it takes you to a page that tells you the title isn’t available in your region. Seriously, get a decent email system and send those notifications to people who are in regions with access. Ultimately this is a minor annoyance.

02. The video player is not good. It doesn’t buffer a video so any internet disruption (and this is Australia and I’m in the country so there are a lot) stops the video in its tracks. Worse, when connection is restored (even if the glitch was just for a second) the video won’t just start. You normally have to reload the page and then it might start from approximately where you were up to but sometimes it just restarts the whole video (and don’t even try skipping forward – the video will crash and you will have to start over more often than not). Again, this is my experience with it but it is actually painful some days to get to the end of an episode. But that isn’t every day, it just happens more often than I would like.

03. The ‘help’ provided is more frustrating than helpful. Without getting into too much detail in the two years I’ve been streaming and reviewing I’ve had two issues I could not solve on my end at all (and believe me I tried with the second because I did not want to contact their help again). Neither issue ended up being solved in a satisfactory manner and the icing on the cake is after not resolving the issue in a timely or helpful manner I then got bugged for weeks after to provide feedback on how I found their help only the link they sent in those emails didn’t work. Very annoying. However, I could look at the bright side that I’ve only needed to access that kind of help twice and other issues I’ve been able to resolve after spending a few hours going through the very poorly organised help files.

04. Finally, Crunchyroll has been hacked and their site goes down when popular anime stream and their customers actually try to use the service on mass. This is a problem well discussed on Twitter.

Still, if you are in Australia and actually wanting to stay current with seasonal anime, despite all of those issues, Crunchyroll is actually the service that will give you the most access for your money and given the amount of anime I’ve reviewed I’m guessing I’m not too hard done by despite feeling frustrated regularly with this service.

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AnimeLab

I used to be really, really happy with my subscription to AnimeLab. Firstly they stream only in Australia and New Zealand. The player is fantastic, navigating between episodes when bingeing is awesome. You can even tell it that you haven’t watched a series so it removes all the places you’ve stopped watching and it will start all episodes from the beginning allowing easy rewatching without being bugged about whether you want to resume an episode or not. Plus, videos buffer so you can make sure you can get to the end of a show before starting it. Very little to complain about.

My biggest issue has come about since the Crunchyroll – Funimation partnership. Since Funimation partnered with Crunchyroll… well the last two seasons have not seen much coming out on AnimeLab. Last season I was watching UQ Holder on it (and I could have watched that on HiDive), and this season the only show I’m interested in watching is Record of Grancrest War and it is available on Crunchyroll. I’m subscribed until later in the year but if they aren’t getting seasonal anime then I will probably let this subscription go.

That said, if you are a casual anime fan in Australia, AnimeLab is a great service. They have quite a selection of big titles in their library and while the library isn’t massive it does get added to fairly regularly. I was very happy when they released Drifters as I hadn’t been able to watch it prior to AnimeLab picking it up and they regularly add titles and notify their users of what is in their library.

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HiDive

Okay, I only added this one late last year and it still hasn’t made it clear what the final price of a subscription will be as we are still on their introductory price. I’ll decide whether to keep this service or not then.

HiDive was a fantastic addition though as it gave me access to titles like Made in Abyss that I’d heard a lot about but hadn’t been able to access. Like AnimeLab, the existing library isn’t that big, but is getting added to, and they’ve recently got their apps up and working so I can now view on my television or anywhere else for that matter.

For the short time I’ve had the service, I’m more or less happy with it. It occasionally glitches and the menus are not great but for the most part I’ve had no major issues watching on this service. Still, I only watched three shows on it last season and I’ve only really watched 3 or 4 older shows from start to finish, so my experience here is limited.

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Amazon

This one I only just signed up for and I would not have for their anime collection. It isn’t overly impressive with what is available in Australia. While it has added 9 or so titles to my catch up viewing list for the year and I’m glad to have access, this can’t compare to the selection on any of the other services. This service was more for the movie catalogue than for anime.

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Netflix

Much like Amazon, though I’ve had this account for much longer. I watch the occasional anime title on it but the collection is not great and they don’t do current seasonal shows anyway. Netflix is definitely something you have for the other content and the few anime they pick up are just a bonus.

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As I said at the start, this isn’t a definitive guide but more my thoughts on each service and my experience (or lack of it) with the services. What I do like is that there are only a few titles left each season that I can’t access, and even with all these services together, each month it is still cheaper than going to the cinema once with another person and buying a drink and popcorn combo (which actually seems pretty reasonable given how much content I watch across these services – or it means the price of cinema tickets and snacks is insane).

It is a very good time to be an anime fan in Australia as more becomes available every season and it is actually reasonably priced to get these services. The slow internet issue is something that needs to be addressed but not just for streaming anime.

So, if you read to the end of my rambling thoughts here I’d love to know if you are Australian what your experience is like accessing anime and if you aren’t Australian, what are your options?


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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Summer 2017 Week 4

No, you didn’t miss anything, but this is my first overview of the season. I must admit, I’m not terribly impressed with the offerings so far this season. Then again, I’ve been fairly spoiled for choice in Winter and Spring so I guess eventually I had to hit a slow season. Below  are my current thoughts on what I’ve watched (keeping in mind I’m a little behind on quite a number of shows). I have worked out a bit of a review schedule so click here if you’d like to know my plans for reviews this season so far, keeping in mind they are still very flexible while I try the first handful of episodes of some of these shows.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the season so far so please leave a comment below.

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Must Watch

My Hero Academia (Episode 26)

I know, I’m behind on this one at the moment, but it is still a must watch. Hopefully I will catch up soon.

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Usually Entertaining

Princess Principal (Episode 1)

Well, I finally found a show that was kind of enthralling from the start. Hopefully this show can maintain this tone and feeling because that was a really enjoyable first episode. A little surprising, given the title, but a very welcome addition to this season’s line up.

In Another World With My Smartphone (Episode 1)

This one I’m tentative on because while I enjoyed the first episode it is really playing on a lot of clichés and has that kind of self-aware vibe that usually ends up descending into jokes of the ‘aren’t we clever’ variety that just kind of annoy me after a while. That said, I really did enjoy the first episode and kind of hope this remains pleasant viewing.

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Okay, I Guess

Gamers (Episode 1)

I’m loving the sound track for this anime as it reminds you of every old school video game in existence, but I’m not totally sold on the characters yet. Basically, I’m on the fence. School anime about clubs don’t really appeal and while I like video games, stories about video games don’t tend to go particularly well. Yet, this first episode was interesting. Hoping this one wins me over.

Vatican Miracle Examiner (Episode 1)

While sticklers for accuracy may find this a bit frustrating, and certainly those squeamish about blood need to give it a miss if the first episode is anything to go by, this one struck me as different enough at least for a first episode to stick with it for a time. I don’t think it is going to end up being amazing, but there could be some good drama to be found here if the show finds its feet.

Fastest Finger First (Episode 1)

This was surprisingly enjoyable as a first episode. I’m not expecting much given the stock standard everything about the story but I like quizzes and so that aspect was kind of fun. The show does have potential to help develop some of the characters but even if it doesn’t, this is fairly watchable.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Episode 1)

Being a sucker for stories about Japanese ghosts this one kind of gets a pass just because of the subject matter. The first episode was ridiculously generic though so I guess I’ll wait and see once we meet some other characters and the story gets going. Still, looks quite pretty and like it could be a bit of fun.

Classroom of the Elite (Episode 1)

I won’t be reviewing this week to week but I am going to follow the show for the season and I’ll write a series review once it is done (or I might pick this one up for episode reviews when I inevitably start dropping other shows). Basically, I’m not really comfortable with the set up of this show, but it could be kind of interesting so I’m going to keep watching and see how it goes.

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Episode 1)

This was certainly the prettiest first episode I watched, but I was kind of disconnected from the characters and events. It was all just kind of happening on the screen and I didn’t really care or feel compelled to learn more. That said, I’m sticking with this one for a little bit longer to see where it goes because it really does look good and like it could be fun.

Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight (Episode 1)

I haven’t been the biggest fan of this franchise and have a tendency to skip episodes because while I like the idea of the show, I find watching it a little dull. Still, decided to give this installment a go and the first episode was actually not bad.

18if (Episode 1)

I’m kind of terribly confused by this so far (not aided by watching the first episode with a fever), but I was still kind of intrigued. Usually that means the show isn’t very good and I’m stretching for something that isn’t there, but honestly, I think I could enjoy the story here and the theme song is pretty cool.

Netsuzou Trap (Episode 1)

While I won’t be writing episode reviews of this one, I am going to follow the show for the season and I’ll write a series review once it is done. The first episode felt a little bit rushed and seemed to be pushing shock factor over story or characters but hopefully it will flesh out some of its cast in the following episodes.

Knight’s & Magic (Episode 1)

This one I’m allowing myself to be a bit hopeful about. The heavy exposition in episode 1 is hopefully not a sign of things to come but was simply a rush to get the story moving and hopefully they are ready to do that now. That said, this could go either way and  end up pretty dreadful or pretty okay, though it might just sit at middling for the season.

Chronos Ruler (Episode 1)

Alright, episode 1 plays out like poorly written fan fiction and the visuals are all over the place from flash to dreadful sometimes within the same scene, but the basic notion is kind of interesting so I’ll give this one another episode to try to impress.

Clean Freak Aoyama Kun (Episode 1)

This was watchable and some bits were enjoyable. Honestly, I’d be very surprised if this stays on my list of shows that I’m watching. It seems distinctly one note and repetitious at the moment and it will all depend on whether they can expand beyond reiterations of the same joke.

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They Made This

Sagrada Reset (Episode 14)

This isn’t changing at this point. Lots of intrigue, poor delivery, no answers. Just keep stringing me along and eventually it will end. Hopefully it will end with some kind of explanation about the town but I’ll just be happy to see it end.

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Tried and Dropped

The majority of these aren’t necessarily bad, they just don’t particularly appeal to me. Okay, there’s a few that are pretty terrible in the mix, but others are kind of sweet.

Restaurant to Another World (Episode 1)

Centaur’s Life (Episode 1)

Convenience Store Boyfriends (Episode 1)

Saiyuki Reload Blast (Episode 1)

Battle Girl High School (Episode 1)

Hina Logic (Episode 1)

Tsuredure Children (Episode 1)

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Episode 1)

Aho Girl (Episode 1)

The Irresponsible Galaxy Tylor (Episode 1)

I know I’m late into this season so let me know what you’ve loved so far.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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