Rogue Shogunate

Beastars Exploration of an Obsession Over Death and My Disappointment with What It became

On the 31st of March next year, Bojack Horseman will release its last season. It’ll be its sixth season with 76 episodes all together (excluding the season two special). And that show matters a lot to me. It is probably, no definitely, my favorite tv-series of all time. That and Your Name are the only pieces of media that make me happy while not distracting me from my life. They’re the only things that seem to be able to tell me that everything’s going to be all right, which might sound weird is true. And the thing is that it isn’t just “This horse is depressed. Give us some awards already!” type of show, cause there is so much more to it than that. It explores ideas around sexuality and wanting to find who you are, and feeling consumed by whom you think you are. My favorite character, Princess Carolyn, isn’t really all that relatable, to me at least. I’ve never had a job like her and I don’t really suffer from workaholism as it kind of seems she’s dealing with. But I find her arc so interesting and her writing to be so sharp that it doesn’t matter. She is a brilliant character nonetheless. 

Why I have half a mind

It is more than just a show about a sad horse, but a city full of people who don’t know who they are, and who’ll probably search for themselves forever. And so seeing it end like this, basically canceled, is sad (although, with season five’s message it feels natural to end it here).

And I have probably tried to find another show, another anime, another anything similar to it ever since rewatching it a few years back and realizing how good it was. I wanted a show that could convey the same feeling of realism that Bojack did, but I never really found one. Even other shows about mental health never had that sense that it was about more than relatability. Maybe I knew deep inside that I wouldn’t find anything like it, but for some reason, I kept asking. And one of the many times when I did, someone recommended Beastars to me. It hadn’t aired yet, I mean an anime hadn’t even been announced. But it was in the back of my head ever since then. It seemed promising. Sad wolf show sounded like something I would enjoy.

BTW, I’m not going to talk about anything furry related. That’s just bullshit. Your sensitive ass sexuality won’t be hurt by a show about anthropomorphic animals, that’s all. I will spoil some big stuff though, so ye…

Beastars is about the tension between herbivores and carnivores in a society of animals, and what happens when a wolf tries to befriend a rabbit. And this was the most compelling aspect of the show, the tension between the wolf and the rabbit. In episode one of the series, our main character Legosi senses the smell of a rabbit and gets an uncontrollable urge to attack her. He lunges at her and puts her in a position where she can do nothing but accept her mortality. But in the end, he lets her go after talking to his own consciousness. His own obsession over thinking that he’ll hurt someone. The day after having almost eaten the rabbit, he meets her alone in the gardening club. This leads to Legosi trying to befriend the rabbit, Haru, almost in a way to show himself that he won’t harm her. And the way that this is executed is so interesting. It is almost treated like OCD. How he becomes obsessed over the idea that he’s subconsciously trying to eat her, doesn’t want to look at her in fear of that sending the wrong message, or just the first scene in episode two. “A hidden murderer might be inside of you, you know?”. It’s something I hadn’t really seen in anime, an accurate depiction of OCD (Not that he’s confirmed to be suffering from that, I don’t want to sound like an armchair psychologist. I’m just speculating). There always seems like there is a problem in him, and in a way, he has accepted this. He will always be feared for the sole reason that he’s a wolf, and maybe they’re right. Maybe he is to be feared, maybe he will one kill someone when his urge to do it can’t be beaten. He is in a way haunted by death itself. He is simultaneously the bearer and victim of it. 

And the way that this is reflected through the setting and its people is even more thought-provoking and compelling. How the herbivores live in constant fear of being killed, while the carnivores are haunted by the risk that they might be the bearer of it. Everyone is in a constant struggle with death, either being at risk of it or to do it. No one is safe, death is all. And it shows that an animal society like this one would inevitably collapse, with nothing but wild animals left. It’s something Wes Andersson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox explores as well, although in a more comedic way. And it’s refreshing seeing a show that makes a statement that goes beyond “don’t be sad” or some shit like that.

The vibe that the show gave off was really interesting because of this. The issues that Legosi struggle with and how they’re conveyed through the setting is an idea unique enough to make the show stand out really well! It sets a sense of thematic consistency that few anime achieve, that few works of fiction have achieved. But this was unfortunately not to be maintained. 

Cause after maybe 5 episodes, this vibe is lost. The tone and everything seems to change overnight, in a way I can’t even really describe. It is as if the director changed his mind on what he wanted the show to symbolize in the middle of production, only showcasing how inexperienced Shinichi is at directing a story. Suddenly Beastars isn’t about not knowing your own intentions or a critique on the idea of an anthropomorphic society anymore, but yet another Romeo and Juliet story. And the problem here isn’t that changing tone or theme is bad, there are a lot of good films and tv-shows whose tone and message change in the story and gain from this. The problem is that this has been explored so many times! The struggle of love that can’t be is such an overused theme that Gnomeo and Juliet isn’t even the worst example of it used. It isn’t even explored interestingly. Legosi falls in love with Haru for some reason and she feels the same way, and that’s it. The end of episode 11 kind of made me hope that the ending wouldn’t just be “and now they’re a couple despite all odds”, but that’s what happens anyway. Haru becoming a damsel in distress was probably the most surprisingly bad decision the show makes. Haru is taken by some lion gang or whatever, and Legosi has to risk his life to save her. What is this? Mario!?

This along with some structural and expository problems made almost half of the show kind of frustrating to watch. Going from that interesting exploration of an obsession over death, to that was honestly very jarring and disappointing. And it’s not as if I expected the show to be as good as Bojack Horseman. I didn’t want to see Bojack Horseman again, I wanted it to be its own thing. And it was, until it became just like a hundred other anime.

In the last episode of the show, Legosi confesses his love for Haru and they become a couple. And that just left me in a state of dissatisfaction like few anime have this year. Was this really a story that needed to be told? Was that ending really important for the story? Zootopia but now they’re in love… There are still aspects of this show that I feel like are more consistent than the story. The use of CG animation is at times distracting but is honestly one of the best uses of it that I’ve seen. From the cinematography to the use of other mediums is very inspiring. I don’t think the latter half of the story ruins this show by any means. It’s still pretty good. But I can’t help feeling like this show could’ve been so much better. It could’ve said so much more. It could’ve been great.

Medium 7/10 or something

Probably my favorite piece of animation in the show

Ergo Proxy and on the Perception of Life

In Lemmino’s video on AI simply called Artificial Intelligence, he discusses the possibility that robots will become superior to us. He spends most of the video listing things that AI is able to achieve, and how they’re already starting to get better at us in certain fields. The ability to learn gets a lot of focus since it breaks the line between human and machine. But what made Lemmino’s video stick out in comparison to all the other hundreds of videos on the subject is what he compares it to. At the end of the video essay, he uses animals as an analogy to explain how the superiority of AI would actually work. 

“Attempt to explain to the millions of animals living in the jungle the geopolitical and socioeconomic reasons for why we continue to destroy their home. It’s impossible. They simply lack the intelligence to understand.”

And this shows not only how AI would react to our existence, but how we handle a similar power difference. How we perceive and treat life. The relationship between the creator and the creation. And at the expense of sounding like a pretentious 16-year old, which I am, this analysis will be about that and how the tv-series Ergo Proxy tackles this. And I’ll spoil some stuff, big stuff. So go watch it if you haven’t, it’s really great!

Ergo Proxy tells the story of Lil Mayer and Vincent Law who go on a journey to find who they really are and if they are deserving of life itself. And this is the underlying theme of the series. Life. It’s a topic that many have tried to tackle, yet this somehow stood out. The way that it explores the idea of what life even is and how we should treat it was new to me. It is first established in one of the opening scenes of episode one. Our main character Lil is talking to her auto-reiv Iggy when she tells him to stop chatting and disengage turing chat mode. Iggy accepts and doesn’t say a word. It isn’t really clear if this was consensual or not, we just accept it cause he’s a robot and made to serve us. That is their “Raison d’être”. And this is very repeated throughout the show. How the auto-reivs’ lives aren’t treated as human or whole. They aren’t allowed to act on their own, and when they do it is seen as a virus. And this feels very emblematic for what the show wants to say. What we humans see as life and how we treat that of which doesn’t qualify. What isn’t human isn’t permitted autonomy. And we can see how this is by design. When a person in the world tries to gain freedom, they are only left with sorrow. When the auto-reiv’s get the cogito virus, they are almost always shot, and when Vincent escapes from Romdo, he enters a world isolation and inhospitality that we have created. The world rejects freedom, to the point where it starts to resemble propaganda. Basically, we live in a society. 

Another way that the theme is tackled is through self-destruction. How we define our own lives. The two main characters of the show reflect this really well. Lil Mayer effectively destroys herself by overthinking her life in an attempt to understand it. Ever since the Ergo Proxy fell into her life, her life became an endless loop of trying to understand herself and everything that is going on around her. In the 16th episode, we see this embodied in a single episode. The sailing boat ship stops cause there’s no wind. Nothing can be done really, they just have to wait for it to come back. But Lil can’t really accept this. She narrates what is going on inside her head, showing how anxious and worried about the situation they’re in. She becomes irritated when Vincent doesn’t seem to think about it. She sees it as not caring, that he doesn’t understand that it will be life or death whether or not the wind comes back. She has gotten into the habit of overthinking her life to the point where not doing so is a sign of immaturity and lack of seriousness. It is only at the end of the episode where she realizes that her overthinking is only causing herself harm. Where she realizes that worrying about it won’t change anything. And since a lot of the episodes don’t really seem to take place in reality but in a sort of dream space, I feel like this symbolizes her entire journey. Starting off worrying and nitpicking about every flaw of the ship but slowly comes to accept it. We see her get over an obsession over the possibility of misfortune.

Our second main character explores this differently, how we define our own life. What we define as life and human, and how that affects how we treat ourselves. Around the middle of the series, it is revealed that the proxy that has been haunting Vincent for so long is himself. He is the Ergo Proxy, the monster. And this really affects how he sees himself. he doesn’t see himself as human anymore and develops an identity crisis. If he isn’t Vincent Law anymore, then who is he. He doesn’t accept that he is the monster, that he is himself. Continuing the series we learn that Romdo is created by the Ergo Proxy. That the city is defined by him. But this only complicates Vincent’s crisis even more. Who is he now? Is he Vincent, a monster or God? Is he defined by who he always thought he was, what he is, and what he has created? Throughout the show we hear how the Proxies define human existence, but I don’t know if I believe that.

As the city collapses in on itself, Vincent learns that it was all wrong. Even as his creation is gone, he and the people are still alive. None of them are defined by the other. Vincent’s last piece of dialogue “I am no one but myself, that is the only truth”, which shows how he has developed. He has come from not knowing who he is to realize that he is no one but himself. In the end, the conclusion to the series is that you aren’t defined by anything. You just exist.

This was probably a very weird topic to talk about at Christmas… or fitting maybe?

Like a medium or strong 9/10 probably

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