Rogue Shogunate

African Salaryman and Why I Hated It

I am a massive fan of the American tv-series of The Office. I would even say that it is one of my favorite shows of all time. Yeah I’m white, what of it?! I honestly think that it is one of the funniest shows out there, even with its low points. The way that it used the office setting was interesting and it felt more subtle than most comedies. It didn’t have a bunch of laugh tracks or obvious jokes. It just felt like something new. I honestly don’t have a lot to say. It’s funny, it’s genuine, and it’s great.

And so seeing that a show like it would air at the end of the year intrigued me. I wasn’t really expecting the show to be reminiscent of it, nor did I want it to. But it was something at least. I was curious to see how this show would use the office. What creative way they would use its setting.

Well, unfortunately, it didn’t.

‘African Salaryman’, or Africa no Salaryman in Japanese, follows just the normal office building, except it is inhabited by animal-like people. Our main cast is a lion, a toucan, and a lizard, whom all try to do their jobs. Goofs and hijinks ensue.

I’ll just get into it. The first thing that stood out to me was the visual contrast. It was simultaneously the best and worst aspect of the show, at least at first. 

CG has never really left a great impression on the anime community, mainly because of how hit or miss it is. The Youtube creator Gigguk made a video on the subject where he starts by stating that CG will never really look good in anime cause when it does, it won’t be noticed, which I agree with. Unless an anime is completely in CG, it will probably not be noticed unless it is bad enough. And my god does Africa no Salaryman get there. it is honestly Mafia City ad levels of god awfulness, where the polygons are constantly clipping through each other and the movement feels so stiff and robotic that it’s hard to take seriously. Somehow we got some of the best and worst CG I have ever seen in the same season (You can probably guess which is the best). 

But here’s the interesting part. While there is a lot of CG animation in the show, there’s also a lot of hand-drawn animation as well. And those parts are honestly great! Like genuinely, not even in comparison, the hand-drawn animation is some of the best I’ve seen this year. Not really for how smooth it is or how complicated, but just how unique it looks. I’d say that it is reminiscent of youtube and twitter animators like Cas de van Pon and Kekeflipnote, where animation actually conveys a lot of emotion and originality. I can’t really say I’ve seen an anime that feels like this, maybe Aggretsuko if you look at them hard enough. 

So seeing it cut to that abhorrent CG becomes jarring because of the contrast in quality. Cause while there are plenty of anime that switch from hand-drawn to CG, I feel like it was never as weird as it looked here. The whole feel of the animation switches completely as well, almost like a different director worked on it. It is truly astonishing how this was made.

But as much as this bothered me at first, I think it only distracted me from everything else. Cause when the bad CG started to wear off, the rest of its flaws became clear.

While I never found the writing in the first couple of episodes to be great, I could never have suspected that it would turn into this. let’s start by asking a question. Why are the characters in the show animals? Does it affect the characters or their jokes, or is it just there to make for a good youtube thumbnail (or rather MAL poster I guess). You can do a lot of things with characters of a show looking like animals. Let’s take Bojack Horseman as an example. In the show, the personalities and struggles of the characters embody their animal form. The character of Princess Carolyn is a great case of this. They take the little ability of cats to always land on their feet and make it into this tragic compulsive need to work. She isn’t able to relax and settle down cause she’s always haunted by her need to work, and she never seems to accept that. And while that character trait would obviously work with a human character as well, it makes so much sense for a cat to be that way. Her being a cat becomes important for her character. And the whole show is filled with this, probably every single animal character. You can do so many creative things! You don’t even have to be serious about it. Just make a character resemble how they look, the thing character design is supposed to do.

Does Africa no Salaryman do any of this? No. Every single character in this show has the most cookie-cutter anime personalities, and none of them work with their animal form. It just feels like they clicked a random animal button and made a character from that. 

And it might seem trivial to spend… 250 words… sheesh… on just talking about how the show has nothing to do with animals. But I feel like they could’ve done so much with the idea of African animals working in an office, and none of the potential was used. That’s the worst thing. I can only really say that one of the characters is written to be the animal they look like. And that’s the lion. And of course, the only animal-related joke will be used over and over and over again. The joke is that he looks scary but that his personality is completely different from how he looks. And with that, we can talk about the jokes. 

Unfortunately, the repetitive jokes don’t stop at the lion’s contrast in personality to how he looks. Cause they’re everywhere. The toucan cuts off the lizard tail, how random, let’s do it five more times. The Badger does something crazy and doesn’t die, let’s do it five more times and distract the audience from the fact that this show is about an office (This isn’t really a show about an office at this point). The turtle is old but he doesn’t act like he’s old, let’s make that 5 more times. 

It’s just really boring after seeing the same jokes over and over again, it just makes my head hurt after a while.

And even when they don’t tell a joke they’ve told before, it’s still shit. It’s “self-aware jokes” about how bad the writing is, references only made for weebs to gawk at how funny it is to say an anime but with an animal pun, the toucan says something random and shouts. 

It ends up feeling like a combination of the worst parts of both American and Japanese comedy. 

In the end, the show peaked when we got to see a dinosaur with a face on its stomach, and kind of just fucked off after that. I genuinely tried to watch the last episode without skipping through it and it was miserable. It can suck my ass

Average 3/10 (or whatever word to use between strong and weak idk)

Didn’t help that there were Fortnite dances in the opening either

5 Centimeters per Second Review

Hey, All

So I’ve been a bit MIA in the department of writing reviews and such. Had a lot going on when it came down to life. New house, new job, new things to learn. I would like to take my manga review parts and do something better than a 3 paragraph blog. I would like to throw up reviews in a more vlog way.

Thank you so much for the support! I hope you enjoy future reviews. v^_^v

The Optimistic Nihilism of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

Spoiler Alert

I was never that big of a fan of Made in Abyss. I found the main cast to be very uninteresting and nothing about the story struck me as anything that memorable. I feel like I could appreciate a little more when rewatching it, seeing as the themes it tackled became more clear (with Reg’s sexuality being a very interesting aspect of his character). But what I always appreciated from day one was its story. The way that you are truly placed into the world that the character inhabits is very impressive. The incredibly detailed backgrounds by Osamu Masuyama mixed with the way that the character interacted with the setting made me feel like it was a world worth exploring.

And this is something I find few shows or movies do well. Every now and then you find a show like this that really does something with its setting, but for the most part, I find that the world I enter isn’t worth shit. And that doesn’t just mean fantasy stories, even ones that take place in the real world can’t use that as an excuse to not make the setting interesting. There’s a lot that you can do with the real world, cause it isn’t just the world. It is where you have lived ever since you were born. Your school isn’t just a school, it’s the one that you have possibly spent a lot of time in and have made relationships and memories. Your house isn’t just a house in whatever country and city you live in, it’s one where you became who you are. And I feel like many anime neglects that and just make their setting a background and not an aspect of its characters. And to my surprise, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable avoided this.

In the fourth part of the popular Jojo series, Jotaro Kujo whom we saw defeat Dio Brando 11 years prior, meets Josuke Higashikata who is revealed to be another stand user. The two make friends along the way of hunting for the next threat in the city of Morioh. 

And this premise kind of scared me. The previous seasons of the series have almost always been about finding the antagonist and beating them. The first part of Jojo focuses on Jonathan Joestar who has to find Dio Brando and kill him, the second focuses on… was it the pillar men or was that just a side thing I don’t know, and then in the third part the focus is on Jotaro and his friends finding Dio again and killing him. But this season feels differently, however. While the focus is still on finding Kira and killing him, because of his goal of living a peaceful and normal life which I’ll get back to later, the series doesn’t leave the town of Morioh. The series has always had a lot of different settings, but few of them felt all that developed so I was scared that the town would become boring after a while. Still, there was hope. I had seen The Lighthouse a few days before which only takes place in a lighthouse, so a whole town was probably enough to make 16 hours interesting. 

In the second episode of the series, a villain by the name of Anjuro Katagiri has already started threatening Josuke and Jotaro. When the weather becomes rainy in Morioh, he uses his stand to control the water in and around his house. It becomes a tense fight scene, where the villain could come at any point from any direction. But in the end, Josuke and Jotaro find Anjuro hidden in a tree, and with Josuke’s healing ability he morphs Anjuro with a stone. And like most rocks, he stays. Anjuro, or more commonly known as “Angelo Rock”, becomes a part of the town. The rock becomes a landmark, almost a tourist attraction, where lovers meet. We continue to see Angelo rock, Josuke says hello to it which Koichi then starts to do as well. We see it become a part of the world. And this is one of the reasons why I found the world to feel so real. These landmarks are what make Morioh so special cause you can tell that people live in it. Boing-Boing Cape, a place believed to be holy for saving Yukako when she was seen “committing suicide”, Toyohiro becomes famous after being known as the man living in a tower, and Rohan Kishibe’s house whose directions aren’t noted as he’ll pretend that he isn’t at home. Irrelevant details are included to make sure that this town feels real. And I find one of these landmarks to be especially interesting, that being Reimi’s Alley. The alley where you can meet a ghost girl and can’t look back. I find this both interesting because of how reminiscent of a rumor it sounds like, but also how it is executed in the series. How important the alley becomes to telling the story. 

First Rohan gets possessed by a stand that kills its own user if it is seen, and he walks to the alley to make the stand look back and is therefore taken by the ghost-hands to the unknown. It is then later used in the end to finally kill off Kira, which puts Reimi at peace at last.

And I find this so interesting because it tells me that both Araki and his characters know this town. Rohan knows it enough that he uses it to defeat Cheap Trick, and Araki knows it enough that he kills off the central antagonist with it. It shows that Araki wants the setting to be a part of the story and not a backdrop to it. It started to feel like a character, and I loved that.

But like most (good) characters, it is multi-sided. And another aspect of Morioh that I feel the need to point out how the town tackles the precognition that your town is and will always be good. That what you know is good. 

Morioh resembles in many ways everyone’s hometown. It’s a normal suburban neighborhood. Nothing about it sticks out, if not it’s anticlimactic existence in a Jojo season. But the structure is very reminiscent of part 3 which feels weird in a setting so calm like this one. Villains are thrown at you left and right when one leaves another appears. And you start to realize then how Morioh isn’t what you were led to believe. Morioh isn’t the image of a hometown that you have in your mind but what it actually is. Flawed and potentially dangerous. Your hometown is probably not the home of a mass murderer with a hand fetish, but it is probably closer than you think. We have been tricked by the fear of the unknown that the known isn’t to be feared. But you don’t know everything about what you think you know. And speaking of mass murders with hand fetishes, Kira Yoshikage embodies this theme. 

Kira is unlike any Jojo villain that we have seen before. Both Dio Brando and the Pillar men are clear-cut villains. Their goal is to kill the main characters, and they’ll do anything to do so. They present themself more as forces of evil rather than actual characters. But Kira presents himself differently. His goal isn’t to kill anyone, but to keep himself sane and normal. In the popular monologue about how Kira lives his life, he tells Shigechi that his life resembles our own mostly. He works for the Kame Yu department stores, he doesn’t smoke but drinks on occasions and he cares deeply about getting enough sleep. But if killing someone means that he’ll get enough sleep, then he’ll do it easily.

And that’s how he characterizes the town. His appearance is unremarkable, his way of life isn’t abnormal or immoral really and he just wants a quiet life, not unlike what many of us. But when you look closer and see the end of the hand, you realize that something’s off. And I think I’ll always find characters like that interesting. Ones that can embody a theme or setting. That can personify what a story is about.

At the same time, I have conflicting thoughts about this theme. While the structure helps to convey the feeling that the town isn’t what it seems, it quickly becomes very repetitive. There always seems to be another villain that can inconvenience the Jojo boys for a few episodes until they befriend him/her and they turn into a completely new person. Many of them start to feel useless in the end, like the episode where they fight a rat for 30 minutes or try to find a baby. They start to feel like fillers, even when they “develop” the characters. It turns into some pretty annoying moments where they try to make you feel emotional for a character that you’ve mostly seen as an asshole. Yukako is a good example of this, who threatens to kill Koichi in an episode but has her own arc a few episodes later where we are supposed to feel bad for her. 

In the end, I don’t think Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is a genius masterpiece. For the most part, it is dumb fun with interesting stand powers and weird inconsistencies. It ends with the Jojo boys having fun in the town, showing all the characters we have met in all the new places we have been at, with Great Days behind it all. And doesn’t that just feel weird? We have spent all this time showing that this town isn’t what it seems, and that is neglected as Tonio makes food Okuyasu’s dad but comically only sheds his skin and maintains his weird form. Isn’t this exactly the opposite of what the story wanted to say? That the town will always be a safe space for the malicious.

But maybe that’s alright. The town will always be filled with evil and killing Kira doesn’t change that, destruction still persists. But maybe it’s a sign that you can overcome it. That it is hopeless to try to save the unsaveable, so maybe just live life knowing that you don’t have to do anything. To live in optimistic nihilism

A weak 8/10

Edit: This review used to end with “We are the jojo boys” and I need to keep that in this review

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