Rogue Shogunate

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

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