Category Archives: Opinion

“Read the Manga” Endings and the Failure of Adaptations

I remember the first time I sat down to watch the show Btooom! It had peaked my interest after reading the plot description, so I opened up my laptop and began watching. By the last episode, I was hyped. The show up until that point had a great story, solid pacing, and looked as if it were going to come to a decent conclusion. Except, it didn’t. My hopes were dashed as soon as the credits rolled and the two main characters were left still stranded on the island with a helicopter floating above their head.

This failure, now more commonly referred to as “read the manga” endings, have not only ruined what were otherwise great shows but have now become commonplace in an industry that is known for its unpredictability of sequels. Why provide a concrete ending to a show we could potentially make more money off of?

This isn’t just a problem in anime either, although it is widespread throughout the industry. In fact, this same problem exists within American movies as well. Movies that are otherwise finished and don’t necessarily need more worldbuilding get sequels, whereas ones that desperately need more detail are left unfinished. This is of course because it is a much safer bet to produce a sequel to an already popular franchise then it is to take a risk on a new title.

 

*stares*

 

But this is where the capitalist elements of both industries fail. The need to maintain a profit promotes the ability to expand on an already existing property, and because of that writers leave space open to continue a story even if it does not need to be continued.

This is the failure of the modern anime adaptation as we know it today. Instead of trusting in the audience to be satisfied with a self-contained story, the industry manipulates the source material and writes a story that they know they will not finish in the hopes of making a bit more money.

Another good example of this is No Game No Life. While the movie did adapt an important segment of the story, as of today we have no confirmation of a direct sequel series to the original. The team at Studio Madhouse decided it was more important to leave open room for a sequel they have zero plans to make and instead decided that it would be better to leave fans in the dark.

It is one thing to have a “read the manga” ending and have plans to make a concluding sequel that get announced shortly after the season airs, like the case with My Hero Academia season three, but most studios do not do that. It seems as of recently that is starting to change, but it still currently an industry standard.

It is a shame that material that is otherwise superb gets treated as unimportant when studios fail to conclude the series in one go or give even a hint at a sequel.

How American Politics is a Bit Like the Fate Series

As a now registered voter, as well as being interested in political science, I think about U.S. politics a lot. Between climate change, healthcare, and systemic poverty, there are a lot of issues facing the American public right now. One of those issues, however, takes precedence over most of those issues. That issue is Money in Politics, or as many who would consider themselves on the left call it, the issue to end all issues.

I also like to think about the politics of different anime. Whether that be the macro-relationships between characters, or especially the different governing bodies of certain societies and how they operate, and the rules that govern the Fate universe are one of the more interesting things that I’ve seen come out of anime. In fact, I see a lot of fate as a metaphor for how money operates in U.S. politics.

The basic setup for Fate is that seven masters summon seven servants using magic in order to assist them in fighting for the holy grail, an all-powerful magic item that will grant the winner of the Holy Grail War. In this case of the U.S., its more like a battle for political control between the rich and the poor.

In a lot of ways, the U.S. is already controlled by the elite of American society. A recent study from 2014 found that based on the policy that gets passed by Congress the U.S. operates as an effective oligarchy, meaning that the rich control most of what gets passed.

In this metaphor, the masters are the political interests groups as well as the people themselves. Whether it be Tax Reform, Campaign Finance Reform, Initiatives to deal with Climate Change, everybody wants something. They have wishes that they want to be fulfilled, and that’s why they fight.

Politicians, therefore, are their servants, performing whatever task their master asks of them. The politicians also have their own wishes. Some want to help lift their constituents out of poverty and end racism, while others only seek to enrich themselves by working for another master while in Congress and then eventually leave and become a master themselves, in the never-ending revolving door.

Lastly, there’s the magic, and by that I mean money. Masters supply their servants with magic in order to help them fight. They continue to fight until they both achieve the holy grail and get what it is they want. Their wish could be good for the world, or it could be bad. It doesn’t really matter to them though, just so long as they get what they desire.

And then, a few years later, that same holy grail war starts over again. A new contest for the holy grail begins.

 

Looking Forward: 2018 is Going to be a Great Year for Anime

With the last anime season of the year about to end and three other seasons this year squarely behind us, It seems like as good a time as any to look forward to the future. Even though the rest of the world was drowned in political turmoil, including the rise of the far-right in America and a large swath of Europe, along with the resurgence of Nazi views, anime largely remained on the upward rise, both in terms of popularity and overall quality. Just this year, we had both My Hero Academia season 2, which took the series to new heights and Attack on Titan Season 2, which took the series in a much appreciated new direction. 2017 also saw the rise in success of original IPs, including Studio Troyca’s Re:Creators and P.A. Works’ Sakura Quest.

2018, however, is looking just as bright, if not brighter, as a year where anime can shine as the wonderfully creative medium that it is.

On last week’s This Week in Anime, I discussed an article detailing the large number of high profile sequels that will be airing in 2018. This list includes things like Attack on Titan season 3, My Hero Academia season 3, Fooly Cooly season 2, and a Chunnibyo movie titled “Take on Me.” If that weren’t enough, you also have the last season of Fairytail, Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel 2, A Sound! Euphonium movie and a season 3 of Free.

 

My-Hero-Academia-Season-3-storyline
Season 3! Source: Otakukart

 

It wouldn’t be entirely fair though to judge a year by its sequels. New adaptations and original IPs are literally what keep the medium moving forward, without feeling stagnant and unchanging.

Thankfully though, It looks like 2018 is going to be a very promising year on that front as well. Earlier this year we were teased to KyoAni’s latest project Violet Evergarden, a story about a war veteran who loses her husband during The Great war between the north and the south. At the beginning of the story, We are meeting her for the first time, as she starts her new job as a sort of magical mailwoman.

 

Violet
KyoAni looking beautiful as usually.

 

We also have what is likely going to be something a bit more “out there” with Darling in the FranXX, A story about a group of pilots who have been locked inside a mobile city their entire life, and their only mission is to fight their enemies piloting a fran. The project is a joint production between Studio Trigger and A-1 pictures, and considering their past work, it will likely be an action-packed story that means a lot more than what the surface level details suggest.

 

darling
Giant Robots!

 

And of course, most of this coming just from what we know about the winter and spring season. Most of the Summer and fall has yet to even be announced, which in and of itself should tell you a lot about the quality of this year. It is certainly shaping up to be one of the better in recent memory.


What do you think anime will be like in 2017? Is there stuff I missed? Am I just plain wrong? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos.

Has Black Clover Gotten Any Better?

To many in the anime community, Black Clover’s first episode was seen as a huge disappointment. The show had a huge push behind it and Crunchyroll was really hoping it would do well. Unfortunately for them, the show has been met with almost universal criticism that it is just another generic Shonen with a lot of adaptation problems. Skip ahead two months though: has Black Clover gotten any better?

 

BC
Has it?

 

Well, I️ think that honestly depends on what exactly you mean by better. If by better, you mean good, than I’m going to ask you to calm down, take a seat and let me explain.

From the beginning, Black Clover didn’t really have a lot going for it. Many people were calling it a clone of Naruto, with Asta. a loner orphan who never gives up and wants to be the ruler of his kingdom, being the main character. Not exactly doing a great job at differentiating itself. Crunchyroll didn’t really help this in its push for the show, literally calling it the next Naruto on their website.

Unfortunately, Black Clover hasn’t been able to live up to this comparison. The show started with a lot of problems and hasn’t really been able to get rid of any of them. As Mother’s Basement pointed out in his recent video on the show, Black Clover has terrible pacing, seemingly speeding up and slowing down with no real rhyme or reason. Take episode 8, for example. The show spends almost 5 minutes just showing Asta cleaning up the Black Bulls base. By the end of the episode, we see him and Noelle get their first mission, but we don’t actually get to see any of the mission.

Oh, and let us not forget about the main man Asta himself. Granted, the show has only been on for 8 episodes and is going to be 51 total, but one would expect at least a little development or change to happen with the main character, especially considering that he became a Member of the Black Bulls. That’s just not the case, and let’s not forget to mention the incredible amount of times that Asta think’s its necessary to scream at the top of his lungs. Sure it’s tolerable by episode 5 or so, but only after you’ve heard it like 30 times.

Now, if your definition of better is that the show has improved since the first episode, then I think it’s fair to say yes. Since the first episode, we’ve gotten a little taste of the show’s action. When Asta gets to the Kingdom’s capital in order to become a magical knight, part of the exam that he must take involves a one on one battle with one of the other examinees. Now, the fight literally only lasted a minute, but I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t one of the things that kept me watching. No matter how much I try to deny it, seeing Asta swing around his giant sword makes me want to see what is going to happen next, especially when it comes to finding out the root of his powers.

It would also be disingenuous of to not mention the other members of the Black Bulls. Their addition to the cast, while not being the best side characters, certainly make it more bearable than just having Asta on screen for a full 20 minutes by himself. Noelle and Magna especially seem like they are going to be worthwhile characters.

While I’m not optimistic about Black Clover, I haven’t given up hope either. There have been plenty of show’s before that started off kind of week but got a lot stronger as they went on, and hopefully, Black Clover can end up in that same category.


What do you think of Black Clover so far? Love it? Hate it? Is there stuff that I didn’t mention that it needs to work on? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!

A Major Disconnect: Exploring the Lack of Effective Horror Anime

For me, It’s hard sitting through horror movies. I know, I know, I’m a weakling, but it’s true. Even subpar products like the recent remake of Flatliners had me in all but the most panicked of states. No matter how hard I try I can’t get through the creeping effects of seeing people on screen and knowing that they will more than likely die.

Halloween got me thinking more and more about Horror as a genre and as a storytelling convention. Even poorly made horror films can still get a lot of people with a well-timed jump scare. However, anime, and a lot of animation, doesn’t really have that advantage.

In the game of life, animation drew the short end of the stick when it comes to scaring people. Unfortunately, their are a few underlying reasons as to why.

One of the main two reasons is that animation is often perceived as childish. Whether it be literally kid shows like Yugioh or Pokémon, or even a less sophisticated adult comedy like family guy, it is ingrained in many fans minds that animation is just for kids, and that we shouldn’t be scared because that be dumb.

The other, and more important reason is that no matter how detailed and alarming, we know that  animation isn’t real. The reason that simple jump scares often get to us more than a well planned frantically horrifying scene in anime is because we simply don’t associate these things with reality, because they’re drawings, whereas live-Action horror films have the air of looking at least theoretically possible.

And this really sucks. Shows like Higurashi which put time and effort into building up an intense atmosphere really only make me feel slightly creeped out, as opposed to legitamently scared. Because of these realities, Horror in anime remains a niche and under appreciated part of our beloved medium.


I’m really curious: What has your experience with horror anime been? How scared of an anime have you gotten? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now, Friendos!

Log Horizon: The Better Written Sword Art Online

I’ll be honest, When I’m deciding what shows I would consider good, as opposed to a show that I just happen to enjoy, I generally tend to reward more points to a show that has more in-depth writing than one with huge flashy action scenes. That’s not to say that shows with flashy action scenes are bad, or that those shows can’t also have good writing or interesting ideas. I think a lot of the Fate series makes that point well. My point is that a show needs more than two characters trying to beat each other to death in order to be considered good. This is where the debate between Log Horizon and Sword Art Online comes in.

Log Horizon in a lot of ways borrows elements of Sword Art Online’s premise, although at that point it would also be fair to say that Sword Art Online borrows a lot from the .hack franchise’s premise. Both of the show’s start out in familiar situations in their respective first episodes. A male protagonist who plays a lot of video games suddenly gets sucked into a world based on a game he’s playing and can’t get out. However, even though the show’s start in similar places, the show’s both take radically different approaches.

 

SAO-and-Log-Horizon-anime
Sword Art Online vs Log Horizon. Source: TheMarySue.com

 

Sword Art Online is quick to focus on Kirito and the people around him, with the first couple of episodes actually remaining quite tragic. Kirito is trapped in a world he can’t escape from with a bunch of people he doesn’t know. Not only that, he is hated by a lot of people for simply having been a beta tester and thereby having a stronger character. A lot of this focus is quickly replaced by a focus on Kirito and gang’s quest to get out of the game. Kirito meets a lot of female companions and the show quickly turns into Kirito’s Not so Happy Harem Time with fighting. 

This shift away from unique character development is ultimately what leads to the show’s lackluster finish. Full disclosure, I am not the biggest fan of SAO, if you couldn’t already tell, but even I would admit its strength are indeed strong. The show’s animation is extremely detailed and its musical score is impressive to be sure, but as I said at the beginning, a showy presentation can only do so much for a show’s quality.

Log Horizon, while admittedly losing out on things like animation and musical score, does what Sword Art Online tried and failed to do: write an interesting story and build an interesting world. Log Horizon chooses to focus on its characters in the beginning and stay focused on developing those characters throughout the entire series. Log Horizon’s main character Shiroe, in comparison with Kirito, has a distinct personality (an intelligent, sensible leader who knows how to engage in Diplomacy and work behind the scenes to achieve his goals). Kirito comes off most of the time as a typical shonen protagonist who thinks that he can achieve anything he wants by just believing hard enough.

Screenshot 2017-11-07 01.30.40

Log Horizon’s writing also speaks for itself in the way it uses details to build its world from the ground up. It is explained in the first episode that world that the characters are in a world like the one they knew as Elder Tale, but not Elder Tale itself. Many of the world’s rules function the same way as in the game, but some details like the types of monsters in specific locations have changed, and also the way that they travel to other parts of the game (mainly through the transportation gates) no longer works. This hints to us that the world they are now is not necessarily what they think it is.

The show also differs in how the characters feel about the world they are in. While almost all of the characters in Sword Art Online agree that breaking out is the immediate focus, Shiroe takes a much more pragmatic approach. He, of course, is worried about getting back to the real world, but he also feels that there needs to be a sense of order in their new world for the time being. In order to accomplish this goal, Shiroe sets up a council with the leaders of the group’s largest guilds and hammers at a plan to cooperate and keep the people happy. Parts of this plan include trading agreements for different clans, organizing what is effectively a standing army, and also solving the problem of food not tasting like everything.

One criticism that is fairly leveled at the show’s story is the arc during the first part of the show where Shiroe and company go and rescue a little girl from a guild of thieves. Most of this arc does very little in terms of the overall story except for introducing us to two new characters. However, what the show presents in those first few episodes is enough to keep us interested. It explains the basics of combat in an MMORPG setting, as well as explaining the class system, all stuff that while boring to someone who has experience with desktop MMOs like this, is vital to someone who doesn’t. Sword Art Online, meanwhile, does very little in establishing much of anything when it comes to rules in its own world, and often times resorts to Deus ex Machina plot explanations of “Kirito is a beta tester, therefore he is invincible to all damage ever.”

 

Titan's_Hand
Source: Sword Art Online Wiki

 

Not every show can be perfect. In Fact, most shows won’t excel at everything. There is always going to be something a show could have improved on and made itself better. Log Horizon, while certainly having its flaws, is unmistakably a much better-written show than Sword Art Online.


What do you guys think? Am I right? Am I wrong? Is Asuna worst girl? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now, Friendos!

I Rewatched Soul Eater this Weekend, and it was Great.

In a desperate attempt to avoid spending any time doing work, I spent the majority of last weekend sitting around watching Soul Eater. I figured, “why not sit back with something nostalgic and fitting for Halloween?” So I did. I went to the Funimation Streaming service, put on Soul Eater, and sat back and relaxed. All and All, it has probably been one of the best Weekends in recent memory.

Just in case you haven’t had the chance to watch one of the better shonen series of the last decade, Soul Eater is a 51 episode series directed by Takuya Igarashi, who also directed Ouran High School Host Club, and focuses on Maka Albarn, a weapon meister, and Soul Eater, her weapon partner. In this world, evil manifests itself in the form of Kishins, demons that seek to eat human souls, and it’s up to the weapon meisters of the DWMA to stop these Kishins.

maka_albarn_vector_by_mike_rmb-d5h9o8s

Watching this series for the third time now, and as someone who’s about to turn 18, as opposed to 13-year-old me, there was a bit that was different. The boob jokes weren’t as funny, and I only found Blackstar even more annoying than the last time, Especially with Brittany Karbowski portrayal, where her voice can get a little more high pitched than my ears can take anymore. It’s also a lot more apparent the third time around where they would try to save on the animation budget by stretching out jokes where the characters would stand still, with some of them getting close to 10 seconds. In a 20 minute episode, it looks incredibly cheap. Speaking of jokes, Death the Kid’s need for everything to be symmetrical is a lot less funny the third time around, especially in the middle of what are supposed to be series battles.

Despite all this, though, I genuinely enjoyed rewatching this piece of my middle school experience. Halloween is one of my favorite Holidays, and it feels good being able to watch an anime that is inspired by that imagery, with monsters and demons and, essentially, demon hunters, otherwise known as meisters.

There wasn’t really much to this post other than that. I just wanted to share all of my Halloween joy and share a good show with anyone who hasn’t seen it. Hope you all enjoy your Halloween as well. To anyone not celebrating Halloween, have a good 31st anyway.

Thanks for Reading!

Fullmetal Alchemist Movie: Whitewashing Works Both Ways

Whitewashing has been a contentious issue in film making for a while, especially recently. Adaptations of popular anime franchises like Ghost in the Shell have drawn heat for casting white actors for rolls that are set in Japan and who’s stories are specifically influenced by Japanese culture. It is true that it doesn’t make much sense for white actors to play what should be Japanese rolls, but that standard applies when you reverse the situation as well.


It was announced last year that a live action Fullmetal Alchemist Movie was being made, and we now have multiple trailers and a full cast list. Here’s the problem: the whole cast is Japanese. All of the actors, both main and supporting cast, do not match the race of their original characters.

Just as Ghost in the Shell took a uniquely Japanese story and replaced any cultural influence with white actors, The live action Fullmetal Alchemist looks as though it is going to take the unique commentary of the original series and replace it with Japanese actors. 

The reasons that this such a problem in the first place is because much of Fullmetal Alchemist’s story revolves around the conflict of the Amestrian government and the Ishvallan people. Amestris is a country that draws large parallels with Western Europe in the 1940’s, but more specifically it is meant to represent Germany, with Fuhrer Bradley being a direct reference to Adolf Hitler. Of course, the Ishvallans are a reference to the Jewish people in Germany and the Ishvallan War of Extermination is a reference to World War 2 and Concentration Camps.

Race, in this case, plays a large part of the show. Most of the characters being white represents the predominantly white Western Europe, and the ethnic discrimination of Ishvallan people from both the Amestrian government and the people of Amestris serves as huge arc in Scar’s character. 

Having both Edward and Scar be Japanese eliminates any theme of ethnic resentment from the original. It would be taking away heavily from the character of the story.

Even the director of the original show thought the all Japanese cast was a bad call. It’s not wrong for their to want to proper representation for different races in different stories. In Fact, I agree completely, but let’s make sure that standard is applied across the board.

You Know What Would Make Black Clover Better? Emphasizing Poverty

Studio Pierrot’s recent endeavor Black Clover was hyped up as the new Shonen show that everyone should be watching, even being advertised as the next Naruto. Unfortunately, what we got was a lot less impressive. The opening episodes have been uninspiring, and the main characters are a lot of the focus of this lack of enthusiasm.

Asta and Yuno have mostly been cookie-cutter shonen archetypes, with Asta filling the role of the young protagonist and Yuno being cast as his distant but driven rival. It certainly feels like Naruto in that sense, but not as well done.

For any shonen action series, it is important to carve out a unique identity that makes them stand out in the crowd. Hunter X Hunter did this by doing intricate world building and an interesting power system that didn’t rely on deus ex machina story turns whenever the writer put himself in a narrative corner.

So far, Black Clover is nothing but a borrowing of other shonen troupes and has done nothing new with its premise. This doesn’t mean that they can’t do something new and interesting. In fact, Black Clover has already hinted at something that would make them distinct in shonen stories: focusing on the character’s economic situation.

Black Clover’s setting is a rural village far from the kingdom’s capital or any urban area, with the people in the village just barely getting by. So far, it has been shown Yuno and Asta’s adopted father has to frequently ask for extra food or people will go hungry. There isn’t much infrastructure other than the church, and magic is the only way people are able to support themselves.

These parts of the setting and plot are emphasized heavily, and yet it seems as though the only time the show talks about it is when Asta brings up he’s an orphan. Beyond that, the show remains a typical shonen anime where the main character tries to take on the world and become the strongest. If Black Clover decided to use it’s set up to the full effect, the show could tell a compelling, underdog tale about Asta, the poor, underprivileged kid who rises out of poverty to achieve his goals.

Unfortunately, I have little reason to believe that the show will ever tap into that uniqueness. Black Clover is more than happy with bathing in cliche’s and coasting off the hype of the manga, and that’s a real shame, because this much potential shouldn’t be thrown out so easily.

My Thoughts on Netflix and the Anime Industry

It seems like just yesterday that anime was this niche thing that the nerds would gather around and discuss everyday, but more so everyday anime is becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon, to the point that multiple live-action adaptations have come out just this year, with more coming in the future.

This effect is being felt greatest by online streaming companies like Netflix and Crunchyroll, where their model has been more than lucrative. Netflix especially has become the poster child of investment in anime, as they announced 12 new series a few months ago, and it was released that much of their 8 billion dollar budget for next year would be going to anime project. Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos even admitted that “We’ve more than 30 original anime projects in various states of production.”‘

Certainly, as an anime fan, I’m happy. More original content, in general, is going to make a Netflix subscription even more worth having than it already is, but the fact that Netflix is making a serious investment in anime specifically, as opposed to live-action, is a sign that anime is becoming a popular and influential medium.

Many of the shows that they are getting I’m excited about. Whether it be last season’s Kakegurui, this season’s Children of the Whales or the next season of Seven Deadly Sins, the content that Netflix is bringing to their library is good.

the-seven-deadly-sins-season-2

Of course, none of this really gets at what a lot of people find objectionable about the anime industry, to begin with: how cheap it is. It has been a widely reported that many anime studios, including ones that have worked with Netflix in the past, have severely underpaid animators. Most starting animators in Japan now only make about 10,000 USD a year, with many having to live in big cities close to the studio where costs of living are much higher.

This lifestyle is largely unsustainable, with low pay and high workload, many can’t do it. According to a report that came out this year, 80 percent of animators leave the industry within just 3 years. What’s worse, the wages that animators get paid is below Japan’s minimum wage in most places, and even though the practices of animation studios is well-known, little has been down by the Japanese government to help the situation.

Netflix has been seen by many in the industry as a solution to the razor-thin profit margins that exist at many studios, with it being widely reported that the budgets for Netflix shows are significantly higher than a typical TV series.

This, however, that the industry’s long-standing problem of underpaying animators is solved. There is currently nothing that says that animators are getting paid more from these projects, and working conditions and workload have remained serious burdens on animators. If there is one thing that Netflix could do for the Anime Industry, it would be to foster an environment in which studios care about compensating their workers fairly, and that animators do not have to get paid slave wages just to do what they love.

How do you guys feel? What concerns do you have about the industry? Leave a comment and let me know.