The fall season is upon us. This is usually the season of the year that sucks the most apparently although, of course, Chuu2 was utterly shafted in last year’s APR year-end rankings because a few bloggers preferred their escapism angst-free (I however, being a die hard Heavenly Creatures fan, find the dark side to be an essential component).
Halfway through my general impressions are that:
Coppelion gets more entertainment out of a bad plot than it should.
Kyousogigia does the opposite.
Samurai Flamenco is hilarious though Kick-Ass did it before and..
White Album 2… Honestly I have trouble watching Key adaptations past the first two episodes because I can’t shake the image of fat, greasy nerds living in their mothers basement, surrounded by empty cola bottles watching Moemoe girls on their cum-stained screens… Maybe I’ll come around later when I can summon up the courage.
Monogatari Second season – I haven’t made it past Nisemonogatari yet because, well… This franchise reminds me of getting wasted at a party and suddenly getting a (supposedly) brilliant idea about relations and psychology amongst your fellow man and getting so caught up in your brilliant understanding of the world that you forget about what is happening around you. And of course end up kicking yourself next day for being so pretentious… Oh, where was I?
The first show I’ll be commenting on is probably the most expensive of the this season, but as we all know Money Can’t Buy Me Love..
The backlash against once anime world-ruler Kyoani has been steadily building over the last couple of years. Not the massive wall of hate like what we saw for the Endless Eight but more a slowly building consensus that Kyoani is becoming synonymous with subtly pandering, overly nostalgic slice of life and MOEBLOBS! Notice how the word MOEBLOB! is written in capital letters with an exclamation mark like a warning – the same way one would yell SHARK! when swimming off the Somali coast.
This seems to clearly have influenced the public reactions to their latest effort Kyokai no Kanata, which hasn’t even reached the top 5 on Anime Power Rankings recently (update: it just did, but only three weeks in the dark).While there is certainly some truth to the criticism, it seems to have eluded fans that KNK actually has some quality buried in there besides the excellent production values.
There is no doubt what has motivated Kyoani’s decisions of late. After the fanservice-less Nichijou tanked at the DVD sales (the Japanese – once the pinnacle of technology and business innovation have yet to discover the wonders of subscription streaming services that the rest of the world is benefitting from) they have been reluctant to anger the loyal hordes of Akihabara-haunting otaku (or Fujioshi, as “Free” showed) or nostalgic 30-somethings pining for a nice, respectable housewife who can cook, look cute AND shut up at the same time.
The heavy irony of this is of course that Kyoani’s ticket to ride was the Haruhi-series, which parodied this phenomenon and its built-in hypocrisy with its Mikuru Asahina character – only for her to become the model on which all other Kyoani females have been built. Last year, they tried to gradually expand on the teenage nostalgia formula with the likes of Chuu2. With KNK, KyoAni appear to try to tread with baby steps into the world of serious drama but still retaining a main character who is, undeniably, a MOEBLOB!
I won’t go explaining the main plot, as I’m assuming you’ve already read that elsewhere (if you haven’t how did you get here?).
But even watching the first half of the series I strangely feel like I’ve missed something, What is going on? Is this a parallel universe where demons and spirit hunters walk side by side in the open or is it a Harry Potter side hidden world known only to a select few? So far the series hasn’t given us any answer. In fact, it doesn’t seem to bother explaining ANYTHING to the viewers or making any attempt to make you feel welcome in its universe. Normally what makes fantasy interesting is the way in which it invites you into its universe.
This series not only doesn’t do that very well – it even feels like it has no interest in doing so. The arrogance of some characters seems directed just as much toward the viewer as toward Mirai.
As a result the viewer feels like an unwelcome outsider looking in at the series world through a foggy glass window, something that effectively prevents the characters from properly connecting with the audience on an emotional level.
Back in the old days of my university revue, when writing sketches there was one guy who kept surprising everyone with his original humor and kept having the audience rolling with laughter at the unpredictability of it all. But enough about me. What I’m trying to say is that the humor in this series tries and tries and tries to make us laugh. Only to fail because that’s what it’s doing – trying. It is predictable and thus falls flat. In Chuu2 the humor worked because it kept us guessing as to what would happen next and the TIMING was impeccable (“really..? [pause] LAME!”). Here though it just doesn’t work in the early episodes and tries to compensate later on by overloading us with the characters’ creepy fetishes.
Now we all know that guy who keeps saying rude, insensitive things because he thinks he’s being funny, only to alienate and offend people instead right? Again, enough about me. Another thing that prevents identification with the cast is the fact that virtually EVERYONE is a total jerk. Not in a funny Eric Cartmanesque way, but in a kick-you-in-the-nuts-and-laugh, invite-everyone-to-their-birthday-but-you kind of way. Not to mention that they all share some perversion or another that they find no shame in sharing with the world, be it incest, voyeurism, exhibitionism or even in Akihito’s case, borderline pedophilia.
So… Why do I consider it underrated? Here’s why: Because of the awe inspiring visuals as well as the way it creates suspense – The hollow shadow episode gave us a great sense of foreboding while also giving us a sense of how the entire community is dealing with this impending threat. For one fleeting moment I was convinced that this was a tightly connected community working together against an external threat.
If only we could have more of these it might be able to pull the viewers into the universe rather than shut them out. Now if Kyoani can please resist the temptation to overload us with creepy FANSERVICE!
Notice how the word FANSERVICE! is written in capital letters…