I am DONE with You: Winter 2015 (Who Needs Sleep?)

hisui_icon_4040 So another anime season is wrapping up and anyone who regularly follows the blog and podcast will know that means we have to do the Case Closed Reviews as shows end. We have to do them quickly because the new shows for the SWAT reviews are right around the corner. But there are a few shows that I watch on my own that have wrapped up recently. Since Kate did not watch them I don’t feel like recording a solo Case Closed Review but I do feel like I should put down my finals thoughts in some format. I decided to put out this post just in case anyone was curious how these shows turned out in the end.

Maria the Virgin Witch reminds me of Kill La Kill in the fact that while it has a very profeminist message it is not a show you would randomly show to your feminist friends unless you know them pretty well. At its core Maria the Virgin Witch is about a woman trying to balance her ambitions with the reality of a society that is anything but supportive of those goals. There is also a look at sexuality, religion, and scapegoating, The thing is Maria and Artemis look like they are trying to join Nudist Beach. At times the sexuality is either in your face or juvenile but other times it can be insightful and subtle. The problem is that the over the top parts of the series jump at you immediately but you have to give the show a chance to see the more complex parts of the series. A knee jerk reaction would have you dismiss the show before you get to anything deeper.

That is a shame because stories set during the Hundred Years’ War are not the usual setting for fantasy anime. Since the setting that is firmly in the Late Middle Ages so you can have lots of the familiar trapping of the medieval fantasy setting. This lest Maria have a historical context which can tackle real world issues in a way that is not totally on the nose but at the same time far less abstract than the standard swords and sorcery tale. Plus the constant warring between the English and French during the period adds a little sense of weight to the story. While dragons and witches might not have been real the cannon fodder peasant soldiers and cutthroat mercenary bands were quite real, as were their suffering.

Maria is an easy character to get behind. A little hard-headed but in general it is easy to put yourself in her boots. I have to wonder how intentional it was that her whole curse around losing her virginity can easily be seen as an analogy to the modern working woman. Maria is cursed to be robbed of her magical ability if she loses her virginity. In effect that would take away her profession as a sorceress. At the same time many woman today put off having families and getting married in order to keep their jobs and their independence. It is easy to see that aspect of the story as a salacious bit of storytelling but the parallels are not hard to see if you look for it.

At first it seemed that Viv would going to be a minor antagonist but as the series went on she became one of my favorite characters in the show. Everything was setting it up that she is going to butt heads with Maria over their views on magic and maybe even become a bit of a Grocer from Grosse Pointe Blank. As the series go on it is clear that Viv and Maria don’t see eye to eye but when you actually learn what Viv is trying to do she in many ways is the protagonist of her own story and it is a tale you can root for.

Without a doubt Garfa is a villain. He does several acts which are pretty much undeniably evil. At the same time the show goes out of its way to humanize him. His friendship with Joseph and some of his quiet moments let him rise above just being a mustache twirling cardboard cut out of a character. This also means that his later true horrible acts stand out more because he have seen he has the capacity to listen to his higher nature but seen he chooses not to. In a way that makes his crimes all the more shameful.

Bernard on the other hand is just a crazy priest. The funny thing is many of the pieces of his humanistic philosophy would be considered praiseworthy today. The major problem is that the way his twisted brain works he comes to those conclusions about the power of man and the nature of religion in the worst possible way. He is clear proof that the ends do not justify the means especially when means are abhorrent. Gilbert on the other hand does a good deal to show the other side of the church. While he is also an antagonist it is clear his is a decent human being just working within the paradigm he knows.

Overall if you enjoyed Masayuki Ishikawa’s Moyasimon but were turned off by the character designs I think this show is still worth a look. It has a good deal of depth alongside some fun bits of fantasy. Like Kill La Kill if you avoid your knee jerk reaction I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

I am curious what level of Yatterman lore did they expect all the viewers who went into Yatterman Night to have. It is not that I think you had to be intimately familiar with the original series for this one to work. It just that I feel that the show reads a little differently depending on how much you know about the original show. I guess that is sort of the scenario with any show that plays with its predecessor. Certain reveals and twists will come off as predictable if you have seen the original but at the same time certain expectations you would have can be traps. For those who go in cold certain twists are going to be far more surprising but other reveals will just not have the same impact. So I am curious if they tried to make it work on all levels or did the focus their efforts on one demographic and just hope the others would enjoy the show as well.

Part of me wonders if Yatterman Night might have been a better OVA than a TV series. I know that is a popular thing to say about anime. It seems like at times certain people just want movies and short OVAs and that even a thirteen episode TV series is a slog. I’m certainly not in that camp. I watch whole Pretty Cure series and those are like the queens of filler. The thing is I think in this case the show really loses some major momentum in the middle. It starts off with some really surprising episodes with a little more drama than you might expect while still having a strong comedic vibe. The middle is mostly just pure comedic episodes. There is that dude who seems like the son of Troy McClure given his fish fetish in a very strange version of Urashima Taro. Then near the end all of that falls away and the big drama starts. It was not that those middle episodes were horrible. It just made them all seem really inconsequential.

Actually they could have stayed. The problem is they are all bunched together. Lots of the character growth with Galina and Alouette happen in those episodes and it is really important for the end. They are needed for the ending to work. Also after some of the more dire episodes in the beginning a little comedy was a welcome change. The problem is the long stretch of fluffy filler episodes makes it that the plot picking back up saves you from the zany antics. I think that if they mixed up with silly episodes with the heavy episodes a little better in the middle it would not seem to drag as much in between.

Also the animation in that last episode was clearly rushed. Some of the scenes in the last fight are really well done and fluid. But then you will see them 3 times. I think it is fairly clear that they ran out of time and looped and edited around certain sections that were not complete. It is a shame because when it was good it was impressive but it was quite notable after a while. Hopefully the home release will fill in those gaps.

I’m really curious to know how big Yatterman fans reacted to the show. I myself knew enough about the show that I predicted the identity of Lord Yatterman fairly early on so I wonder if it would have been even easier for an old hat. I also wonder what they would think of the big reveals at the end. I could easily see fans taking some of the dark revelations poorly considering the generally light-hearted nature of the original. Others might have seen it as an interesting change. As the Takashi Miike film is my major primer on the show I can’t really give an informed opinion on that.

Much like Gatchaman Crowds I think I enjoyed Yatterman Night despite its flaws because they are such original twists on the shows they came from. It can be all too easy to take a classic show and cheaply modernize it “for the kids today.” It is far too easy to make a show that is either lazy, boring, and/or cheesily dated that way. These new Tatsunoko shows are anything but that. They really take a risk by tinkering with the very heart of the property while still capturing some of the original spirit. It is a risky game but so far I have liked what they have done.

I vaguely remember reading the Parasyte manga when it was coming out from Tokyopop. It came out at a time when I was trying to read as many genres as I could to get a better idea of what sorts of stories were contained within the medium of manga. Parasyte was an interesting insight into the realm of horror while still retaining lots of the structure of an action series. I enjoyed the series but I never finished it. I distinctly remember getting up to the part where an important character died and definitely remember seeing the first fight with Goto but I don’t remember too much past that point. So I was curious to finally finish the series in an animated form.

In retrospect the fact that I never went out of my way to finish the series should tipped me off as to what my final opinion of the show would be. Parasyte was a series with lots of interesting ideas. It really tried to take some of the deeper social commentary that good horror can have and mix it with the broad appeal of an action series. When the series was firing on all cylinders it can blend these elements well to examine the monstrous parts of humanity. The main problem is that when anything was off I noticed the goofy nature of the show perhaps more than I should have. The thing was I found myself laughing a points when it was clear I was not supposed to. For every point that I was invested in the story there were two were I was chuckling during a tense moment. When anything like that happens it is clear that as a viewer you have been taken out of the story. When the “magical circle” of the story has been broken you tend to spot hiccupsand start interpreting things differently then they were meant to be interpreted.

So I mostly tried to figure of what exactly took me out of the story to lead me to cracking up hysterically when the final major scene. The first culprit was clearly the opening and closing. The opening to the show was just sort of grating. I have never really liked scream metal as a rule and if you add in Auto-Tune I just start rolling my eyes. If I were watching the show on disc it is something I would have skipped every time. The ending song was infinitely more pleasant but the tone of the music does not match the show at all. It does not even work as piece of cognitive dissonance. The opening and closing are not the root of my problem with the show but they don’t do the show any favors. And chance that the music would get me back into the story every episode were nonexistent.

The culprit is not Migi. If anything the parasyte was the reason I kept watching. Its deadpan reactions to events was the highlight of any episodes. Migi might have been a bit overly pragmatic but overall it made the sensible choices. They were often inhuman but that is the major point of the character. Migi is not human and therefore it does not think like a human despite being bonded to one. And then it dawned on me. There was the main problem. I understood Migi’s actions despite it being an inhuman creature. The actions of the humans made no sense to me.

Apparently Shinichi is the worst liar in the world. Most of the time he is uncommunicative and when he does lie he picks the worst possible lie. It is not like they needed him to be to most suave huckster who lives a perfect double life but they could have him not act as if he was a visual novel player trying to get the worst possible ending. It does not help that Satomi Murano tends to be utterly forgiving or completely unaccepting depending on the needs of the plot more than as a part of her personality. The other problem was the human characters were just not fun. If they were compelling when they were acting weirdly I would have had a better time and probably not been so nit picky. The problem is as the series wore on I began to care less and less about them.

It is not as if I can’t see why other people would enjoy the series. It does add some interesting philosophical musings to what could have easily been nothing more than a rote secret alien invasion story. The main problem is oncee I was knocked out of the story I could never get back into it. So it is not one of those series where I shake my head when I hear that someone is really into the series. It is just not something that clicked with me.

For a bonus I wanted to talk about Fresh Pretty Cure! and Yes! PreCure 5. While they did not end this season I just finished both of the series so I figured I would talk about these shows in this space. They were both major holes in my Pretty Cure experience. They are both irrevocably changed to formula that the series used. As much as I liked Pretty Cure Splash Star it could be skipped and your understanding of the franchise would pretty much be the same. There are a few key points that have echoed to later parts of the series like Michiru and Kaoru (despite the fact that they largely go ignored in the greater mythology) but it the basic formula is what was laid out in the original story. Yes! and Fresh cement the idea that going forward the series would be about teams of magical girls as opposed to two girls who have to transform together.

I tackled Fresh Pretty Cure! first mostly because it was a single season as opposed to the two seasons of Yes!PreCure 5. When Pretty Cure seasons are 50 episodes long the ability to only have to tackle one season is a major difference in time. Also Fresh Pretty Cure! was probably the series in the franchise I knew the least about. It was not an infamous iteration like Splash Star nor was it monumental change like Yes!. If anything the lack of a strong opinion is a curious phenomenon. Occam’s razor would state that the most likely answer would be the show is just mediocre therefore it is not good enough for people who be crazy about it but not bad enough for it to be an easy target of ridicule. But I wanted to make sure this was the case.

Kaoru and his donut truck is probably the best part of the series. He is a former secret agent who started selling delicious donuts after retiring from world of super spies. Also his donuts are actually the key to saving the multiverse. This is a theme I can get behind. The only problem was while watching the show I always had the urge to just go out and buy a dozen donuts. It was deliciously dangerous.

I have to say that Tart is probably one the most likeable main mascot character in a Precure series. I admit that is not that hard a contest to win. His only real completion is Pop from Smile and Glasan from HappinessCharge. All the other mascots tend to be fighting to see who can be the worst. Tart being a sarcastic Kansai smartass wins him like 1000 points.

The world of Fresh Precure is rather unique. It takes place in a Precure universe that exists within a multiverse with an infinite number of other worlds. While we only really see four of those universes (and one of those really only in the movie) there are cameos by lots of other planes of existence. It does lend the series a rather high level of stakes because if the bad guys win they basically have a road to countless other worlds. That is about as serious as you can get (for a magical girl show.)

If another Precure series has the villain be dispatched like Moebius I would be surprised. Lets just say he could be a Fallout villain in that respect. On the other hand the writers really liked Westar. He really shows much more than the other villains and the staff distinctly favored him whenever they could.

This is probably the only series that regularly deals with the fact that being a Precure can put stress on the girls who were chosen as they have to lead dual lives. Most of the series have maybe an episode or two that touch upon the idea but most of the time they hand wave the concept away. The girls in Fresh often have to go out of their way to protect their dual identities and even have to deal with the stress that living two lives put on their bodies. They even have to deal with karoshi at one point. It is probably also the only Precure where the girls have a big confession to their families that they are magical girls.

In the end Fresh came and went with an absence of hate or love. That is a shame as it is a really solid season. I’m not going to go mad and say it was as good as HeartCatch. That is just crazy talk. But it was really fun. Love Momozono was a lovable goof. Inori was odd in that is heavily implied that she is some denomination of Christian but they never really go much beyond randomly making her have a faith and prayer theme. Miki was cool but she really gets a diminished screen time after Setsuna joins. Setsuna is not a Cure Ace but she does hog the spotlight after she switches sides.

Also it was the season that really cemented the dance endings are the girls were in a dance troop. From this point on all the endings would have a CG dance number. Beyond that the show really informs DokiDoki!. Everything from the card theme to the group dynamic is the same. Sadly DokiDoki!’s unite attack is no where as cool as the one the girls of Clover have. If you liked DokiDoki I really think you should go back and watch Fresh.

So if Fresh Pretty Cure stuck to the team formula it was clear that Yes! PreCure 5 was popular enough that Toei Animation decided that it would set the tone from that point on. So they had to have a good deal of popularity as it was the only team to get two seasons other than the original. All I knew about this series was all the girl love to eat (and that we watched a single later episode for the blog.)

Before I talk about anything else I would like to mention that Milk is a sociopath. Precure has had lots of annoying mascot characters. But overall they have been good little creatures. You just would not want to go on a long trip with them in a car with no air conditions. Milk actually is sort of amoral. She proudly mention ripping people off to survive and tries convince everyone to engage in a scheme that involves fraud and robbing people’s houses. At first I thought she was going to start a bit evil and then turn into a little angel after two episodes at most. They even set it up that you think she reformed after two episodes. Then she just turns to the camera and smiles as she has fooled everyone into thinking she has changed. In the end Milk is on the side of the good guys, and she is eventually guilty for some of the bad things she does, but she is probably the most morally gray they could ever make such a character.

But this series is probably the only series that the mascots can regularly take a human form. DokiDoki played with that a bit but only Davi even regularly took a human form. But overall in DokiDoki it was mostly just for the occasional plot convenience and there was no romantic dimension to the transformations. Coco and Nuts distinctly have a bit of romantic tension with members of the team which comes up on a regular basis. I am a little surprised no other Precure series had the mascots turn into hot guys. It really seems like aspect of the show the main audience of the franchise would like.

Also Coco and Nuts are so easy to ship I have to assume that the hardcore fujoshi might actively ignore them as they present no challenge. Then again Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei actually makes jokes about them so it can’t be a pairing everyone ignores. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they actual canonical heterosexual love interests. Then it goes back to being a challenge.

The girls in PreCure 5 love to chow down. There are eating something in every episodes and in qualities that would give the adventuring party form Slayers a run for their money. At one pointed they are poised to go to a private island to train but they spend the episode before that just getting snacks for their trip (and then get attacked in the supermarket.) That is a dedication to food you will not see in other Precure series.

Nozomi Yumehara is a really good example of seeing the glass half full or half empty. I saw her as an incompetent version of Aida Mana while Carl Li saw her as a much more put together version of Miyuki Hoshizora. Those assessments are both correct but it is just all in how you look at it.

The most intriguing part of the series is probably the fact that all the villains are part of a sinister corporation. This means that there is a decent amount of corporate satire. It is not the deepest bit of introspection on office life but it is more than you would expect in cartoon aimed at little girls. I’m vaguely curious who they were writing for: the little girls, the parents, or just themselves.

Speaking of the bad guys if the writers liked Westar in Fresh then they absolutely loved Bunbee. It is clear that he started off being a disposable villain and as the series goes on the just keep coming up with reasons not to kill him. The fact that he comes back in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo! should say volumes. They did not want to stop writing for him.

Like Fresh Precure the big boss is dealt with in a rather unique fashion. At first I assumed that all the villains in the series were just dealt with by the magical girls powering up their final attack one last time and blasting their opponent to kingdom come. But it seems that Suite PreCure was not the only series to break that formula.

Yes! PreCure 5 is really just a fun little series. In many way Smile PreCure! is greatly indebted to this series. Smile ramps up the comedy and removes the romance but overall the shows are pretty much analogous. Actually if you are a fan of Sailor Moon but feel like Crystal is just wasting your time you would probably be better off just watching Yes! PreCure 5. It has pretty much everything you want but it will feel a good deal fresher.

– Alain

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