Rogue Shogunate

My Views: Fire Force

Now that the season for Fire Force has ended was it worth the watch? Here is a quick breakdown of what I think.

fire-force.jpg
Fire Force (overall): 7.5/10

Plot: 8/10
I think that the plot had enough going on to really keep you engaged. The main character (Shinra) is likable and not too OP to break the plot. The fight scenes were good but did not have to carry the show. Shinra looking for his younger brother is the main point of the show and discovering the reason for human combustion is the catalyst that gives each episode a purpose. The fact is that ultimately Shinra is the only one that really cares about his little brother, don’t get me wrong now that he is at the 8th and has told those people whats up, they care too but my point is that if Shinra was never looking for his younger brother no one else would be either. So, having a secondary objective is clutch and key. The true question is how do they intend to keep that going in season two?

Character Development: 2/10                                                                                                          I don’t think the characters developed at all. Honestly its probably still too early for them to grow a lot but they all seemed to have gotten a power boost so they did develop in that aspect. I’m pretty big on character development no matter what genre it is, characters have to grow in some way. Fire Force did not deliver much character development besides the normal power growth scenes and one other scene with Shinra and his little brother.

Animation: 7/10
I enjoyed the animation though I am not that technical. I understand budget costs and all that comes to play when creating anime so I tend to look over anything that doesn’t hinder me from understanding the action. Fire Force did a good job for the most part. There were a couple fight scenes that I thought could have been cleaner but overall, I think it looked fine. There were a few scenes where the lighting was done superbly–the light and dark contrast with the flames, very well done. OH! and all the scenes with the fan service they spared no expense!

All in all, its a fun anime to watch. Aside from the unnecessary fan service that had no real plot moving devices, the world that is built is fascinating to say the least and they do a good job of exploring enough to keep you coming back for more. I was watching this anime at the same time as some other really popular ones and I did not skip a week of this. From the fight scenes (like the one with Maki in in the subway…) to the plot execution I think its worth the watch if your into Shonens. Someone else felt the same way I did about the Maki subway scene and posted it to YouTube check it out below.

Attack on Titan season 2: A Review

My initial expectations before rewatching the Hajime Isaya written series ‘Attack on Titan’ were not too far over the mediocre, but as you can read in my review of the first season I was incredibly impressed by what the creators were able to do with the establishing portion of the series. Unlike many other series, it took its time setting up many of the series elements making it a very interesting revisit from a writing perspective. Seeing the small things the writers would do to establish a character or just an idea, that really impressed me. So continuing to season 2 was an intimidating task, as the bar felt far too high for the series to reach again. And if you’re anticipating my expectations to have yet again been demolished, then this is not the essay you’ll want to read.

This review will be discussing plot events in the second season of ‘Attack on Titan’ that might be considered spoiler territory 

Season 2 of ‘Attack on Titan’ starts off where season 1 ends as you’d expect when Titans start appearing inside of Wall Maria alongside a seemingly more intelligent beast-like titan, but from no discernable hole where these could’ve come from. And the mystery of this event is emblematic of the focus the series goes for after season 1, that being the conundrum of what the titans really are. This is a question that has been asked by the series before this point, but I would say this marks change where this becomes the focal point of the series and is easily my favorite change from season 1. To sum up my only real complaint about the first season, the direction the series goes into with humans controlling titans was pretty poorly handled in my opinion. And while I want to clarify that the idea isn’t my issue, the way it is introduced so early makes the mystery a bit less effective in my experience. And so seeing the series try to not give out too much information was satisfying. It strikes a balance and gives you enough information to start coming up with all of these ideas about what these characters are really doing or what the titans really are, but never enough to conclude on any of them which makes it a very engaging experience. But I’m afraid my praise will have to end here. 

In the seventh episode of the series, it is revealed that Reiner and Bertholdt were the two that controlled the titans that broke into the wall at the very beginning of the series. What follows is an action scene focusing on Eren’s battle with the Armored Titan, but also his internal conflict as he realizes that his relationship with Reiner and Bertholdt has all been founded on a lie. But as we see, the armored titan is far more powerful than Eren and in the middle of the fight as he is being thrown away by Reiner we are flashed back years ago as Eren remembers a moment with Annie. The two have a confrontation that leads to Eren being on the ground and Annie giving him advice. She tells him that she was able to beat Eren because she used his strength to throw himself away, and was able to beat someone bigger than her. And with this being remembered, Eren goes back to the present and uses this technique on the Armored titan and succeeds. He is able to tackle the titan and crack his armored skin. It is a very satisfying moment if only this scene with Annie wasn’t made up on the spot. This scene where Annie teaches Eren on how to beat someone of bigger power is not featured in the series’ first or second season before this point, making it very confusing and transparent that they’re trying to pay off a setup made earlier in the same scene. Pretending to have a developing story, and most of all it’s a testament to what happens to a story like ‘Attack on Titan’ with a shorter runtime.

Season 2 of ‘Attack on Titan’, unlike the series’ first, only has 12 episodes, a result of production issues and the money needed to air that amount of episodes. And while it is understandable under the circumstances the studio might’ve been under at the time, I still feel it’s only fair to judge the series with its fewer number of episodes because it’s the core problem I see in the season. One of my favorite aspects of the series’ first season was how well planned everything felt, where it seemed as though every detail and every line was specifically used to establish an idea or a theme. And while I’m not sure how many chapters of the adapted manga the second season covers relative to its first, it definitely feels as though the season covers as much content as season 1 but doesn’t have enough time to build up the groundwork. The amount of conflicts that end with a character remembering an important event we haven’t seen before instead of developing this earlier on becomes annoying at one point. To compare this to the prior season which I realize I have done a lot but I think is only natural, the female titan is a great example of how to successfully use set-up and pay off in a series. In episode 23 of the season, it is revealed that Annie was the female titan that pursued the squad on their expedition. But the reason why this doesn’t feel unjustified to me is because of the clear set-up that is being made since the first episode we see the character. She has a very specific fighting style, and although it isn’t focused upon while the female titan fights Eren, they’re similarities are undeniable after you know the twist and it makes the series feel patient with its reveals and spends more time establishing what will happen later. In contrast, the second season feels compromised and rushed. It has numerous moments that I feel could’ve been narratively striking if only they built up the moment beforehand. I would’ve probably found the relationship between Historia and Ymir more if it didn’t feel like their relationship was better developed. Again, there are so many examples of interesting ideas and tones the series is going for that are all kind of ruined with the amount of time they have to naturally grow. It wants the high stakes and energy of the first 25 episodes, but is either not willing or capable of doing the groundwork I think is needed for such a thing. The way I see it, it’s a 12 episode series masquerading as a 24 episode one.

I still respect how the series goes in a new direction that I think has a lot of potential, but in the end, the last fight where big titans fall from the sky from being thrown by an even bigger titan is the only thing steering the series away from absolute mediocrity.

Strong 6/10

Attack on Titan season 1: A review

A review containing spoilers of the first season of ‘Attack on Titan’’

Ever since completing the second season of the Hajime Isayama written series ‘Attack on Titan’ for the first time I never really felt the urge to continue as more episodes were released. I described my experience as exciting yet hollow, and the further the series went it seemed this didn’t change. While I always found appreciation in technical elements of the filmmaking, such as its animation and the musical score by Hiroyuki Sawano, I seemed to be disappointed by the “writing”, an appropriately vague justification for my disliking for the series as I was definitely not experienced in the field of media consumption, at least in the way I approach it currently. But as episodes of the third season got increasingly highly rated, to the point of many of its episodes standing on the top of IMDb’s most highly rated tv-episodes among shows like Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot and Bojack Horseman, I found myself more intrigued than ever as to what quality the show had that I might’ve missed on my first visit. But I don’t think I expected to miss so much right from the beginning.

By far, ‘Attack on Titan’s most impressive element is how it establishes itself, whether it would be its characters or the world they live in. And while I can only speculate, I think this may be why the series had such enormous popularity since it’s incredibly easy to get into. And while this can turn into a double-edged sword which we will discuss later, it is an aspect I would be remiss to not go over. And the best example of this would be the titans themself. While we see glimpses of what they look like, episode one barely has any surface-level development of what the titans are but rather sets up a mood and presence that makes it so that you already know what the titans are even when you haven’t seen one. From Carla Yeager reacting to her son saying he wants to go outside the walls, to the Survey Corps coming back after a mission lacking what used to lie behind their eyes, there is a powerful sense of the danger the titans have imposed on humans. It keeps the mystery the titans thrive on and makes the scene at the end of the episode extremely emotional as everything that has been set-up is paid off. And this is emblematic of what’s so good about the first episodes, they are incredibly efficient.

What I mean by this is how well the series disguises its expositions and developments with very basic narrative elements and does so in a way that doesn’t rush over anything or slow to a crawl. Episode 4 is set 2 years after the previous, a narrative device I have seen many use as an excuse to not write important development between characters. And while I could see a version of the series where we see these two years in more detail, which may give some more camaraderie to the main cast, taking the pacing into account I don’t think it’s worth it. Episode 3 is already a good substitute to the general training process I could see the soldiers going through, and so going over it again for let’s say two more episodes would just ruin the pacing for no real reason other than following some arbitrary “good writing” rule. And this is what I again find so intriguing about the establishing episodes of ‘Attack on Titan’. I feel like it lets me into the process of how to write a series like this, which needs to convey as much information as quickly as possible. You could say the writing is very transparent, but in a way, I think there’s a lot to learn from. I would go as to say that the first eight or so episodes are a pretty great screenwriting teacher. Not because it’s the most well-written piece of media I’ve witnessed, but because it wears its techniques on its sleeve. 

But it leads me to my central problem of the series. With such an exceptional setup, I feel it is almost bound to disappoint in some way the moment the series starts answering questions and developing itself, especially for a series so reliant on mystery and not understanding the world. And the aspect the most reflective of this, ironically enough, would be the titans again. 

In the eight-episode of the series, it is revealed that inside of the mysterious titan that has helped the cast get to the HQ during the battle for Trost lies Eren Yeager, who was seen eaten by another titan hours prior. This marks a change in direction the series goes into, where I think some of the mysterious intrigue to be found in the titans is lost. While we gain surface-level knowledge of the titans at times, the core of their being is very much kept hidden. Giant human-like creatures that eat people for the sake of it is a very creepy premise that should be kept that way. So when it is revealed that normal people could potentially be inside of the titans, or at least that a human can turn into them, so early on in the series, it removes just enough information about the titans that they stop being intriguing to me. And the thing is that I wouldn’t really be complaining if I couldn’t almost see a version of the series where this wasn’t a problem.

In episode 17, Armin encounters an intelligent female titan during the 57th exterior scouting mission which seems to be looking for Eren and has no other objective. Over the next 6 episodes, the scouting party is slowly informed of the danger the titan could have, until captain Levi decides to direct the formation into a large forest. This all culminates into a number of action scenes, and they are without a doubt some of the best action direction I have seen in anime in a long time, if not ever. It is incredibly exhilarating and interesting to just look at. I can’t really say it in a smart way, it’s fucking dope. There is a shot where a soldier shoots a grappling hook next to the female titan, she grabs the wire and drags the soldiers so she can mash them into a tree, and then another soldier swings towards the screen and the female titan grabs their wire and throws them to the ground. The depth used in these animations is honestly incredible and the only time I’ve actually wanted to see anime in 3D, amazing stuff. But it is here where we encounter the problem I brought up, and the potential I think was lost here. 

While I love practically every scene the female titan is featured in, the only problem I have again is that we know too much about her. There are still questions we might have for sure, but because the idea of turning into a titan was established earlier in the series, we can almost immediately predict that this is the case for the female titan. And it doesn’t diminish any enjoyment to be found in the scenes, that would be hyperbolic and the spectacle is still phenomenal. But storytelling-wise, I think there’s a lot of lost potential and reflective of how too much information is given at times. if anything, the forest sequence is where I think the reveal would be suited the best, since it would make the mystery much more intriguing than I already felt it was, and would make the surprise when the female titans appears again after having been eaten alive much more powerful. And while it may seem incredibly nit-picky to spend two paragraphs on being mildly annoyed at how the development of the titans are handled, I think it’s worth bringing up

But after having experienced it all I am extremely impressed, especially for a series I wasn’t very intrigued by on my first visit. The writing is very efficient and conveys information and themes of humanity I will go into more depth on in a bigger analysis of the series when season 4 is complete, and Tetsurou Araki’s directing is some of the best I’ve seen in recent years! And while I’ve expressed my problems with the series, I feel they’re mainly noticeable because of how great everything else is in comparison

Strong 8 / 10

Holy shit…

Bakemonogatari: A Review

‘Bakemonogatari’ follows ‘Koyomi Araragi’ who has been bitten by a vampire but is able to stay human with the help of an expert on the matter. Unfortunately, his assistance does not get ‘Araragi’ out of the world of oddities and triggers a series of similar cases and has to help the rest of the cast of characters get over their own anomalies, such as losing your own weight, and your arm turning into that of a monkey’s.

In my endless search for an anime that could replicate the experience I have watching ‘The Social Network’, the ‘Monogatari’ series was often recommended to me as they’re both very quick-witted and clever with their words. And after having seen through the first season in the franchise I can definitely see the similarities even though the language barrier undeniably removed some of the effects the author might’ve intended. Nevertheless, even though I will have to revisit the series again to become more invested before continuing through the series, I’ll try to summarize my thoughts as a whole.

The element in the series I found the most striking was a lot of the visual aspects. It manages to have your attention even when scenes might be a bit dull. Not only is the animation and fairly detailed character designs interesting to look at, but the visual composition and use of colors and experimental mediums is what really makes for a great base for the visuals. A lot of the cinematography is just very memorable which I’m not used to in a lot of series.

I found the characters to be notably likable, and for the most part following them was enjoyable. You’d expect a series such as this to have somewhat obnoxious characters but are so to convey a certain theme or idea, but they are surprisingly charming often especially ‘Senjougahara’ who’s straight-forward manner felt very charming and made episode 12 an especially enjoyable experience which seems to be the general consensus among the ‘Monogatari’ fanbase from what I have garnered. And while some characters played off tropes I find deeply annoying and uncomfortable, such as ‘Hachikuji’ and ‘Sengoku’, the series for the most part does a good job of handling those characters well.

And while I still feel I need to revisit this before feeling completely engaged in the franchise, I found that it surprisingly works on its own. As in, the series works as a story by itself which I always appreciate in longer series such as this. 

Strong 7 / 10

Re:zero -Starting Life in Another World-: An analysis

My thoughts on the series known as Re:zero, or more specifically ‘Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World’, have shifted over the years. Looking at my MyAnimeList review from April 14th, 2018, it seems I had enjoyed my experience, but ever since I’ve been very unsure as to my consensus over the tv-series. From what I had remembered it seemed like a series full of potential that was stricken with a bold sense of superiority, but I was never really quite sure why. It was until Mother’s Basement’s video on the subject matter that I became more intrigued than ever. He speaks of the shows subtle critique of anime culture and that not having rewatched the series means you haven’t seen the show to begin with. And now that I have taken that advice, I would make the case that this is what made the show feel as pretentious and blatant as it did.

This analysis contains spoilers

The series follows Subaru Natsuki, the ordinary Japanese high school anime fan, as he is transported into the Kingdom of Lugnica, not too dissimilar from many other fantasy worlds we’ve seen the past decade. After getting into trouble with the capitals many crooks he is saved by the heroine of Emilia who Subaru quickly takes a liking to. The two look for her “insignia”, an amulet of a sort, and after scenes of blood and gore we learn that Subaru is able to “return by death” meaning he is sent back in time to certain events when he passes away. And this is where the critique of the anime fandom and the “otaku” is set up, as the ability Subaru achieves seems like an advantageous one but is throughout the series developed to be extremely trauma-inducing, as Subaru has to relive the suffering the world of Lugnica has to offer repeatedly. It takes the audience’s expectations of the story’s premise and turns it around to show the horror laying inside of it. But this is where the story’s interesting exploration of this critique starts and ends, as we will be looking at now.

The first 50 minutes of the show are emblematic of the problems the show has presenting this recurring theme. As I started the first episode I was impressed at how early they set up how Subaru isn’t the main character of this world. He is repeatedly disempowered, thinking that he can suddenly cast magic and save people and is then shown how this is false. But after lines like “Is this how it’s supposed to be? Wasn’t I summoned into a parallel world?! Where’s my protagonist status go!?” and “And besides, if I was summoned, where’s my cute girl who summoned me?!”, this starts become overwhelming. The entirety of episodes one is spent comedically disempowering Subaru over and over again to the point where it seems as though the creators are screaming the point of the show to the audience. My consensus after watching the first episode was that it wasn’t a masterpiece because it thinks it is one. 

This is a common problem in anime I believe, where the point of certain characters or story elements are kept extremely clear. But when it comes to thematic elements, I don’t think I have a better example of overstatement than this show. While it is able to hide this problem in the first third of the show, where it’s either interesting in how it frames Subaru or just turns into the show I thought this was meant to critique as it gives us meaningless fan-service. But it is in the scene where Emilia leaves Subaru in the capital where this changes. This is probably my favorite point in the series, where Subaru’s arrogance and savior complex becomes increasingly transparent to the point of saying that Emilia is hopeless without him, and I finally feel like the show has a point while still wrapping it in subtext. But the high of writing a scene like this can be addicting and this is what we see after this point. This is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth after finishing the series even though as a whole I don’t think it’s awful.

The series becomes a lot more melodramatic and not afraid to cause mass-murder to make a heavy-handed point about Subaru’s flaws as a person. The “from zero” (where Subaru tells Rem he loves Emilia) is a pretty great summarization of what I dislike about the show. Whenever it wants to make a point about Subaru and people like him it isn’t subtle about it in any way. They scream it into the camera, in the exact words you would put into a wiki page. And while I don’t think subtlety is a necessary element of writing, I find it hard to take the message seriously or find any interest in it when there is nothing to read into. Like Folding Ideas said in his video on the film Annihilation, in this series the subtextual is the textual. And while I don’t think comparing the two is completely fair as Annihilations themes are very different from Re:ZERO’s, I don’t think there’s a lot of subtext to read into when it comes to this series, because everything is on the table.

In the end the problems I have with Re:ZERO are not easy to understand for myself. I have to credit the series for making me think about what makes something on-the-nose and what makes something honest, and if a clear line is needed in this case. I’m still intrigued by the series, from just thinking about the problems and why I find them to be so. But in the end, the fact that I find them bothersome should be enough to call it a flaw.

And even if I think other aspects of the series are fine, the way the theme is presented felt really lazy and really drags the series down. If there’s any element of filmmaking I find more interesting to discuss than any other it would be subtext and the meaning of media. But if there’s any case that says that conceptually underlying themes and messages cannot make a show great I think Re:ZERO is a pretty good one

5/10

Tower of God x Gleipnir

Hey Shogunates!

Been a while I know…I’m a busy man but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching anime!

Here are my thoughts for Tower of God and Gleipnir! Warning spoilers ahead!!!

Tower of God is the one that everyone is talking about. Coming from the webtoon to the “big screen” this anime adaptation of the popular webtoon starts off rocking! I have read only a little bit of the webtoon so this is not a comparison of the two. Tower of God is a great ride from start to finish . The animation is solid and the fight scenes are freakin cool! I enjoyed the characters for what they are. Ok enough with the niceties…here are my issues.

Plot development: Bam is annoying. His blind undying love for Rachael is such a bad plot crutch that I honestly was ready to quit watching. But, i get it. His story is about LOVE. As for the other characters we get a little background information about them all which isn’t terrible but I was never really convinced as to why they all chose to give up on their personal objectives to help Bam climb to tower to find Rachael. Then i was more confused when they found out Rachael was with them and still chose to help.  Did I miss something?? Help me out please.

Character Development: I am sure this will be resolved in season two but we get little to no development of any of the characters except Rachael. Rachael realizes she is actually a terrible person and acts on that realization. She had some actual character development. The lizard girl also had some character development.

The last episode leaves us with a decent cliffhanger. Bam is alive and Rachael is going to have the help of all his friends in climbing the tower. No one realizes that she isn’t disabled but Bam knows that she pushed him off the “elevator”. Decent cliffhanger…though at this point I am invested because I want to see if Rachael gets whats coming to her…a stomp out from everyone there, they should all stomp her to dust.

Moving on.

gleipnir (1)

I watched the last episode today….meh.

Overall I though this anime was great. I enjoyed just about every episode. The animation was great, fight scenes amazing, The opening and ending songs are good! I really vibe with the ending theme, I don’t know what it is about it, it just makes me bob my head every time. I’ll touch on the same things I hit with Tower of God.

Plot Development: The plot of Gleipnir is consistent and very interesting! I find myself wanting know more about everything. The slow reveal of the past troubles is executed perfectly and catapults the anime into the next season. However, the last episode was very lackluster. I think it would have been more of a cliffhanger if Shuichi kept his memories and something bad happened after that. The fight with Clair’s sister was very cool but short lived.

Character Development: The most important characters that need to develop in a story are the main character and the immediate supporting character. Gleipnir does a great job in doing this. Both Shuichi and Clair go through several personality changes. Shuichi evolves from this scared shy guy to this brave confidant guy and we see it. Clair evolves from this over domineering, confident, assertive girl to a more dependent version of that (she still keeps a lot of those qualities but becomes softer). And we see it!

All in all I enjoyed Gleipnir but I cannot end this article without addressing the elephant in the room…the fan service. So clearly there was some fan service. My arguement is that SOME of the fan service wasn’t fan service. The scenes when Clair enters Shuichi are NOT fan service. They make sense for the plot. The scenes where Clair’s panties are showing or bra are probably unnecessary. I will only say this and leave it alone…The scene that show Shuichi being aggressive with Clair must be for a reason because he always snaps out of it and says “what was that?” there is something else there that we have not seen yet.

My take: Gleipnir > Tower of God at this point.