Well, the past seven months have hardly been rife with new game releases; what has come out has mostly been upscaled ports of older games or games that mostly fall into the “good, but” category, and the few games that have come out that were really special weren’t really enough to carry half a year’s worth of play time. While my GameFly queue is finally almost completely full, it’s never been close to that point up until the beginning of July, and while E3 certainly padded out the release calendar for the rest of the year, it’s been a long wait to get to that point. Since I’ve had just enough free time to occupy it with something, but not enough free time to occupy it with something long and involved, I’ve taken up a hobby that I’d given up on years ago: watching anime, As it turns out, completely outside of my own awareness, we’re in something of a golden age for anime, partly because there’s just so much of it out there to watch, and partly because a sizable amount of companies are actively trying to make it available in the US through streaming services, often almost immediately after it launches in Japan.
Since I’ve been poking around in various “simulcast” streams over at Crunchyroll in the small amounts of spare time I have, I thought, “Well, why not write something about it?” So, here we are, with the debut of “Diehard AnimeFAN,” which will be a weekly column diving into various simulcast animes I’ve been watching, as well as reviews of full seasons of shows that are available to watch (and possibly reviews of older anime if we get that far). Ideally, this will be a place where we can discuss new anime and our opinions of such, and hopefully it’ll either give you some suggestions of new anime to check out (or avoid), if nothing else. So, let’s get down to business and pour through what’s new out there in the past week.
Ongoing Series Discussion:
God Eater (Two Episodes):
This one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s aware of my work on the site; I loved the original God Eater when it was released in the US, I’ve been a big supporter of all things Monster Hunter related, and I’ve been actively hoping Namco Bandai would release the sequel in the US, so an anime based on the game is an easy watch for me. The anime follows the plot of the first game, so far, and all things considered, it’s not a bad attempt at trying to retell the story with a set protagonist instead of the malleable protagonist of the game. The main character, Lenka Utsugi, is a good enough protagonist; he has strong convictions and is clearly dedicated to the “must kill all Aragami” mentality that one needs in the world of God Eater. Considering he’s one of two “New Type” God Eaters, it’s preferable that we start out his arc with him being dedicated to the cause, if for no other reason than it means we’re not stuck dealing with a whiny protagonist who has to “rise to the challenge,” because I’ve seen enough of that in Evangelion to last me the rest of my life.
The animation quality is top-notch, thanks to Ufotable (the studio producing the anime), and the plot is mostly solid. If nothing else, you’re given a pretty good idea of what motivates everyone by the end of the first episode, and while the “main character disobeys orders to protect innocents” plot device is old and worn out, having the resulting battle not go the way you’d expect is interesting, as is the fallout from it. The anime, being free to tell its own story, doesn’t go with the tutorial-styled “here’s everything you need to learn” exposition that the game went with, which is fine, and since we’re already aiming for a third episode that’s going to work with aerial combat, we’re clearly going in a different direction altogether, which is honestly a good thing. It’ll be interesting to see how Lenka and Alisa interact, given that Lenka’s an actual character rather than a silent cypher of the player. Will she continue to be a braggart, will Lenka cut her down, or will they get along? Here’s hoping it’ll be the latter, but we’ll know in a couple of days.
As a final aside, this is the only anime, so far, that I’m watching weekly that isn’t hosted on Crunchyroll, and that’s the worst thing about it so far. The anime is hosted on Daisuki.net, if you want to check it out, but be warned: the site uses ingrained ads that cannot be blocked unless you don’t want to see the feature, and it prompts for ads constantly, to the point where it’s almost more trouble than it’s worth. Hopefully they’ll do something to fix that, but as first impressions go, it’s not great.
MY Love STORY!! (Sixteen Episodes):
I generally don’t like romance anime, because it almost always follows the same basic premise: protagonist meets the love of their life in the first episode, but they CAN NOT SPIT IT OUT, and we spend the rest of the anime following them around as they hold the idiot ball for a season (or, God forbid, multiple seasons) and finally confess at the end. I hate that specific plot progression for exactly the reason you’d expect: it’s tired, and it makes the viewer feel like the main character(s) are kind of dumb. I got the impression that MY Love STORY!!, also known as Ore Monogatari!!, wasn’t that kind of anime from reading the previews, and while the first two episodes basically start off that way, by the third episode they resolve the “will they or won’t they” that these sort of stories rely on, allowing them to get to the more interesting stories that come from being in a relationship, and the pitfalls that come with it. In other words, if you love the chase you won’t be happy with this, but if you like the chase to be over with quickly you’ll be right at home with this.
The gist of the show is that the main character, Takeo Goda, is a mountain of a man who generally tries to do the right thing, but because of his massive size and… odd looking face, people often misunderstand his intentions. It doesn’t help that his best friend, Sunakawa, is absolutely gorgeous, since everyone basically thanks him for Takeo’s good deeds, and all the girls Takeo is interested in want to date Sunakawa instead (who wants no part of any of them). That all changes when he saves a girl, Yamato, from a train molester in the most hilarious way imaginable, and the anime follows our trio (and their various and sundry friends) as they deal with relationships, friendships, and the general weirdness that seems to follow Takeo around… or that he seems to cause, in some cases. The cast is honestly pretty likable, and a good amount of effort is put into making the main trio fun to watch. It’s easy to like Takeo, Sunakawa and Yamato, because their problems are surprisingly believable (to a point) and the anime doesn’t really get into surreal humor, which keeps its story telling and events grounded. It’s also nice that we get to actually explore the realities of being in a relationship, or at least the realities as filtered through the rules of anime, as there’s a lot of stories to be told there that we rarely see anyone go with. The only downside is that, as the series goes on, it kind of reaches a disconnect where you have to remind yourself, “Oh, right, everyone in this anime is fifteen,” because some of the issues that come up just seem like things only teenagers would care about, and, well, they are teenagers. Overall, though, MY Love STORY!! is pretty great so far, and here’s hoping that’ll continue to the end.
Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls (Three Episodes)
Real talk: I hate Harem Anime, because it always ends in one of the same three ways: either the main character ends up with the same character he (and it’s almost always a “he”) was going to end up with from the beginning (Ranma 1/2), the main character never commits to anyone because sequels (Tenchi Muyo!) or the main character never commits and they just end it like that (Saber Marionette J, in the anime anyway), because they don’t want to piss anyone off. While I totally understand the want to keep cashing in on a successful anime, and I also totally understand the want to not piss off your fanbase by making the main character choose (and thus sinking the ships surrounding the series), to be honest, that never flew with me, and I was more willing to jump in with something like Martian Successor Nadesico, which was willing to commit to the story it wanted to tell, than something that wasn’t.
That said, while I didn’t really figure out that Monster Musume was a Harem Anime until the second episode… it’s surprisingly compelling, even so.
The basic concept is probably what’s most interesting here, as the world in the anime has signed off on a treaty with non-human species allowing them the chance to make their presence known to humans, which results in a lot of homestays for the metahumans in the series as they learn how deal with human society. The concept, despite being quite goofy, actually works out fairly well, and you can tell the author put a decent amount of effort into trying to figure out what a world with metahumans in it would be like, as they address the obvious questions whenever they seem pertinent, even if it’s only to handwave them off. Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard Harem Anime; the main character, Kurusu (or “Darling/Master” as most people call him) is a putz who’s never had a girlfriend, and suddenly finds himself acting as a homestay chaperone for several “monster girls,” each of whom is basically super interested in his affections from jump. Despite the corny setup, the quasi-sexist undertones (at times) and the obvious cheesecake factor, when the anime gets down to establishing characters and having them interact, astonishingly enough, it works really well and makes you like the cast simply by giving them real concerns in an unreal world. The anime is full of wacky shenanigans, which are all over-exaggerated and actually worth laughing at as often as not, but so far, it’s at its best when it’s dealing with character relationships. When the anime gives the characters real concerns, like when Miia the Lamia asks if Kurusu only deals with her because he has to and if she’s scary to him, or when Centorea the Centaur (okay, the names suck out loud, just go with it) loses her mind over simple human gestures because she’s literally never experienced them before, that’s when it really becomes easy to like and enjoy, despite its failings. While I don’t really care for Papi the Harpy as a character, and I can’t really be sure if I can stick with it until the end because of the type of anime it is, so far Monster Musume has been pretty fun, and I’ll certainly stick with it as long as I can.
Makuranodanshi (Three Episodes)
This is entire Crystal’s fault; her exact words were “watch this and explain it to me,” and so, now that I have done this thing, I’m going to try to do just that. Publicly, because as we’ve discussed in the past, I’m clearly not very bright.
Japan has these odd two-to-four minute long mini-anime specials that they run between other shows, such as Chi’s Sweet Home and I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, which seem to mostly exist as filler entertainment between other shows, to keep people tuned into the station. Makuranodanshi, as near as I can tell, is that thing, except that it serves an additional purpose: it’s apparently something akin to an audio/video sleep aid sort of thing for those who like pretty dudes. Each episode is essentially four minutes of a pretty guy talking to the viewer, mostly in an attempt to encourage them to sleep, and it kind of has an ASMR vibe, so you can almost certainly assume there’s a sexual undertone to the whole thing.
So basically, it’s FREE! without an actual plot, unless you count “encouraging the viewer to go to sleep” as a plot. If that’s a thing you’re into, have at it, but for me, now that I’ve figured out why it exists, I’m happy to never watch it again.
Overall Series Review:
Persona 4 The Golden Animation
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way.
I loved the original Persona 4 anime for a lot of reasons. The animation quality was top notch, for one thing, but more importantly, the series really captured the important elements of Persona 4 as a game, in a way that was interesting and meaningful as a fan. All of the secondary social links were given their moments to show up, but the main cast were the stars of the show, and a good amount of attention was paid to making their relationships count. The ending was also especially strong, as it took the concept from the game and expanded it in a way that made it more meaningful and interesting, both for newcomers and for fans of the game, so that no one would feel let down. When it was announced that there was going to be a Persona 4 Golden anime, that sounded like a great idea; at a best case, it’d be an expanded tale that would add in all of the new elements from the game into a fully fleshed-out series, and at a worst case, it could act as a supplemental series for the original anime, allowing you to slot episodes from it in-between episodes of the original anime to fill in all of the needed events.
As it happens, it did neither of those things, and if I’m being honest, if you hate Marie because of this anime, I completely understand.
The first episode starts off so well, too; while it’s a bit too “let’s recap the first three episodes of Persona 4” in its progression, it does a good job of setting the tone for what could be a nice supplemental anime. The problem is, the rest of the anime kind of… goes off the rails from there, starting with the second episode, which literally does the “double booked day” trope WITHOUT AN ACTUAL DATE ATTACHED, which is the most pointless version of that trope you could possibly create, all to condense two events into one episode that… really aren’t meaningful parts of Persona 4 Golden anyway. The anime doesn’t get much better from there, narratively speaking, as it falls into two major pitfalls in nearly every episode, between either focusing on events that really aren’t that interesting or adding Marie into events she never participated in during the game for… basically no reason except to make the anime the “Yu and Marie and Friends Show,” which almost certainly wasn’t what fans wanted.
I mean, here’s the thing: I like Marie as a character in the game; hers is a fun Social Link to follow, she gets along well with the cast, and following her pathway to the end is actually quite enjoyable, all in all. Marie in the anime, on the other hand, is a colossal Mary Sue who’s thrust into literally every meaningful event in the anime, to the point where you almost get sick of her in a hurry, especially when she either doesn’t really DO anything during her appearances but exist, or totally acts as the lynchpin of the episode to the point where the anime is screaming MARIE IS IMPORTANT AND YOU SHOULD LIKE HER. It’s just frustrating, as the majority of her appearances are either “shoehorn Marie in here so she’s there,” such as with the beach scene, or “shoehorn Marie in here and make her the best at everything ever,” such as in the concert, and there’s almost no middle-ground. By the time Marie is single-handedly saving Yu during an existential crisis you’ll be rolling your eyes hard enough to get a strain. By the time they’re devoting three full episodes to the February ski trip, featuring the team having fits over not remembering Marie anymore (which didn’t even happen in the game in the first place, COME ON) you’ll be sighing so hard your neighbors will hear it. Oh, and the ending is basically one giant deus ex machina revolving around guess who, so, yeah, that’s not great.
It’s not that the anime doesn’t have its good points, of course. The intro to Episode Four, where Yu describes using a scooter in battle (and Yosuke’s reaction) is a great one-off scene that calls back to the game but also means something in context. In fact, the entire episode is awesome, calling back to the Miracle Quiz mini-game while also advancing the plot in a meaningful way, as is Episode Six’s attempt to give Adachi more of a meaningful backstory in context (except for the random “MARIE KNOWS HE’S TROUBLE” interlude). If more of the anime had been attempts to expand the narrative and less attempts to get Marie over by blunt force, they probably would’ve ended up with an anime that worked both on its own and as a supplement piece, instead of the Japanese fanbase voting Marie their absolute least favorite character and the US fanbase responding more or less in kind.
In the end, I will say that Persona 4 The Golden Animation is worth watching if you either really love Marie or at least can ignore the Roman Reigns treatment the anime gives her enough to enjoy it for what it is, but outside of a few episodes, the majority of it is fine at best and aggressively single-character centric at worst. I wish I could say, “I know I’m in the minority here,” but this seems to be the majority opinion, and it’s a shame, as Marie is a perfectly fine character outside of the anime, and if you can just play the game instead, that’s really a better choice. If the anime is your only option, though, it’s probably better to skip around if you have a paid Crunchyroll account (or if you buy the DVD’s when they come out), because trying to watch this all the way through is… kind of painful, and I’m saying that as a big fan, so… just keep that in mind.
Tags: Diehard AnimeFAN