Lucien’s Retro Review: Macross Plus

I didn’t think the day would come.  The day when I would find the perfect anime.  So many series have come close to absolute perfection, but then fallen short in one way or another.  But then I came across this gem, and it blew away every expectation that I have ever had.  As in for all time?  An anime that was made so long ago, and did more in four episodes than so many series do in 24.  A tribute to its genre, and fast climbing my list of favorite anime.  Let me tell you about Macross Plus.

The Macross franchise has a very long history of anime, ranging in quality.  But one thing that they all have in common is some breath-taking animation.  These series were the hallmark of a generation of anime.  When companies were willing to throw money at whatever and you had to do everything by hand.  None of that exists today.  There are no risks.  There are not great works.  It’s all just computer-generated, creatively bankrupt garbage.  Modern anime is so high on my shit list that it isn’t funny.

So what do you get when you get the creator of Cowboy Bebop and Yoko Kanno together again and making something in the Macross franchise?  You get this!  And holy shit!  This series is something else. Telling the story of two fighter pilots, two fighter jets, an old flame, and a shadowy villain who wants to exploit an AI to their own ends, this series has everything going for it.  With emotional moments, great action, and some fantastic voice-acting, I made my point about how it makes a series that gets a story done in 4 episodes that others don’t in 13-24.

I can’t think of anything I have seen with this quality of production outside of a feature-length film.  The animation in this series is breath-taking.  The action scenes have such perfection that my mouth was hanging open for the entirety of when they happen.  Not a single frame in this series doesn’t look absolutely stunning.  My favorite scenes are the ones with the fighters.  Every action set-piece is a work of cinematic brilliance.  To think that this is what Shinichiro Watanabe is capable of with enough money and talent behind him.  Makes me wish he hadn’t made his most recent pile of crap series.  Oh well.

It’s hard to really talk about this stuff.  Negative reviews are always easier.  There’s always more to say.  Let me put it to you like this?  Do you like absolutely everything that matters having fantastic detail put in, and a series that clearly has no financial limitations because it’s only four episodes long?  Well you’re in luck!  Because that’s what this series is.  It’s like a full-length movie’s worth of effort, chopped up into four perfectly beautiful pieces.  With action that’s biggest flaw is that it has to end.  But I get why.  If they had the kind of animation for that all the time, their budget would die.  This series knows when to scale back and let mood be more of a story-teller to give the animation budget a break.  Very clever, Watanabe.

Something people lose sight is the digital animation just can’t capture the real world the way that hand-painted cells can.  There is something about light and shadow that can be done in hand-painted series that just can’t be duplicated.  The way this series plays with light and shadow is a testament to that.  You forget how great this stuff looks until you can see it again at its best.

Then you get the music.  As I said, it’s Yoko Kanno.  Everything that that woman touches is absolute gold.  Macross Plus is no exception.  I know I’m gonna start sounding like a broken record, but my favorite parts of the series with her music are the action ones.  This woman can make crazy escapades by the two main characters and their fighters into something special.  Of course, Isamu’s scenes always take the cake.  Kanno has a gift for writing music to suit his out of control nature.  I don’t know what she does, but it’s great.

But the creme de la creme on this franchise has got to be the voice acting.  Did you know that Bryan Cranston has done voice work in anime?  Neither did I!  And wow!  Does this guy even know how to do bad work?  It amazes me how this dude is pitch-perfect in his role.  He genuinely steals the show in every conceivable way.  The rest of the cast is good and all, but Cranston outshines them without even trying.  Given that this series was made in 1994, the fact that he is so young makes perfect sense!  His character is too.  Hot-headed, out to prove that he’s the best, with the talent to back it up.  But he doesn’t just have that in his repertoire.  There are some genuine emotional moments that really stick with him.

All that being said, I do have to talk about the rest of the cast.  It’s a star-studded affair.  They got some of the best from the period when this was dubbed to do the work, and they all shine.  The role of Goa is pretty good too.  Playing off Isamu’s asshole, he comes off like kind of a dick, but you can see the bad history between them.  The scene where the two fight is just great.

When I think of the glory days of anime, this is what comes to mind.  The days when directors were given a crap-ton of money and nobody knew if it was going to come back to them or not.  In this time were produced a wonderful amalgamation of some of the greatest anime ever produced and some of the biggest piles of shit.  But it was just that – one or the other.  And this series is among some of the best ever created.  In a class of its own.  It is a perfect anime, capturing the perfect time to make it.

Final Verdict
10 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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This is the Most Ethnocentric Anime Critique Ever (A response to Michelle Villanueva)

I saw this article around, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to go down the rabbit hole here.  That I was just going to brush this off and be like “okay…” to it and that was it.  But when I finally got around to reading this article, I was amazed at the most ethnocentric thing I have read in a VERY long time.  It genuinely blew my mind.  How a person who claims to be part of the “tolerant” culture immediately applies her own ethnic values in judging an entire nation.  This was amazing.  I’m in awe of how stupid this.  The article talks about the supposed link between “anime and fascism.”  Of which there is none.  At first it just goes on about making light of anime it feels falls into this category, before going on a huge tirade attacking Japan and the Japanese for not being the way she wants them to be.  It’s amazing.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

Before we get too far, know that this article is pretty long, and there is a lot that I don’t wanna talk about, so we’re gonna be jumping around here.  Read that link of you want to get the full context.

Was my reaction petty? Should I have just powered through the series even if the uniforms offended me? Other anime fans were able to watch this without getting upset, so why couldn’t I? Perhaps most importantly, why do a considerable number of anime series have Nazi expys?

Oh boy.  How much do you wanna bet that this is the kind of chick who watches a superhero film with a big scowl on her face thinking about how offensive it is?  Or watches anything, really.  I hope that these “Nazi expys” are pretty good, because you are going to have a REALLY hard time selling me on it.

One of the most popular anime series in recent years, Attack on Titan, takes place within a walled city whose citizens are dominated by a militaristic government. The main character, Eren Jaeger, joins the elite army corps tasked with the destruction of gigantic, ravenous, human-like creatures called Titans. The government controls every aspect of life within the city and spreads propaganda praising the military. Eren, seeking vengeance for losing his mother to the Titans, completely buys into the corps’ “kill ’em all” rhetoric. Attack on Titan takes place in a fascist state.

No, boo.  It takes place in a military state.  Sure, there is propaganda, but that’s partly because they want people being willing to join their military.  The survival of their entire way of life depends on it, and there is a very high probability that people will die.  Like, a lot of people.  Mainly because they have no choice but to be a military state.  Outside the walls are giant monsters that eat people.  That cannot be reasoned with or negotiated with in any capacity.  They will only kill and consume, for reasons unknown.  So the military exists to stop that violence.  Within the context of the series (a thing that SJWs like this hate to no end), it makes sense.  How do you know it’s fascistic?  Are the people being oppressed?  What has informed this in you?

Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the most beloved anime series of all time, is set in Amestris, a vaguely Germany-esque nation with, you guessed it, a militaristic government. To add to the fun, Amestris’ leader is even called Fuhrer Bradley. This connection is made more overt in the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, Conquerer of Shambala, where the plot reveals that Amestris is an alternate reality Germany. Even Hitler makes an appearance, in full-on anime form.

What a way to look at the forest without seeing the trees.  Yeah, it is an oppressive government.  One of the main plot points is that the alchemists who are supposed to serve the state are attack dogs.  Edward joins their ranks as a way to help his brother, but quickly comes to the realization that their nation is not the good guys.  He sees that they are being led by shadow forces to do unspeakably horrible things.  The nation’s evil is being guided by the villains in the series.  That’s what makes it interesting.  Plus, you have character who are working to overcome the bad things the country does to make things better.  Seems like you might have missed that.  Seems like you miss a lot of things.

The long-running series Mobile Suit Gundam, known for constantly reinventing itself since the late 1970s, almost always features an antagonistic sovereign state based on a jingoistic, WWII-era Germany.

Um, oh boy.  There is so much wrong with this statement.  For starters, the Principality of Zeon started as a revolution against the oppressive Earth government.  Spacenoids hated the Earth for controlling them and stealing their resources.  Zeon rose against that.  But it became a warlike group after Zeon was killed and the corrupt Zabi family took over.  That’s what led to the One Year War.  They used the imagery of Nazis, and did horrible things, but Earth was not the victim in this.  They were a part of the problem.  Do you even watch the anime that you’re criticizing?

On the surface, Japan seems to adore its own history. Samurai dramas are perennially popular, but there’s one era which has never really received much attention: WWII. The Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies does depict the horrors of post-war Tokyo in graphic detail, but Japan still has a tremendously difficult time accepting its role in conflicts from the 1930s and 1940s.

And here we go!  Let the ethnocentrism begin!  You are so uninformed about the culture that you are about to start attacking.  Japan after World War II was a very harsh place.  They did learn their lesson.  It’s why they are only now allowed to start having an official military again, and America is right there to make sure they don’t push too far on that.  It’s why their entire culture had a massive shift after they were so humbled.  Not to mention the fact that the war did such a massive number on the culture.  So many people dead, so much resources lost, not to mention that almost 10% of the entire Japanese population had a meth problem.

Neat historical fact – meth as we understand it today began in Japan.  They used to give it to pilots before missions.  That’s why you had kamikaze work as a strategy.  Those people were tweaking out.  It spread among the populace and like I said, almost 10% of the entire population of Japan had a drug problem at the end of the war.  This idiot’s statement that Japan doesn’t “accept” its role in what happened is asinine.

Japan, unfortunately, is still a very xenophobic nation and it has a difficult time accepting immigrants even if it sorely needs them. The country struggles to maintain a workforce with a dwindling population. More women are focusing on their careers instead of on family, which will eventually result in no new workers to replace the retiring ones. The country needs immigrants, which could cause resentment among Japanese citizens. This conservative, reactionary environment is ripe for creating and supporting media which fears foreigners, supports an all-reaching, totalitarian government, and celebrates the military.

Wow.  This bitch is so close to having a decent point when she just loses it.  Yeah, the Japanese population is dropping precipitously.  A trend that is growing in the rest of the First World, not that she will tell you.  Which is a good thing, by the way.  Overpopulation is killing this planet.  But Japan does have a xenophobic attitude.  This is true.  What will happen next is interesting.

Then she decides to take the actual facts about it and go all Yoda in Episode I with it and make a causal chain to a fascist military state.  What evidence do you have for this?  It wasn’t just fear of immigrants that led to Nazi Germany, after all.  It was the Burning of the Reichstag, the destroyed German economy because the Treaty of Versailles was an egregious document, and a charismatic leader who put the blame on a group of people that historically has been popular to hate – the Jews.  Not justifying that, but from a historical perspective, hating Jews has been pretty common.

Japanese society elevates and praises women who are submissive, delicate, and willing to acquiesce to men in all things. It’s no wonder that some alt-righters gravitate towards “moe” girls as avatars, to depict the sort of girl they want instead of those uppity feminists. Anime girls don’t talk back, after all, and many “moe” characters aren’t shown in relationships unless the show is specifically a romance anime, freeing them for waifu status.

You’re making a political judgment call about an entire nation based on one form of anime.  Never mind the plethora of anime out there with interesting female characters, like Black Lagoon, Baccano, FLCL, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Rahxephon, Darker than Black, Psycho-Pass, I could be here all fucking day.  This is so racist.  How can you make this broad a statement about Japan and the people who live there based on one form of anime?  By the way, what evidence do you have that “moe” anime is connected to the “alt-right”?  Another term that has been used to that point of having no meaning outside of using it.

While acknowledging that lots of anime can appeal to fascists, what can be done to make sure that these shows aren’t idealizing it?

Ah, another SJW who wants all the media that she doesn’t like to fit with what SHE wants.  I’m so glad that we have these people out there.  Not understanding context and feeling that if someone else doesn’t make things the way that they want them, it has to change because it offends them.  Can they just not watch it?  Nope!  They have to get YOU to change it for them.  The entitlement of these people never ceases to amaze.  At least the creator of Steven Universe stuck to their guns and made an SJW show of their own.  I have more respect for them than you, bitch.

Fascism in anime becomes a problem when fans glorify and emulate these clearly evil characters. After all, there are tons of stormtrooper cosplayers among Star Wars fans, but do any of them actually believe that the Empire was right?

We also have another SJW who hates fun.  For fuck’s sake, people aren’t trying to emulate them!  People are just liking the look and getting into the fandom!  Why is that a bad thing?  Yeah, I think that Lord Darcia in Wolf’s Rain is cool, but do I want to find a group of wolves trying to get to Paradise and kill them horribly?  No, I don’t.  Because I recognize that what’s cool in fiction is not cool in reality.  Why are these people so concerned about what other people do with their time?  I just don’t fucking get this.  Let them live their lives, bitch!  It isn’t hurting you at all.

So, is there any need for the ACCA characters to be in those uniforms? No, the uniforms don’t seem to be involved in any plot points. But why have it at all? Why even attempt to evoke it when the imagery might (as it did with me) conjure up negative connotations? It only seemed as if the manga creator just liked the aesthetic, and perhaps, like in those memes, there’s a fun sense of irony in the dissonance between sympathetic characters and SS-esque uniforms.

Again, seeing the forest but missing the trees!  Hell, you even touch on it!  Maybe the person just likes the aesthetic!  Did ya think of that?!  And so what if you don’t like that aesthetic?  They should make a show for your sensibilities?!  Entitled bitch!  Ugh!  This is so dumb!  This is like SJW jingoism, I swear.

I can’t keep up with this.  This woman is so stupid.  It blows my mind how stupid this is.  The fact that SYFY calls this “journalism” blows my mind.

Until next time, a quote,

“Judging all species as if they are one’s own is racist.  A kind of benign anthropomorphism.  All species should be judged individually.” – Legion, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Anime Dubs Are Better Than Subs

The worst part about anime critique on YouTube is that virtually all of the ones that I see are in Japanese with subtitles.  There are SO many people online who will swear up and down that watching with subs is the “true” way to watch it.  And if you don’t do that, you’re just some philistine pleb who has no opinion worth considering.  I hate that to no end.  Why?  Because all the anime that I love, the dub kicks the living shit out of the sub in every conceivable way.

The big one people go to in regards to this topic is Cowboy Bebop.  Sure, that’s the best example.  The dub is objectively better than the sub.  But I can put every series on my Top 20 Favorite Anime List (linked here) next to its Japanese language counterpart and watch the Dub do it better.  Before you say that this is just my opinion – sure, whatever.  But seriously, watch the series on that list in both languages and tell me which sticks out to you more.

One of the ones that really sticks out to me is Black Lagoon.  That series had some of the craziest talent in the world putting their absolute all into it.  You have anime veterans like Brad Swaile doing the voice of the main character.  This guy has such a history in this medium that you can’t talk about the growth of it in America without him.  He’s been in everything.  Every character in there is pitch perfect, and the voice-work is downright haunting.  I think about the episode inside the submarine, where Revy is telling her dark story to Rock, and listen to her voice.  Or when Dutch is on the phone with the Neo-Nazi who got him that job.  It’s all amazing.  Or when the head of the Russian mob in Roanapur and her dialogue with the vampire child who comes to kill her as he dies.  Yeah, the Japanese can’t hold a pin to that.

One that catches me in why people prefer the Japanese to English is Steins;Gate.  In my eyes, Okabe can ONLY be voiced by J Michael Tatum.  There’s no one else.  That man has a gift at capturing the subtle balance between legitimate character and the madness that he exudes without going overboard.  You still find him to be believable.  Seeing his facade of a mad scientist crumbling around him as he gets deeper into the realm of time travel makes the dilemma he’s facing that much more heart-wrenching.  You see the mental toll it is exerting on Okabe, and feel him losing grip on what’s the right thing to do anymore.  I cannot think of any other voice actor who could do that the way J. Michael Tatum does.

It blows my mind the fact that the dub for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad is so amazing.  One thing that any otaku cringes at is when there is TERRIBLE musical dubbing into English.  We’ve all been there.  You hear bad voice actors doing bad versions of music clearly not written with English in mind.  So a series about a band with the center-piece being their music had all the recipes for complete failure.  But it works!  Holy fuck does it work!  It’s a testament to the voice actors they got to sing, and the person who did the dubbing in how good that turned out.  It could EASILY have been the cringiest anime dub in history.  Not to mention, since two characters in the series are supposed to have lived in America, the Japanese version has some pretty painful Engrish in there.  It’s kind of ironic that because of it being in English, those scenes flow infinitely better.  I always love in Japanese films (that I do watch with subtitles.  For whatever reason, anime no, foreign films yes for subtitles) when they have terribly done English.

Then, of course, there is Baccano.  As I am to understand it, the Japanese cast really did put in their all into these performances.  But it’s clear even they knew that the English version of this would be superior in every way.  Every voice actor in this series fits perfectly.  Pitch-perfect, they bring their characters’ to life in a way that I genuinely cannot think of who else could.  Firo is my personal favorite.  That New York flavor of snide, arrogant, and cocky just shows through.

Speaking of people fitting the role perfectly, the greatest dub on the list I made, by far and away, is Wolf’s Rain.  That series has every single major dub hitter from that time.  We have Steve Blum, Johnny Bosch, Crispin Freeman, Mona Marshall, Mary McGlynn, Kari Wahlgren, and so many more.  Every single person who was the best name in the business at the time that that series was dubbed had a role there, major or minor.  Most people don’t appreciate what it means for a series to be “star-studded,” even if it’s just voice-actors.  That series was.  The best of the best, and they brought their best work to the table.  For a series that was so deep in themes and darkness, bringing that to light in a way that made you feel for every character was a testament to the skill of those involved.

Maybe this is just because of my very high standards, but I have only seen one series, ONE, where the Japanese version blows the English out of the water.  And that’s because the ADR director for it sucked – High School of the Dead.  The English in that show was some of the worst I have ever heard.  It blows my mind.  But then I look at who did the dub work, and then I realize why.  It was from one of the worst ADR directors in anime history, who has churned out some of the worst dubs of all time in series that did not deserve it.  Goes to show the power of what a good director can do.  Because all the talent in the world can’t save you if the person helming the effort is crap.

You don’t have the remind me that this is my opinion.  I know.  But since my standards for anime are already high, that means that my standards for the voice-work are high as well.  And for people to say that if you don’t watch it with subtitles, you are somehow doing a disservice to the medium just blows my mind.  Or that, bafflingly, the Japanese version is always better, is arrogant to say the least.  Don’t go thinking I am shitting on the Japanese who do the voice-work.  I’m not.  There is no doubt in my mind that in the vast ocean of anime garbage out there, there are a ton with infinitely better English.  There’s so much bargain-bin crap that that wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Until next time, a quote,

“You sing off-key.” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick

Critical Examination: FLCL: Progressive and Terrible Anime Sequels

When I heard that a sequel was being made to one of my favorite anime, FLCL, you can imagine how skeptical I was.  A sequel?  Now?  The original series is almost two decades old.  Not to mention, what new ground could they possibly tread?  I was really confused about why this was being made, and the trailers for it didn’t help.  There was this itching sensation in the back of my mind that it was being made to cash in on nostalgia.  Another cash-grab anime.  That bothers me.  After having finally gotten to see it…fuck this series.

There’s a contention that has been going around the oldtaku community, and it’s one that I firmly agree with – anime will never be as good as it was roughly 10 to 15 years ago.  The glory days of this medium are long behind it, and modern anime is desperately trying to reclaim that glory.  Back then, there was a real sense of risk, and you had creative people doing things with no idea if they would work or not.  There were tons of passion projects from directors who loved this medium.  Now, we have glossy, safe, marketable garbage that is either PC to the point of boredom, or deliberately trying to cash in on the perv side of the medium.  That’s it.  The days of taking risks are long gone.

Another thing about modern anime is that they are now in this place where they want to make sequels to series that have long since passed or have no reason to continue.  Did you all know there is a third sequel to Code Geass?  I remember seeing that, and my first thought was – why?  What more could they possibly do with the plot?  It was over.  Lelouch had finally seen his plan of bringing about a peaceful world come to pass, and died in the process.  There is no good reason why the series would be back with him as a protagonist.  Britannia has been destroyed!  The knowledge of Geass is gone.  Only CC has it now.  Lelouch saw to that.  Everyone with direct knowledge of Geass has either been killed or brought under Zero’s control.  What else can they possibly do?

In all reality, it is going to be another cash-grab sequel, with none of the heart or charm of the original.  Much like, as I knew it would be, FLCL: Progressive.  This series sucked.  It absolutely sucked.  I think back to how much I love the original, and why I love it the way I do.  I think of how it was a passion project of a man who was the student of Hideyaki Anno, the creator of Evangelion.  He wanted to create something that was entirely different, take what he learned, but also let his creative team go buck-wild.  The fifth episode was directed by the same director who helmed Kill la Kill, so naturally it is action-packed and crazy.  There is a direct homage to South Park in one episode because that was a show the team was watching at the time.  The Pillows were featured because it was a band the show’s director liked and so he asked them if they would come and do the score.  Everything in the series was done to let the team go nuts and create a show entirely their own.  It was a passion project.  All the best series are, because a show without passion is a product trying to sell you something.

Meanwhile, what is the new series?  Well, it’s six episodes long.  Why?  Because the original!  It has The Pillows doing the music again.  Why?  Because the original!  Neat fact – it’s known in Japan that The Pillows have largely gone downhill, and it REALLY shows here.  The songs that are not retreads of stuff from the original series (the saddest thing in the world.  I mean, if you aren’t even going to be original, why not just use the original music?  With how hard this series banked on nostalgia, it might as well have used nothing but the original music) as mediocre and boring.  All the heart I could feel back in the day is gone.  There’s spastic animation.  Why?  Because the original!

What’s missing?  The heart.  FLCL was a series about growing up.  It had themes of youth, love, honesty, and yeah, sex.  The story of Naota and what happens when a crazy woman on a Vespa comes into his life is touching.  It takes me back to being that age and growing up.  Ironically enough, while I did watch this series as a kid, I loved it way more when I saw it as an adult.  Being able to watch the series with the hindsight of adulthood and think about my own journey to here makes it hit that much harder.  The plot isn’t especially deep, but it didn’t have to be.  This was a series about people and their growth over the course of the narrative.

The sequel, on the other hand, is loud, spastic, with mech combat and an animation style that couldn’t be more modern if it tried.  It can’t stand on its own.  This series works so hard to remind you about the original that it might as well beat you over the fucking head with it.  Anyone who wants to just watch this series as its own thing is wasted because it does callback after callback to the original.  Just so you know that this is why it’s here.  This series has no heart of its own.  It practically advertises that it only cares about cashing in on nostalgia.

There are so many terrible sequels to great anime.  The second season of both Darker Than Black and Psycho-Pass are great examples.  Both of those were just sequels made because they could.  All of the creative energy that made the first season great was all gone.  These were just coasting on name recognition until you didn’t care anymore.  There’s something to be said for knowing where to end a series.  Guess nobody told them that.  Oh, and they made a sequel to Steins;Gate.  It at least has the voices of the original.  But also none of the heart.

I’ve talked before about how Hollywood is out of ideas.  I’m starting to think that anime is too.  It’s gotten into the sequel cash-grab game.  Making things not because they want to, but because they think it will make them money on the die-hard audience.  That depresses me to no end.  FLCL: Progressive isn’t just bad.  It’s Disney sequel bad.  Hell, I would compare it to the very worst of the Disney sequel garbage.  If anything, just like the terrible remakes and reboots in Hollywood, it just makes me love the original so much more.  While I can feel the heart and passion that series had, this just is.  And that, more than anything, is why it sucks so bad.  A story that didn’t need to be told, without a single character you can actually care about, and a plot that is even less engaging than the original.  That’s how bad this is.

The lesson here – don’t make a sequel if you don’t fucking care!

Until next time, a quote,

“Let’s be honest – soon all anybody is gonna know about ‘Ghostbusters’ is the original.  This will be forgotten.” – Rich Evans

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Anime Cheese in the Wrong Place

I’ve spoken at length about how I hate modern anime.  There are so many shows being made now, and they all pretty much universally suck.  The glory days of anime are long behind it, in my eyes.  Call me a hipster (I’m starting to accept that in some ways I kind of am one), but I think anime was destroyed by its own success.  Once it gained mainstream popularity (or at least infinitely more mainstream than it used to be), or rather became part of geek culture, it all went downhill from there.  The truly great anime from not that long ago became something that they wanted to recapture, but the problem is that animation studios are having to push out commercially successful shows with higher budgets and shorter production time.  It’s put terrible strain on animation studios and their employees that I genuinely feel sad about.

Wow that was a digression, wasn’t it.  My point is, I don’t think much of modern anime.  But my gay girly-mate has this new series that she is all over, and since FUNimation does this thing where they will simultaneously release dubs and subs at the same time (I refuse to watch subs anime.  I can watch subtitled foreign films all day, but I genuinely refuse to do so with anime.  So if the dub sucks, I’m done), she has forced me to partake in this series with her.  Won’t say what it is.  It’s one of her guilty pleasures, and that’s all I’m going to say.  I swear, the girl is punishing me for something.  Can’t think of what.

This series isn’t bad on a technical level.  The animation is actually pretty great.  It has this nice realistic aesthetic that I am kind of digging.  The perk of modern animation being glossy and realistic is that it gives series a quality of feeling true to life that old-school anime never really had without insane detail.  Now proper shading and less expressive faces give environments and character designs something that feels true to life.  Like this is someone you can get to know in the real world.  The best friend character is my favorite so far.

But the design of these characters being less over the top and toned down expressively means that when this series has some of the cheese that anime is known for, it stands out to me in a bad way.  A very bad way.  You have a character whose entire visual design is not at all bombastic suddenly going into a ridiculous expression that feels so out of place given the art style.  Every time it happens it feels kind of wrong.  I genuinely don’t know what this bothers me so much, but it does.

Let me give you a way to look at this that is more relatable.  You like Quentin Tarantino, right?  Of course you do.  Well imagine for a second that in Reservoir Dogs it cut to some scenery-chewing villain doing a song number.  Or if the characters with their perfect dialogue and delivery started suddenly going really over the top at the drop of a hat, only to then go back to their perfectly done dialogue again without acknowledging that at all.  Would that not catch your attention in a bad way?  It would me.

I have had a thousand people tell me that I over-analyze stuff, so if you’re going to come at me with that, don’t.  Trust me, I already know.  It just really weirds me out to have stuff like that going on when the scene is being played fairly straight.  And this series does.  It plays everything completely straight until you cut to some cheese right the fuck out of nowhere.  I will admit that my girly-mate’s series is starting to grow on me just because these characters are relatable in a good way.  At least the best friend is.  I love this chick.  Her commentary on the events transpiring around her is just the best.  This girl is basically me as a female.  Standing on the sidelines of the madness and then commenting on what she sees in a way that cuts all the bullshit out.

But like I said, this may just be me.  So what about you?  Am I on to something here, or am I totally off-base.  Maybe I can give this to you a different way – imagine in Cowboy Bebop if Spike suddenly did that silly crying face.  Or if Jet Black and the suddenly revelation face where his eyes go all huge and white.  Would that not bother you?  It’s so tonally dissident from everything else.  I don’t know.  If you are going to go with a more laid-back tone, that’s totally fine.  Hell, I dig it.  But go the distance with that.  If you want to show a character being shocked at learning something, you can do that with realistic expression.  If you want to have a motif, stick with it.  That’s all I’m saying.

Until next time, a quote,

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” – Jean Luc Godard

Peace out,

Maverick

My Romantic Movie Night

Just got done watching Garden of Words.  The animation in that film is absolutely stunning.  It is a visual masterpiece.  Thought about doing a review of it, but I figured that I haven’t written anything of substance on this page in a while.  Honestly haven’t had much that inspires me to write about.  I could write about Trump’s latest idiocy, but that’s done by the entire fucking media.  To be fair, he doesn’t make it hard.  How are people saying that America didn’t elect its first female President?  Sure looks that way to me.  We elected an oversized teenage girl into the Presidency.  The glass ceiling has been broken!

But back to the film, it may have been a visual masterpiece, but I kind of hate it.  Hear me out – it all comes down to the ending.  There’s no resolution!  You have this scene where the underage kid reveals to the woman who he has bonded with when he finally figures out who she is that he’s in love with her.  She totally shoots him down.  It’s a harsh scene.  I felt so hard for that kid.  Throwing your heart out and then getting it thrown in your face is hard.  Then the adult woman who he admitted his feelings for realizes that she has feelings for him too and goes after the kid.  It’s a truly fantastic scene when they meet and the kid is all sad and angry and rails on her, only for her to run into his arms.  I love that scene.  It’s some truly amazing payoff and the voice acting is phenomenal.  It’s a testament to the people who made it.

Then she leaves!  The two are apart and that’s it.  Come on!  Now, I get that this would be a little weird, considering the fact that she’s 27 years old and he’s 15.  But better films have made this work.  Why have her leave?  Maybe have the two admitting how they feel but also acknowledging that they can’t be together because of the age gap and have them realizing that they will have to wait a little bit.  That’s an acknowledgement of reality while still having them looking to keep their feelings alive.  It would have been much more fulfilling if the film ended with her finding a life close to the person she loves, and having him giving her the shoes he had been making the whole film to her at the end.  Like a kind of promise.  Wouldn’t that have been more fulfilling?

See, here’s the thing about me – I’m a hardcore closet romantic.  When I watch FLCL, I feel a genuine tinge for the kid when he is falling for an older woman.  It’s funny, American media bitches about how the idea of a younger man dating an older woman is so frowned upon.  Japan certainly doesn’t shy away from an age difference with boys and women.  What’s more, they also make it respectable.  Sure, there is plenty of fan service for busty older women that young horny boys are into, but in both Garden of Words and FLCL, they play it as these women being genuine people with the boys discovering their romantic identity with them.  In both cases, it makes for some great scenes.  But while FLCL played it off that the kid falling for the older girl was a metaphor for him growing up and accepting who he is, Garden of Words played the romantic angle straight.  Which makes it that much more frustrating when the film ends on a sour note for no good fucking reason.

I really am bad about it.  When I watch the scene in Stein’s Gate when Christina and Okarin admit their feelings for each other, I judge that scene harshly as well.  It’s a great scene, but it could have been better.  For starters, the music in there is terrible.  It’s distractingly bad.  The scene would have been better served if there was no music at all.  Would have added to the emotional gravity as well, considering the fact that Okarin was about to let the woman he just admitted that he loves die.  Genuinely would have loved that scene more.  Also, get rid of the narration by Christina.  It added nothing.  Just quiet.  Have the rain be the biggest sound, with a few seconds for the audience to take in the cruel irony of what was happening with these two characters.

Anytime I see romantic scenes in stuff I like, I typically get all butterflies, while secretly seeing ways the scene could be better and really make me all warm and buttery about it.  Am I the only one?  No joke, someone in the comments, tell me if I am fucking crazy here.  So many great romantic scenes in movies are ruined because of bad details.  Used a lot of anime references.  What can I say, they tend to play romance a lot better than sappy love stories in American cinema.  That’s not to say that it isn’t done well in other mediums.  In the French film Blue is the Warmest Color, I feel genuine heartbreak as Adele is first introduced to the truth about her sexuality with a classmate, only for her feelings to be totally crushed when she realizes it was just a one-off thing and not a sign of true attraction.  The tears on her face seemed genuine.

I guess it’s a sign of me getting older.  As the years on my birthday cake grow, and my time having been single grows, I feel more and more of it.  But no one who sees me in person will know that.  My cynicism is well-known to those who speak to me.  Groj knows, I’ve made no secret of it here.  Deep down, though, there is that part of me that secretly longs to have that moment where I meet a girl at a place I regularly go and then strike up a conversation and something grows between us.  A man can dream, right?  Granted, everyone goes to bars to meet people these days.  I go to bookstores and walks around my home.  Not a lot of places for romance.  But hey, it can happen, right?

What about all of you?  What romantic scenes from stuff (I swear, if someone says The Notebook I’m gonna virtually smack you.  That movie is fucking terrible) have made you all warm and buttery inside?  Let me know in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“I love you.  I can’t help it.  Yukino, I think I’ve fallen in love with you.” – Takao Akizuki, The Garden of Words

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Death Note (2017)

Fuck this movie.  Fuck this fucking movie right up its ass.  This is the worst.  The absolute worst.  How terrible the live-action Japanese versions were should have been a big clue as to why this film wasn’t going to work.  The insanely over-the-top nature of the anime does NOT translate well into film.  So when you combine that with TERRIBLE American writers and a director who clearly has no talent for directing, then you end up with this pile of shit.  Yet-another anime adaptation to add to the pile.  Can whoever posed the idea of Akira being adapted into American take a fucking clue from this?!  They’re all bad!  Every last American adaptation has sucked, without a SINGLE exception.  Just like every video game adaptation has sucked.  When will Hollywood learn?  Wait, this wasn’t Hollywood’s fuck-up.  This was Netflix’s fuck-up.  I don’t have streaming here, but a friend invited me over to see it, and holy shit, it’s bad.  I hate when things I love get turned into shitty adaptations, and this was no exception.  There is so much to talk about, so let’s get to it.

The plot goes that Light…Turner (fuck that name) has the Death Note given to him by Ryuk.  That’s right, instead of Ryuk being bored one day in Shinigami Land and sending the book to Earth not caring who picked it up, in this version he gives it to Light and implies that he is the chosen one.  One of the many ways they fuck over EVERY SINGLE character in this film.  But instead of seeing this book as a way for him to create a world dedicated to his own personal sense of justice and becoming a genocidal monster in the process, Light decides that he’s going to impress a girl!  That’s right, instead of his character being a genius whose sense of morality becomes a twisted nightmare, he’s a pathetic high school loser who wants it is implied is just being used.  More on that later.  Then we get a dumbed-down version of L who is going to stop him.  Who wins?  Do you care?  If you do, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Nothing in this movie is good, aside from Willem Dafoe’s voicework as Ryuk.  Speaking of, let’s go into how every single character is fucked over.  So many people are going to say “it’s an adaptation!  You shouldn’t compare it to the original!”  Yeah?  Well then change the fucking name!  Light is turned from a genius who decides he is going to become a God under the assumed name of Kira into a pathetic angst-y teenager who is almost-certainly being led around with no agency of his own.  Whether it be Mia (their terrible version of Misa), or Ryuk, he always seems to be on someone else’s leash.  Did the idiot who directed this even see the anime?  Fuck this movie.  Light is not some brilliant mastermind.  In the anime, he is a calculating genius, who makes every move according to a plot to best the greatest detective of all time.  Every relationship in his life is part of a calculation, along with everything he ever does.  Part of what makes him so compelling as a character is how his urge to become a god ends up destroying the lives of every single person he touches, and he by the end he laughs his ass off about it.  In the film, he’s a pathetic pawn being used by pretty much everyone around him.  All of the brilliance of the cat-and-mouse game between him and L is gone.

Oh, let’s talk about L.  Do I care that they made him black?  Not even a little.  What I care about is the fact that they made him so pathetic.  I guess the director saw how he is in the anime and took that to mean that he isn’t socially awkward in the extreme and on the autism spectrum.  In this film, they decide to him him so pathetic that he has to have a song played to him to fall asleep.  This version of the character is pathetic.  That’s the only word for it.  You never sense this genius mind clouding a sense of detachment, which makes him believing that he is making a connection with Light so tragic.  He believed he had found a friend, and at the very end he realizes that he was just being used by Light.  In his last moment, he looks into Light’s eyes and sees that it was all a lie, and him and his companion died for it.  There are plenty of ways this character could have been 1000X better and been black.  The color of his skin had NOTHING to do with how pathetic and stupid this character was.  If anything, this actor is very competent.  I bet with better writing, he could have sold this a lot better.

Then there’s Mia.  A spin on the Misa character from the anime, here they make her out to be something of a force acting on Light, compelling him to do bad things with the Death Note.  Because we can’t have any of the morally gray stuff from the anime.  Everything has to be clearly black and white.  Fuck this movie.  The fact that so much of what initially makes Light use the Death Note is to please her just irks me.  In the anime, she was an insane groupie of Kira.  She was in love with him and would do anything, absolutely anything to please him.  To the point that she cut her own lifespan in half to get the Shinigami eyes.  But in the end, she realizes that she was used, just like everyone else, and it’s implied that she kills herself.  Another of those relationships that were nothing but a tool to Light and nothing more.  Can’t have that morally gray stuff in the film.  Doesn’t help that this chick acted like she should be in a sitcom.  Ugh.

Let’s talk about Ryuk.  Do you like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin voice?  Well, he does okay with it here, so you can enjoy his vocal performance.  But here’s what pisses me off – in the anime, Ryuk isn’t on Light’s side.  He isn’t on anyone’s side.  When Light’s gambit is up, and he reaches out to Ryuk to help him, he outright says that he won’t.  Early on in the series, he helps Light out, not out of a sense of loyalty, but because he finds the game that’s going on interesting and realizes that if he doesn’t tell Light about the security cameras in his room, the game will end abruptly.  In the film, he’s painted as seeing Light as the chosen killer, and even compels him to do things.  Once-again, you can’t have all that morally gray stuff about Light seeing himself as a god and believing his genocidal rampage as a way to express that.  That might make audiences question who is the good guy.  We gotta see our protagonist as virtuous at all times.

Oh, and then there’s the book itself.  In the anime, Kira’s chosen method of killing is heart attacks.  There’s a reason – to show that these people are being killed and it’s him doing the killing.  It’s a way to spread the fear all over the world because no one knows who would be killed next.  In the movie, the vast majority of deaths are done through these Rube Goldberg machine ways of dying that REALLY make me think back to the Final Destination ways of dying.  It’s like the film wanted to show off the gore.  Funny, they want to have violent deaths, but no moral ambiguity.  The exact opposite of the show, which had very contained deaths, but a TON of moral ambiguity.  I guess someone assumed American audiences can’t handle that.  Fuck this movie.

As a fan of the anime, this film spits in the face of everything that made it great.  But let’s take that away.  Let’s pretend that the anime that this director halfheartedly riffed on never existed.  This film still sucks.  The performances are boring.  The motivations make no sense.  I’ll give that Light in the anime went from zero to Little Hitler in the span of a few moments.  But the series took the time to explain why he had this viewpoint.  Plus, there was the moral ambiguity of the battle between Light and L, where the body count gets higher and higher, and the audience is left wondering if either one is a truly good person.  In this film, the motivation is that Light is being manipulated by the people around him, with little agency of his own.  That’s boring!  Give me a reason to care why he’s so evil.  L is also a bad character, written to be so incapable of surviving on his own that he has to be taken care of.

I hate this movie, and can someone please make a note somewhere that American adaptation of anime don’t work so we can stop it, already?!

Final Verdict
2 out 10

Peace out,

Maverick