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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The All Singing, All Dancing Lesbian Troop – Anime Critique: Hanayamata

8b4d6a16fc4574fefd0438507a3030651402376724_fullTitle: Hanayamata
Format: TV series
Genre: slice of life, comedy, Girl’s Love
Series Creator: Sou Hamayumiba
Series Director: Atsuko Ishizuka
Studio: Madhouse
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 7 – September 22, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Naru Sekiya is an ordinary 14-year old girl who likes fairy tales, but is worried about her lack of other interests. She has a chance encounter with a “fairy”, a foreign girl practicing dance at night. On a spur of the moment, Naru asks to join her and is introduced to the world of yosakoi dancing.


Review:

Hanayamata fits nicely into the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things subgenre, not dissimilar to the aforereviewed Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka from last season. The general gist of it is a group of early teenaged girls getting together in order to have fun, gain confidence & strengthen their bonds of friendship. I mentioned lesbians in the title because this series leans towards to the Girl’s Love (similar to Yuri but lacking the sexual side of things). Outside of paternal figures, there is an absence of males within series. & the girls show blushing cute attraction to each other that leans more towards extreme/deep friendship attraction than Sapphicism.

Also, unlike the aforementioned Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu, Hanayamata is less a situational based series than a driven narrative-based story.

The general thrust of the series is the shy Naru, who hides from everything & would rather lose herself in her fairytales, finding someone & something to give her the passion & confidence to face reality. Naru finds this through her encounter with the pixie-esque foreign girl, Hana N. Fountainstand, whom Naru initially mistakes for a fairy wanting to take her to a magical kingdom.

Hana is a pretty typical Weeaboo, who is obsessed with all things Japanese to the point that she wishes to reshape her entire cultural identity. Her primary focus is on Yosakoi, because she witnessed a dance trope when she was a little girl visiting Japan. Hana’s goal is to start a Yosakoi club at her new school & she has chosen Naru to be the first member.

The kawaii! It burns!
The kawaii! It burns!

Naturally, Naru’s painful shyness & extreme lack of confidence means that she refuses but Hana’s persistence & overall adorability means that Naru eventually offers to help set up the club. In order to do this, they need more members -who are often driven away by Hana’s over-eagerness- a supervising teacher & to get passed the very strict Student Council President, Machi. This driving arc is combined with the other protagonists: Naru’s overprotective & slightly self-centred friend Yaya & the epitome of Japanese feminine grace, Tami -whom Naru views as a big sister & princess-like figure. They both strive to find their own passions & dreams in the face of others trying to control their lives or people unwilling to push themselves to take that final step to break through the barriers before them. Machi finds herself in a similar position, wishing to overcome her sister-complex; a sister how just happens to be Sari (AKA Sally-sensei), the Yosakoi club supervisor -who only took on the role because of the pressure that Hana applied to her through begging.

Super excited Loli set to execute snuggle-attack,
Super excited Loli set to execute snuggle-attack,

Each character has to overcome their personal struggles in order to gain confidence. This is central to the construction of Naru, who thinks of herself as weak & lost yet it does not ring entirely true with her. Her emotional weakness & crippling lack of confidence seems to stem more from perceptions of social pressures & her indulgence in escapism rather than face reality. These unto themselves are hardly original ideas for media to explore but in the case of Naru they seem contradictory. That is because she claims to have no physical strength or coordination yet from the outset we are told that she’s practiced Iaido from a young age, having gained a high proficiency in the art from her father, who runs a dojo from their home. I found it strange that these martial art didn’t confer any ability to Naru’s confidence & dance motions but that may lie more in the schismatic nature of her personality then within her actual flesh.

The Tsundere exposed.
The Tsundere exposed.

With Naru occupying the space of the pitiable stalwart looking to overcome their own feelings of inadequacy, it’s up to the other girls to fill the other roles. Yaya is the typical tsundere who wants to be the centre of attention, especially from Naru, & is a little jealous that her friend has finally found something outside of her admiration for & reliance upon Yaya herself. Tami wants to be the epitome of the perfect woman, in order to gain her father’s approval but she also is shown to be a little ditzy & mischievous, looking to break the role that she’s forced herself into. & Machi wants to escape from the shadow of her once successful sister & conquer the feelings of abandonment that stem from her relations with Sally-sensei as well as the academic pressures that her hospital running parents are putting her through now that Sally-sensei has abandoned the role of heir to their tiny medical empire.

Whilst, so many other shows this season, Hanayamata is exceptionally beautiful look at. With its bloom & shimmering use of colours & well rendered action sequences -especially the dance choreography for both the girls & the passing troops. Yet, as a whole, it’s a series not without its faults.
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My main criticism of the series that its aimed at boosting Japanese consumer & cultural confidence, but once again showing a foreigner entirely obsessed with an aspect of Japanese culture/history that they are willing to move & reshape their entire personal identity in order to conform to their perceptions of what it means to be Japanese. Hana fundamentally exists (at least in the anime) to push a form of Japanese superiorism, reinforcing the belief that Japan is the superordinate in terms of its ongoing cultural practices.

The other negative in my point of view is how they push the emotional drama side of things. Bringing out the tears & ramping up the reacting, coupled with some irritating voice acting at times. It isn’t a deal breaker but it detracts from the sweetness of the comedy & the beauty of the anime. Especially the expressions & the reaction shots. There is some mild sexualisation & fan service but that at least palls when faced with the drama & comedy.

Everyone has a goal. Some girls have goals to get boobies.
Everyone has a goal. Some girls have goals to get boobies.

Overall, this is a worth addition to the “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things”. It’s fun, it’s fluffy & silly but also deep & touching when it has to (but not in the yuri sense). Whilst it does have some negative, all the good that it does completely outweighs my basic (& typical) complaints. There are plenty of kawaii moments as well as other random comedic moments -such as with Yosakoi supply store owner Ofuna Masaru, who looks like a stereotypical Yakuza but is passionate about Yosakoi & helping the girls.

If you can get passed some of the minor irritations, you’re sure to enjoy this series. It’s a good balm to some of the bloody & hypersexualised offering this past season. It’s all about what you can achieve if you have self-belief & friends by your side to support you. More so if you push yourself in order to support them so you can find your own strength to face the harshness of reality.

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Lustful Lascivious Little Lolis – Anime Critique: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!

64175Title: Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
Format: TV anime
Genre: fantasy, magical girl, comedy, parody
Series Creator:  Hiroshi Hiroyama
Series Director: Shin Onuma
Studio: Silver Link
Series length: 10 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 9 – September 10, 2014
Reviewed format: High def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Illyasviel von Einzbern is an ordinary elementary school student who becomes a magical girl when the magical Kaleidostick Ruby deems her a more suitable master than the sorceress, Rin Tosaka. Rin, who had been tasked by the wizard Zelretch to collect the seven Class Cards containing the spirits of Heroic Spirits from legend, finds that she is unable to change Ruby’s mind and must supervise Illya in completing the task of collecting the Class Cards. During Illya’s adventures, she receives a friend and rival in a girl named Miyu, the contracted master of the Kaleidostick Sapphire, which similarly abandoned its original master and Rin’s rival, Luvia Edelfelt.

After a series of battles, Illya and Miyu were able to collect all Cards and became good friends, while Rin and Luvia remained in Japan by the order of Zelretch. However, the appearance of Kuroe, a girl with a striking resemblance to Illya, soon complicates their lives as she attempts to eliminate Illya.


Review:

To begin with, it’s hard to criticise a series for (hyper) sexualisation when it’s a spin-off of an ecchi game/Visual Novel. Yet the original (& not terribly great) Fate/Stay Night anime wasn’t as sexualised as the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya franchise is. What kicks F/klPI and its sequel series into low cheer is the hypersexualisation of lolis. I’ve already beat the drum over my extreme distaste for this with the previous season’s reviews but I just have to kick it again.

 PUTTING LITTLE GIRLS INTO SEXUAL POSITIONS, POSES, CLOTHING & VISUALISATIONS IS WRONG, DISGUSTING & PATHETIC! STOP PRODUCING PAEDOS & DEMAND FOR PAEDO RELATED MATERIAL, MEDIA INDUSTRY!

& don’t get on your high horses & say that it’s strictly a Japanese thing & we shouldn’t judge them too harshly for it. Have you seen Toddlers & Tiaras?! That shit makes you want to puke!

Anyway, anyway, the review, the review. . .

My general expression watching this series.
My general expression watching this series.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Is the direct sequel to last year’s loli-fest Magical Girl parody Type-Moon spin-off series, basically picking up right after the events of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. There are still many plot threads to address from the get go, such as Miyu’s true identity, but that is all put aside for the introduction of Kuroe (Clo in the fan-sub, short for clone) -Illya’s doppelganger who is an incarnation of the Archer Heroic Spirit (it all makes sense if you know the main Fate/Stay Night series & characters). At first, Kuroe wants to kill Illya so she can legitimise her own existence but, with props to the writers for this, it actually goes deeper than Kuroe merely being a doppelganger, being back connections to the original Holy Grail Wars from Fate/Stay Night & why that battle never occurred within the Fate/kaleird liner universe.

Type-Moon always interconnect their stories with transdimensional crossovers, with various characters having different connections or incarnations. It comes from their Visual Novel/video game origins to explain their multiple endings & how they can all be canon. F/klPI is deep within this but you don’t need a knowledge of the tie in series to watch it.

The other thing that F/klPI2 has in it is lots of underage lesbianism. Because in someone’s mind the only thing hotter than sexualisation underaged girls is making them perform homoerotic acts as well.

More of the yuri stuff is more connected with Miyu’s growing romantic attachment to Illya, her jealousy over little actions & wanting to connect more to her -not only as a fellow Magical Girl but also as a firned. Where it crosses the line is when Kuroe deep kisses the other female cast members to drain them of their mana so she can power herself (mana = life energy for her). Part of me things that I can ignore it because it’s played off for comic value (Illya’s friends angry at her because they think Kuroe is her) but when they show Kuroe really going for it on Miyu, I really had to fast forward.

If this gets you off, you're one sick twisted piece of shit!
If this gets you off, you’re one sick twisted piece of shit!

To be honest, the comedy stuff is what kept me watching (that & my pathetic addiction to knowing what happens in narratives & solving loose plot threads). They play off a lot of the comedy on altering or playing up certain character traits. Like Illya’s adoptive stepbrother’s ignorance of the women around him, Illya’s near yandere affection for him (especially in the face of Kuroe) & her extreme reactions to what her magical want Ruby makes her do.

The act of a extremely lustful loli.
The act of a extremely lustful loli.

To be honest: the majority of the plot is focussed on Illya trying to protect her everyday life. She likes being a Magical Girl but this series falls more into the Mahou Madoka style of making a Magical Girl’s life as brutal as fuck. The previous series dealt with the life/death struggle that people with power on a mission must endure, so this 2nd series falls more into the trope of protecting one’s everyday mundane life but also protecting those whom you love. This plays out in the last two episodes, where the brutally powerful character Bazett Fraga McRemitz is introduced & Illya realises what her real duty is. Fighting on despite being drastically underpowered.

Unfortunately, that whole plot point won’t be resolved until next year, when Part 2 of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! is released. Which is a bit of a pisser but they are supposedly combining it with plot elements of the ongoing 3rd manga series.

In the end, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! has its moments & its connections to the larger Type-Moon omniniverse is a nice hook but it pretty much is a series for paedos because of the extreme hyersexualisation in some scenes. If you have issue with that, well: Come At Me, Bro!

That being said: I will probably watch the 3rd series just to know how it all ends & the series overall connection to the Fate/Stay Night universe but part of me would rather just wait for the upcoming new Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works anime which is out later this year.

So, paedos & Type-Moon fans feel free to watch but the latter better not mix with the former less bad things happen.

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Yuri To the Left of Me, Yuri To The Right -Anime Review: Sakura Trick

SakuratrickcoverTitle: Sakura Trick
Format: TV anime
Genre: Yuri, slice of life, comedy, 4koma adaptation
Series Creator: Tachi
Series Director: Ken’ichi Ishikura
Studio: Studio Deen
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: January 9, 2014 – March 27, 2014
Reviewed format: TV download with fan subs

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

“Haruka Takayama and Yuu Sonoda were inseparable during middle school, but upon entering high school, they end up being seated on opposite sides of the classroom. Having to spend time with more friends, the two decide to make their relationship special by kissing each other in secret.”


Review:

This series has already become some people’s favourite anime of the last season but I still have to say: “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! LOOK AT THE KOOOTE WITTLE LESBIANS! AREN’T THEY SO KOOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!

Yes, the two major themes of this 4koma adaptation is Yuri (lesbians) & cute little jokes.

To begin, without sardonicism, I utterly enjoyed this series.

I really do have a soft spot for 4koma adaptations (see my Acchi Kocchi review) & Sakura Trick does fit the fast paced formula very well.

But yes, it is a whole lesbo thing but that is not why I watched it.

I am general a fan of some Yuri stuff because, unlike Yaoi or Bara, Yuri tends to have more equality & romance between the parties involved & it is romance that lies at the heart of Sakura Trick. & unlike so many other romantic series, this one starts with the romance side, so we don’t get all that awkward, annoying tension that you find in so many other series.

The premise is very basic, two friends don’t want to see their friendship turn to nothing as they grow apart, so they decide to do something special to mark their importance to each other. That is: kiss. Though both Haruka & Yuu know that isn’t a very acceptable thing to be seen doing, so they keep it secret from those around them.
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This is where the comedy is generate, as the girls try to show their affection for each other or get flustered when they feel that the other has gone too far -such as Yuu kissing Huraka’s hands & knees because Haruka was lying face down on her desk. It is genuinely cute & is almost asexual in a way.

To explain: I asked a young lesbian friend of mine to watch it & she said that it was odd that all they did was kiss. She said that it really bothered her because if they were more realistic that’d feel more compelled to be doing other things to each other. It is off that no other bodily needs entered into it, even though they often deep kissed. It is all very innocent, without talk of masturbation or sexual acts. Just the purity of love shown through the simple act of kissing.
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This doesn’t bother me at all because it so avoids all the needless awkwardness & embarrassment that features so strongly in any other anime when they bring up kissing. Haruka & Yuu are very open with each other, even if they are pretty ignorant of their own deeper feelings. It feels natural in a way & not constrained by the usual annoyances of trope or social stigma.

In fact, the characters are so cute & well rendered -which is so often the strength of 4koma adaptations.

Haruka is often clingy & needy for affection, as well as easily jealous if Yuu pays attention to someone else -such as a classmate or her older sister Mitsuki but has some strong maternal traits & cares deeply for others (plus has the largest breasts in the cast, which is a recurring gag as the girls try to guess her size). While Yuu is often shown as being a little spoilt (often by the overly doting Haruka), lazy, ditzy & terrible in her studies but is often aggressive for affection from Haruka & easily jealous if she feels as though she’s been left behind. Their roles often switch in terms of whose dominant & whose demanding as they explore their feelings for each other & their friends -all of whom are rendered, in terms of character, beautifully & deeply.

To add to the drama is the fact that their school is closing & they will be the last year to graduate. This means that they don’t have the budget for big events, like the sports & cultural festivals, which puts stress upon Yuu’s sister Mitsuki, who is both a 3rd year & the president of the student council.
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Mitsuki also plays an important role in the narrative, as she tries to find out the truth behind her sister’s relationship with Haruka, as well as come to terms with her own conflicted feelings for Haruka. That is pretty much the basis for the humour of Mitsuki’s scenes, where she misreads situations & goes off into delusional imaginings of being with Haruka.

Basically: everyone in the cast is a little Yuri.

But the notion of innocent love & affection is what makes the series so enjoyable. There is no “will they/won’t they” of the romance, it’s all about them realising that they truly do love each other & reaching that point.

Of course, there is a bit of Fan Service, such as Haruka’s jiggling & the constantly kissing but it’s not the exploitative type. It’s played with affection & for laughs rather than feeling lingering & very creepy (see Nobunagun review).

In the end, this is a very light hearted, fluffy non-brain uber-kawaii comedy.

There is no real drama in it, just lots of very good & cute jokes. Each episode is split into two halves, each focussing on a different mini-story. The humour is fast paced & colourful, the characters are cleverly made & the romance is sweet without being sickly. The majority of the jokes are based around misunderstanding but they don’t bring out that painful feeling to watch like with other series (see my Strike The Blood review).

I give it two thumbs up -much like Haruka will give Yuu when their relationship gets more serious.

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