Rogue Shogunate

The Loss of ‘Ping Pong the Animation’

Spoiler alert

I have never really been that much of a fan of Masaaki Yuasa. Well, that might be a little harsh… I remember finding Devilman Crybaby an interesting series that was really well directed, and the Adventure Time episode he directed was certainly… something, but he was never a selling point for me. He was no Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino or Hideaki Anno for me, all people whom I could basically guarantee that they would make movies or tv-shows that I would like. I just didn’t trust him enough for some reason.

But there was one show of his that I always felt like I needed to watch, that being Ping Pong the animation. I had heard a lot of great stuff about it, and despite its seemingly lackluster style, it seemed like something I would enjoy. It was one of those sports shows that everyone seemed to love, but I just hadn’t watched yet. But one day I did and I’m glad I choose to watch the show cause now I’m here.

The first thing I found surprising was the visuals. I kind of expected the show to be really well animated, the style just felt like it was made to draw interesting choreography. But the overall directing was just very interesting to watch. Aside from how everything moves realistically and how well they use animation, I think the cinematography and the “editing” were the most interesting parts to look at. The way they cut scenes in the show is very interesting since they usually don’t cut to another shot but split the screen so two shots are shown. This happens a lot. There’ll be 5 different shots on screen, and it makes the show really interesting to look at. This is something you may see in a lot of anime for reaction shots, but this isn’t as common in normal scenes and it made them feel a lot more important which was really nice.

I can’t really say that I found the chaotic style great all the time, cause it did have moments where I thought it looked bad even in motion. But the directing suits the show really well and was almost always interesting.

Then we get to the music which I think is great! Kensuke Ushio has directed a ton of fantastic scores for anime including A Silent Voice and Boogiepop, which has led to him probably being my favorite anime composer ever. And when I saw that he composed for this, my motivation to watch this show doubled. The fact that I would watch an anime with a score that wasn’t mediocre as shit was good. And while I can’t say I liked the score to this as much as his more recent work, you can tell that he is starting to make his own style of music. The experimental sound I love so much in his stuff is showing in this which is great! He has truly created a special place in the anime industry.

But what makes the show so special for me though is the characters. I am often disappointed in how anime characters are written, especially antagonists. They are almost always completely irredeemable until an irrelevant backstory is created to make the character sad. I never feel genuine, so I was really impressed by how this show dealt with antagonists. Mostly cause none of them feel like enemies.

A theme that the show deals with a lot is loss. A lot of these characters lose ping pong games, and we see how that affects them as people. I find how Hoshino reacts to losing to Kong to be really interesting. For all of his life, he has been on a level far beyond the people surrounding him. But when he loses to the person who lost to Smile, he realizes something. That he was never as good as he thought. He wasn’t able to beat the person who lost to the person who was as good as him. It was all a lie. He underestimates all of his achievements, cause his identity has been taken away almost. He used to be as good as smile, now he wasn’t anymore. 

He loses all hope, quits ping pong and almost kills himself.

We truly get to see what happens to Hoshino when he loses that ping pong battle. It isn’t some bullshit where he gets sad but is ultimately motivated to get better so he can finally beat Kong. They do something interesting with it and created a character that I haven’t seen in an anime before.

And the way this affects the rest of the series is equally interesting. In the last few episodes, there is a sort of tournament arc where we get to see the characters that we have been following play against each other. And in episode 9 Sanada Masuyuki and Smile play against each other, and Smile wins in the end. But I never really felt happy for Smile, rather felt sorry for Sanada. The way he gets defeated is ugly, and as we see from Hoshino earlier in the series, this usually doesn’t go well. I started feeling bad for the one who went up against the main character, and I found that so interesting. We already know that Smile doesn’t enjoy ping pong but sees it as something to pass the time with until he dies. This match brings no pleasure and only pain. 

The way they deal with loss makes no one worthy of experiencing it.

Yeah, Masaaki’s a name now

Strong 8/10

Jojo part 3 season 2 quickie

Spoiler alert!

So I recently finished the second season of Jojo’s bizarre adventure: Stardust Crusaders and I thought it was pretty good. When I watched the first season I was really impressed! It wasn’t great or anything, but I had only watched the first two parts before and didn’t really expect it to be that enjoyable. And so I decided to keep watching, and while I don’t think the second season of the show is as good, it is still a really enjoyable show IMO.

Jojo isn’t known to be a very serious show, it is very comedic and mocks itself in many ways, the line “There’s only one reason why you lost, Dio. There’s just one simple answer. You really pissed me off” just feels so self-aware that it explains so perfectly why the series is such a fun one. And while the first season of the show is certainly comedic, they really went up with the absurdness of it here. Boingo gets two more episodes, and he’s probably my favorite antagonist in the series. He’s just so fucking weird and goofy. I don’t know if his voice acting is terrible or amazing, but it certainly works for his character. 

The show is just consistently very hard to take seriously, which I think is a good thing. I don’t think the series was made to take seriously, I don’t know if I’m an asshole for saying that. But it feels as though it is mocking the “90’s, super buff men beat villains to save the girl” type of films and series that came out at the time, but now everyone’s like really stupid. seeing as how absurd the characters are, I wouldn’t believe someone if they said it was all unironic. Like, Vanilla Ice Cream, there’s no way.

At the same, I don’t think it is immune criticism because of this, cause I had some genuine problems with the show. 

While I like how absurd it is, season one had some genuinely interesting character arcs that I felt were missing in this season. I think a show like this doesn’t need that to be good, but because it was featured in season one I kind of expected more of that.

While I love Iggy and how his face transforms from a troll to a human, his role in the story often felt mostly like a deux ex machina. He would often come and fart somewhere when a fight was too in favor of the antagonist, and it just felt a little lazy at times. 

While I wouldn’t say that the show is anything near boring, some of it feels a little repetitive. You could sum up every single battle with the line “I did that on purpose!”, which can be a bit disappointing after the 10th time. They were all pretty enjoyable cause of how insane it is, but I have to mention it somewhere.

The fact that Holly is in danger is pretty much irrelevant. While they remind us at times that she’ll die if they don’t kill Dio, there’s no real sense of urgency in the series. it just feels like it’s an excuse to get these buff 17 and 70-year olds to fight bad guys. And even if you said that it’s supposed to be mocking that “damsel in distress” trope, but you can’t just make a joke by doing what you are mocking. It doesn’t say anything about the trope, really. It doesn’t do anything but start the story.

But other than that, I really enjoyed the show. It’s not serial Experiments Lain or anything, it ain’t a masterpiece by any means. But it’s just an absurd show to watch when you just want to enjoy anime for a little bit before watching another generic Slice of Life

7/10, I guess it would be closer to a 6 than an 8

Serial Experiments Lain and the Understanding of the World and Ourselves

Spoiler alert!

Serial Experiments Lain is a very special anime. It’s one of those shows that never seem to be talked about enough. One of those anime that have been on my watch-list ever since getting into the “genre”. One of the shows I always wanted to watch but never did in the fear that I would misunderstand it. It might sound silly to say, that you misunderstood art. But even though I know that it’s stupid to feel bad about having a different conclusion to art than others, it’s something I think many of us feel. That our perception of art is somehow less “deep” or wrong, in comparison to others. 

I’m not pretending to know everything about Serial Experiments Lain, many people have rewatched the show tens of times, and I’m just here watching it for the first. But I’ll try to discuss the show as well as I can even though I know rewatch would give me a better understanding of what the show is about both from a plot perspective and a thematic one. 

“Oh, okay. So that’s how it works. I had no idea the world was this simple. I always thought the world was such a big and scary place, but once you figure it out, it’s all so easy!         

I told you it would be”

It isn’t often that I am fascinated by a work of fiction. I have seen many interesting shows and movies, but few of them have truly encapsulated me into its world and ideas. Where I feel like the show stays on my mind for longer than an hour. Cause even some really good movies and tv-shows just leave my mind after I wake up the morning after. Maybe it’s just the immense amount of media I consume every day that makes my brain throw out what it feels is less important, or if it simply isn’t worthy of my memory, but that’s how it is. I was in a need of something that could stay, and I got that I think. 

In many ways, Serial Experiments Lain’s own existence is what compelled me. If it hasn’t been said enough before, it basically predicted how the 21st-century internet works. And while I expected that to be since I had heard so much about it, not to this extent. From episode one I was just in wonder of how similar “the Wired” was to the internet we use today. Both the sense of community and the feeling that everything is fake is conveyed with the Wired, and it is really fascinating to witness. 

And continuing the show, I found myself enjoying more than just that. There are many movies and series that I feel like have a lot of symbolism and a lot to interpret, but fail to make it interesting after 10 minutes. Where you just get bored with the same symbolism over and over and over again. But just analyzing every detail of every scene was really enjoyable, from the large number of shots of telephone lines and eyes to the excessive lighting. It became more than I expected, more than a prediction.

At the beginning of every episode, there is a sequence of shots of the city and its people as we hear a voice. The voice isn’t from anyone or to anyone specifically, but I always figured that they were from Lain’s psyche. And in a way you can see how her character changes throughout the story with this opening, beginning with her curiosity and temptation of the Wired and ending with an understanding of the world, or rather accepting the complicatedness of it.

And that’s a big theme of Serial Experiments Lain, our understanding of the world and ourselves.

Throughout the story, we see how Lain becomes increasingly obsessed with the Wired and the connection it creates. We see how she wants to understand the world and its people, she loves all of them. But it makes her understanding of herself grow less and less.

A big plot point in the series is how a copy of Lain is created in the Wired, who worsens her relationship with the friends she has. It’s a very overused trope, but I think sets itself apart by reminding you over and over again that they are the same. It isn’t really a copy of Lain, but a manifestation of Lain’s mind. It is a part of her that she won’t accept. 

In one of the later episodes, Lain tries to strangle this “copy” but is yet again reminded that it is herself. She questions why she can feel warmth, why what she is killing is living? 

After this point, Lain’s character has a big shift. We start to see how she becomes a zombie in the real world, only really living in the Wired. She meets the self-proclaimed god of the Wired, who tries to convince her that the Wired could be a better alternative to the real world. As protocol seven is released, the Wired basically becomes another reality making the idea of switching less and less absurd. Our bodies don’t define us so why be restrained by them?

Arisu’s point of view, as she tries to get Lain out of this spiraling obsession. She finds Lain is But this is where I think the message becomes clearer. At a certain point, we start to follow a pile of wires and stuffed toys in her room, convinced that converting her consciousness would be a better alternative. That her body isn’t necessary for her existence and consciousness and therefore useless. 

But Arisu tells her that she’s wrong. That even though her body might be cold and weak, it is alive and so is Arisu’s. There’s a connection made because they’re physical, one that couldn’t be made if it weren’t for that.

And I think it’s here where we see what the show wants to say. How we shouldn’t try to understand the world and its people but to just try to understand yourself. As the voice says at the beginning of episode 12, the world might seem like a big and scary place, but once you figure it out it’s all so easy. The universe isn’t out to get you, there’s a reason why you’re physical. While it might seem like some sort of god wants you dead, there’s a reason why you’re not.

In the end, Lain decides to reset the universe but takes away the existence of herself, or at least the memories. She creates a world where she can be absent, a world where the memory of her is no more, where no one’s trying to figure out more than themselves. There’s a sense that everything is right in the world. Everyone’s happy or at least in pursuit of it

Still, there’s something off. While Lain still exists in a weird plane of existence, she struggles with the reality she had created. We are told over and over again that Lain has erased the memory of herself in the world, and that if you aren’t remembered then you might as well not have existed at all. And while it’s an interesting idea, I think the show wants to say in the end that you make your own existence. In the last scene, we see how an adult Arisu meets Lain years after the events of the show. Arisu can’t seem to figure out why she feels some sort of familiarity with this stranger. Lain has successfully removed herself from the memory of the world, but she remains. Even if she wasn’t remembered, she made her own existence. And I find that interesting.

10/10, I guess it is closer to a 9 than an imaginary 11 but whatever

Jojo part 3 season 1 quickie

Spoiler alert!

I watched the first season of Jojo (Part 1 and 2) almost a year ago and I can’t say that I loved it.

While part 2 was better than 1 in my opinion, since it felt more like it expressed the goofiness that the show had, I found the show pretty annoying and boring and it didn’t make me want to continue watching. 

But fast forward to two weeks ago and because of certain changes in my life I decided to give the show another chance and watch Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders and I loved it!

There really isn’t a lot to say about the show. I guess I’ll start with the first scene, which is probably the most well-made part of the show. We see Joseph’s daughter at the police who’s son has apparently landed himself in one of the cells. We then see almost a minute long Aaron Sorkin-Esque walk-and-talk which really made me interested in the show. Then we see probably the most legitimately well-directed sequence in the show where we first see stands in the show and it kind of slowly follows Jotaro’s movements and it really impressed me. And while I don’t think the show has any more moments that I was as impressed by, it left an impression on me. This show would actually be creative.

After this, it just kept reminding me of why I wanted to watch Jojo in the first place. I love how weird the stand powers are, how bad the English is (Edit: Sorry, meant to write good), how insane the character designs are. It’s really fun to watch 5 overly buff teenagers and elders kick ass against the baddies. 

At the same time, I think there is more to the show than that, there was actual substance to the show. While some stand powers are stupid as fuck, some were really interesting. That guy who’s stand was light which was shown in reflections or the one with the lovers stand who manipulated Jotaro into stealing jewelry. But I found a certain character particularly interesting, and that being Polnareff. He’s a pretty silly character, a contrast to what you would believe of a french man. But in one of the episodes, the character of Avdol is killed by a stand user and it is partially Polnareff’s fault for going on his own. Now I expected Polnareff to feel bad about this event, especially since he is seen crying right after it happens. But I wasn’t expecting it to have such an impact on him. We see how he really is affected by this, how he blames himself for Avdol’s death. It kind of touched me, which might sound weird for Jojo’s bizarre adventure, but there was something to his character. At the end, when Judgement creates a clay version of Avdol to kill Polnareff, he accepts defeat, feeling like he deserves being killed by him. 

Maybe it could’ve been better if Avdol wasn’t resurrected right afterward, his arc could’ve felt more genuine. I love Avdol, no doubt about that, but I feel like him still being dead could have made Polnareff’s arc more satisfying. But still, I found his development throughout the series to be very surprising and refreshing coming from such a comedic character as he is.

But I also feel like the show has some actual flaws. It’s a show where many of its flaws can become positives since it becomes comedic, but it doesn’t excuse some of the other ones. I found some scenes to be too illogical to be funny like the last episode where they say that they can’t talk in the water and then proceeds to talk for the rest of the episode, Holy is only a plot device for the men to save, and while I can see why some of the dialogue feel a little sexist since it is set in like the 1980’s I’m pretty sure, it still bothered me at times. There was like a line in there about how Holy wasn’t able to control her stand cause she was a woman which was like… ehhhh…

But overall, I really liked this show! For a 24 episode anime, it definitely didn’t feel like it. It has some goofy moments and some genuinely great moments and it all just made me really like the experience. At the same time, maybe it isn’t the show really that makes it fun to watch. Maybe it is just the community. I know a lot of Jojo fans are annoying, saying the same joke over and over and over again. But I feel like if you get into, then it’s fun to just joke around about how Jotaro’s stand yells oraora when fighting. It’s stupid, but it knows that it is stupid and that’s why I give it an 8/10 (Closer to a 7 than a 9)

Carole and Tuesday Quickie

Spoiler alert everyone!

So I recently finished the show Carole and Tuesday and it was pretty good. At the time I hadn’t seen anything by Watanabe, and still haven’t, so I thought I would give it a shot. I had heard so much about Cowboy Bebop so I knew I needed to check out his work sometime.

I found the show surprisingly realistic. Maybe that sounds weird since it is almost a sci-fi show, but I found a lot of realism in many aspects of it. Like how the world doesn’t feel like Star Wars and is based on what we can do today, how the dialogue felt natural (especially liked that they said fuck, very uncommon in anime), how the songs felt like they were actually written by musicians and didn’t sound like idol songs sang by 5-year olds. It is refreshing to see something be set on another planet and that it actually feels like it is. The fact that they sing in English feels especially good cause it shows that Watanabe isn’t obsessed with his own culture and language and just wants to make shows and that it doesn’t always have to be about Japan. Yeah, the voice actors talk in Japanese of course since it is made in Japan, and yeah, the English singers don’t always sound like the Japanese voices, but I still loved that they did that for some reason.

While there were moments where the facial animation got a little weird, I found the visual direction to be one of the better aspects of the show. All of the character designs give off so much character and aren’t just the same girls/boys with different hairstyles and colors. Again, it is refreshing to see character designs that feel unique and original and I loved that. If anything, the show is just generally very refreshing. Other than that, the animation is pretty great and succeeds extremely well in the singing/dancing scenes where a lot of nuance is shown through subtle movements and facial expressions. After seeing this show it is clear why Watanabe is an established director.

I wouldn’t say that any characters are that interesting, though they are very charming so it’s just to see them grow as people and as musicians. if anything, I think Angela could’ve been improved. I really liked how she was handled in the first part, where her relationship with Carole and Tuesday isn’t anything special, where they’re just another competitor. She isn’t written as an antagonist is what I’m saying. But in the second part, she becomes more of a villain, seeing Carole and Tuesday as something she needs to beat. And while she gets some depth that can make her character more interesting, it’s just about her substance abuse which I think Bojack Horseman does a lot better and how she saw her old self in Carole and Tuesday and how that was the reason she hated them which is a pretty cliche motivation. Other than that, pretty good characters gotta say.

But ultimately, the second is the one that kind of ruins the show. While the first half has focused on multiple sides, both Carole and Tuesday and Angela. But in the second half, they add so many more side stories that it starts to feel messy. And while all of these stories could be great, they all feel a little too rushed and disjointed. It feels like Watanabe thought of another theme he wanted to convey and just added it after half of the show has been made. “We want to make a show about the music community, no what about AI, wait a second what about politics and racism, no police violence”. 

Honestly, I would’ve been fine if the whole show wasn’t really centered around Carole and Tuesday but just the whole planet and its musicians. Kind of like a Pulp Fiction story, or like Durarara, where we see a lot of different people whose stories we can connect and in the end, they can all sing together. But now it starts off as a show about Carole and Tuesday, but kind of becomes a mix of that and the idea I had. It doesn’t have anything to focus on, so it feels like everything is just fumbled together. 

In the last episode, Carole and Tuesday make a concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first immigration to mars, where they ask every single musician on mars to sing a song with them so they can counteract the ever-growing oppression of immigrants. And while it is surely cheesy, somehow it made me fall back in love with the show again. The combination of animation, performances, and writing made the moment just really enjoyable. It symbolizes that we people should stop fighting each other, that we should be a community, singing about what makes us the same. Maybe it is an overdone message but it seems to be needed.

Oh, and by the way, Pyotr’s dance at the competition was so fucking beautiful oh my god!

7/10, closer to an 8 than a 6