So… Why the Spiral?

I asked myself this recently, but the name of this blog, “The Spiral of Madness”, came to me almost instantaneously when deciding how to name it. It seems somehow perfect, but, why? I decided to investigate as to why I chose specifically the spiral as a “motif” I like to use and one I always come back revisiting when speaking about myself. Here’s a pointless explanation:

Two of my favorite pieces of media are the show Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann by Studio Gainax and the manga Uzumaki by Junji Ito.

TTGL’s main motif is the spiral, and it uses it as a metaphor for human determination, progress, and evolution. It’s a positive spiral, that moves forward constantly, and that metaphor is one that I believe to be very important to mankind’s future. It’s not only a structure that I use to evolve, always advancing, always digging deeper and further in my own abilities, preferences and opinions, but also one that the whole world follows, as people are always striving to improve, keep going, and reach as far as they can in their life. It’s a very inspirational figure.

In Uzumaki, the spiral theme is used to describe obsession, insanity, paranoia and a sense of falling down a hole you can never escape. In the manga, characters affected by the spiral are consumed by it, wether psychologically, by collecting spirals, moving in circles, shaping a whole town like a spiral; to physically embodying it, their hair modeled after crazy spirals, warping their bodies to become spirals, and when killed and cremated, their smoke rises up into the sky, a long, black spiral. It’s a symbol of the most deranged states that a human being can ever reach, pure crazy. While I don’t personally identify with these emotions, I sometimes too tend to spiral around my own thoughts, constantly overthinking and rethinking decisions and past mistakes, as I imagine most people do.

So, to me, the spiral represents both sides of the same coin, the coin being both extremes of the human mind. People can be strong, inspired, evolving and ever improving, but they can also lose themselves in dementia, depression, hysteria and possibly even worse things.

And the “madness” part? I think madness is also both positive and negative, since I can use my own madness in order to come up with new and fresh ideas, but also to bury myself in thoughts.

And that’s why my blog is called as it is.

Anime Randomizer Challenge – PART 5 – Kaiba

Ok… this one is fresh for me. I have not heard a single thing mentioned about Kaiba in the time I’ve been watching anime (granted, it’s only been single about February that I have been consistently watching, but I read a lot of recommendation lists, so at least the name would’ve popped up at least once). I am going in with no expectations, and prepped for anything and everything.

Let’s go.

~~ EPISODE 2 ~~

Holy shit…

I’m actually kind of shocked by what I just witnessed, I have so many things I want to say about what I just saw and the connotations it has on this review-thing.

Kaiba is… terrifying.

Terrifying not in the sense of horror, but instead in the sense of creative and perceptual realization. Maybe I’m exaggerating this, but I’m scared.

I’m scared of not liking Kaiba.

Because as soon as this show began, as soon as I saw that main character wobble around, I knew EXACTLY what show this was, and how famous it truly is in the anime community.

Kaiba is directed by independent animation legend Masaaki Yuasa, and if you know this man, and what he’s worked on, you know he is one incredibly original creator, in terms of the medium of animation. Most of his works are defined by an otherworldly and always distinct style, far exceeding the experimental and delving into the realm of confusion and psychedelics.

He’s directed one of my favorite shows, Ping Pong The Animation, which is insanely ugly, hard to look at and jarringly unpleasant in it’s human physiology, but it’s like that for a reason, and it plays into the table tennis world of Ping Ping’s story rather well. Mainly because, Ping Pong is about a pretty relatable and passionate topic, and delivered through a set of eyes not too unfamiliar from our own; table tennis being something most of us watching know how it works to an extent and being able to follow the goings on of the narrative according to that.

Kaika, though… is something else entirely. Something spawned from the recesses of Yuasa’s mind, something alien, slimy and confusing, and he decided to animate it and release it to the public. He called this amalgam of ideas, themes and colors Kaiba, and it went on to receive widespread praise from critics and fans alike.

As MyAnimeList user Merridian writes in his review of Kaiba:

  • “It is a story of heartache, rejection, and despair. It is a story of loss and of pain, and one that explores a world in which there is incalculable capacity for wrongdoing, cruelty, and evil. It is a story that hits its audience with difficult and complex moral problems, yet it offers very little in the way of solace or resolution for any of the questions it raises. It pulls no punches and promises no answers, and in doing so, retains a sense of honesty with its audience that few works of its nature posses.”

So when I finished episode one, was lost, confused, irritated and overall very bored, I read these countless reviews giving Kaiba 10/10, “A Masterpiece”, I was scared. As a critic, not being able to relate and enjoy what is considered a masterpiece by so many is more a criticism of yourself than anyone.

The real question being, “Am I just not smart enough for this show?”

So, the hardheaded bastard that I am, I have made a decision. One that I hope will end with me feeling better about something. Anything, really. I will power through Kaiba, with a different set of goggles, ones that perhaps see this completely nonsensical sequence of images as something deeper, because if I don’t, I’ll simply feel unable to be satisfied with my sense of critical perception. It’s that simple.

So help me, Kaiba. Help me understand. I want to understand.

Let’s fucking do this.

~~ EPISODE 3 ~~

Ok. I think I got it now. I guess it only took one more episode.

Kaiba is about cruel shit happening to good people, and nobody being able to fix it.

Kaiba’s world, being a bright, cartoony, and poppy world, is all a facade, a ruse to deceive you into trusting any living creature that exists within it. Then it takes that trust and smashes your head in with it, until the credits roll and you’re left confused, slightly sad and just sort of empty. This is what watching Kaiba will do to you.

In this episode, for example, we get introduced to a cute girl, a cute girl who wants nothing more than to help her aunt and remaining family. In this world, you can sell your body, transfer your memories into another body, and everything’s fine. She’s selling hers so she and her family can live just a tad more comfortably. What ends up happening instead, is that the little girl’s body gets taken away, her memories forever thrown into the ether, never to be recovered. Her aunt? She planned the whole thing so that she didn’t have take care of her, and instead can focus on her own two children. But then, at the end of the episode, she regrets the decision, and ends up a crying heap on the floor. And that’s the episode.

So, all that spiel about “heartache, rejection, and despair” was all true.

Since now I have a more grounded sense of this show and what it’s doing, I’m going to save all my thoughts on it until I finish it, since now my interest has piqued, and I want to experience for myself just how dark and fucked up this story can get.

See you on the other side.

~~ EPISODE 6 ~~

So, we’ve reached a point where I can safely say that I respect Kaiba, for everything that it’s doing. It’s displaying a bleak, fake world, where horrible stuff happens to people all the time, where vices and obsessions are superficial, and where those with warm hearts often get the short end of the stick.

I have heard that after this episode, and until the end of the show, the story breaks off into a single spanning storyline, instead of small, self contained episodic adventures. Because of this, and because I’m pretty much dried out to this show, I’m going to put it On Hold for now, since I want to be fresh when I end up watching the remaining 6 episodes.

As a final verdict, by slowing down and concentrating on the dialogue and progressing plot more, I could very well see myself enjoying this show. It has a wildly different art style, a sense of free-flowing movement when it comes to animation, and a very solidly built and deep message about despair, loss, and sin.

Do I think this show is a masterpiece? No.

Do I think it’s worth watching and worth exploring and analyzing? Absolutely. I am ultimately glad I picked this show up and will finish it when I am prepared. It was one crazy ride at the start, though, I can tell you that.

ON HOLD: 6/12

SCORE: 7/10

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – 1 Episode a Day for the next 110 days (EPISODE 1)

Oh boy, oh boy!

If you haven’t heard, the people over at /r/Anime are doing a Legend of the Galactic Heroes rewatch, and since I have always wanted to take part in this amazing show (often being regarded as one of the best shows ever made), there’s no better time than now to begin, and in fact, I will put an extra challenge on myself: I will be documenting my experiences of Legend of the Galactic Heroes EVERY DAY FROM NOW UNTIL THE REWATCH ENDS.

Yes, I truly love pain.

So, without further ado, let’s take a ride through the stars, with Episode 1: “In the Eternal Night”.

(Rewatch starts at 6:00pm EST on /r/Anime)

~~ AFTER EPISODE 1 ~~

Alrighty! There is certainly a lot to say about this show in it’s first episode, so let’s get started.

First and foremost, this first episode will be the breaking point of many people who will be starting this group-watch, since the story and setting’s complexity and dialogue-heavy style is hammered from the very start into our minds. The basic structure of this episode is one of long, drawn out stretches of dialogue regarding tactics, combat preparations, political schemes, and personal interactions, punctuated by short-lived yet highly majestic and expertly crafted action sequences. Yet it’s that 85% of the episode filled with technical jargon which will turn many viewers away, perhaps since they expected a more straightforward and action-oriented space battle opera instead of this methodical and layered approach to world-building and battle progression.

So, now that we got that out of the way, how does this episode fair out and what does it accomplish?

The easiest topic I want to discuss first it’s the show’s depiction of large, galaxy spawning space battles, which are breathtaking in their pure and unadulterated scale and elegance. Battleships fire thin, perfectly straight lasers are each other, striking the enemy with swiftness and speed. Entire stations are destroyed in mere seconds, thousands upon thousands of people inside them dying almost instantly to the soul-sucking power of space.

A sense of terrifying nihilism is present all throughout, and is even touched upon by one of the characters, saying lines such as “We never know when we may die”. This brutality contrasts rather beautifully with shots of sharply dressed, prim and proper generals and admirals dictating orders calmly and without emotion, as if they’re used to casually slaughtering possibly millions of people.

The mesmerizing music hits you like a truck every time a command to fire is uttered, with an explosive and grandiose orchestra, as if the gods themselves are playing the theme of this war.

And yet, as Reinhard says, it’s all minuscule compared to the sheer breadth of the universe around them. It’s honestly poetic.

Now, about the slow scenes, they are indeed very slow, without a sense of intensity to them in the slightest, which also contrast the spurts of violence nicely, and serves to direct us through the power shifts that flip on a dime. In one episode, Reinhard’s army went from accepting utter defeat, to basically steamrolling the 3x larger enemy, using sheer tactical aggressiveness and determination. This kind of tells us how Reinhard works as a war figure, and how cunning and confident he is about his own abilities and goals. Hell, those old men at the start were baffled beyond belief at his plan, yet it gave them a certain victory.

So, that’s going to conclude it for today, but I’ll be here every day with probably smaller posts. This one was just about getting me settled into this new scenario comfortably, as well as to explain some of the thematic resonance that and clever usage of visual and verbal storytelling to take us on this journey.

See y’all tomorrow.

Anime Randomizer Challenge – PART 4 – Nodame Cantabile

A Josei show? That’s surprising. I mean, I loved Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, which was also Josei, but it’s known to be a rather slow and mature genre, which takes some getting used to as well as the right mindset to approach. No matter, if this show is as good as people say it is, then it should be no problem.

~~ EPISODE 1 ~~

Wow. What a surprise.

Nodame Cantabile is about strict, no-nonsense wannabe conductor Shinichi Chiaki interacting with and learning to cope with free-loading, lazy, and airheaded pianist Megumi Noda, or “Nodame” for short.

Let’s just say that a more obviously perfect couple is rarely seen in stories like this anymore.

By the first moment they interact, their comedic chemistry fits perfectly, Chiaki’s straight-man routine serving as a fit for Nodame’s playful and energetic attitude, and their interactions feel natural and completely in character. Their homes, ways of speaking, acting and even dressing reflect this dynamic, and their banter is quick, cleverly spoken and timed, and all serve to strengthen the unorthodox friendship these two develop in the course of mere minutes. It’s a beauty to watch them speak with each other.

The story is conveyed strongly through the use of slightly emotional flashbacks, cartoonishly hilarious gags and an overall feeling of lightheartedness and childish wonder.

The musical aspect is also very well touched upon, as the show is obviously knowledgeable about classical and concert music, educating the viewer about the topic while not appearing overly expositional in it’s dialogues and soliloquies. It all flows well from one scene to another, serving as sort of a musical piece, and in the narrative sense, it’s rather breathtaking.

It’s safe to say my doubts were put down, and I will be watching more of this with no doubt. See you when I’m done.

~~ EPISODE 7 ~~

As the show continues, it’s pitch perfect pacing is powerfully progressive, polished, and packed with pizzaz and passion. What a gem.

It has not slowed down, in it’s surprisingly simple, but satisfying comedy, as well as in it’s almost weightless and subtle drama, never feeling overbearing or intense at any point, making the scenes feel calm, yet filled with all the emotion it deserves. The characters have grown a substantial amount, both within themselves as well as in their coping with others. Chiaki, for example, has learned to not focus so much on pure technique and structure of a performance, but in musical spirit and assertiveness of it as well.

Despite all this praise, there are things to criticize about this show, particularly in it’s visual department. It’s obvious that a high-budget production would not have been very appropriate for this type of story, being as it is a college-centric musical dromedy with a Josei/Shoujo aesthetic, a hint of romance, and a rather slow progression (a particularly niche market already), but sometimes the models are so out of proportion and blob-like, that it can distract from some of the more emotional scenes. Not to mention the fact that this show is basically a long slideshow, especially with regards to it’s concert scenes, where long, unmoving screens will tilt and pan forever, with absolutely zero animation (unless you count those uncanny-valley CG hands smacking their rubber fingers against piano keys and levitating violin bows between their fingers, which I don’t).

Despite this, and the above average shot composition, the show’s strongest asset is still it’s writing, which remains top-quality and constantly fascinating, which surprises me, since I had no interest in orchestral music up to this point, yet while watching this, I was waving my arms back and forth like a child, pretending that I was mastering the art of the conductor. It’s very, very infatuating.

Let’s keep going.

P.S.: If I’m allowed to complain, I despise the Stresemann character with every fiber of my being. I might respect the man as a conductor, but as a person, those types of people are obnoxious, disrespectful, and ultimately don’t accept the fact that they are toxic, since they’re too caught up in their ego to ever change. Don’t be like that guy, seriously.

~~ EPISODE 9 ~~

Well, I’m going to stop for now.

I have this terrible habit if becoming rather bored with shows if I watch them all the way through, and in fact, my enjoyment of shows is increased when I take breaks and jump between different shows or activities.

So, my decision for now will be to put this On Hold, and will finish it when I have deemed it appropriate. Not to worry, this is still up there with some of my favorites, and will have more to comment on it in the future, when I will inevitably (hopefully) complete it. It’s still a low-to-mid 9/10, and have a hard time believing it will waver from there drastically by the end. Highly recommend you check it out if you’re at all interested. It’s worth it.

ON HOLD: 9/23

SCORE: 9/10

 

Anime Randomizer Challenge – PART 3 – Claymore

I’ve heard mixed reactions to Claymore. Some compare it to the legendary Berserk, while others say it nosedives in quality over the course of the show so much that it turns into a unwatchable trainwreck. I’ll be sure to give it my all as I go through it.

~~ IMPRESSION AFTER 1ST EPISODE ~~

The first thing that hits you when you start up episode one is the unbelievably ugly and disfigured character designs plaguing this show, adding to that the extremely wonky and poorly connected animation. The faces look inhuman in most of the characters, and the body proportions are always being changed if the characters move even a slight bit. Maybe that’s why any hints of action this show has had have been stills shaken around and panned across to convey the illusion of motion, but never actually delivering on the promise. Shame, since this is another Madhouse show, just like Gungrave.

The show came out in Spring of 2007, next to another little show, maybe you’ve heard of it, called Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Putting this show and that one side to side, is like comparing decades of technological difference. While TTGL looks amazing, displaying a fluid and smooth sense of animation and character movements, bold, stylistic colors and creative and memorable designs, Claymore looks as if it came out in the mid-to-late 90s. Evangelion looks better than this show. Not to mention that there is a strange, sickly green color filter over everything (Just like in Fallout 3).

Aside from the failure in the visual department, the storytelling one suffers as well. The show uses incredibly obvious exposition inserts, discussing to one another aspects of the world which they would all be deeply familiar and knowledgable with, which breaks immersion and only serves to be a method for which to display information to the audience. There are much more natural ways of doing this.

The final problem is the characters. Clare, the Witcher-like warrior, is boring and lifeless, serving only to look badass while effortlessly chopping down monsters and even being impaled through the stomach (which was all in an effort to get an opportunity to attack the monster, which only serves to disconnect her more from a human being. Maybe that’s the point, but it makes her not relatable as a protagonist, and therefore not engaging). She has no personality, being stoic and almost robotic. She does display one hint of a darker past, maybe some deeply seeded emotions or memories that plague her mind, but it’s all still just vague.

We, instead of that, get a little kid as our connecting device, a kid who knows nothing, gets thrust into the situation, and blurts out everything about his traumatic past to Clare. This, aside from being immediately overbearing for the audience, also conflicts with the state of utter shock and shit-my-pants terror he reacts with when Clare kills his brother-turned-monster. If he had the ability to get over his family’s death as quickly as he did (their death didn’t happen that long before the events of the first episode), it makes no sense for him to be so traumatized by such an event.

Also, the entire town dumps him into a ravine while he’s unconscious because they think he might turn into a monster after being attacked by one. Didn’t these people know everything about such monsters when they explained it to each other in the exposition dump in the beginning of the episode?

This episode is an absolute trainwreck, but it’s so bad, that I’m willing to put up with a little more just to see how terrible this show truly gets. It’s been fun, so I’ll keep going.

~~ EPISODE 2 ~~

A shady guy shows up who looks like every other shady guy in fiction. He wears a black trenchcoat, black glasses, black hat and has a wicked and sharp grin to boot, yet all he does is explain more to the kid character about the nature of Claymores in a later scene. I have no idea if he will be relevant or not later.

We get some more vague scenes of horror which might be parallel (as in happening at the same time as the rest of the story) or foreshadowing of some kind. These spice up the drama enough to spark some interest, but are still too vague to be of any actual input to the story. We got someone in a dark dungeon getting clawed to death by a monster, which really does nothing, as well as some scenes of Clare’s past that get explained later in the episode.

There’s a threat of losing control to the monster half of a Claymore if too much power is used (?) or too much time has passed, it is still unclear wether or not it can be accurate measured or deciphered what is the true reason behind the turnings. This adds a slight bit of tension to the actions that Clare might have to deal with in the show, as there is now a potentially imminent risk of monster transformation. This will probably be used later in the show for some kind of twist, where Clare has turned at some point, and it seems as though the situation or battle is lost, but then she powers through in the end in order to overcome the transformation and save the day. This is just pure guessing from watching a shit ton of fiction in general. Doesn’t seem too far fetched.

The black card that was teased at the beginning of the episode (which actually added some intrigue to the story, since it made Clare react with the most emotion she’s had in the whole show) gets revealed to simply be a strange type of Claymore societal custom, where if one Claymore is about to turn, they send a card to the Claymore they wish to be killed by. It’s an interesting way of progressing things in the narrative, but the way the mystery was portrayed and then revealed makes the card’s true purpose seem lackluster and a bit of a letdown.

In the final confrontation of the episode, the Claymore is revealed to be Clare’s best friend, who is about to turn. Kid begs Clare not to kill her (which is just wrong, since the best option would be to kill her, granting her wish in the process as well as preventing further pain to her or to the rest of the surrounding towns), but Clare uses her common sense and kills her friend, in a quick and easy way, which seems strange, since the episode was hinting toward a potentially action-oriented climactic battle. It makes sense why it didn’t play out that way in the end, but it still feels like the show stole a potentially fun moment away for some weak emotional drama. The kid bawling his eyes out while sniffling and weakly breathing makes the scene feel off-putting, and not in the way it was intending.

Overall, a slight improvement on the previous episode, but the show just keeps shooting itself in the leg with strange storytelling techniques which build up to nothing, or end up being ultimately too vague to fire up any potential theories or events in the future.

I’ll give it one more episode, and then I’ll probably drop it.

~~ EPISODE 3 ~~

Immediately we get more of that intrigue at the start of the episode, with a bloody ordeal in a church. The thing is, the intrigue gets ultimately killed off because the creature killing people is just another boring Yoma monster with long claws. Doesn’t help when you’re using one single type of monster in a high fantasy setting, when you could be experimenting and finding new ways of interesting the audience with some new beast, or seemingly unsurmountable evil. But no, we get gray claw monsters instead. Boring.

Were introduced to a new city, and are told it’s some kind of highly religious one, but other than that, the city behaves basically the same as any other large city in a fantasy world, the religious aspect not really being as apparent as it was described as being. The location is immediately forgettable due to this lack of impact in it’s culture and architecture.

We’re introduced to two guards who patrol the rooftops at night, since the city enforces some kind of curfew or marshal law, but they prove only to hinder the safety of the city in their own prejudice and disdain towards Claymores, which makes sense in their character, but slows the pacing of the episode down when the mystery murder plot gets interrupted by two random guards who put up no challenge to Clare and her abilities.

We get revealed that the murderer is another monster (surprise) and Clare rushes to the scene. This one though, is a little different, since apparently, out of nowhere, it sprouts growths from it’s back, Elfen Lied style and impales Clare with a massive pitchfork-like appendage. Something to notice is that Clare does get hurt in obviously fatal ways in combat, just to prove that she can take a beating and that this world isn’t playing around with it’s violence. This is when the episode ends, on a cliffhanger which will no doubt be resolved in the next episode somehow.

Well, since my interest in the show has now officially died, let’s just say that Clare was killed immediately and the show ends, since it seems to be rather appropriate considering how dead on arrival this wreck truly was.

Another show, another drop.

DROPPED: 3/26

Anime Randomizer Challenge – PART 2 – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

I’ve actually been looking forward to this show from a long time ago. A Shaft production, directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, and being a parody of harem and school shows. This looks right up my alley of sarcastic and depressing comedy, so let’s dig right in!

— AFTER WATCHING THE SHOW —

Well, I’m 2 episodes in and can safely say that this is one of the best shows I have ever seen, purely from a comedic and narrative standpoint.

The sarcastic, dark humor hits as hard as possible, and every single joke is concrete, executed with style and weight, delivering on the laughs consistently throughout the entire episode. There are no slow or boring moments, with every conceivable frame being filled with minimalistic and adorably similar crazy girls doing some insane thing, news styles of visual fuckery, or a hidden, always hilarious reference to another show written somewhere in the classroom blackboards. (“Zero! I’m not Orange!” Killed me dead for minutes)

I will keep going for now, since it has been an absolute blast to watch for it’s first 2 episodes, so see you at the end.

~~ EPISODE 7 ~~

I can tell that the initial impression of the show was incredibly strong, perhaps a tad too strong if I’m being honest, since the show has definitely slowed down as the episodes progress. It is still incredibly clever, both verbally and visually, but it has lost that sense of rapid fire comedy that it established in it’s first 4 or so episodes.

Another aspect that may detriment the overall enjoyment of the show is that of the extensive usage of traditional Japanese references and jokes, which completely fly over my head and turn out to lose their comedic momentum when explained by at 2-second long throwaway explanation in the top of the screen, while more text is being displayed in the subtitles, making the process of understanding everything that’s going on in the screen a rather difficult and distracting endeavor.

On some more positive news, the show’s usage of scene transition has improved greatly, with a unique and relevant way of moving through the episode’s story, with cool insert art, some nice jokes sprinkled in, and a sense of a small, but always fun side story being presented through these tiny transition shots. It adds to the already super polished feel of the show’s style.

On my final note for now, the music has also reached new peaks, the OP song being a super catchy, 90s rock inspired punk track that always gets me head banging uncontrollably. The background music is also always appropriate and memorable, everything from the traditional Japanese music to the more upbeat comedic filler music is all composed with the punchline in mind, morphing and warping in order to create a harder hitting joke.

There is a lot to praise in this show, from a production level as well, so it is definitely a passionate project. It does have some slow scenes, and some episodes where it’s mostly just monotone but clever writing, but the characters are always put into new situations which highlight their wacky personalities as best as it can.

~~ FINAL THOUGHTS ~~

While it did slow down to the extent that it did, the show still manages to maintain an aura of black comedy all around, with plenty of deep, very relatable and applicable (yet surprisingly cynical) morals. The characters are not incredibly fleshed out or human, yet it’s precisely that which makes them stand out in such a bold and memorable way. It’s going to be difficult to forget such characters as Komori-san (The hikikomori girl), for always hiding in the most perfectly convenient spot, her persona crafting certain jokes perfectly. (not to mention she’s one of the most lowkey sexually attractive anime girls I’ve seen in recent years. Those scenes with Chie are nothing short of pure sex.)

But when S.Z.S. shines it’s brightest it’s when it displays the darkest in can possibly be. Many of the most powerful and resonant punchlines are those with incredibly disturbing and depraved connotations, the rest feeling like a cheap, weak attempt at some chuckles from a 14 year old. It’s when it references the darkest, most vile pits of humanity in a sarcastic, comedic light that the writing of the show truly gets next level, and raises the show’s overall conceptual strength. By being able to tackle such dark topics in such a light, it demonstrates the level of risk taking and boldness of the writers and director to create something truly different than other types of comedies like this. This show hits my personal niche, and it resonates with me so much because of it’s ability to make nihilism and existential trauma into something to laugh at, and I can respect that type of approach to life any day of the week.

Anyone who reads this blog at all knows I’m a pretty cynical dude, so it’s no secret why I like it so much.

COMPLETED: 12/12

SCORE: 9/10

Anime Randomizer Challenge – PART 1 – Gungrave (2003)

So, I have decided to do a little challenge, one that was inspired by the “List of Recommendations” section in this image (http://imgur.com/a/3TJov). It’s 72 shows, and I’m using a random number generator in order to start watching a show. Any show I’ve already previously seen will be skipped. After drawing the number 30, the first show I ended up with was Gungrave. Let’s see how it turns out.

— AFTER WATCHING THE SHOW —

Well, that was absolutely nothing.

Gugrave, from what I could tell, is about a really, really muscular, white-haired gentleman who likes to shoot zombie-like creatures for 1 minute, and then immediately fall unconscious.

Because of this, the rest of the episode becomes a super dragged out, utterly boring series of “lore-building” non sequiturs, which does nothing to establish the mood of the show, or display any sense of action or excitement, and instead show us some brutally forced pathos for the main character girl, who lost her mom to some strange revolution or civil war or something, as well as a flat, speechless action badass that does nothing active in the ENTIRE episode.

It baffles me to have a show of this ilk (a Madhouse show no less) not demonstrate it’s capacity for action in the first episode. That would at least be able to entertain, instead of trying to be some sort of slow-paced, emotionless and drab stretch of 24 minutes.

There is some interesting direction and color usage in the cold open, but after the averagely animated action sequence, the show changes it’s show composition to be as generic and uninspired as possible, becoming a chore to even look at sometimes. Not to mention the world these characters inhabit has become drowned in a brown palette, with occasional spurts of the main girl’s red coat.

Honestly, a waste of an episode. By minute 5, I was already bored.

DROPPED: 1/26 episodes.

A Criticism on the Nature of Western Media

So, it’s no secret that anime, manga, and most types of Japanese media are very specific and drenched in their own niche. Anime is not seen by many people, and there isn’t a huge amount of creative quantity behind it, anime only having a couple of dozen studios, with only about a quarter of those ever being remotely successful.

Success is something that sadly, affects every single piece of media ever created, because the world of today relies 100% on the power and influence of money, which in turn puts a limit on the amount of freedom one can take when creating something that is going to be promoted to the public.

This fact is what is tainting and destroying the modern outlook on media, and it’s something that we as a species need to think about, but sadly never will.

What exactly do I mean by this?

Let’s begin by talking slightly about the impact of Western (or in this case, Non-Japanese) media on the world, and how the creative medium has been warped and morphed into a mass-produced, regulated and imprisoned series of pandering and unoriginal products for the sole purpose of mindless consumption and audience attraction.

If we take a look at the majority of Western media, and looking specifically at what is the most popular section of this media, it’s easy to decipher a pattern visible in every single aspect of creative output.

What are the biggest movies of the year, and how are they marketed? Action oriented, easily digestible, sprinkled with adult themes, but ultimately proving to be a lighthearted and predictable story. These films are marketed by doing various transmedia campaigns, attracting the most amount of people possible in order to draw in those countless dollars for the corporation.

Now, I’m not saying this is “objectively bad” or anything, since these movies are a success for a reason, and they have a large, hugely loyal fanbase that will keep enjoying the films and everything around them. The main criticism I’m going to express is that this pattern ultimately limits the potential creativity of highly popular films, and boils them down to a basic, repetitious formula that is guaranteed to appeal to the most amount of people possible. Because of this, and the necessity of money in order for creative projects to come to fruition, the further away the project is conceptually from this formula, the least successful it is, and the less chances of it ever getting created in the first place.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. What about all those Oscar-worthy movies? Those movies that every year, manage to defy standards and give the audience a new and exciting perspective, those movies are original! No, my friends, they are not. Because the basic progression of a story has been studied and perfected to the point of universality, and 99.99% of EVERY story ever written nowadays follows this basic concept of “effective” storytelling.

You know what I’m talking about, the whole “Introduction, Exposition, Rise in Tension, Climax, and Conclusion” formula that dictates how stories should be written. People, this is bullshit.

The creative medium of storytelling is one that is infinite and unending. Human beings, as long as they have the ability to think, will be able to create new types of stores and characters, an endless sea of originality and inspiration. So why do we need to constrain ourselves in such a way in order to be able to effectively tell stories and for those stories to be able to gain footing in a stagnated and tired medium?

Because the main populace, the majority of the entertainment consuming world, is too fucking afraid.

They’re afraid of anything new, anything that breaks convention and challenges their thoughts. People like comfort and commodity, so they tend to want to only stick to what they’re already familiar with. The age old quote, “people are afraid of what they don’t understand” also speaks about how we consume media. Everything popular nowadays is popular because people haven’t had the collective ability to explore unknown corners of creativity, causing the popular media to remain ultimately unchanged for the large majority of the history of mankind. Many of these limitations are due to cultural, religious and moral reasons, but as I talked about in my post “The Paradoxical Nature of the Human Being”, we now live in a world where creative and psychological limitations are a detriment on the evolution of the human mind, and this example is perfect in pointing out why.

Topics that might shed a light on existence, stories that may transcend the formula, and new and never-before-seen mediums of entertainment are all nonexistent because as a species, human beings are constantly blocking themselves off from them, because of stupid, old-fashioned and ignorant reasons.

This doesn’t only affect movies and stories either, it also affects the realms of interactive media as well.

As an example, I’ll be talking about a game that many consider to be a masterpiece, some even might say is the greatest game ever made. This game is The Last of Us.

Now hear me out, TLoU is not bad. It’s a perfectly serviceable game, with an engaging story, some sections of intensity and a story with some rather interesting themes of loss, survival and humanity. But what it is not, is a masterpiece.

(Some people even call TLoU a cinematic masterpiece, which honestly baffles me to such an extent, that I am pretty sure people who say that do not understand what a cinematic masterpiece is. A cinematic masterpiece is crafted using every shot, every frame, as a means to deliver a story, using both a perfect sense of symbolic subtlety as well as an instantly memorable and time-breaking creative fashion. Movies that are infinitely rewatchable, and applicable to some part of life when seen by everyone. Movies that change the very nature of filmmaking, ones that become instantly recognizable names that are universally remembered dozens and dozens of years after they come out. These are cinematic masterpieces. TLoU was at most a 7/10 in that capacity.)

TLoU was a summer blockbuster, displaying the illusion of deep storytelling, doing nothing but telling an ultimately predictable story where our 2 main leads survive in the end against all odds because of the power of love, like countless stories told before. (Didn’t warn the spoilers because TLoU came out like 4 years ago and everyone and their mother have played it)

The funny thing is, this wasn’t even my point, as TLoU’s story wasn’t what I was going to talk about. So let’s go back to my actual point: The gameplay.

TLoU is Uncharted with a different skin. It’s a slower version of Uncharted, still displaying a linear level system, cover based shooting and an area-to-area progression. It contains elements of open-world games, with crafting (a dead horse of a game mechanic beaten to the ground so far that the horse has stopped resembling a horse and is now just a dried out, sticky and unrecognizable pile of red and brown guts rotting under the sun, eternally disgraced), and some other mechanics borrowed from other games from the past. It merged it together with a painfully colorless palette and zombies (they’re zombies, it doesn’t matter what causes them, they’re the same conceptually) in order to create a super successful game. Nothing more, nothing less.

So when I see games such as the new Tomb Raider, or the new God of War, it’s tough not to feel as though the Triple-A gaming industry is becoming unoriginal and boring.

People don’t crave innovation. People want sameness, comfort, repetitiveness and lack of change. And this will kill human creativity dead.

I’ll write about the musical medium in the future, since it’s a much more complex and interesting one, and one that is going through a bit of a renaissance in recent years.

See you around.

The Paradoxical Nature of the Human Being: A Downward-Spiraling Rant about Sexuality, Religion, History, Evolution, and the Future of Mankind (Insanity Analysis PART 1)

In the modern world, sex is something that most (if not all) people desire. It’s a deeply seeded part of human nature, one that has remained one ever since we were monkeys living in caves. The sexual drive is one of the most powerful sources of motivation and hunger that is known to us humans; you could say that lust is the most powerful out of all the seven sins, since it’s the one most commonly linked to our collective sense of reproduction and animalistic instincts.

So, knowing this, how can a person be asexual?

To not be attracted sexually to anything? Is it possible to completely lack the most natural and basic desire in the human brain? It seems like an impossibility, one that even the most prude and sexually disconnected people feel, albeit one they hide and store deeply within then, most likely lying to themselves and others about their sexual hunger.

I, for example, consider myself to be romantically disconnected. I feel like my ability to live with another person, when I myself am so satisfied with my own solitary existence, seems impossible. I am a disorganized, free-loading, care-free idiot who loves to be alone, and after a while, gets bored and irritated of being around or with people, and always feels pleasure conversing and reflecting with and within myself, always changing states of mind, and I’m completely happy with that. I’ve come to accept my own loneliness as something not detrimental and sad, but as a form of enlightened state, where I only exist to utterly please myself, and am ready for a life of blissful solitude.

But still, I have sexual thoughts and desires. I have tastes regarding women, their appearance, personality, and sexuality. I have sexual thoughts from time to time, and ultimately (like I imagine most men do) want a beautiful, perfectly crafted woman to pleasure me and do my every bidding.

It’s not because as a collective, men only see women as sexual objects, but it’s because as a species, as a living being, men (above women) have a need for power and control over the opposite sex. Especially in our ass-backwards modern culture.

Most people who commit acts of sexual depravity are men. Most rapists are men, most pedophiles are men, and most men in general are more focused on sex than women are. This isn’t some plight to insult women at all either, it’s a pure and simple difference between men and women, largely due to the societal evolution of today, and how that has affected us in a physiological and psychological way.

You see, sex nowadays is viewed in a way that is ultimately a paradox. When thought about, it’s actually really obvious, and many of us (especially those in the world of media) discuss the nature of sex in the same way that I will do so right now.

Sex is a paradox because it’s seen as something both utterly natural, respected and ultimately universally desired by almost everyone around the world, but it’s also seen as a disgusting, unsightly and noneducational blight on the growth and maturity of children and “normal” people.

Strange, right?

Now why is this the case? One word: Religion.

I know, I’m about to bash religion. What glasses-pushing, beta-liberal, hopelessly ignorant teenage “hipster” blogger hasn’t ragged on religion ever since being critical of religion has been trendy?

Look, religion has it’s positives, one of them being a sense of fulfillment and hope for a person, a sense of community and acceptance, and the idea of a tangible, pleasurable existence beyond the crushing, never-ending realization of death. Also, Jesus.

But, it is not an overstatement to say that religion is the cause of most world-wide problems with the world right now, and has been for the entirety of human history. Most wars were raged on an ideological level, that ideology being crafted by or against a particular religion. The Crusades? Religion fueled. The World Wars? Ideological wars based on disagreements of nation, race and power, originally caused by religious divide and preconceived notions of superiority over other human groups.

It’s safe to say that religion is both the best and worst thing to happen to humanity, since our modern world has evolved due to it, but yet has caused the largest amount of atrocities and destruction that this planet has ever seen outside of it’s 5 major extinctions.

The thing is, and this is purely my opinion, that religion is now a thing of the past. It served well for humans when our knowledge of the universe was microscopical compared to how it is now, as it served as a basic structure for human life and paved the way to how the world was crafted as a human utopia, but now, it ultimately serves as a deterrent and limitation on almost every aspect of human existence.

People all over the world under the age of 30 have been born into a world which values cynicism, objectivity and progression. Science has reached a point where we are making new and groundbreaking discoveries every day, people are realizing the nature of their own minds and creativity is at an all time high, with new and fascinating content being released at an astonishing level every second of every day, and that’s just going to increase more.

But nonetheless, there is something holding us back. Something that is keeping the ever-expanding and forward nature of humanity from achieving everything which it could achieve, and that’s religion. Here is why.

How many times haven’t we heard the stories of kids, now teenagers or adults, who had questions and doubts in their minds, but were kicked down and berated by their families and communities because of the thoughts they were having? How many people are leading a life of perpetual conflict, not only within their own senses of perspective and realizations about the world, but also how their own mind differs to that of everyone else, all due to being brought up in a religious household? How do they feel when they live in a world where science and logic rule, but that those concepts clash with their own sense of existence, the one they were given by their parents, their most trustworthy people?

And not only religion is cause of all this, it’s also due to lack of open-mindedness from that persons parents or caretakers. All people on earth are crafted by their early experiences, and those lead to the evolution of that person from a mindless baby to an adult with desires, dreams, and goals.

Is is also true that a person can be born with a preconceived preference to certain things, but much more likely is a person to acquire a taste for something if that something has been taught onto them as a child. People who have grown in religious households (those that affect the child positively instead of negatively) tend to lean in favor of those religious ideals, while those that punish and limit the child due that family’s religious backgrounds tend to rebel and escape the mindset they were a part of.

My point is, that religion is something that most of the time serves as a setback to the potential of a human child, one that limits creativity, causes trauma, and separates the child from a world of almost limitless creative freedom.

This is not to say that a person who has grown up as such hasn’t succeeded in the world while still maintaining a positive outlook on their religion, as there are many adults working in areas of religious conflict (such as science) that still fully believe in a God or gods. It is just that for most cases, the conservative nature that comes with the strictness and control of religion tends to limit humans and their overall quest for everlasting improvement.

Because you see, most people on earth suffer through a desire for validation and acceptance. People are ultimately egotistical, and their pride manifests through the way that they pass their knowledge to younger people, the most obvious option being their children. A parent tends to force his ideals on his kid, purely because of a human being’s sense of perceptual and understandable superiority. People think that what they know is the best way to live, since they’ve managed to live this far by thinking the way they think. They want to make sure that the future generations of humanity are able to be as “complete” and as “mature” as they are, and subsequently pass their knowledge, often forcefully, to those beneath them. But they do this without realizing the fact that the person they are pushing their own ideals into is a completely separate and free-thinking individual, and treat the rejection of these ideals as “ignorance” or “immaturity”.

Why? This is because most people tend to see themselves as the protagonist to their own story. Their life is the most important one, the people around us serving as secondary and tertiary characters, our feelings, desires and emotions being multiplied to a universal extent within our own minds. The people we see on the street are mere extras and set dressing to our epic, lifelong tale, filled with love, despair, adventure, success, discovery, pain, passion, and eventual death. We live for ourselves, and anyone who doesn’t share our views of the world is deemed “objectively” wrong and therefore inferior to us. We believe that older people are less intelligent than us, and younger people are less experienced than us. That is a universal law of the human experience.

In a perfect world, the driving force behind human evolution would be of personal and societal acceptance. A world much like this one, with certain limitations towards the most destructive aspects of humanity (like murder, rape, etc.) but one where the exploration of sexuality, thought, and creativity was not burdened by notions of “correct” or “incorrect”. Where people would be allowed to explore what they wanted, to be as specific as they want to with their tastes and interests, where everyone could find something they want to do, something passionate and exciting for them. It seemed as though the future was looking in that direction recently, with the new, more free-spoken and free-thinking youth of the 21st Century, and the existence of the internet. But, sadly, I overestimated humanity, and their capacity for embarrassment to an existential degree will never be left behind.

The internet truly is the greatest creation in the entirety of human existence, one that has fundamentally changed the way the entire world communicates. It’s something deeply engrained into our species’ survival, and without it, our planet would fall into a state of chaos so large that it would be the end of the human race as we know it.

Due to it’s existence, and it’s incredible ease of access, people from all over the world have entered it, free to voice their truest, deepest thoughts and opinions about everything they could possibly give a shit about, largely thanks to the wonderful nature of anonymity and all the lack of responsibility that it gives us access to. Because of this, people all around the world have created “alternate selves”, virtual representations of who they are. This blog right now is one such alternate self, one that I ultimately and eventually want to represent me completely and utterly, with no setbacks.

This new ability, this sense of freedom that the internet allows us to embrace is the reason why today’s youth (and especially today’s youth more than the previous or future generation) is as violently and aggressively idiotic and downright ignorant as it is.

As I’ve talked about before, humans tend to want acceptance amongst others, and we have a desire to share our opinions and have them validated. When a tool comes along that allows us to voice our innermost and specific thoughts, and lets us talk to and discuss those topics with other similarly minded people, while also being as verbally destructive to those that oppose us, is something that to many people is mind-blowing in a subconscious level.

As extravagant as that explanation is, it all boils down to the fact that the internet is the destruction of the filter that the normal, 3D world has put on us. We can be as loud, abrasive, and passionate as we can, and this can lead to the mutation of our own opinions into something much more powerful and uncontrollable.

Internet dwellers, because of their continued positive interaction of those they share interests and passions with, and their continued negative interaction with those they disagree and argue over, has led to a strengthening of their respective opinions into the realm of “objectivity”. Most people nowadays online tend to view their opinions as purely objective and correct, voicing it out as if it were a true, unmoving reality of the universe. Hell, this very rant is exactly that, just my own, bloated opinion on the matter of the online culture, writing it as if it were a yet unrealized truth about the nature of humans.

But it’s not, it’s just my own delusional ramblings, written down at 11:50pm by an 18 year old sitting on a pile of pillows, typing for more than 2 hours straight while looking at his computer monitor, thinking about how great and smart he is, and how people will realize that this post is the best written post of all time, and discuss it at length with everyone they know, spreading it and beginning the discussion about the future of human interaction, changing the very fabric of human society and creating a better, more accepting world because of it.

I can only wish.

Well, 2281 words as of right now. I think that’s a good place to end this insane, nonsensical dive into my own mind, at least for right now. I have dozens and dozens of ideas that relate to everything I’ve just written, but I want to allow anyone reading to take a breather, since peeking into my psyche is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. This is basically what goes through my mind almost 24/7, this clusterfuck of thought, one that is almost impossible to truly and completely put into words.

See you fuckers on the next one.

Anime across Time and Space PART 3: The 90s, and the Evolution of Anime.

The 90s!

It seems as though the 90s have become an era of nostalgia, even though nowadays, most people who were kids in the 90s are now in their mid-30s, so a lot of the “nostalgia” boom we’ve been getting recently is for early-2000 media. Anyway, in the 90s, at least during the 1st half, instead of many new television shows coming out, there were a lot (and I mean a lot) of OVAs released. An OVA, for those of you who don’t know, are Original Video Animations, released only in VHS/DVD sets or bundles. These would become basically mass produced in the early-to-mid 90s due to the fact that you could earn a lot more money releasing 4-6 episodes of a small production in comparison to running a full-length weekly TV show, which yielded some  fantastic and groundbreaking productions. Just to list some:

  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes, a 110 episode long, politically driven hyper-epic space opera, which many consider to be the best anime series ever made. It’s ranked #7 on MAL for a reason. Started in the late 80s, but continued into the early 90s and definitely became an instant classic.
  • Golden Boy, a 1995 6-episode OVA about the troubles and tribulations of a teenager looking for work and love, all on top of his trusty Mikazuki 5 bicycle. Some deem it one of the funniest shows to come out of the 90s, not to mention it’s filled with that delicious 90s mild nudity.
  • Otaku no Video, an early 90s 2-episode OVA about an exploration of the otaku lifestyle in the 80s. Very fascinating if you’re interested in how otaku lived their lives 30 years ago, and how some even do so right now. It’s also loosely based on the foundation of Studio Gainax.
  • 3×3 Eyes, a 1991-1992 4-episode OVA, known for it’s super over the top violence and crazy psychotic and bipolar main girl, whom many consider to be the predecessor to the main girl Lucy from super-popular 2006 show, Elfen Lied.  

So, those are just some of the most popular OVAs to come out of the early 90s. Very few new TV shows were coming out, with the exception of the continuing Dragon Ball Z, Ranma 1/2, and other super popular shows. But, everything changed, EVERYTHING changed with the arrival of a new TV show in 1995. One that would rock the very foundation of anime and perhaps even the entire world of media.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, by Studio Gainax and Tatsunoko Production, came out on 6:30pm, Wednesday October 4th, 1995, a day that would welcome the beginning of a new and exciting age for Japanese animation and otaku culture.

One thing that is very difficult to understand about NGE is that one does not understand it’s pure scope unless one watches it first. So, I’m going to very quickly explain the story of Eva, just to catch you up if you don’t wanna watch the show, as well as if you watched it long ago but don’t exactly remember. Here we go.

NGE is about a group of teenagers that pilot giant robots called Evangelions, or Evas for short. They belong to an organization called Nerv, who is responsible for using these Evas to fight a series of alien/organic/strange creatures known as Angels. But it is so much more than that.

Since NGE is one of the most popular shows of all time, I imagine the points I will be talking about have been talked about before in some form or other. So if you’ve heard some of these perspective before, I apologize. This is how I viewed the show, and it’s scope from a first timer’s perspective.

NGE is made to be the ultimate otaku experience. Everything from the highly detailed scientific and mechanical processes and explanations about Nerv’s technology, how the Evas work, and the strategic, highly intelligent solutions to each Angel’s invasions, all the way to the beautiful character designs, terribly addicting personalities of Asuka, Rei and Misato (even though they’re all horribly flawed, mentally cracked and psychotic characters) and the fantastic use of light-heartedness and slice-of-life. How it manages to balance a serious, sci-fi centered arc in the first couple of episodes, then switches to a fun, action comedy, finalizing with some of the dreariest and most draining sequences in anime. Everything in this show comes together perfectly to form a massive, world-encompassing adventure with risks and losses, while also being a charismatic, lovable story about a group of people struggling to develop their interpersonal relationships. Every aspect of the show is handled perfectly. When I watch this show I instantly understand why it’s one of the most popular shows of all time, and why people have fallen in love with it’s terrible, terrible characters, and how it’s directing is filled with bold, saturated shadows and colors, symbolism and intense, panic-inducing sequences and shot composition. Hideaki Anno, the show’s director, has created a perfect otaku show, one that is crafted from start to finish to be as smart and as mature as possible, but also to be as wholeheartedly pandering and fetishistic as it can. It’s a fucking masterpiece of creative structure and manipulation. And it’s one of the most fascinating pieces of media ever created.

Anyway, back to the 90s. The sheer explosive power of Eva was so intense that it sparked the birth of a myriad of new, original, and creatively divergent shows to come out of anime, and it would lead to some of the most adult-oriented and deeply interesting shows ever to come out of the medium.

The actual impact of Eva was more so on otaku culture than it did on anime in general, at least originally. The sheer popularity that Eva acquired in it’s run was to such an extent that it changed the way the entire world would see anime and otaku culture forever. Eva set certain standards for anime storytelling and complexity, no longer was the audience simply seeking for cheap, exciting action and superficial characters, now that the powerful, addictive and desperate personalities of Shinji, Rei and Asuka had come into the light. A deepened interest in religious, psychological and existential symbolism would be sparked amongst anime fans, and the whole of Japanese media in general. After Eva, it would seem as though the creative minds of an entire country would expand, seeking new, strange, controversial and tough to digest concepts that were never in people’s minds before Eva. It truly changed the way Japanese media would progress, and it’s one of the most influential pieces of media ever conceived or created.

Here are some shows that gained popularity purely due to the Post-Evangelion boom:

  • Serial Experiments Lain: A contemporary and bleak outlook on modern society and how the internet has the capacity to shape it, and the differences between your real-life existence and personality contrasting against your virtual one. It came out in a time before the internet was even popular, essentially predicting the sheer influence the internet had on the world.
  • Texhnolyze: A gut-wrenching, nihilistic and inhumane peek into human nature and suffering, through the eyes of a cyberpunk world eerily possible in our own future. This show is definitely not for the weak of heart, as it does not pull it’s punches towards how brutal and nightmarish this world can be.
  • Rahxephon: Almost word for word an Eva inspiration, Rahxephon is another psychologically driven mecha show filled with deep messages and complex characters.
  • Boogiepop Phantom: Primarily a series of long-running light novels, Boogiepop Phantom is described by many to be the origin of 21st century anime, due to it’s dark topics, explored in a semi-juvenile way, sort of bridging the gap from teenage media into mature and interesting literature.

These were some of the shows that led the way into the 21st century, a world much more filled with cynicism, critique and dreariness, which would in turn change the way anime was created and consumed. The early 2000s brought a new age of shows, some which would stand the test of time like Eva itself did half a decade prior.

That marks the end of the 90s.