Diehard AnimeFAN, Vol. 2: MY Love STORY!!, Monster Musume, God Eater & Bakemonogatari!

We’re back with the second volume, and as promised, I have stopped watching Makuranodanshi entirely, because honestly, what am I going to get out of watching pretty dudes tell me to go to sleep? I have enough trouble sleeping as it is, trying to do it while a dude’s telling me to do it in a language I don’t understand isn’t going to help.

Anyway, I haven’t added anything new this week; I was off in Minnesota watching staff writer Sean Madson marry the love of his life, and goofing off with Matt Yaeger, as well as old-school DHGF writer Mike Merhar and my former boss at Beyond the Threshold Gloomchen, so I’ve got nothing but the standards so far. Feel free to recommend any additions, on Crunchyroll or otherwise, and I’ll see if I can’t check them out. Otherwise, let’s get down to business.

Ongoing Series Discussion:

God Eater (Three Episodes):

So Lenka and Alisa have officially met for the first time, and their interaction was… actually not that bad. Alisa got a chance to show off a bit, and the anime did a good job of making her look like a powerful fighter, while also toning down her bratty behavior and making her more of a capable but egotistical fighter, which is honestly a better personality choice for her. Meanwhile, Lenka actually figured out what he was doing thanks to watching Alisa, which was also a pretty interesting development. In the game the player simply knows how to do stuff through training and tutorials, but having Lenka learn on the job and actually get better through this was a better choice, in that it means something when he does it. The battle scene in this episode, as a result, was actually really interesting, as it conveyed a lot more information than prior ones; between Lenka finally figuring out how his New Type weapon works, Alisa’s silent respect/jealousy at Lenka’s rapid transformation, and the general slow-burn between the two, it was a really interesting piece of work… even jumping around on top of a plane is super unrealistic and all.

It’s also good that the anime is starting to really get into the why of the Aragami’s existence during regular events; if it only matters in context to the viewer, at least we know, even if the characters don’t, and if the characters will eventually find out, it means we won’t have to sit through an entire episode of exposition dumping later in the series since the anime has already filled in the details. It’s hard to really say whether it’s better or worse to know things about the Aragami beyond “they’re big and angry,” because as of this point the information provided hasn’t diminished the cool factor of the monsters. It’s also a good thing that the anime is deviating noticeably from the game’s storyline, because it’ll be interesting to see if the anime varies how Alisa’s plotline is handled in later episodes; that is, while her story will probably play out the same, it’ll be interesting to see what does change, since she’s not really the same character (so far, anyway). The one real notable downside of the plot, so far, is that it’s very much harping on this mentality that Fenrir is mostly interested in saving its assets and stopping Aragami, while the God Eaters themselves are more emotionally tied to the idea of saving humans regardless of worth, because this plot is done to death in anime in general and God Eater probably doesn’t have anything interesting to say on the subject. Still, there’s more good than bad going on this week, and thumbs up for that; here’s hoping it continues.

MY Love STORY!! (Seventeen Episodes):

Y’know, I’m the first person to say “teenage love stories aren’t that interesting unless you’re a teenager,” but damn, this show is adorable. This week’s episode centers around a Christmas Eve get-together between Takeo’s friends and Rinko’s friends, with the undercurrent of the whole event being that Takeo’s friend Osamu wants to ask out Rinko’s friend Nanako. Needless to say, when Takeo and Rinko find out that Osamu and Nanako like each other, they meddle like crazy in the whole thing, and the end result is simultaneously not what they expected and absolutely what the viewer would expect. Surprisingly enough, the episode mostly revolves around Osamu and Nanako, and their characters hold up the episode’s narrative perfectly fine; while they probably couldn’t carry an entire series on their own or anything, they’re likable enough that the diminished presence of Takeo and Rinko isn’t noticeable unless you really think about it.

The single best thing about MY Love STORY!! continues to be the interactions between Takeo and Rinko, though, and they steal the show, whether it’s Takeo seeing Rinko like it’s the first time all over again and remembering “Wow I love her,” or the dopey thumbs up they give each other when they decide to help their friends hook up. They’re a surprisingly likable couple, and their relationship feels surprisingly natural, even when others in the anime point out how weird it is. It’s also good to see that Takeo is learning things like context and the importance of how to do what’s right for everyone, not just what you think is right; in the beginning he came across as extremely thick (if nice), but he’s slowly turning into a more well-rounded person, which is really the only way the anime can continue on, to be honest. Him being thick will get grating after a while, as it’s already starting to, since it’s often the major motivator behind whatever current internal crisis is going on in the show. Also, does it seem kind of weird that the current side-plot is that Takeo and Rinko haven’t kissed, seventeen episodes into the show, when they met in April and (in the show) it’s Christmas? I mean, it’s a minor thing, but it’s still just kind of a weird thing; you expect that eventually someone would step in and tell them to get it the hell over with. Still, that’s a minor complaint for what is, otherwise, consistently the most entertaining anime in my watch list, so I’ll deal with it, and I eagerly look forward to next week.

Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls (Four Episodes)

Monster Musume continues to walk a very fine line between “meaningful interactions” and “sexualized fantasy” this week, with the introduction of Suu, a slime girl who’s able to change her size based on how much water she intakes, and who mostly interacts with others through imitation of physical actions (which seem to involve her boobs a lot, for some reason). For the most part, the episode does a good job of introducing Suu into the cast, as she gets a full episode to show off her capabilities and mostly does a good job of being a likable character, as have most of the cast members so far. Suu manages to get across her likability simply by being, well, childlike, but in a way that’s more “simple” and less “bratty,” and as a result, she ends up filling the same basic niche Papi fills, but in a way that’s more well-meaning and less hyperactive. As a result, she quickly becomes one of the more pleasant cast members in one appearance, as we watch her derp around, trying to understand basic interpersonal relations to various effects, and by the end of the episode you’ll probably want her to stick around for a while. I did, anyway.

The first half of the episode is honestly the stronger part, mostly because the whole cast is around and the narrative is mostly focused on Suu, Kurusu and Centorea, with smaller bits from Miia and Papi. The interactions between Kurusu and Centorea are awkwardly amusing, and Suu is just… likable, really, because of her simplicity. The second half of the episode, on the other hand, is focused on Kurusu, Suu and Papi, and it’s… not as good. Papi is honestly kind of an annoying character, though I’m certain others will disagree, and while the plot needed an event to move things along, Papi’s one-sided rationales for everything caused more problems than they solved and, well, almost got someone killed, twice. Also, for those who are manga fans, the anime skips episode seven to get straight into the Suu episodes (yes I’ve read the manga, shut up), and while it’ll probably be popping up at some point in the future, it probably won’t be for a few episodes… unless they shoehorn it into the end of the next episode. That all said, if Suu’s introduction can help reign Papi in, that’s not a bad thing, and if nothing else, it was fun seeing the… racist I guess?… couple from earlier show up again, if only because they’re a fun target for plot abuse. All in all, Monster Musume is still cute and engaging enough that’s worth keeping in the queue for another week, and we’ll see if it holds up that way, since we’re almost certainly getting a new cast member again at this breakneck pace.

Overall Series Review:

Bakemonogatari

I’d seen a few pieces on this anime pop up here and there over the past couple of years, but I’d never really bothered to look into it until I saw it pop up on Crunchyroll one day and thought it looked like an interesting concept for an anime, if nothing else. The idea of sequential ghost stories was interesting, if only because I like horror anime, and the name kind of seemed like a pun on “Bakemono,” or “demon/ghost” and “monogatari,” or “love story,” so I figured, what the heck, let’s dive in and check it out. As it turns out, this is the first part of a series of anime, chronicling the lives of its main characters as they deal with supernatural weirdness, love and other random nonsense, so it’s basically an anime version of Supernatural, after a fashion. The anime also has a fairly surrealist bent to it, blurring the lines between what’s reasonably feasible in context with what’s not as often as not, and surprisingly enough, it features a cast of characters that’s far more interesting than likable. The end result, oddly enough, actually works, at least within the confines of the first series, and what’s here actually has some interesting and enjoyable moments, even if it doesn’t manage to carry them to the later seasons.

The basic gist of the anime is that the main character, Koyomi Araragaki, used to be a vampire but isn’t anymore (though he still has some of the powers associated with this thing), and whether it be a side effect of this development or wholly unrelated, he’s been finding that he’s been running into a lot of ladies with a lot of magical problems. In the first episode, he ends up meeting a young woman, Hitagi Senjyogahara (I am never writing that name out again), who is literally weightless, save for the objects she carries on her person, almost all of which she uses to inflict pain on others; literally our second shown interaction with the character involves her stapling the inside of Koyomi’s mouth because he wanted to talk to her, so she’s… different. The first chapter (two episodes) focuses on Hitagi’s dilemma, as Koyomi introduces her to Meme Oshino, a sort-of spiritual person who’s pretty good at helping people resolve their issues with magical issues, albeit not always in the ways they’d want. From there, the anime more or less revolves around Koyomi and Hitagi attempting to solve the problems of others, such as a young girl, Mayoi, who can’t find her way home no matter how hard she tries, Suruga, a young woman with a messed-up monkey arm because of a magical charm, and others, each of which is more messed up than the last.

The thing that largely works about the anime is that it’s interesting; each character has their own really unique problems they have to deal with, and everyone reacts to them in odd fashions, such that you’ll find yourself compelled to keep watching because the anime almost never seems to telegraph where it’s going next. None of the characters behaves in the traditional way you’d expect, to the point where you find that you’re constantly surprised at the decisions they make (even if they make sense in context), and the anime does a really good job of keeping the viewer on their toes throughout. It’s also worth noting that the anime also has hints of a romantic anime/harem anime, but as with MY Love STORY!! above, it completely subverts them early enough that it’s able to tell the more interesting stories anime rarely tells, instead of the standard “dude is in love with ten women” or “two people can’t confess their love” stories we often get otherwise, and that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of room for the anime to supply more engaging tales here, and it does a lot to make that story space count.

On the other hand, there are some problems with the way the story is executed. For one thing, the anime, no matter how beautiful it can be at times, has a big problem with telling rather than showing; the author is known for being interested in layered dialogue and divergences into random discussions about nothing, which is fine, but more often than not a lot of these discussions don’t go anywhere, and often seem to exist because the author is impressed with his writing style and wants you to be too. The show also does a lot with its surreal execution, but not all of it works, and as the episodes go on they tend to introduce more and more surreal elements, which often overpower the core of the concept. Finally, and this is perhaps the most important problem, while the characters are interesting, they’re not very likable, and that can grate in later episodes. Koyomi’s defining characteristic is how willing to help others he is, but he doesn’t think his actions through at all, and he’s often doing the dumbest thing possible to resolve a situation, to the point where even by the end of the anime he’s still repeating mistakes he made in the beginning. Hitagi is honestly kind of a horrible human being, and we’re never given an indication, outside of her physical appearance, why anyone would like her, unless they’re attracted to traumatic pasts, which is… not a good reason to like someone. Honestly, the only really likable person in the whole anime is Tsubasa Hanekawa, and given that she also causes no less than two major events during the anime (not including what happens during later seasons), even then it’s hard to really like her, all things considered.

In the end, though, Bakemonogatari is probably worth a watch, as it’s actually really compelling, even if you don’t like anyone involved. The later seasons of the anime don’t… quite measure up, but at least for the first season, what’s here works more often than not, and it’s executed well enough to be worthwhile.