Article: Why I stopped watching Cross Ange

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo is probably one of the most controversial anime series of recent seasons & one that more than a few readers have called on me to comment upon (mainly asking why I haven’t condemned it like I did Kenzen Robo Daimidaler).

The 1st few episodes of the series is all about extreme dehumanisation through violence, degradation, sexual assault & humiliation & turning a joy-filled girl into a terrified non-entity & eventually an effective killing machine.

This is all done through the worst forms of visual denigration seen outside of BDSM hentai media. In that basically the titular heroine, Ange, is beaten, stripped, abused, molested, pseudo-raped, near (lesbian raped), degraded, deprived & humiliated until all that remains of the once happy is mistrustful sociopath who is only looking to survive & get revenge on all those who destroyed who she once was.

The reason that I didn’t condemn this series like I previously (& briefly) did with the aforementioned Kenzen Robo Daimidaler) is that all the degradation has a narrative context. It exists for a purpose outside of the titillation of the (majority male) audience. That does not mean that I liked or approved of it but I understood why such acts were within the story. I did not forgive or tolerate Cross Ange for that, more like I endured it. I put up with all the nasty Fan Service & brutality because it seemed to be leading to a point of character & narrative development & had shown that dehumanisation within context shows how terribly people can be transformed &/or destroyed.

And then the series committed the Cardinal Sin of entertainment: it bored me.

At some point, all the development suddenly stopped & Ange was stuck as this angry, untrustful, violent creature who constantly had Tusk (the male love interest) constantly falling into her crotch for comic effect or otherwise getting sexually entangled with her. The Fan Service (in the form of revealing clothes, hinted nudity & lesbianism) dragged on & got worse & the plot just got itself tangled up after they began to (finally) reveal what’s going on within the narrative universe.

This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find
This is actually the least extreme example of Fan Service that I could find

The basic conceit of the series is that humans live in a Utopia where “The Light of Mana” fuels everything & grants people magical abilities. There is no war or poverty but it all comes at a price. For within society there are women who can’t use The Light of Mana, called Norma (taken from the word ‘normal’) & there very touch actively destroys any magical field. They are scapegoated by the rest of society, degraded & hated as being violent creatures who wish to destroy the world. So as soon as they are found, they are taken from their families & removed from the world. Naturally, Ange (formerly Angelise), being the ruling princess hates them, so is in denial when it’s revealed that she’s secretly a Norma & her parents have been keeping that fact a secret from not only the kingdom but from Ange herself.

After her father is deposed for hiding the secret & her mother is killed trying to protect her, Ange is taken to the Norma prison, where she is molested, sexually assaulted & humiliated by the commanding officer of the Normas & told that she must fight the DRAGONS or die.

All the Normas are put into transforming mecha units to fight dragon-like creatures, for which they get a bounty for each confirmed killed to use on whatever they want to buy within the prison. Having never committed an act of violence before, Ange is terrified of being thrown into such a situation & her cowardice costs her team several lives. Being humiliated & isolated by the other Norma girls, Ange rebuilds herself as a vicious killer in order to humiliate those who humiliated her & eventually gain her revenge.

This character arc changes after a few episodes, when Ange begins to accept that she’s a Norma & that Normas aren’t as she was taught growing up. Being a Norma is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that they can only become violent & anti-social because that’s what society turns them into. They are the weapons in a war that the rest of humanity is completely unaware of & one that means they can keep using their precious Mana-imbued powers.

Once they start revealing the nature of the Norma, the history of the world & the truth behind the DRAGON attacks, things start to get muddled & vexing in a form.

You’re presented with all this info as to why you’re meant to see how the dehumanisation of the Norma occurred but Ange remains a basically unlikeable & selfish character that you find it hard to support her when all of her actions are contradicting others & she keeps denying information presented to her even when the facts are to her benefit.

That becomes the problem when dealing with a narrative around dehumanisation.

It’s exceptionally easy to break a person down but it’s next to impossible to rebuild them again from that point.

I feel that’s the major problem with Ange as a character and with the series as a whole.

After spending the 1st half dozen episodes ripping Ange apart -mentally & physically- they don’t really try to rebuild her as anything other than angry & mistrustful.

I didn’t want her to return to normal, not being any mental, emotional or physical scars -because trauma is inescapable- but I did want to see her develop into someone who takes their pain, their scars & their hatred & channels into into a positive force for others.

Maybe it does go that way, I won’t know because I lost any & all engagement with it around episode 16, when they crossed over into the ‘real’ world & the truth of the DRAGONS was revealed.

From this point on, I could bang on & on about the extremeness of the hypersexualisation within the series or how the Fan Service was so blatant that it became numbing but that would be pointless. That dead horse has been flogged so long it’s not a bloody pulp beneath my mighty boots (guessing no one will get those references).

I might come back to this when they release the blu-ray version but unlike considering the back catalogue I still have to watch (over 2 terabytes on computer & dozens of DVDs/BDs).

So, lessons to take from this: dehumanisation is OK if it has narrative context & purpose & isn’t glorified in any way, shape or form; don’t bore the audience or they won’t go with you to the conclusion.

Oh, & don’t bother messaging me with your butthurt over how I didn’t like this series when I did or how you feel that it’s nothing like I depicted with the dehumanisation & so forth because I will ignore you. If you try to defend your masturbation material in the series like others have with other series I dislike, I will insult you until I get bored.

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Still not a way to sell your TCG – Anime Critique: selector spread WIXOSS

i0O4dk7WbjjtATitle: Selector Spread WIXOSS (selector spread WIXOSS)
Format: TV series
Genre: shojo, magic girl, fantasy, drama, trading card game adaptation, psychological, horror
Series Director: Takuya Sato
Studio: J.C. Staff
Series length: 12 epsides
Original Airing dates: October 4 – December 20, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download


Synopsis:

Tama betrayed Ruko by not granting her wish & has vanished, to be replaced by Iona -whose wish was to become the LRIG for the most powerful Selector in the world. Feeling broken, Ruko & friends try to escape the Selector Battles but find themselves still trapped within them -both by Ulith, in Iona’s former body & Mayu, the mysterious girl behind the Selector Battles. Can Ruko overcome her fate & be reunited with her beloved Tama or will despair consume all?


Critique:

The first series of WIXOSS (selector infected WIXOSS) was surprising brutal, filled with dark & tragic themes, incest & forbidden love, despair & faint glimmers of hope that could be crushed like fleeting embers under heavy boots. The 2nd season of WIXOSS continues with these themes but doesn’t merely rehash them without going anywhere. It uses the previous series as a stepping stone to new ideas, dark themes & finding resolution. It seeks to answer many of the questions & plot threads left over in the 1st season but, in the end, it still fails to sell the Trading Card Game that it’s based upon.

That, in & of itself, shouldn’t be an issue but, ostensibly, this series is designed to promote & sell the Trading Card Game. Whilst this season does explore the rules a little more, it is still focussed on the Maho Shojo (Magical Girl) aspects as well as the tragedy & despair of having your one heart’s desire denied to you.

This series is emotionally heavy & fairly brutal in what happens to the characters mentally & physically. Whereas the 1st season dealt with what it meant to be reach your goal only to have it ripped from you, the 2nd season focuses more on aspects of isolation, need, connection & struggling through negativity.

Before I move into an overview of this season, I have to make mention something that I found a bit uncomfortable to deal with -that being the victimisation, degradation & abuse of young girls.

Ever since Maho Shojo Madoka Magika brought it to public popularity again, the Magical Girl genre has returned to the physical & psychological torment of the mid-90’s. This was something that Dr Susan J Napier touched on in her 1997 work Vampires, Psychic Girls, Flying Women and Sailor Scouts & is to do with turning the Shojo into a representation of Japan in a time of economic & social crisis; one that has to be protected & saved but only after they are being physically or psychologically tormented. This is meant to stir the populace into feelings that society can be saved & redeemed, but only after it has suffered & been purged. This was a fairly common trope within the 90’s, during the bursting of the Economic Bubble, where confidence in the nation, national identity & worth of self was crushed because the traits of superiorism no longer worked when unemployment was high & the country was afflicted by natural disasters like the Kobe Earthquake -which crippled a financial centre of the country. With recent repeats of such natural & economic disasters, it is only naturally that the media will turn introspective about the ills of society (such as with Psycho Pass) or create a catharsis with which to release feelings of unease -into which the Selector WIXOSS and other similar Magical Girl series falls into.

Within this aside, I would like to make another aside.

That is, during such times we may flinch at young female characters enduring hardships, abuse & physical/psychological trauma but we don’t bat an eye when it happens to young male characters. This can be endless argued about trope & gender roles, which is a book unto itself but we have to actually address what is an ongoing cultural & social reflection of gender roles in a very rigid & role-enforced nation like Japan.

In such series as WIXOSS, the female characters much struggle & suffer in order to find empowerment at the end to overcome what afflicts them. But they are only empowered to resume the female roles that Japanese society dictates to them. They must remain cute, loving, emotionally open, accepting & so forth but they must remain women. Women who will never lead companies, join the Diet or have a role in the national spotlight unless they are an actress, idol or pornstar. Whereas when young male characters suffer & overcome they are empowered to become leaders or heroes. They can become anyone with power & authority -even if they happen to die. Their suffering is so they can overcome & conquer, whereas as female suffering is a cleansing for the ills of the world.
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That being written though, the Selector WIXOSS series does something different with their cleansing meta-narrative.

The resolution does remain that everyone shall be reunited in friendship & find strength in that connection -which is the theme of almost all Magical Girl narratives- but Selector Infected WIXOSS & Selector Spread WIXOSS serve to point out a cancer within female interactions. A cancer manifest within jealousy, petty rivalry, victimisation & extreme bullying that is part of a scapegoating/victim mentality culture.

A health dose of random lesbianism. Nothing wrong with that.
A health dose of random lesbianism. Nothing wrong with that.

This is represented through 3 characters: Akira, who delights in tormenting the weak to achieve her desire; Mayu, who wishes revenge against the world; & Ulith, who is a natural born sadist who delights in the utter suffering of other girls.

In this, they work in concert, with one using the others to reach her own ends yet it is not as simple as that.

This is expressed through Akira, whose entire sense of self-worth is shattered after she loses her 3rd Selector Battle in the 1st season. This left her scarred down her face, after being attacked by a deranged fan, & her psyche fractured. Her entire identity being based upon her beauty & using that beauty to manipulate others means that she can no longer hide the ugliness that is within her -on that feeds on the misery of those whom she deems weaker than herself. With this exposed, she spirals into destructive depression, locking herself in her room because she thinks that all her value, as a model/object of beauty, & her life’s purpose -destroying Iona because of how she was born into ease & privilege- are gone.

That is when Ulith, now in possession of Iona’s body (now that Iona is Ruko’s LRIG avatar), gives Akira back her beauty (through the use of make up) & a new purpose -to expose the ugliness in other girls before crushing them. In exchange, Ulith promises to give Akira utterly love, devotion & attention but only if she can fulfil her promise to obey her commands & show the ugliness within her that takes such pleasure in tearing down others.

Naturally, Ulith is only doing this for 2 selfish reasons.

The 1st is because she needs to fulfil Iona’s wish to find powerful challengers for her & Ruko, otherwise she’ll be ripped from Iona’s body & basically destroyed (a punishment any LRIG faces if they fail to fulfil their former Selector’s wish). The 2nd is for the simple factor that she’s a pure sadist, who gets basically sexual pleasure out of destroying things -especially other girls.

Ulith’s background is covered well. In that she was a human girl who took pleasure in physically torturing & tormenting other creatures & people until she was caught & punished for hurting a classmate. From then on, she developed techniques to create extreme psychological distresses, eventually pushing some girls to suicide. Her ultimate wish is to be transformed from human to LRIG & back to human again so she can keep on destroying lives & inflicting misery in whichever form she can. She is basically using Akira to achieve these goals but doesn’t understand the limits of what someone as unstable as can do to get the love & affection that she thinks she deserves -since Ulith is leading her on with sexual & emotional promises of belonging & contentment. Even so, such setbacks down stop Ulith from trying to spread misery & malice around her.

To this end, she’s aided by Maya, whose backstory is flesh out in this series.

Without giving too much away, she was a girl who suffered from profound physical & emotional isolation due to an unnamed illness. Meaning that she never go to socialise with other children or even go outside. Her family withheld any positive emotional reinforcement from her, simply leaving her with games & toys rather than affection -almost wishing she would die so she’d no longer be a burden on them. When she’s handed a deck of WIXOSS cards, she has no one to play with, so she creates to alter-egos -a Girl of Light (Shiro) & a Girl of Darkness (Kuro)- to play the game for her. This fundamentally shows her spiral into madness but it also somehow grants her magical powers to affect the lives of any other girls who play the game in the outside world. Sending out Shiro & Kuro, she begins the Selector Battles to twist & destroy the wishes of others, so they can suffer the isolation & deprivation that she did.

It’s all dark & very twisted but ultimately is a brilliant summation for what is a truly terrible cancer at the heart of all societies throughout history. That is: that those who feel isolated & abandoned will find some way to get revenge on that society -which is pretty much how ISIL & #GamerGate got started (same with any terrorist group really & yes, I did just call #GamerGate a bunch of terrorists).

The series also (re)introduces as characters who are key to the unfolding of the events behind the Selector Battles, such as the former LRIG Fumio & her LRIG Anne, who both wish to escape the Selector Cycle so Fumio can restore the original Fumio to her human form so she can live her dreams of being an author. Unfortunately, they aren’t used much in the full series but are supposed to have time in the spin-off manga.

The other characters who get more screen time is the hyperactive but delusional klutz Chiyori & her old country woman accented LRIG, Eldora. Chiyori’s wish is to turn into a LRIG so she can experience what it’s like to have magical powers & have a life like the novels that Fumio (above) wrote. This is mainly because before she encountered Eldora, she was a friendless introvert who spent all of her time in her imagination because she was to painfully shy to connect with anyone. The main trio of heroines -Ruko, Yuzuki & Hitomi- don’t want her to experience the hardship of what it means to both win & lose battles, to suffer at Maya’s whim, but Eldora, for all of her fighting with Chiyori, would rather give herself up than to see the hyper little girl suffer -wanting her to be free & who she really is rather than adopting a personality as an escape from the real world. A world where she can make friends with the central trio & have a happy life.

Chiyori: Innocent or brain damaged? You decide!
Chiyori: Innocent or brain damaged? You decide!

It’s this notion of self-sacrifice that surrounds Ruko’s core conviction to free & restore everyone caught up within the Selector Battles. This is pushed by discovering the truth behind Tama & Iona’s origins. As well as Maya granting Ulith the use of Tama as a personal LRIG with which to make Ruko truly suffer.

This is something that I genuinely found disturbing, more than some of the other inflictions of malice within the series.

Where Ruko can fill her LRIGs (Tama & eventually Iona) with the power of light & love, making them evolve beyond normal limits; Ulith can force all of her vileness into Tama, transforming her into a twisted version of herself who delights in destruction.

The horror at the heart
The horror at the heart

The concept of corruption is what is disturbing but the fact it takes on such a sexualised connotation that is.

Ulith basically rapes Tama; forcing her will, her inner darkness into the innocent (& fairly mentally deficient) girl. The dialogue & reaction of Tama plays it out like a rape, going on about Ulith “entering her”. This is combined with Tama’s shrill voice to terribly effect. It really left me uncomfortable & alarmed but I sense that was the entire intention of such scenes. To show what happens when someone uses their power to utterly violate another human being. Fittingly, Ulith finds a hubris filled end that echoes the countless physical & emotional violations but even for such a vile creature, it was a little too much & too unexpected but plays into the idea of some people being utterly unredeemable.

Again, this hooks into the disturbing trend of making female characters suffer that I mentioned in the 1st few paragraphs of the review but it bares repeating -especially since we have other series such as Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru. This is a series that I couldn’t finish watching because of a lack of decent subs but the basic rub of it is that the female characters -all a form of Magical Girl- are made to suffer when they use their powers to protect a God Tree -which in turn feeds of their suffering & creates a cycle of producing new Magical Girls to sustain itself through their sacrifices. This is just one part of a continued & disturbing trend that girls must suffer horrendous things in order to be granted a chance of peace & love. A theme echoed in several recent Shojo series, especially the utterly abhorrent Amnesia game/anime series from a few years ago -which saw the heroine killed again & again, as well as suffering other emotional & physical tortures for no real reason in each episode of that terrible series (yes, I watched it all because it was like a fucking train wreck).

Anyway, back to the critique.

Visually, the series remains a mixed bag.

With some very dark & intentionally murky -such as the battle grounds- mixed with some bright & vivid cityscapes. The animation itself is fluid, able to shift scale & action well. The use of primary colours for characters as well as the varied designs of the LRIGs is very well down; if a tad sexual at a times. Still, the designs are both unique & referencing other cultural markers as well tropes.

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In the end, if you can get past a lot of the emotional & physical trauma within the series, it is a rewarding end & answer to the first arc. It has a lot going for it, with many subtle messages about the ills of modern society -especially in regards to how girls treat each other as well as how the poisonous nature of some people can be overcome with an unwavering heart & the determination of self sacrifice for a positive end. Even if you can’t achieve such goals, having the support of those whom you love & care about to carry you through is enough for you to see a resolution that benefits the many rather than giving up yourself to cease your own isolation & discontent.

A smile to end the darkness
A smile to end the darkness

2nd verse, worst then the 1st! – Anime Critique: DATE A LIVE II

Title: DATE A LIVE II Format: TV anime Genre: harem, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, ecchi Series Creator: Koshi Tachibana Series Director: Keitaro Motonaga Studio: Production IMS Series length: 10 episodes Original Airing dates: April 11 to June 13, 2014 Reviewed format: high def download with fansubs


Synopsis:

Thirty years ago a strange phenomenon called a “spacequake” devastated the center of Eurasia, claiming the lives of at least 150 million people. Since then, smaller spacequakes plague the world on an irregular basis. Shido Itsuka, a seemingly ordinary high schooler comes across a mysterious girl at the ground zero of a spacequake and learns from his sister Kotori she is one of the “Spirits” who are the real cause of the spacequakes that occur when they manifest themselves in the world. He also learns that Kotori is the commander of the airship Fraxinus, crewed by the organization Ratatoskr, and is recruited to make use of his mysterious ability to seal the Spirits’ powers thus stopping them from being a threat to mankind. However, there is a catch: to seal a Spirit’s power, he must make her fall in love with him and kiss him.


Review:

Sarcastic w00t! Checklist time again! Play along at home if you want, children!

  •     One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  •     Also slightly perverted? Check!
  •     Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Che. . .

Actually, screw the list, you can just read my last review.

Date A Live II is another series that I wondered why I bothered watching. Whilst I didn’t review the 1st series, it was decent enough for what it was -that is when it wasn’t objectifying the female characters & playing into adolescent male power/sex fantasies of having a hoard of strong women slavishly devoted to you for no obvious reason then you show a form of decency that is quickly seen as hypocriful (yes, that’s a word that I actually use). The 1st season had some decent jokes, minor interesting characters (such as the masochistic but exceptionally competent 2nd in command) & plot development (the mystery behind the Spirits as well as some of the human characters who were victims of the Spirits) as well as some decent satire on the whole harem & dating sim subgenres. The 2nd season misses all that & adds to all the annoying things that the 1st dig yet still strips everything in terms of plot, pacing & development out. It might be due to there only 10 episodes; everything feels rushed & underdeveloped -leaving you with a sense that you missed a big chunk of story that wasn’t even there in the first place. The central protagonist is still in charge of keeping Spirits such as Tohka & Yoshino in check through exploiting their affection & happiness, he is also tasked with capturing 3 new spirits. Twin/split spirits Kaguya & Yuzuru & aggressively faux-lesbo songstress Miku. At the same time he still fends off the yandere like advances Origami -who is still trying to kill Spirits out of revenge for killing her parents- as well as stop a plot by DEM Industries -who develop all of the anti-Spirit technology & want to turn Tohka evil for some unexplained reason.

What it does have in spades is utterly useless Fan Service, especially cleavage, bikini, maid outfits & bath scenes. But luckily the Loli character is spared such things (she barely appears in this season at all).

The series also carries over some annoying running gags from the 1st series, such as Shido’s female classmates Ai, Mei & Mii -who always complain about Shido’s relationships yet always screw things up for him. Plus, the only thing that the bespectacled Mii says is the word for “Gross”, which was OK when used in context but when it’s the only thing that she says no matter what, it becomes pathetic & annoying. Which is pretty much what the entire series becomes. Rushed yet drawn out, forced yet withholding, pretty yet ugly. So many visual & narrative conflicts, especially around the depictions of the characters. The new Spirit, Miku, suffers worse from this. Her power is to use her voice to control others to do her bidding & she despises all men because she was a human idol who refused to sleep with a TV producer, so her career was utterly trashed. Shido has to disguise himself as a woman in order to gain her confidence so he can seal her power -which is basically making girls fall in love with him so he can kiss them. The crossdressing & voice swap could’ve been used for some clever deconstruction of gender roles but it’s just used to turn Shido into the sexual plaything of the more dominant Miku -who uses women as her personal toys. With this deception Shido almost tricks her into sealing her powers but cracks when Miku goes on about how people are her dolls to use, leading into more pointless conflict, until he proves to her that he’s a good & noble man worth of her love.

The whole device of making women love him so they lose their powers & submit to him (& by extension the organisation that he is forced to work for) reeks of the pathetic Mens’ Rights Movement adage: “Woman are like vending machines. Keep using your kindness tokens until they put out a prize”. Mens’ Rights Movement members are scum & I think that the original author who came up with this conceit is scum as well. Yet I still watched the series, so what does that make me? (Like I want your answer, it’s just a hypothetical ponderance). I honestly can’t even get all that mad with this series, not after watching Seikoku no Dragonar -which utterly took the piss on the hypersexualisation front. What once made it semi-forgivable & interesting is lost in a muddled rush & over sexualised images. It’s not something I recommend nor would I recommend going back to the 1st series or watching the upcoming movie. Those ships have sailed & left in port a huge steaming pile of shite instead of decent entertainment. But, hey, sexual fantasies sell, so the franchise will keep going.date-a-live

“Then I’ll make my own series -with lolis & tentacles!” – Anime Critique: Seikoku no Dragonar

Seikoku_no_Dragonar_light_novel_vol_1Title: Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy, The Star-Marked Dragonar)
Format: TV series
Genre: fantasy, ecchi, harem, action, hentai
Series Creator: Shiki Mizuchi
Series Director: Shunsuke Tada & Tomoyuki Kurokawa
Studio: C-Station
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 5, 2014 – June 21, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

“In a land of dragons, where citizens called breeders tame their dragon pals. Races of dragons are born from breeders who are given a Seikoku: a dragon star-shape brand.

Learning to ride and tame dragons comes easy to most students at Ansarivan Dragonar Academy—except for first-year student Ash Blake, who is known by his classmates as the “number one problem child.” Despite his unfashionably large star-shaped brand that marks him as a future dragon master, he has nothing to show for it. His dragon has never appeared. Until now, that is. One fateful day, Ash’s dragon awakes in full glory, but appears different than any dragon ever seen before—in the form of a beautiful girl! What’s more, Ash soon discovers that this new dragon has attitude to spare, as she promptly informs him that she is the master, and he, the servant. Ash’s problems with dragon riding have only just begun.”


Review:

When I wrote my review for Strike The Blood some time back, I had a check list that cited the genericness & cliche of that series, so here we shall repeat that list to see what Seikoku no Dragonar adds to the realm of anime (other than sweet fuck all!).

So, for the sake of repetition & making a point, here’s the list:

Does Seikoku no Dragonar have the following?:

  •     One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  •     Also slightly perverted? Check!
  •     Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Check!
  •     Tsundere style violent love interest? Check!
  •     Female characters as potential love rivals for the female protagonist? Check!
  •     Secret supernatural powers? Check!
  •     Plenty of useless fan-service? Once again: Check & motherfucking check!

So, what does Seikoku no Dragonar add?

Well, lolicon & tentacle rape. (SFW link)

SeikokuNoDragonar-PV2-2_zpsab39caf0

That’s pretty much it.

I despised this series so much.

Despised it for being cliche. Despised it for rewarding the male gaze every chance it got. Despised for pushing the hypersexualisation of female characters to new lows in a TV broadcast (although I think Kenzen Robo Daimidaler still holds that title, which is why I warned you all from watch it). Despised it for being everything wrong with modern Japanese media.

When the tentacle rape happened in such a blatant & disgusting way I honestly should have stopped watching it & wrote a rant about why it was despicable. Yet it was so like a car crash & I couldn’t turn away out of the dissonant belief that it couldn’t get any worse than it did.

Oh, how wrong I was, dear reader. As the tentacle rape & extreme hypersexualisation only got worse & worse as the series progressed. Every shot of the female characters was sexualised in same way. From the camera just staring at a pair of tits as their owner talked -their head out of shot- to how every female action is performed in a way that the camera pans up & down their bodies. How even if the female characters are powerful & empowered in their own right, they are still turned into nothing but a pile of meat for the eye to absorb. How during the attack of the tentacle rapey undead dragons (not a phrase I’d every thought I’d write yet anime does it to me again) all the women’s clothing was torn off yet the men remained dressed, despite being restrained in the same fashion. The two worse things were how they had the tentacles probe every part of the female anatomy whilst the victims gave off pleasured noises Actually even worse than that were the two loli characters & how they were brutally sexualised by the oft mentioned tentacles or spent the majority of their onscreen time either naked or in a state of general undress.

The non-female designs are also just plain ugly. Especially the dragons.

They all look the same (just like white people really) but are so brutally ungainly & clumsily designed it borders on the sickening. They don’t look in any way graceful or powerful, just lumps of scaled muscle with stubby wings & hideous heads. I suppose this is because they spent the majority of their animation budget on the female characters tits (or the lolis’ lumps).

Maybe I’m just a media sadomasochist who can’t crawl away from what he hates (see my rant on the Little Busters! series).

I should spend more time deconstructing the series, saying how badly rendered all the characters are, how cliched it is or how the relationships between the characters & their various overlapping backstories are formed but it’s all fucking meaningless when the series is so devoid of taste, charm or moderation.

I don’t recommend this series to anyone & if you like you are one sick sad fucker you needs serious help in the form of a knee right to your fucking jaw.

It’s also based upon a Light Novel series & I despise to think how close the anime is to that. The manga is worse in terms of hypersexualisation, so avoid that more.

Now have to scrub my skin with acid to get this series off me!

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Twists, Turns & Curves but not Confusing – Anime Review: ⌈K⌋

k-anime_oTitle: ⌈K⌋ (K Project, King Project, Kings)
Format: anime series
Genre: supernatural, fantasy, action, comedy
Series Creator: GoRa
Series Director: Shingo Suzuki
Studio: GoHands
Series length: 13 eps
Original Airing dates: October 5, 2012 – December 28, 2012
Reviewed format: blu-ray
Distributer: Madman


Synopsis:

Yashiro Isana has lived a relatively ordinary, simple life. He lives in the technologically-advanced Shizume City and attends Ashinaka High School, a notable high school that is located on an island just outside the areas. Yashiro is friendly with everyone. Nothing ever seems wrong about him, except perhaps his habit of forgetting where his school-issued PDA is. However, nothing normal has been happening since the recent murder of Tatara Totsuka, prominent member of the infamous HOMRA. No one knows who exactly killed him but the man responsible bears an uncanny, identical appearance to Yashiro. Seeking vengeance, the Red Clansmen of HOMRA set out to get Yashiro and kill him. Everyone suspects that Yashiro is the murderer. Isana Yashiro was not the person who killed Tatara Totsuka but yet another mysterious character is pulling the strings behind the curtains, a person who is quite dangerous and powerful.


Review:

Two years ago I came to this mysterious series through nothing but an action based trailer but ⌈K⌋ quickly became one of my favourite anime series of the past decade.

The primary reason for this is because it mentally challenged me & kept me guessing as to what happened before we entered the narrative & what actually is going on. To me, this is a rarity because I’m so well versed in narratives that I often guess what will happen from gleaming tiny bits of information & whilst I figured out a lot of what was meant to be happening, it still cleverly kept me engaged & wanting to know more & more until the true unfurling of the background of things. This series is by no means perfect -which will be addressed later- but narratively speaking it is exceptionally clever & fairly original in many ways.

One reason as to why is because you are drip feed information & clues that are more easily picked up in later viewings. Nothing is deliberately obscured or confusing, there is a strong internal logic within the series, even if it is not always apparent at first glance. There rules & exceptions are set forth along with the draw backs of power & what lies outside of the defined Clans & Domains (& that which isn’t explained in the series is later explained in the various manga & Light Novel spinoffs).

The story literally begins in two parts.
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The first is of two superpowered & warring Clans, who serve under the Red King & the Blue King respectively. You are given absolutely no context as to their powers & why the Red Clan (who call themselves Homra or HMR) are on a rampage in a American mafia office or why the Blues (also referred to as Scepter 4) wish to stop them. You are only given clues to their natures in how they are depicted. The Reds are dressed in Street Punk & Hip Hop Gangsta clothing, using street weapons as well as the power of flames & fire, whilst the Blues are all in matching uniforms, based loosely around 18th century European military style, completely with sabres & rapiers for combat, wielding blue energy slashes & shields.
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After this confrontation between the wild Reds & the ordered Blues, we jump to the other part of the story.

Which is based around the cliched, idyllic futurists mega-school built upon an artificial island that does so seem to dominated so much sci-fi anime. Yet it is a cliche & a set up that serves the story well & so much better than other recent series who used the same trope (looking at you again Valvrave the Liberator!). It is meant to be a juxtaposition to the (yet) unexplained supernatural nature of the early confrontation between the Clans by presenting the viewer with something familiar and relatable as well as introducing us to the central protagonist, Isana Yashiro, or simple Shiro (White) to his friends. He is seen as a carefree trickster, getting free food from his schoolmates as his classmate Kukuri tries to both control his behaviour & get him to eat healthily, yet she is completely unable to explain her need to care for him.
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It is only when Kukuri sends Shiro on an errand for the school council that the two halved narratives collide & the idea of sides, powers & the various Clans are begun to be woven together.

This is because Homra believe that Shiro, claiming to be the 7th & Colourless King, murdered their clansman (& the cohesion of their group) Tatara. So they chase Shiro until the Black Hound, vassal to the former Colourless King, Yatogami Kuroh (or Kuro [Black]) rescues Shiro, only to vow to execute him on the spot for his crimes.

& this is all within the 1st episode!

The plot moves at a fairly fast pace, with little wastage -even in the slightly stupid chase scene between Shiro & Kuroh in the 2nd episode where the strange character Neko (who switches between being a cat & a naked girl [will address that in a moment]) uses her powers to confound Kuroh in his pursuit.

There is little exposition from the characters, instead weaving in flashbacks throughout the narrative to establish past relationships & how things got as they are between the various clans. Even the concern between the rival Kings of Red -Mikoto- & Blue -Munakata- & trying to avert a repeat of the never really explained (in the anime) Kagutsu Crater Incident. In fact, the majority of character development is done by flipping between past & present yet you don’t get to know many of the characters outside of their physical appearances & habits during the course of the series.

The characters are a strange dichotomy in so far as the male characters seemed to be designed for or by fujoshi whilst the female characters (the few that there are) seemed to have been designed for & by horny teenage boys.

Yes, now I shall beat my usual hypersexualisation drum!

Outside of Kukuri, there are only three other female characters who appear in the major of episodes. They are Neko, who protects Shiro around, Scepter 4’s 2nd-in-Command Awashima Sera and Homra’s mascot & gothic lolita Anna Kushina.

Out of the 3, only Anna isn’t sexualised in any way. She is only portrayed as an imouto (little sister) style character who is an emotional anchor for the Red King Mikoto so he doesn’t destroy himself through over using his powers.
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When we first see Neko, she is totally stark naked -with only her long hair covering her nipples (which you never see during the series). In fact, she totally shuns clothing where she can & is seen during the ending credits starkers as the camera pans up her naked, prone body. Yet Neko plays a central part within the story & can even be seen as a driver of much of the plot. She is loyal to Shiro, claiming that he belongs to her, but she doesn’t try to sexually posses him or dominate him. She acts very much like a cat owning a human, especially in her constant demands for food & attention.

Awashima on the other hand is always in her uniform (or otherwise fully attired) but she might as well not be, since her body is so emphasised in a sexual way. Whenever she uses her special sword slash attack, the camera starts at her barely covered arse & twists around her massive boobs up to her cold face. This happens every time (though more because they want to save money by reusing the same footage) & almost every other shot incorporates her barely covered backside or boobs in some way. She too has narrative drive & is a force to be reckoned with in battle. She is even given the strange quirk of adding Red Beans Paste to almost everything she eats & drinks -much to the disgust of everyone around her.

Even Kukuri isn’t spared the sexualisation & is used for the occasional incidental pantie-shot (which is more disturbing than just focussing on a characters tits in a way).

It is very much unneeded or even undemanded in my view yet is somehow balanced & counteracted (but not enough) by the fujoshi fan service.

Amongst the paired male cast, there always seems to be a weird sexual tension. With Shiro even blushing in Kuroh’s presence & embrace whenever he is being saved. Shiro even jokingly refers to Kuroh as his ‘wife’ after Kuroh makes him & Neko lunch for school. There is a far more brutal sexual tension between Mikoto & Munakata as well as something fairly disturbing between formerly friends & clansmen Yata & Fushimi.

In fact, the entire male cast seems to run the typical gamut of yaoi (Boy’s Love) tropes. From the feminine Shiro to the cold but protective Kuroh, the wild but emotional punk Mikoto to the cool megane Munakata, the insane megane Fushimi to the tough but virginally innocent Yata. There are more than a few “now kiss!’ moments for the female (& homosexual) fans yet it doesn’t really push any boundaries nor becomes blatant in any way -yet that doesn’t distract from the hypersexualisation of the female characters.

One day I’ll stop beating that drum but not today, even though I will now move on.

One thing you must keep in mind when watching it getting a good sub where they keep the honourifics intact because they play strongly with the character relationships.

Primary to this is relationship between Yata -who is young, passionate & almost uncontrollable- & his in the field partner/offsider Rikio, who refers to Yata as ‘Yata-san’ despite being older than him. Where as most other Homra members call Yata ‘Yata-chan’ because of his small size & feminine 1st name of Misaki.

Visually, the series is utterly beautiful & only enhanced in the blu-ray release -where they’ve added more background & incidental details into the backgrounds as well as made the special attacks prettier. There is so much detail packed into the alt-world Tokyo, yet still keeping it visually on par with the city as it stands today. There are many flat-screen holograms showing various forms of information but they don’t clutter the mise-en-scene or distraction from the action.

The fight scenes are frenetic but handled smoothly, so you never lose track of who is the centre of the action. Most of the attacks are done with twisting or circular motions but the characters always stay within focus (apart from the aforementioned emphasis on Awashima’s body) & the different powers -such as Kuroh’s ghost hands- are clear in their intent & destructive capabilities.

I also utterly adore the opening theme KINGS by the talented band Angela, who many know from various other anime openings -such as Valvrave & Coppolion.

In the end, this is a most worthy series because of how it keeps you guessing as to what is going on within the story yet it doesn’t bring anything out of nowhere. The clues are always there, which adds to the enjoyment of watching it again & again. There is a sequel movie due out later this year as well as all the side manga & Light Novels to round out the narrative universe as well as character backgrounds.

Highly recommended.

K

The H Hides the Greatness – Anime Critique: Horizon In The Middle of Nowhere (series 1 & 2)

horizon-in-the-middle-of-nowhereTitle: Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (Horizon On The Middle of Nowhere, Kyokaisen-jo no Horaizon, Horizon On The Borderline) [series 1 & 2]
Format: Blu-ray
Genre: sci-fi, ecchi, comedy/parody, fantasy, action
Series Creator: Minoru Kawakami (original Light Novel)
Series Director: Manabu Ono
Studio: Sunrise
Series length: Two 13 episode series
Original Airing dates: Series 1: 2011; series 2: 2013
Reviewed format: Blu-ray release through Madman


Synopsis:

In the far future, humans abandon a devastated Earth and travel to outer space. However, due to an unknown phenomenon that prevents them from traveling into space, humanity returns to Earth only to find it inhospitable except for Japan. To accommodate the entire human population, pocket dimensions are created around Japan to house the populace. In order to find a way to return to outer space, the humans begin reenacting human history according to the Holy Book Testament. But in the year 1413 of the Testament Era, the nations of the pocket dimensions invade and conquer Japan, dividing the territory into feudal fiefdoms and forcing the original inhabitants of Japan to leave. It is now the year 1648 of the Testament Era, the refugees of Japan now live in the city ship Musashi, where it constantly travels around Japan while being watched by the Testament Union, the authority that runs the re-enactment of history. However, rumors of an apocalypse and war begins to spread when the Testament stops revealing what happens next after 1648. Taking advantage of this situation, Tori Aoi, head of Musashi Ariadust Academy’s Supreme Federation and President of the student council, leads his classmates to use this opportunity to regain their homeland.


Review:

On paper, Horizon In The Middle of Nowhere (wrongly called Horizon On The Middle of Nowhere on the blu-rays that I have), is a series that I should utter despise because it is full of beyond hypersexualised Fan Service, sexual molestation, strong nationalistic sentiments & revisionist history. Yet this is one of my favourite series of the past decade. In fact, I’ve watched both series over 4 times & purchased the blu-rays as soon as they were available.
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The first thing you will notice & have to get past when watching this series is a pretty big thing to get past. That is to say: Oppai. Breasts. Bosoms. As a critic greater than I has already said: Stonking Great Tits!

The majority of the female characters do have Mammoth Jugs & those that don’t have emphasis on other body parts or jokes made about their lack of bust.

Yet I couldn’t hate the series for that because it is so over the top & outrageous that their bodies couldn’t really be sexualised despite some of the animators best efforts. & the hyersexualisation plays strongly into the humour & male characters are punished for their perverted habits (especially the central protagonist Aoi Tori). Everything is so beyond the Proverbial Eleven that I refuse to take any of it seriously & that’s pretty much the intention of the series as a whole. For all the seriousness of it, it’s still immensely silly & that’s why I love it.

At first the plot & background is very dense & hard to get through, with tons of unique phrases & ideas thrown at you without explanation but if you ride it out & accept what they’re saying most of the terms are explained in the end (or the subbers put in dodgy explanations on the top of the screen). A lot of these terms are mixes of various languages, with lots of Japanese-English thrown in (especially Tori’s non sequiturs) But also consist of a bastardised Latin & Classical Greek from old religious terminology. Again, it’s easy to pick up on what these mean in the subbed versions but the English dub is so poorly handled that it will all go over your head in that version.
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Despite the denseness of terms & narrative history (all hang ups from its Light Novel origins), the series itself is fairly light & fast paced. That is not to say that it lack impacts but is light in terms of movement, with lots of flitting & jumps but without the confusion that happens in so many other series. In fact, there are many running gags that go across both series. The humour is very much character based & there are lots of characters to look at.
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Usually this would be a negative in any series but each character is so clearly defined in terms of appearance & personality that you never get confused over who is who, what their roles & abilities are & what are their quirks & relationships to others within the cast. There are lots of fast gags based upon characters reactions to each other -such as dealing with Tori’s apparent stupidity or the rest of the cast calling Shirojiro a scumbag because of his obsession with money. Even though you don’t get to spend a lot of time with many of the characters, when you get character development it is handled exceptionally well.
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The greatest example of this is the central protagonist Aoi Tori, given the nickname “Impossible” by the Testament Union because they believe him to be utterly useless -which is why they gave him a position of great authority within the City-State of Musashi. Yet Tori is the perfect example of an Ironic character (based upon the classic Eiron model) because, despite his surface of utter stupidity, he displays a deep level of cunning, understanding & ability that means he can overcome his opponents in the least likely of ways -such as tricking Honda Masazumi (also called Seijun by her classmates) into arguing for his side during a debate battle. Even at first his goals seem shallow -to confuse his love to the girl whose death he blames on himself- but he actually has deep, long term goals that he’s ben building up to for years & was given the catalyst to chase when events larger then himself occurred -such as the Lord of Mikawa decides to disregard the Historical Recreation Program & bring about chaos so people can break free of ideology & fight the oncoming apocalypse. In fact, Tori is a great example of Confucius’ idea of the Superior Man who draws great people to his side.

This is actually a strong positivist theme within the series: that a person cannot achieve anything alone & must rely on those with talent & practised ability in order to reach their noble goals. This is something that Tori not only excels at by having loyal friends with unique abilities but he also has absolute faith in them & their abilities, vowing to take “everything that is Impossible” onto himself so people can achieve their heart’s desires. To this end Tori makes a Shinto spiritual contract where he can supply anyone fighting on his side with 1/4 of Musashi’s ether (mana) reserves, giving them basically unlimited energy, but the price he pays for it is if he is sad for just a moment he will be killed. Yet he takes this burden on for his friends & to reach the one that he loves & who stands parallel to him.
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This individual is the titular Horizon, whose soul was placed into the Automated Doll P-01s after her accidental death as a child. Being an Automated Doll (a form of gynoid) Horizon lacks proper emotions, mainly because they are all locked away in the series Macguffen, The Armaments of Mortal (Deadly) Sin, & her logical emotional stance of matters drives a lot of the humour & drama or both series. This is because she does what she believes is best for the good of al rather than what her personal desire dictates, which stands her in parallel (a strange debating style within the series) with Tori, who wants to restore her to her full self regardless of the consequences (basically sparking a world war).
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I do wish that I had more time to talk about the other characters but that will drag this critique out a fair whack. The majority of them get their time to shine, even if it is a single episode, but many have a chance to develop over the course of both series. The 2nd series mainly focuses on the ninja Tenzo, who is obsessed with busty blondes but is ultimately loyal & helpful towards his friends (& was one of Tori’s 1st followers due to Tori’s abilities to twist Tenzo’s personal perversions to suit his [Tori’s] needs). His arc is about him coming to realise that he has personal desires outside of his service to others & that he must follow his heart to save the one whom he loves. Other characters such as Suzu also get time to develop. She seems at first to be the typically timid stammering one whom everyone has to protect but she goes beyond that trope. Despite being blind, her other senses have been enhanced, giving her the ability to notice things before other people. She is also hopelessly in love with Tori but wants to see him happy with Horizon but its her love & devotion that allows Tori to be able to love & care for her back, putting his upmost trust in her when she lacks it herself.
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Other great characters include Tori’s loud, arrogant, abusive older sister Kimi -who may just be the most powerful character in the entire series & yet the kindest despite the abuse she doles out. The part wolf knight Nate “Argenté Loup” Mitotsudaira, who is also hopeless devoted to (& possibly in love with) Tori but does her upmost to serve him as she sees him as “her king”. Even the homeroom teacher Oriotorai Makiko (stupidly translated officially as Mrs O for some bizarre reason) is given a bit of screen time after her rampage in the 1st episode but not enough time is given to her deeper connection with all the mysteries within the series.

The enemies are also rendered interestingly. Not simply being cardboard cutout evil, they each have their own motivations & wishes to live up to the Re-enactments of History & being able to live up to their Inherited Names (people in this future take on the names & actions of historical figures in order to be as close to the original history as possible).

Unfortunately this does lead to my major issue with the series.

That is trying to place Japan as centrally important to global history & the ones with the power to save the world & future.

There is no doubt that Japan has some incredible history with incredible figures but it was (& in some ways still is) an isolationist nation who rejects foreign influence as much as it -as an extreme consumerist nation- craves them.

One of the main messages behind much of the series is to put Japan at the centre of world history, as an influencer & major player as well as saviour where in fact it had no role what so ever in these events. This happens with every form of national media (such as the US’ obsession with them saving the universe & now them as being the conquered underdog fighting against oppression for Apple Pie or some shit like that).

For me, this is annoying because I am programmed to pick up on agenda in media, so it kept slapping me in the face whenever they talked about it because it just plays to so many cultural superiorism tropes & traits. Again, this isn’t unique to Japan but once you study it academically it sticks out like the proverbial in a nunnery.

Though enough of the negatives.

Amongst the other positives are great action sequences, that both play with & parody Shonen fight scene tropes. Such as the fist fighter Noriki (one of the good guys) saying “If you knew that why did you explain it?” whenever an opponent expounds on one of his techniques.

The action sequences are also fast paced without being confusing. You are always aware of who is doing what on screen. Even in the hectic ariel battles -which themselves are parodying Macross style missile-hell swarms- are clean in terms of defining the actions involved.

Also, once again, we must address the elephant (or Mammoth Jugs) in the room.

This is pretty much the first anime series that I saw that stuck a huge pair of tits on not only one mecha but two. Also, all the female clothing is designed to show off breasts, hips, arse & public mound in ways that few other series dare to but it’s odd in the fact that they are just out there. There are no explicit panty shots or flashing teases, they were just out there. This isn’t a good thing but does numb one to what they are watching. At least in balance, from my tainted male perspective, it does balance out with the majority of the 2nd series having Tori running around entirely naked with no justified or explained reason. Yet that all plays into the humour & lots of gags revolve around peoples’ reactions to a naked Tori literally appearing out of nowhere.
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In the end, there are far too many positives to outweigh potential criticism from me.

Except for one.

One veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery big one (bigger than the boobs in the series).

& that is the lack of a 3rd series.

It may seem utterly petty but the ending of the 2nd series sets up for future series, by flashing to various new characters observing the ongoing conflicts & by the Automated Doll of Musashi saying that people should get ready for a continuing journey.

Because of strong sales of the DVDs/Blu-rays & the ongoing nature of the Light Novels, there is a very strong chance of more series to come -especially given enough of a gap between the different media forms that they aren’t have to chuck a Bleach or Naruto & put in entirely new stories with no relation to the main plot whatsoever!

If they do make a series, that would be bloody marvellous! If not, these two collection are still worth the watch.

Great pace, excellent characters & stupidly outloud laughing funny, please give it a chance.

Been There, Criticised That – Anime Review: Strike The Blood

Strike_the_Blood_Volume_1Title: Strike The Blood (Sutoraiku za Buraddo)
Format: TV anime
Genre: supernatural, ecchi, action, comedy, shonen
Series Creator: Mikumo Gakuto
Series Director: Yamamoto Hideyo
Studio: Silver Link, Connect
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Reviewed format: censored TV downloads

 

 

Synopsis:

“The 4th progenitor—the world’s strongest vampire who should only exist in legends. Accompanied by twelve Familiars and spreading calamity, this phantom vampire appeared in Japan. For the observation and obliteration of the Fourth Progenitor, the government and Lion King Organization decided to dispatch an attack mage known as a Sword Shaman. However, for some reason, the one chosen for the observation was an apprentice Sword Shaman girl, Himeragi Yukina. Wielding the strongest anti-progenitor spirit spear, Yukina arrived at Demon District, Itogami City. What is the true identity of the Fourth Progenitor, Akatsuki Kojou, she encountered over there?!”

Review:

OK, girls & boys, cliche checklist time!

  • One male protagonist with hidden power? Check!
  • Also slightly perverted? Check!
  • Redeems himself by having a pure heart & protects his friends to the risk of his own life? Check!
  • Tsundere style violent love interest? Check!
  • Female characters as potential love rivals for the female protagonist? Check!
  • Secret supernatural powers? Check!
  • Plenty of useless fan-service? Check & motherfucking check!

And that’s what we get with the Supernatural Shonen Ecchi comedy series Strike the Blood.

This series started at about the same time that KILL la KILL did & I didn’t really know anything when I first watched it. The first episode was decent but still riddled with cliches but what do you except? It’s very hard to produce entire new ideas & it does come from a fairly popular Light Novel series?

Anyway, the plot resolves around Akatsuki Kojou, a once human who was turned into the most powerful vampire known as the 4th Progenitor through mysterious means. This garners the attention of the Lion-King Organisation, who sends the powerful & obedient, but very naive, Himeragi Yukina act as his observer in case he goes out of control.

Due to this being a world where magic & monsters are known & have been given their own territory where they can freely interact with each other as well as normal humans, Yukina gets involved in a fight with vampires, causing Koujo to reveal his powers to her as he steps in between them. From there the general plot follows Yukina & Koujo coming to terms with not only the immense power that dwells with Koujo but also there feelings for each other.

I stuck with this series because the first half was very well constructed, with nice little story arcs that build upon the last & develop the various characters, main & side, in small ways. Unfortunately it falls apart a bit in the 2nd half (eps 14 or so onwards) because there isn’t really any developments to be made. Just more female characters added to stir up the fan service & harem angle as well as setting up plot threads that will go unanswered because is doubtful it will get another series.

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One of the major problems is that it is so cliched & spins up all the stupid ecchi, fan-service stuff. It plays out a lot like IS: Infinite Stratos in many ways. The ignorant male lead always being protected by those stronger than himself, so he fights to justify his masculine position even though he keeps getting his stupid arse kicked. Which means he struggles to control his power but also means that he stumbles into situations that make him look like a pervert & no one listens to him when he tries to explain, so he gets his arse kicked again.

& his stupid, stubborn need to protect everyone despite his own lack of skill seems to rev the motors of all the ladies around him, so they flock to have him drink their blood, which fuels his powers.

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At least that’s a fairly interest an angle but having ecchi activated powers isn’t all that new in an anime. The whole slightly perverted protagonist who gets caught in compromising situations that get blown out of all proportions is one of the most common & annoying Shonen genre Light Novel tropes -usually it’s innocently picking up panties (again: see IS: Infinite Stratos). This plays into the whole idea that “a kiss is pure & innocent, only to be done with someone special” but “hey, here’s a whole heap of underage tits bouncing around. Enjoy & feel no hypocrisy in it!

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Anyway, enough bagging, let’s get into more serious discourse. With some critical kicks from the side.

Basically, what does make the series good is the tightness of the first half. You get several small story arcs, usually 3 to 4 episodes per arc, that actually progress the story & character development while setting up future plot points & arcs. Like your typical Shonen work, each new challenge requires more power/strength to overcome &, while getting that power is often more Deus Ex Machina, it actually has some logic to it. What’s actually unlike typical Shonen stuff is that the female characters, whilst being hyper-sexualised, still have their own sense of action & agency. They aren’t sitting around waiting for Kojou to save them, though they are always happy when they do, but always performing actions that will either prevent disaster or protect those they love.

The best example of this is the character Aiba Asagi, the resident computer expert. In fact, she has a supernatural power over computer systems & is considered the Demon District expert on it all -to the point she was once kidnapped due to her talents. Whenever something bad happens -& it always does- she will do anything to see the Island & Kojou (her unrequited crush) protected, even if it means putting herself in danger.

More often than not, even though it is Kojou who defeats the BBEG of the arc, he wouldn’t be able to do so without the female characters. Who either save his stupid arse or provide him with the blood needed to activate his magic powers & thus destroy the ultimate enemy of the arc.

In the end, Strike the Blood isn’t anything new to anime as a whole. It is riddled with cliches & annoyances but does stand above many others of its ilk because of the focus of its stories & the characters within. Unfortunately, possibly due to its source material & translation, a lot left out in terms of background info & development & the 2nd half of the series doesn’t feel as good or refined as the 1st.

It’s not a bad thing to way really but nothing I’d say you should go out of your way for. The blu-ray will be uncensored if you are into that kind of thing. It’s pretty much for genre fans or those who like what I call annoying Fan-Service but it does have some merit in terms of Female Agency, which I’d like to see picked up more in other series (but minus the jiggle factor).