Ghoulishly Good – Anime Critique: Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo-Ghoul-Horror-Anime-TanekiTitle: Tokyo Ghoul (Tōkyō Gūru)
Format: TV anime
Genre: horror, supernatural, angst
Series Creator: Sui Ishida
Series Director: Shuhei Morita
Studio: Pierrot
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 3 – September 18, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Ken Kaneki is a shy college student who meets a woman named Rize Kamishiro at Anteiku, a coffee shop. They share an interest in literature and plan a date. While walking Rize home, Ken is attacked by her. Rize reveals that she is a ghoul, a human-like creature that hunts and devours human flesh. As she is about to finish him off, she is crushed by a falling platform. Kaneki is taken to the hospital in critical condition. The doctor decides to transplant Rize’s organs into Ken. He then must deal with life as a half-human/half-ghoul, including interacting with ghoul society and its conflicting factions, while striving to keep his identity secret from other humans.


Review:

Let me begin with an aside: Pop Culture is always confused as to what zombies are. Properly, a zombie is a mindless automaton of formerly living flesh. Yet Pop Culture sees zombies as mindless devourers of brains & human flesh who spread infection through their bites; which, in truth, is semi-based on what a ghoul is supposed to be. I blame George A. Romero for spreading this misconception & infecting Pop Cultural like the proverbial zombie. This is all illustrated because the titular ghouls in Tokyo Ghoul aren’t like their folkloric counterparts, being near-mindless monsters haunting burial places. The ghouls within this series are more akin to the traditional views of vampire in the Slavic Balkan tradition, who eat flesh & organs to sustain themselves but maintain some semblance of intelligence.

Son, I am disappoint. . .
Son, I am disappoint. . .

This is merely said because I can be a tad pedantic in terms of folklore & mythology as well as terminology & the origins of things. It’s something to keep in mind, especially for later articles.

Anyway, let us continue:

Coming to this series only knowing the general outline of the original manga (which recently finished its run at 14 volumes, which will soon be released in the West), I had nothing in the way of expectations for this series. So I was nicely surprised at how much I really got into it & enjoyed it. That is to say, right up until the end but will speak about that later.

Cue emo-ness
Cue emo-ness

On the surface, Tokyo Ghoul seems like a story that we’ve seen more than a few times before: a normal boy comes into possession of a dark supernatural power that removes him from humanity & threatened to overwhelm/destroy his everyday life. Yet where Tokyo Ghoul differs from many other narratives is its intense focus on the personal, moral & social struggles of enduring trans-humanism & finding yourself being neither one thing nor another but being forced to consist via means that you once found utterly abhorrent.

It symbolises his social isolation upon turning half-ghoul. Very subtle.
It symbolises his social isolation upon turning half-ghoul. Very subtle.

This is the situation that Kaneki Ken finds himself in after miraculously surviving an attack by the powerful ghoul Riza, also known as The Glutton because of her insatiate appetite, but fatally wounded. He has Riza’s organs transplanted into his body, with the surgeons thinking that they were both in an accident together, which begins Ken’s downward spiral into re-examining the morality of what it means to not just live but also survive.

& you thought your ex's were crazy.
& you thought your ex’s were crazy.

In the universe of Tokyo Ghoul, ghouls can only survive by eating human flesh (although they can eat other ghouls but find the taste abhorrent). All human food is tasteless to them as well as builds up as a poison in their system. Human flesh also doubles as a fuel source for ghouls’ kagune, which are strange growths that come out of their back & can be used in battle in various fashions. The flesh that they consume can either be alive or dead but has to be human in origin (so no substituting it with animal flesh). If a ghoul doesn’t eat for a certain period of time, they lose their minds, turning feral & attacking the closest humans that they can find so they can feed.

After Ken is turned into a Half-Ghoul, he finds that he loses the ability to eat any human food & is almost driven insane by his need to survive. This brings him into contact & conflict with the hidden ghoul population of the city, many of whom compete over kills or dead bodies in order just to get by. This also brings in territories, based upon the Ward system in Tokyo, each of which has a strong hierarchy that can be enforced or disrupted by high level ghouls such as Rize. Ken’s strong moral bent of never doing any harm means that he cannot bring himself to eat human flesh because he believes that it will strip him of all that makes him human. Yet without the flesh, he’ll die, so vicious teenaged ghoul Kirishima Tōka (also spelt Touka) forces him to eat flesh after saving him from an attack by Nishio Nishiki, who is looking to fill the power vacuum left by Rize’s disappearance (the ghouls don’t know that she died attacking Ken). She then takes him to the café Anteiku (where he used to go with Rize), which is actually a front for ghouls who refuse to kill but need to be provided with flesh to survive. In exchange for flesh, he must work at the café, learning what it means to be a ghoul in the face of brutal reality.

In such a narrative world, one would think that ghouls, despite being in relatively low numbers, would be at the top of everything. The clever conceit of Tokyo Ghoul is that not only are ghouls petty & territorial -seldom able to work together because of their basic need to survive- but they are also hunted by humans with the skills to fight them on near equal levels. These are the Special Anti-Ghoul Investigators, also referred to as The Doves by ghouls, who fight with weapons called cinque, which are harvested from the kagune of the ghouls. With their cinque & intense training, Doves can stand against even higher tier ghouls. Their very presence in a ward constantly drives ghouls underground in fear because many of Doves are pure murderous sociopaths who don’t believe that ghouls have any form of morality or are capable of displaying any sort of human emotion &/or affection.

Toko disapproves of many things. Mainly your tiny penis.
Toko disapproves of many things. Mainly your tiny penis.

This juxtaposition of living & survival to illustrated in the merciless nature of the Doves against the Anteiku desire to live as a close approximation to normal human life as they can. The Doves believe that all ghouls are evil, because many of them are, whilst the Anteiku group simply want to live a life free of the fear of basic, animalistic survive. They don’t want to integrate into regular human society, merely not have to be terrified for their lives because of the Doves or more vicious ghouls like the utterly psychotic Jason (how they refer to him in the series, referencing the character Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13 II onwards) or the twisted Gourmet -who seeks flavour to enhance life rather than belittling himself with just subsuming ghoulish existence on human flesh. To add to this quality of “who is the real monster”, the primary Doves Mado & Amon are actually named after folkloric demons whilst they give many ghouls dehumanising nicknames to identify them if they hide behind masks or can only be known by their scenes of slaughter -such as Riza’s gluttonous behavour.

Through this new & treacherous world, Ken must navigate but, unfortunately, he’s a bit of a twat. Trusting, stubborn, self-conscious, piteous & oft times frustrating in his weakness. Usually these traits would have me so vexed by the way they are rendered within Ken make him a more grounded & relatable character. He is constantly trapped is human morality & his emerging ghoulish instincts. Yet his basic moral flaw doesn’t allow him to hurt others, even if it will do damage to him. The explanation for this trait is painful, pitiable & poignant that it brings almost everything that has come before into sharp relief. Unfortunately, having such a passive & weak belief leaves Ken vulnerable to the brutalities of the awakening world around him. He is also too trusting of people -again, to do with his inability to harm others- which often leads him into dangerous situations -ones that not only threaten his body but also his very sanity. His journey is to overcome these situations, strengthening his body & resolve but at, ultimately, what cost?

This series is very dark; in terms of its brutality but also in its visuals. Because it is filled with a high level of blood & gore, often a lot of the scenes have a dark filter places over them to censor out the offending material. This will later be remove for the home releases but it does somewhat mute the impact of what we are experiences -especially the savagery of Ken’s new situation. Apart from these patches of self-censorship, the rest of the series is exceptionally beautiful. The combat scenes are smooth & clear yet frenetic, hefting with the weight of each impact. The rendering of the kagune, which are often neon bright, is also exceptionally well done; contrasting well with the often darken backgrounds (since a lot of the action occurs in hidden locations or at night, away from prying human eyes).

The OP theme unravel by the artist Toru “TK” Kitajima from the post-rock group Ling Tosite Sigure has also garnered a lot of fan attention of late as well. This is because it is a layered affair, beginning with weak almost emotionally tortured vocals that then explodes into something so much more. As seen here:

My one great criticism of the series though is that it just ends.

Not that there will be no more of it. It simple ends without resolution & at a climatic part of the story-arc. This lack of settlement bothered me exceptionally, even with the realisation that there will be another series of it next year. It’s that annoying sudden kick of someone taking something away from you that you’ve been really enjoying & you know that you still have a hankering for -like an older sibling stealing your dessert to use a slightly tortured allegory.

In the end, this was an exceptionally deep series that speaks to so many different allegories for many different social issues. It speaks to racism -especially attitudes towards Half Japanese people- not to mention ideas of brutality & the basic need to survive vs. the desire to be part of a larger social group. There are many messages that you can get from it upon many viewings. I really hope that they bring out the 2nd series sooner than later but, in the meantime, I can still read the completed manga series & look at the recently release spin off sequel.

Have you heard about our Lord & Savour Jesus Christ?
Have you heard about our Lord & Savour Jesus Christ?
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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.

black-bullet-01-large-41
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.

Black_Bullet_Anime_Promotional_Poster

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.

StB Y&K

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.

yukina_himeragi_0d

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!

650px-Strike_the_Blood_Trailer

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).

SHE Who Walked the Land – incomplete fantasy novel

SHE Who Walked the Land – incomplete fantasy novel

this is part of the transworld fantasy novel that I’ve been working casually for the past couple of years (academia takes time away from it unfortunately).

 

The plot (so far) is basically: a young woman from our world is (literally) thrown into another world & must discover why she’s there, working her will against the powers that seek to control her & those that wish to see her destroyed.

Lots of grammatically mistakes but it’s still only a draft.

The Terrible Thing – a children’s poem

The Terrible Thing – a children’s poem

Despite it’s few grammatical & spelling mistakes, I’m terribly proud of this work.

I really should have it illustrated & published one day.