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.
RBdEoSo
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

It’s Like DLC for Anime – Anime Critique: Persona 4: The Golden Animation

Persona4GoldenAnimationTitle: Persona 4 The Golden Animation
Format: TV anime
Genre: video game adaptation, action, supernatural, comedy
Series Creator: Atlus Games
Series Director:  Seiji Kishi, Tomohisa Taguchi
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 11 – September 25, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Persona 4 The Golden Animation follows Yu & the gang as they try to help new friend Marie regain her memories, as they battle the evil that is invading both their town & the Televison World. An alternative retelling of the events of Persona 4 The Animation based on the events in the PSVita game Persona 4 Golden.


Review:

If memory (& the search function) serve me, one of the earliest critiques that I wrote was about the PSVita remake of the Shin Megami Tensei game Persona 4 -entitled Persona 4 Golden. Within that critique I may have mentioned my fondness for the anime adaptation of the original PS2 game. Two years on & A-1 Pictures brings us Persona 4 The Golden Animation; which serves as both a bridge & an extension of the original anime series as well as an adaptation of Persona 4 Golden.

If that sounds confusing that is because it is.

Persona 4 The Golden Animation is a fan series for seriously invested fans of both the game remake & the previous anime. This is because P4tGA doesn’t retell the full story of previous series, rather is focuses on the Social Link events of the new P4G character Marie as well as other exclusives events & locations found within that game. There are no great battles with Shadows or our previously exploded protagonists coming to terms with themselves & their repressed feelings. Rather is helps build their lives outside of their struggle to find the hidden murderer & helping the mysterious Marie find out more about her own past.

Marie as both pretty & pitiful.
Marie as both pretty & pitiful.

This format annoyed me at first because I didn’t know it was happening but it did take away the concern that the majority of the season would just be a total rehash of the previous one. If you didn’t know in advance that it focuses on only certain events, the huge time skips would be both confusing & vexing. Supposedly it’s done in a way that you can slip/exchange episodes of P4tGA into the original but am not entirely sure how that would work. P4tGA works better as a stand alone from the original anime but as the previous paragraph mentioned, it is more for already invested fans.

Those who never played P4G wouldn’t really understand the context for the new characters. This isn’t such a big problem in Japan, since both the Megami Tensei franchise & its Persona subseries are still immensely popular in Japan. Yet they are more cult hits in the West but, hey, you’re fault for not being born in Japan, right?

Who can resist those smouldering eyes?
Who can resist those smouldering eyes?

Besides Marie, the other thing this new series is introducing the perspective of the murderer (won’t spoil who it is for those whom haven’t yet played the games or watched the previous series). It brings out some of the feelings as to why they did what they did but, like the game & other anime, still comes across as a convoluted mess. Especially when central protagonist Yu goes off on his own to urge the murderer to turn himself in when his lack of conscious is already obvious.

In fact, they shift the character of Yu somewhat as well.

Marie's opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.
Marie’s opinion of you in non-tsundere mode.

In the game, being a tabula rasa, Narukami Yu (if you chose to call him that) was a basic non-entity, reacting to everything as the player did. In P4tA, Yu was given a more snarky attitude as well as a heavy persistence to see things through. In P4tGA, you are immediately shown that Yu is a far more open & jolly character, making quips & putting himself out there. Because his & other characters have already been exploded, there’s no real point in reinventing the wheel with any of them. So the focus can be on some of the characters who weren’t properly exploded last time -like the murderer- or entirely new -like Marie.

MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!
MARIE FAN SERVICE, EVERYBODY!

Marie is a classic tsundere who has your typical form of tabula rasa amnesia but her immediate personality is brusque -snapping at people whenever she can’t handle the emotions that she’s feeling. Often speaking in clipped, embarrassed words. Marie is also designed to be really really sexy, with the shape of her face, visible lips & pleading eyes. Basically existing to draw in male views & make them feel something (possibly horny) for her. She’s not really exploited in a hypersexualised fashion (although there is fan service in episode 3) but all the characters, including the males, are sexualised in some fashion. This is fundamentally a hallmark of the broader franchise & whilst vexing to a degree, it’s not really lingered upon or used to exploit any of the characters (except for the male character Kanji).

I present: the Birth of Venus!
I present: the Birth of Venus!

What was more annoying then the usual sexualisation was how much the series felt like it was falling apart towards the end. Without the stable plot of chasing down the murderer & solving the larger mystery of the Persona powers & the Television World, there really isn’t a centre that the series clings too. The revelations of Marie’s true identity follow the game close enough but her motivations for action deviate enough that they feeling stretched & vexing. Same without having the tangible connections of her to the overall Persona & larger Megami Tensei universes. If you know the games you can understand but they are still disconnected enough from this anime that something feels frustratingly askew. Plus the end really feels rushed, cramming in as much new game content as they could with focus or sharp relief of situation.

The series still holds up the humour side that marked the last series very well. The characters are still strong as well but lacking the context & connection of the previous series. Which means a lot of their new actions seem hollow because they are only in relation to Marie or new scenarios from the game. Like the previous series, P4tGA is exceptionally pretty to look up. With excellent animation quality & character designs. Even going into some new details for already establish characters & showing some previous unseen Persona that Yu wields.

In the end, this is a series almost solely for those who are already into both the various Atlus animation adaptations as well as the Persona games. You don’t really gain anything new from it, nor is it as brilliant as Persona 4 The Animation but it does have some lovely little touches to it. These being the character relationships/interactions, the stunning visuals & quirky, clever humour. If you are already into all this, you’ve probably already watched it. If you aren’t, you won’t lose much. Although it does give you an excuse to go watch the original adaptation before starting on this one. Not like you have anything else happening right now, right?

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The Lolis of the Apocalypse – Anime Critique: Black Bullet

Before we begin with the critique, we’d just like to point out that this is our 69th post, so please insert childish Bevis & Butthead style laughter here.


 

Black_Bullet_Light_Novel_Cover_Volume_1Title: Black Bullet (Burakku Buretto)
Format: TV anime
Genre: sci-fi, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, action, harem
Series Creator: Shiden Kanzaki
Series Director: Masayuki Kojima
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Series length: 13 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 8, 2014 – July 1, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs

 

 


 

Synopsis:

“In the year 2021, mankind is decimated by the epidemic of Gastrea, a parasitic virus, and is forced to live within the Monolith walls, which are created from Varanium: a metal that is able to subdue Gastrea. Soon, children who were born with the Gastrea virus and obtained superhuman abilities as a result, are discovered and dubbed “Cursed Children”. Due to the Gastrea virus’ intervention, the Cursed Children could only be female. Civil Securities are formed to specialize fighting against Gastrea, operating with the pair of an Initiator, who are cursed children, and a Promoter, serving to lead the cursed children. Ten years after the epidemic, Rentaro Satomi, a high school student who is also a Promoter in Tendo- Civil Security Agency owned by his childhood friend Kisara Tendo-, along with his Initiator, Enju Aihara, conducts missions to prevent the destruction of the Tokyo Area and the world.”


 

Review:

This is the last series of the previous seasons Loli-fest that sexualised massively underaged girls that I shall be reviewing & am glad that the trends of anime in this new season have shifted from the hypersexualisation of little girls to the hypersexualisation of teenage girls as they struggle to become idols (shudders).

Yet despite the loli (& general) hypersexualisation, I actually enjoyed this series (for the most part).

Either expressing her affection or sexual desire, hard to tell in some anime
Either expressing her affection or sexual desire, hard to tell in some anime

The main reasons for my enjoyment of the series is the plot & the characters. Unlike other drag-rush series this past season, Black Bullet actually progresses & develops with each episode. Giving you enough info about the events before the start of the series to understand the narrative universe but not getting bogged down in useless exposition. Unfortunately there are some illogical in the character development, which I shall touch on later, but the fact you have 3 clear arcs within the 13 episode time frame means that the series, as a whole, needs to keep moving & developing.

Like so many dystopian post-apocalyptic/post-disaster narratives, the story is both about restoring the social order in the face of the threat of an “Outside Other” as well as restoring trust & connection between individuals (for more on this subject, check out my lecture here). Yet Black Bullet is actually more focussed on using the latter to deconstruct the former.

The central protagonists have all have issues with loss, trust & how the world of their present wishes to be. The narrative drive is how these characters seek to overcome not only how they feel about themselves & those in their lives but to tear down the world that wishes to ignore & destroy those who protect them; preferring instead the safe peace of ignorance rather than acknowledging that they owe their lives to an army of mutated little girls & their (sometimes abusive) human partners.

The look of loli lust

The three centre protagonists -Rentaro, Enju & Kisara- are all broken in some way by the on going war with the Gastrea mutations. Rentaro lost his family in the first attack on Tokyo & was then adopted into the Tendo family, where he lost his limbs protecting Kisara from a Gastrea attack. During that same attack, Kisara watched her parents die, which caused so much stress on her body she suffered catastrophic kidney failure (which is odd but, hey, it’s fiction, right?), leaving her unable to do prolonged physical activity despite her high level martial arts training. Whilst Enju was born as one of the Cursed Children & abandoned in the ruins of old Tokyo before being dragged in to serve as Rentaro’s partner, leaving her with huge trust issues as at the treatment of other Cursed Children (she can hide the red eyes that give the girls away) by the rest of society as well as the constant fear that she could die from her Gastrea infection before she grows up.

Her boobs are just out of shoot but you know they are the focus of the scene
Her boobs are just out of shoot but you know they are the focus of the scene

It is this constant, pressuring knowledge that drives Enju to act; especially in regards to proclaiming her constant love for Rentaro, claiming that she’ll be his bride -much to his annoyance. This can be read as a way for her to push away the fear of her own mortality, as well as possess a shred of hope that there will be someone who won’t abandon her. Similarly, Rentaro is crippled by the dread of losing anyone, which makes him hesitant in his actions but eventually allows him to reach out to the other Cursed Children, helping them normalise their lives for the chance to be integrated into regular society without having to bare the stigma of their births. Whilst Kisara is consumed by the need to discover the truth as to how her parents could’ve been killed by Gastrea in a protected zone balanced with the need not put her beloved Rentaro at too much risk or lose him to her rivals in love -such as Miori, who isn’t shy in showing her affection for Rentaro.

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Typical emotionally stunted shonen & affectionate loli in their natural environment

These personal drama are set against a larger socio-politic conflict that is common in post-apocalyptic reconstruction narratives. It’s mainly focussed on the issue of the public’s view of the Cursed Children, mainly mitigating the authority’s hatred & murder of them, as well as trying to reunify Japan from fractured city-states to a full nation once again. With many conspiracies & old hatreds lying hiding in the background.

As mentioned in the 2nd or so paragraph, there are 3 clear arcs to the series, each building upon the last (except for the 1st obviously, duh!). It is honestly refreshing for this past season to see a series so clearly sign posted for its intention for pushing the narrative forward & doing so without losing any character development or the external context, pressures & personal oaths/commitments.

The 1st arc focuses on establishing character & narrative context, where a rogue Promoter, Hiruko Kagetane, & his psychotic Initiator daughter, Kohina, steal a device that can summon the highest class of Gastrea, which can ignore the barriers & destroy all of Tokyo with an army of Gastrea drones as well as its own power. This arc allows Enju & Rentaro to come to terms with their position as Civil Security Agents, their abilities as well as working more smoothly as a team. It also helps Rentaro come to terms with the lose of his limbs & their replacement with special cybernetic technology, putting him on an even front with Kagetane -who is entirely augmented with cybernetic & military technology. The Hiruko pair are a dark reflection of Enju & Rentaro, a what could have been if Rentaro let his anger & thirst for vengeance get the better of him. In the end, turns out the summoning device was actually a bunch of kids stuff, deepening the mystery of the Gastrea.

He needs to wear a mask because he so ugly even yo mama wouldn't touch him!
He needs to wear a mask because he so ugly even yo mama wouldn’t touch him!

The second arc focuses more on Rentaro’s moral & social development, as he is made head bodyguard/security chief to the nominal head of Tokyo Area, the pale & mysterious, Seitenshi (not real name). Who wishes for freedom for the Cursed Children but is kept in check politically by Kisara’s grandfather, Tendo Kikunojo, who is also Rentaro’s adoptive father, the one who turned him into a weapon. The reason for Seitenshi so suddenly promoting, other then his defeat of the Hiruko pair, is because she’s meeting a rival leader of the Japanese territories, Saitake Sogen, an ambitious man who wishes to rule all of the island nation with an iron fist but one who Rentaro is personally familiar with, due to having meet him when he [Rentaro] was still a child. Whilst there is a genuine fear of an assassination of Seitenshi, Rentaro has more issue dealing with the power politics within Seitenshi’s palace, as her regular bodyguards are murderously jealous of Rentaro being given a position of privilege so close to their beloved (read in a stalkerish fashion) leader. Enju & Rentaro also finds that they can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices set upon the Cursed Children, especially when Saitake leaks information to Enju’s school that she’s a Cursed Child, causing her to be removed & for her then to run away. Even whilst dealing with all that, Rentaro encounters new Loli jailbait, Tina Sprout, rendered in an overly sexualised way with lulled eyes & exposed shoulders (because loose women in Japan always show their shoulders, never understood that cultural hang up). But whilst she appeals to be utterly docile & helpless -Rentaro had to help her a few times- she’s actually a living machine weapon like he is, sent to assassinate Seitenshi on behalf of Ayn Rand (no, not that one even though she is evil enough to be a supervillain). There ends up being a pretty cool series of battles between the two of them, especially after Tina fucks up Enju because they didn’t know she was weaponised & when Tina tries to kill Kisara without knowing that Rentaro works for her (because she now wuvs him, makes it hard for her to explain things when she finds out). It ends with a cool action scene & Rentaro sparing Tina’s life because she is the tool for another but he ended up fucking up Seitenshi’s head of security because he tries to shoot a wounded Tina. Rentaro grows them big nutz & blows the dude’s finger clean off before demanding a better position of power from Seitenshi, which she agrees to because she wants to bang him like a screen door.

 

Now for the lazy lustful loli look
Now for the lazy lustful loli look

The 3rd & final arc is the most traditional in terms of an action series plot but still pretty good. A giant Gastrea has corroded one of the Monoliths that keep the Gastrea away from the Tokyo Area & it’s only days before it collapses, meaning that all the mutations can destroy the city. So, we have a Ticking Clock scenario yet one that plays out well for the most part.

Rentaro has an X number of days to assemble a team in order to be part of the Civil Security fighting force. Which doesn’t make much sense in a way, because they never explain why they need group teams & not the usual partnerships in the fight. Rentaro & Tina (who is now partnered with Kisara) are rejected by almost everyone that they ask, which is again strange because Rentaro has a serious rep within the Civil Security community now, but means that he can approach those whom he trusts the most. Unfortunately this is few people, so he only managed to recruit one pair who are old friends of his & Kisara & Tina join, much to Rentaro’s objections over her poor health. They eventually find another member in the form of a former student of Kisara’s family martial arts school & senpai to Rentaro (but Rentaro addresses him as nii-san or elder brother).

Parallel to this, Rentaro has taken it upon himself to become a teacher for a group of Cursed Children who live in the ruins of old Tokyo but the Gastrea attack on the Monolith has brought public tensions to the boil. Many normal humans see the Cursed Children as the cause of the Gastrea virus rather than it’s victims. So there are more violence against the Cursed Children, represented by a blind beggar girl whose mother burnt out her eyes rather than look at the accursed red of them. This all comes to ahead when, before the big battle, someone bombs the school group that Rentaro teaches, killing all of the girls who had just come to trust him & have faith that they will have a future. Naturally, this causes huge grief for both Enju & Rentaro but steels their resolve to win the battle so that they can prove that the World is worth saving.

Another aside to this is Kisara’s investigation into how a Gastrea could corrupt the Monolith, which all leads back to the overarching meta-plot of her family’s schemes.

After the first big battle, Rentaro’s team disobeys orders in order to prevent a surprise Gastrea attack but are blamed for the deaths of other Security Officers -including the leader’s son, who turned chicken shit at the last minute. In order for everyone to save face for everyone, Rentaro has to go off on own to destroy a mysterious Gastrea that protects the huge monster that controls all of the other Gastrea in the area. After being attacked by wolf-like Gastrea, Rentaro is saved by Kagetane, who has returned from the dead, & his daughter Kohina, who still wants to fight Enju. Kagetane is still obsessed with getting Rentaro to see his point over view: that humanity is doomed & only enhanced superhumans like them & the Cursed Children will survive (ignoring the fact that the Cursed Children never survive into adulthood). Yet Rentaro is determined to stick to his Hero of Bitter Justice routine, so Hiruko father & daughter stick with the stubborn lad in his mission. Together they defeat what they have to defeat & return to find the Civil Security Agents slaughtered & their stupid selfish leader killed (yay!), which means Rentaro is in charge. He takes on the persona of a ruthless commander willing to cut anyone down who stands in his way but this is merely an affect in order to hold the broken survivors together. In the end they win the day but with very heavy losses, both numeral & personal, as well as being betrayed by political figures with petty grudges (namely Seitenshi’s bodyguards looking to see Rentaro killed no matter the overall cost).

The unexpected coda to the overarching plot is Kisara getting revenge on one of the people who caused the death of her parents as well as being responsible for the disaster with the Monolith’s collapse. This shows her damaged psyche & how far she is willing to go, chiding Rentaro for being unable to punish evil because he has Batman-like boundries.

This was a very good series, despite the lolis & hypersexualisation of the adult characters but it does deal with some very dark themes & images.

Mainly extreme violence being perpetrated against very young girls.

This is an exceptionally bloody series; with dismemberments & blood fountains being par for the course. The fact that it’s performed on young girls does make it more disturbing; more so when it’s also dealing with the idea of suicide rather than become corrupted by the viral evil that is within their bodies.

Like any good dystopian narrative, Black Bullet has a very bleak outlook but edged with hope that if one fights on things can be made better, no matter the sacrifices made. It also talks a lot about love & hope. The reason that the girls, mainly Enju & Tina, are so passionately devoted to Rentaro -declaring their intentions to marry him- isn’t about the sexualisation of children (even though that sickening does happen in the series) but is more about their hope for the future. In that they may become adults & find true love; with marriage being the greatest representation of love & the bond between two people.

Yeah, I won't make a gangbang joke here.
Yeah, I won’t make a gangbang joke here.

In the end, this is a heavy series with more than a few issues -both in terms of imagery & plot coherence- but it is something that I do recommend if you like dystopian sci-fi with over the top action & violence. It won’t be for everyone & there are plenty to make most uncomfortable it does stand high upon the mundanity that plagued the previous anime season.

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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)

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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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